Why Voiceover Artists Need Good Briefs

5 reasons to give a good brief in a voiceover project

By Chas Rowe


Good briefs? Well, that’s model behaviour.  Photo: James Barr on Unsplash

I like briefs.

I like detailed briefs.

I like detailed, branded, functional briefs. 

Too much information? Not for me. You see, we’re not talking about cotton underwear.

We’re talking about business briefs. Proper, professional, business briefs. Briefs so good they should probably be carried in a briefcase.

As a UK voiceover artist, I really need good briefs; ones with too much information preferably.

In fact, there are five good reasons that a voiceover project depends on good briefs. So let’s begin.

Pause for thought: do you already know this stuff? Photo: Pixabay

Brief Interlude

If you’re already an experienced voiceover hirer, you’ll no doubt be familiar with terms like basic studio/session fee (BSF), licensing, usage and performers’ rights, so you probably won’t need to read any further.

If, however, you’ve never hired a professional UK voiceover artist before, or if none of the above rings a bell, stick around. The following tips should help when you next hire a British voiceover (VO).

So grab a coffee and let’s…

The journey to enlightenment starts with a single sip. Photo: Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Why Voiceover Artists Need Good Briefs

1. The VO Needs To Understand The Overall Project

Voiceover is the art of storytelling. But as a voiceover hirer, you need to tell the story of:

  • who you are as a business
  • who you’re representing (your production company and/or your client)
  • what your project is all about

It might sound obvious, but pick up the phone, introduce yourself, and have a friendly chat to explain the overall picture – or send a nice, detailed email.

A good tip: it’s best to avoid brief introductions like ”here’s the script – how much would you charge?”

This might be an innocent question, but it’s actually more appropriate to ask yourself how the audio is going to be used (its ”usage”), or in legal terms, how the audio is going to be commercially exploited.

If you didn’t know about ”usage” or ”licensing” before, that’s ok, because we’ll cover that next.

Every project has its price: usage and quotes vary from job to job. Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash

2. The VO Needs To Know How The Audio Will Be Used

It goes without saying that if you hire a professional voiceover artist, your audio will be put to good use, creating brand awareness, exuding professionalism, generating a return on investment, making people go ”wow!” and so on.

But it’s also important to tell the artist how their performance is going to be used.

In fact, the ”usage” of a voiceover recording (or its ”licence”) is arguably the most important part of a good brief, because:

  • it will define what the audio can and can’t be used for
  • it will directly relate to the value of the project

Since a voiceover recording is, broadly speaking, a hire purchase, you (as the hirer), have to be completely open about how you will use the recording, for how long, and who will consume it.

So be clear and unambiguous. Jot down your usage.

These examples may help you (remember to include the brand):

  • TV commercial, children’s toy, UK children’s channels, company You Tube channel, company website, 12 months
  • Voice of God/Awards ceremony, Europe-wide broadcast awards ceremony, one-night only live broadcast (plus 6 show repeats)
  • Explainer video, mortgage brand, company You Tube channel, company LinkedIn page, company Twitter feed, 24 months
  • Corporate video, small business national conference, 1000 attendees, one-day conference usage, plus further usage (max. 12 months) on conference website

Coupling up: usage and quotes go hand in hand. Photo: Ryan Franco on Unsplash

3. The VO Needs To Be Able To Generate A Quote

Once you’ve itemised your usage, an artist will take your brief, go away (briefly), do some maths, and come up with a quote tailored to your project.

Based on the brief given, they’re also likely to explain to you the value behind the price quoted, taking into account things like the potential reach of your message and its conversion rate.

It’s fair to say that a good, professional voiceover performance has an intrinsic value to your business – and also has a reciprocal value to the artist who has licensed it for use.

This is why usage fees are what they are – and why they vary by project.

Usage fees also exist, because in UK law, artists retain both performers’ rights to their sound recordings (which last for at least 50 years) and rights to equitable remuneration (fair payment) for the use of those recordings.

However, it’s likely that your creative product will have a much shorter lifespan (e.g. 12 to 24 months).  So think of your audio as having a natural, marketable ‘use by’ date.

This means that you will need to prepare a suitable budget for how, where, and when the audio will be showcased.

Good voiceover hiring: brief + usage = quote (+ contract)

4. The VO Needs To Be Able to Write A Contract

It’s another important legal point, but a good brief is central to the contract you have with your voiceover artist, as usage, quotes and contracts are all interconnected.

It’s pretty logical, really: the usage (or licensing) agreement is based on the quote, which is based on the brief supplied.

Thus a good brief leads to agreed usage, a proportionate quote, and a clear contract.

Or, if you’re mathematically minded: brief + usage = quote (+ contract) = good business.

If your brief raises questions (such as ”who is the client?” ”how is the audio going to be used?” ”who is the audience?” ”when, where and how long is it being shown for?”), then you will need to go back and find that information, as a voiceover artist can only quote when you have it.

A good tip: be clear about your brief and usage before approaching an artist. They’ll thank you for being prepared and it’ll mean less email tennis for everyone.

Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

A step in the right direction: show the way in your brief with helpful pointers. Photo by Jamie Templeton on Unsplash

5. The VO Might Need Direction

Once you’ve chosen a voiceover artist and have agreed on the fee, usage (licence), delivery of the audio and payment terms, you can then talk more about how you’d like your project to sound.

Of course, if you’ve supplied a great brief (and a great script), a professional voiceover artist will already have a clear idea of how to perform the copy. Sometimes, an artist will surprise you with their unique interpretation and give you something really special and unexpected.

Other times, you might need to describe the mood, show them a rough cut, or tell them how the piece will be seen or heard in order to get the most appropriate read.

Whatever you and your artist come up with, good direction is certainly a solid start towards a successful collaboration.

High fives all round. Good briefs, good times.

One More Brief Point

Good briefs are, of course, important for many industries.

Voiceover artists are really no different from any other skilled professionals, such as surgeons, barristers, designers, architects, or PR consultants. All of them depend on good information and clear instructions to provide a professional service.

Sharing good information is the seed of a fruitful collaboration. So be a sharer. Bare your briefs. Make your briefs the business.

Because let’s face it: briefs are no good when they’re pants.

Happy hiring. If you feel this article was helpful, please share via the social media buttons below.


Further reading

How To Hire A UK Voiceover Artist – Chas Rowe

Five Keys to A Successful Voiceover Project – Chas Rowe

Performers’ rights

Performers’ rights – CopyrightUser.org 

Further hiring tips

Voiceover Licensing – A Guide For Hirers

Rates guidance

UK Voiceover Rate Guide



The above article’s expert-sourced and peer-reviewed legal information does not constitute legal advice. Clients or artists seeking clarification of legal terms should seek their own legal advice from a qualified legal practitioner or trade union legal department.


About the author

Chas Rowe is a UK voice-over artist, writer, former radio journalist and newsreader, and an advocate for best practice in professional voice-over production and hiring. 

He holds degrees in French and German, Film & Television Studies and Multimedia Journalism. 

To hire Chas for your next voice-over project, or to discuss syndication of this article, please email: [email protected]

© Copyright Chas Rowe 2018