• Vicky Tessio

(My little) History of online voiceovers

Today, many professional voice overs work from our own recording studio at home, doing all kind of projects (commercials, e-learnings, audio guides, corporate videos, phone messages, audio-books…) and sending them to customers anywhere in the world thanks to the Internet. But, can you imagine (or remember) how was the work of online voice overs when there was no YouTube, no Facebook, no Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs or Skype, nothing that has emerged in the last ten to twelve years?

Although I usually date my official start as online voice over in 2004 (the date I joined Voice123, the largest and almost the only global portal for voice overs at the time), the fact is that it all started a year before, without my planning and trying to combine various life circumstances: the end of a contract in my last job on the radio, a PC on the desk at home, Internet line with a brand new ADSL line, an already quite bulky CV and a minidisc which I tried to record some demos of programs and overdubs that I had done until that moment.

My intention was, in a country that was beginning to be digital, to use the internet and email to push myself on the search for a new job. Life takes many a twist and turns! I remember what I had resisted sitting in front of a computer, feeling (like many others) a kind of visceral revulsion against “the machine” as “source of dehumanization and generator of and unfathomable dangers”… (On how changes your life and your parameters over time, I think I can be a good example...)

But those initial concerns were overcome while working on the radio so, after that, there was I: with a whole world at my keyboard. Something that still then was experimented with a strange sense of vertigo.

I don’t know very well when to point the time it happened, but the truth is that while I toiled in search radio stations, production companies, names, clues, hints on where to send my updated curriculum and some audio attachments, I began to realize something… A couple of words whose pairing I did not know, it began to appear in my searches without knowing precisely how. Perhaps as a result of typing things like “voz en off”? * … It is more than possible.

Those two words that began to appear in my searches, and which existence was unknown to me at 2003, were “Voice Over”. And so, captive by my surprise and excitation, I discovered that beyond the physical borders of my country (Spain) in the rest of Europe and especially in the US, a handful of professional voice overs were working through the internet, advertising their work online, getting customers from all over the world to work with them...

Eureka! Or maybe it’s more accurate to say: serendipity! What a discovery: finally thanks to “the machine” (and more or less rudimentary English that I had at that time, that must be said) that I would be able to redirect my professional future devoting myself to an activity for which there was an English name I happened not to know: Voice Over!

I was going to be a voice over through the internet, after having been offline for many years, parallel to my work as a radio and television host, or my incursions as dubbing actress. From that moment and on, I focused on those two catchwords; how was to be a voice over, who they were, how they worked, what portals housed them, how did they advertise and which companies, studios, producers, could I connect via the Internet to offer my services, by then through e-mail was the only possible way.

Meanwhile, here in Spain, very few voice overs had begun to move in this new digital world, so I played with a great advantage: getting there first.

The beginnings, however, were slow and full of anecdotes. Those that over time I love to remember: how to cover a closet to make your first demos without anything else than a microphone and a portable mini-disc...

– “Oh, funny you! When everyone is coming out of the closet,

you’re getting into!”

And always having to clarify the confusion produced by using the Spanish word “locutor”, the word used for a radio host…

— ” Well… I’m not working on the radio actually…”

Or how hard was to set a price for your work, because it was a field that practically didn’t exist in Spain and you had to guide through the rates established by external markets; how you were learning a forced and unknown English terminology, the one for voice overs. Or how you were setting up "a home-studio, a studio in which record at your own place.

For example, most articles about microphones were meant to be for singers, not for voice overs in home studios, but now the network is flooded with them. Yet another example; the sound booth , the only ones I found were manufactured in USA and Germany, both with a high price for the product itself and the shipping costs. So, after recording the first in a small conditioned storeroom, my first recording booth was an audiometric booth in 2007.

Nowadays there are several national companies with specific products such as Studio One by Studiobricks, which I used to record when I lived in Barcelona.

But undoubtedly the biggest impact was to discover that my Spanish, the one of this voice over born in Madrid, it was considered by the great American and Latino market as nothing more than a mere “accent”! And that the Spanish they called and considered neutral was not mine, but a Latin Spanish standard known as “Neutral Spanish”…. “Neutral”? How come neutral…? Oh, buddy. This was really hard for me to get over it! :)

Even today many customers (from the US and other parts of the world including Europe) don´t know that Spanish accent is not the same here and across the pond, that what is considered here as neutral Spanish is the Castilian accent; that for different markets specific productions are needed, etc.

In almost any voice overs portal I found these distinctions for Spanish (as there were for Portugal and Brazil Portuguese, Canadian French or France French and of course the UK or US English). I sent some emails about it, for example to the aforementioned Voice123 with no response. It took a while, but eventually the range was expanded and included wider options for Spanish backgrounds and accents. Common place today.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and now the online voice over is widespread, although still largely unknown to many. I remember in those early days how some studios refused to work with online voice overs systematically. There are still some, but in general the market has understood and taken advantage of this new way of work as no other way. And it has also emerged a world around the voice overs: apps, technical equipment, software, conferences, blogs, experts and even specific coaches.

The balance of these twelve years, for me, is very positive. Of course, the crisis has shaken the profession at all levels (off and on-line) with difficult seasons in which work has come in dribs and drabs. Obviously, now the competition is much higher and the derisory rates that some accept and handle don’t help at all. Neither the legislation of self-employed, in the case of Spain.

But yet I’m one of the privileged ones that can say: I work in what I like and greatly enjoy what I do.

I’ve put my voice to interesting projects of large and small companies.

I am in touch with customers around the world. I distribute and plan my own schedules.

I can choose the city I want to live in, and I am dedicated to an artistic activity using two wonderful basic tools: the word and the voice.


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