a microphone in a studio

As businesses everywhere ramp up production of video with freelancers, it’s clear they’re boosting demand for freelance talent with skills required to create that polished, high-quality video content. In the first quarter of 2018, voice-over ranked no. 4 among the 20 fastest-growing skills on the Upwork Skills Index—more evidence of the explosive growth of video.

Voice-over has the power to make videos especially informative and engaging. That’s because no viewer wants to read a ton of on-screen text. What’s more, adding voice-over to short animation, motion graphic, and screen-capture videos allows companies to create a steady stream of video content in a fast, efficient, and affordable way.

Whether you’re working with a voice-over artist or looking to break into the field yourself, here are some important things to know about how to get it right.

Where you record voice-over is more important than you think

Some professional voice-over artists record in their closets. Why? If you don’t have an insulated sound booth, which can cost thousands of dollars, a muffled closet with hanging clothes is one of the quietest places with the least amount of reverb.

You don’t have to record in a closet, but you should find a quiet studio environment.

That’s because you want to record your voice, not the room

Even the quietest room in your house might not cut it. There are sounds we get used to and don’t even notice—outside sounds like airplanes flying overhead and lawnmowers down the street and inside sounds such as computer fans, an air conditioner, or a refrigerator humming. That background noise might not even be picked up human ears, but if you’re using a high-powered mic, know that it probably will.

Treat a room acoustically to reduce “room reflection”—the sound of your voice bouncing off surfaces in the room. Try using sound-blocking foam or moving blankets to create a soundproofing tent.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to mess up

You read that right. Tripping over words, coughing, or having to clear your throat happens, but there’s no need to rerecord the entire script. Instead, put a long pause between your fumble and your restart, then begin again. This gives the video editor a visual break in his or her audio timeline, indicating there’s an obvious break worth checking out instead of having to listen all the way through to locate any mistakes. This also makes it easier to cut and splice together clips.

Put energy into voice recordings

Some voice-over artists prefer to stand up when they record. That’s because standing increases blood flow, wakes you up, and allows you to be more animated and energetic when speaking. Video producers don’t want to put their viewers to sleep with boring voice-over; adding just enough energy can help bring the script to life. Also, overenunciate compared with how you typically speak.

For longer recordings, give yourself a break for a bit. And don’t forget to take a sip of water—but not too much. More-powerful mics can pick up wet mouth sounds.

Give mics—and mic placement—a lot of consideration

A high-quality sound recording just isn’t possible with a handheld device, a webcam, or a camera’s internal microphone. You won’t get the richness or clarity you will with a good mic. A mic cover such as a pop filter is another good investment for studio-style recording. Pop filters block the quick blasts of air called plosives caused by p and b sounds.

You also want to make sure mic placement is correct. A mic should be about six to seven inches from the face and slightly to the side to reduce the clicks, pops, and mouth noises that can be distracting to listeners.

Double-check your tech

Always check your sound levels before you start recording. While a recording can be edited in post production, if the original is too low or too high, trying to raise or lower levels in post can cause too much background noise or peaky, distorted vocals. Keep levels between negative 15 and negative 20. Watch the meter on your sound recording software while you speak to see where you’re peaking. Adjust until you peak around negative 5, but don’t go higher than negative 3.

Also, format your SD card before you record. This way, you won’t waste time recording a session only to find out after that your card wasn’t working properly.

Be sure you’re saving files in the correct format. Depending on the software you’re using, file names may differ, but when you go to save, always opt for .MP3, .WAV or, .AIF. Note that .WAV and .AIF are going to yield very high-quality results but will be much larger file sizes.

Recording tips to make clients happy

Here’s one thing you can do to make a video editor happy: Start each voice-over recording by stating the name of the project, the video, what section or chapter you’re reading, etc. This can save an editor a ton of time sorting timelines.

If a client has provided you with a script, don’t print it out on paper; read it from a tablet or another screen. This way, you won’t get any background sounds of shuffling paper. If you’re using a computer, make sure any clicks are noiseless if you’re scrolling with a mouse—another reason a tablet is superior.

Need a voice-over artist?

Using voice-over to narrate your animated or motion-graphics video? You can hire a professional voice actor or narration specialist to deliver your script. Pay close attention to things like cadence and tone—you want the voice-over to reflect your brand and your message and be a complementary way to deliver information.