Building a Global Voice Over Brand

Jason Bermingham and Simone Kliass

Most of us have spent the past month sheltered in our homes, diligently watching the news to see how the Covid-19 pandemic will play out. In the headlines, leaders from around the world face an unprecedented challenge: how to safeguard their citizens’ health without gutting their economies? This crisis has deeply affected all of us, but those of us working in voice over should be counting our blessings. Afterall, we’ve been running successful businesses from our homes for quite some time now. And, more importantly, we make our livings as communicators: a role that has become essential to global business.

I’m an American citizen who has spent most of my life living abroad. A year-long foreign exchange program to Brazil during my senior year in high school opened my eyes to cultures outside the United States. In college and shortly thereafter, I aspired to venture further – embarking on extended excursions to Europe, Australia, and Africa. By my early 30s when I finally started to set down roots, I had come full circle, returning to South America where I met my wife, Simone Kliass. She worked as an on-air TV talent and she recorded voice over. I built a home studio for her work and she encouraged me to record as well. That’s how, unwittingly, I started a job that would evolve into a career.

What may come as a surprise to those reading this article is that, although I speak Portuguese fluently, I only record in my native English. What’s more, I rarely record for clients in the United States or other English-speaking countries. In fact, the majority of my regular clients are production houses and ad agencies located right here in São Paulo. So why the demand for English-language voice overs in a city where people speak Portuguese? With over 21 million inhabitants in its greater metropolitan area, São Paulo is the biggest city in South America and the business hub of Brazil.

When we talk about doing business in the Western Hemisphere, three languages come to mind: English, Spanish, and Portuguese (although others, primarily French, are spoken in the region). Now, imagine an advertising agency with offices in New York City, Mexico City, and São Paulo is producing a TV campaign for the Americas. Instead of recording a voice over at each location, the agency may choose to work with a single producer in Mexico or Brazil and record any non-local talent remotely. If you are on these foreign producers’ rosters as an English-speaking talent with a professional home studio, you can count on being considered for the casting.

Think about that for a moment. In the 1980s, landing a national TV commercial usually required living near big studios in Los Angeles or New York. By 2000, increased bandwidth and affordable high-end gear had opened the country’s airwaves to voices from across the nation. But today, not only are the voices you hear on network TV recorded across the nation, but the team that produced the voice over could very well be located on the other side of the equator. Moral of the story? English-speaking talent can no longer sit by and focus their branding efforts nationally. To compete in 2020, you need to think globally.

My advice is to take advantage of the time you’re spending in quarantine to upgrade your studio and your brand for the post-pandemic market. What does that mean? For starters, do some house cleaning in your booth so it looks good on a webcam. When a client you have never met directs you remotely, it pays to look professional. Next, clean up your website. There’s no need to translate the content (unless you’re focused on a specific market), but the site should be intuitive and easy to navigate. When clients can easily find what they’re looking for, your chances of landing jobs increase. Lastly, make sure your demos are up-to-date and reflect the modern industry standards. If your demos are a few years old, it may be time to make a new one.

Nobody knows how the industry will evolve when business starts to pick up in the months ahead. But there’s one thing I’m sure of: Covid-19 has been a stark reminder that we are a global community and that we must rely on each other and work together. Borders have never been more an illusory, human construct than they are today. As a voice over talent who speaks the language that unites people around the globe, you are in a unique position to emerge from this crisis with renewed purpose. You’ll be a better professional, a better communicator, and a better human being. The post-pandemic voice over market will present a world of new opportunities. Use the time you have now to prepare for the work you’ll do then.

So join us live on April 22, from 8:00-10:00 ET for our informative webinar, Breaking into the Global Voice Over Market. You can learn more about our class and register here.