Everybody can have ideas, but not everyone can express those ideas and inspire others with it. One of the greatest mediums to do that is through voice overs. Through it, businesses can efficiently provide information to their audience in a way that is easy to understand. Bridging together voice over talents with those that need them, David created Voices.com—the largest online marketplace for voice over products and services in the world. In this episode, David sits down with host, Terri Levine, to talk about how he grew his company from the ground up and became the leader in the voice over industry. He talks about the importance of having voice overs in businesses and shares some of the services they provide. Speaking to those who want to break through their own industries, David then gives out the strategies he uses to continue his company’s growth.
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Becoming The Leader In The Voice Over Industry With David Ciccarelli
I’m glad that you’re here once again and I’m asking you to be fully present and intentional to allow whatever information that is supposed to flow to you from our hearts to your heart. I have a special guest. His name is David Ciccarelli. He’s the Cofounder and the CEO of Voices.com which is the largest online marketplace for voiceover products and services in the world. For the last decade, David, with the help of his team, has grown Voices.com literally from the ground up to become the leader in the voiceover industry. If you want to be the leader in your business, shortcut it, do it fast, pay close attention. David, welcome.
I’m glad to be here, Terri. Thanks for the opportunity.
I’m excited to have you. First I’m curious, what is your background before you started Voices.com?
I’m an audio engineer by training. I went to school learning how to record, edit, produce music, and sound for all imaginable purposes. I started a small recording studio when I graduated from a program. I got my name in the local newspaper on my birthday and that’s when I met Stephanie, my dear wife. We started working together as she was a classically trained singer. She’d sing at weddings and special events. She came into the studio to record her singing repertoire. That’s how we ended up meeting and realize it wasn’t long before other small businesses would contact me in the studio and I’d say, “I need a phone system recording. Can you help me out with a radio commercial? We’re looking for a female voice.” I would bring Stephanie back down to the studio and we’d split the money. I’d be the engineer or she’d be a voice talent. That’s how it all began.
You have an amazing voice. It’s got so much resonance. I love it.
Thank you. I positioned myself more of the Wizard of Oz behind the screen as opposed to voice talent. It’s more than just talking, that’s for sure.
Talk to me about what happens at Voices.com. What kind of voiceover products and services do you provide and to whom?
We describe it as a marketplace. There are lots of freelancer marketplaces that are connecting the buyers. It could be a small business that’s looking for graphic design, or in this case, a voiceover. We also connect those same buyers, we call them clients with professional voice talent. These are people who have a background and could it be Broadway or theater. It could be singing and art, but often it’s acting and some type of performance. The voiceover products range from commercials, short video explainers, which are popular. Through a more mundane and industrial in nature, like corporate training videos or maybe even phone system recordings. Anytime you hear the human voice, the fact is somebody is going into a studio or working out of home-based recording studios and breathing that script to life.
Let’s say somebody has a website and they want it to be interesting when somebody first comes. Maybe they have some imagery or something. Can you do a voiceover for something like that?
One of the things we’ve seen to be effective as either a video on a landing page or having these explainer videos hosted on YouTube. I’ve seen where small businesses and business owners will take something like a help guide or maybe a white paper that they’ve written or some of their more popular blog posts. Let’s call it to repurpose and repackage that into a video with still or moving images and a compelling voiceover that tries to guide that viewer along and usually make some type of call to action at the end of that video. Maybe it is, “Give us a call,” or drive that traffic back to the website or fill out a request for lead or more information and fill out some form. The voice isn’t necessarily an autoplaying.
Frankly, I would discourage against some autoplaying video but if you can let that visitor initiate the action, then they have control over what they’re viewing, seeing, or hearing. It is one of the less utilized digital media form factors. Digital media is either audio, video, images or texts. It all boils down to that. Audio is often forgotten or considered as an afterthought because it’s sometimes a lot more difficult. A lot of people don’t like to hear their voices. Maybe they can make a logo or take some pictures, but when it comes to having their brand come to life through sound, what does my brand sound like? You almost don’t even know where to start. We at least try to provide a community of voice talent who can lend their voices to the brands that are out there.
It spurred something for me. I have all my clients write what we call a Consumer Awareness Guide and it’s like carpet restoration, the top ten mistakes people make when looking for someone to do carpet restoration. It talks about the mistakes and then it says how to connect with a client in no matter what industry. Sometimes people’s reports are long. There are people who don’t want to read them. However, I think there are a lot of people who would want to hear them or listen to them with some exciting graphics to go with them. I got inspired. That’s a great idea for all my clients and for me to do. I love to learn that. How did you grow a company fast? Because here we are ground up and you’re the leader in a few years or so? How did you do that?
One of the things, if I may then that we got right, is that we stuck to one niche market. We didn’t try to be a general freelancer platform. We picked one creative service that of voiceovers and went deep on that. There are twelve different genres or categories of voice. I mentioned a few of them off the bat, but there’s also podcasting, audiobooks, different kinds of videos that are done for different types of businesses as well. Picking a niche market and trying to lead and own that space, that means getting to know all the key players. That might be mapping out who are the twenty most influential people within that industry and then trying to build relationships with them. Now you can just by sending them a LinkedIn message and seeing if you can do a quick call, a conference call or a video chat.
Another thing that we did well is we put a lot of emphasis on search engine optimization. We’re based out of Toronto in Canada in a mid-market city. There are about 500,000, 600,000 people in our city called London, Ontario, Canada. It’s between Detroit and Toronto, but it’s not a metropolis in and of itself. In order to overcome that, knowing that we weren’t necessarily going to be traveling to see our customers, there weren’t a lot of customers here in the city that were going to be entering into a global market. How do we do that? We have a great online presence. We were early in building up a social media presence as well too. Those are some of the things that no matter what kind of business you’re in, trying to find 1 or 2 maybe marketing channels, I would call them and completely own those.
For a retail business, it might be signage or it might be some flyers that they’re sending out, a newsletter, or a printed newsletter. Other businesses, ours is because we’re digital by its nature. It makes sense that we would put a lot of emphasis on digital marketing, namely search engine optimization as well as social media. Those were some of the things that we did right at the beginning. It also comes down to being able to finance that growth. We started by borrowing a small bank loan of actually $30,000 and pay that off early and then got $50,000 and then pay that off early. Built our way up to borrowing $2 million of what I would call working capital to continue to fuel and accelerate the growth.
We raised $18 million from a private equity group of Morgan Stanley, the global investment bank. What they enjoyed about the investment thesis was that we stuck to one niche market and found an area where there wasn’t a lot of other competition. It was the traditional way of hiring voice talent, working through talent agencies, unions, and going in person and recording studios. Digitizing that entire process and bringing it online. Having a high degree of conviction hopefully is what you’re getting through this, of that space, being excited about whatever it is. Figuring out how you’re going to market that in a way where there isn’t a lot of other competition that you can lead the way.One of the beauties about voice over content is how it lets listeners do other things at the same time. Click To Tweet
I heard many good gems in there. A couple to sum up for people that I want them to take. Number one, you have to have the right capitalization. I still believe in all the years I’ve been doing this, the biggest reason people fail is they’re going to business and they’re undercapitalized. Two is stay in your lane. One focus, one goal, the right niche, and then the search engine optimization. Reaching out to people on social media. Ninety percent of our business comes in through social media, and it is by us reaching out, contacting, offering chats, and help. I hope that our audience is taking this in and taking this to heart. You mentioned some things that I certainly know many of my clients can use, help with podcasts.
Many of them have written books, eBooks, and they haven’t also made them auditory. There are a lot of people in the world like me who are more auditory learners. This is an important thing to remember. David, somebody sent me a long email and I set it aside and said, “I’ll read it in a few days.” They sent it to me through a video and I clicked on it and watched it instantly. I wasn’t watching the video per se. I was doing some other work. I was listening and that’s how I learned. Do you find that a lot of people are more auditory?
I agree that a portion of the population certainly is auditory. I’m not sure it’s the majority. One of the beauties about the medium is that you can do other things at the same time via driving, housework, taking care of the kids on the weekend and maybe you’re watching them at the park, but maybe somebody is listening at the same time. I’m like you, I listen to a lot of books. It’s how I probably consume most of my books is I have 900 audiobooks on my iPhone. I listen to the same ones over and over. I do enjoy it. In a similar way, if a business is considering, “How do I market differently than my competitors?” If they’re all writing and you have an opportunity to create a podcast, that’s something where people search on iTunes, Google Music and Spotify. These are search engines in and of themselves.
It’s just that people are looking for auditory content. The real beauty of that is not only can they do something different, but they’re also listening for vulgar. Twenty or thirty minutes experience that they feel like they get to know you and build that trust. That is vastly different than quickly scanning through an article of a couple of hundred words. A lot of special things about the auditory channel and creating solid brand overtime of what your business sounds like is something that hopefully the entrepreneurs reading will consider.
How do you match up the right talent with the right message or the right person? I’m curious about that.
There’s a community of 500,000 voice talents on Voices.com. You might be wondering how do you find the needle in the haystack. It all starts with what we call a job posting. The job is what you need to get it done. In that, you’d be describing the title of your project, but getting to the matching process. It’s the language that you’re seeking as a particular accent, the age range, and the gender. We get into what we call the role. Is this person a superhero or a sports announcer? Are they a corporate executive, a trainer, a professor? What is the role that’s being performed? Finally, the style. How do you want them to sound? Are they funny? Are they sarcastic? Are they serious? These are attributes we take at that job posting and match them up against those profiles and invite the most qualified people.
Those talents who say that they either can do those qualities and have those capabilities, they will be invited to what was known in the industry as doing an audition. That audition is recording a piece of your script. It’s usually 30 seconds or so. They’ll also provide you with a quote of how much they’re willing to do the workforce. You can hire them right through the platform but that matching is one of our secret sauces. We call that voice match and it’s an algorithm that recommends who is the best talent for your particular project.
The voice match concept, it’s brilliant. I remember a few years back, we were running a commercial on the radio. When I sat down with the radio station, they said something that has always interested me, so maybe you can address this. They said, “It’s going to be much better for you to have a male voice than a female voice.” I never understood what the rationale was. Is there some rationale that sometimes you’d have a male voice, sometimes you have a female voice? Is there something to that?
The most important thing is being reflective of your brand. Who are you trying to reach? Think about like you would be doing any other marketing. You’re picturing your ideal customer or your ideal client in your mind. What do they look like? What do they sound like? Try to imagine yourself, if you could personify your brand and your organization if they were to walk into a room. What would they look like? What would they sound like? That visual helps crystallize what type of voice you should be using. That’s circling back to the language, does this person have an accent? Are you a luxury brand that has this foreign mystique to their voice? Maybe you have a brand that’s family-friendly. It’s like a friendly guy next door type of thing, a trusted advisor. You need to understand who your audience is and who do you want to be? Usually, there’s a character out there, an archetype of what that brand should sound. I’m not sure it’s necessarily male or female in any particular situation. I think more of the point, it’s who you are and who you are trying to reach.
That’s key and it’s always fascinated me because Heartrepreneur, while we have 26% male clients, our colors, our branding, and a lot of it is designed more for a female audience. When they said, “Do the radio with a male voice.” I remember I was driving in my car one day and I heard it and I thought, “I wouldn’t have paid attention to that.” I always found that interesting and I wondered whether or not it was the right voice for what I’m projecting. That’s something important. I am fascinated with number one at how many voice talents you have. Number two at the matchmaking that’s done because I think that’s brilliant. I have listened to some audiobooks. The person reading the book, it didn’t match the way the book was written for me because I’d read the book and I’m like, “Does it match?” This is something important and the fact that you can match that up and figure that out is critical. What do you have to say to that at Voices.com?
It’s often a subjective experience as well too. If a business owner is going to select a voice as their audio ambassador right there, it’s a representation of their organization. They need to consider just like you were questioning, “Does this sound like me?” In which case that’s why an audition process, like what happens on Voices.com, is a great experience of itself because you can listen to 10 to 20 different voice talents reading a portion of your script. It’s not just one person doing it. You’re getting to compare people and some of them are going to add their personality to it, but they’re also going to try to interpret what they believe because they’re professionals. They do this all day long. They’ve read hundreds if not thousands of scripts and are trying to draw out the qualities and characters that they believe that you’re looking for. In the end, it is not the eye of the beholder, but the ear of the beholder in this situation that every person does need to listen and determine for themselves, what do we sound like?
One of the things that I’m jazzed about is the audition process. I have had voiceover talent for many of my books that have gone to Audible. Initially, my publishers were always choosing voice talent. I would listen and I’d say, “That’s not exactly the way I would feel the books should be read.” I didn’t pay much attention. However, if I had auditioned people, I’m sure I could have found somebody who would have reflected the messaging in the book more like me and I think that would have worked better. The fact that I can partner with Voices.com, listen to some auditions, and then get the right talent for the book, that’s huge.
For book publishers and those producing longer-form content, when it comes to the audition, it’s important to have a longer audition because the book might be 4 to 5 hours. It’s not enough to listen to fifteen seconds. Can the person stay in character if there are multiple characters? It’s often compared to a marathon versus a sprint. Do they have the stamina to record it at length? This is why you can look at other profiles or see other work but that audition will give you the confidence that they can carry it all the way through.
For commercial work, phone systems, or something shorter, like an internet video that might be these explainer videos as they are referred to. A shorter audition is completely acceptable there, 15 to 30 seconds. For that longer-form content, you do want to listen to maybe a minute or two if you can get talent to provide an audition like that. Most of them know that that’s par for the course if you will, that to demonstrate their full capabilities, for those longer-form pieces of content that they do tend to provide a longer audition.The voice becomes the audio ambassador that represents the organization. Click To Tweet
I’m excited about this. It’s a fantastic service for authors, speakers, trainers, entrepreneurs, anybody who has a website. It certainly has application and corporate because we do some corporate coaching and consulting as well. I can see our corporate clients using this as well. I think this is phenomenal. Do they simply go over to Voices.com?
That’s all it needs to happen. Go to Voices.com and you can sign up for free. It all starts with posting that job. Whether you have a job in mind now or maybe one in the coming down the pipe in the next couple of weeks or next couple of months, I would encourage you to sign up for free, get that account and then post the job when you’re ready.
I am going to sign up for free. I have another book coming out in September or October, a few months down the road. I would like to have a new voice talent that matches me. I love the service. I’ll be going to Voices.com. Any last words of wisdom that you want to leave our audience with, David?
No matter what business you’re in, I would encourage you to do a few things. One is to go deep in that space. It’s what’s worked for us. It’s what I recommend a lot of other entrepreneurs that I’m either advising or interacting with. Find that one slice of the world that you are tremendously passionate about. At the same time, surround yourself with incredible people. Share your enthusiasm, pass that vision along and other people are going to be following you and joining you along that journey. I would encourage the audience to do those two things. Bring them along that journey with you.
I love that concept and it goes with the advice that I give as a business consultant. Stay in your lane, go deep in that niche, focus there, and get known. Thank you for joining us. I want our audience to take advantage of it. Go and sign up for free. I’m going to do it at Voices.com. David, I do want to thank you. It’s a phenomenal service and I’m glad that we were able to understand it better because I know a lot of our audience can use it.
Thanks, Terri. The pleasure is mine.
For our audience, a couple of things. We do have a free educational webinar for you. Be prepared to take a lot of notes. It will help you get more leads, close more sales, and make more money. That is over at TLWebinar.com, and then the other thing that we invite you to do, and we invite David as well is to join us in our Facebook group, which is #Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine. We have lots of free training, interviews, exciting things happening there. We hope that you’ll join us there. Thank you for reading and we will see you next time.
About David Ciccarelli
David Ciccarelli is an entrepreneur at heart. For the last decade David, with the help of his team, has grown Voices.com from the ground up to become the leader in the voice over industry. As Chief Executive Officer, David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis. He is frequently published in outlets such as The Globe & Mail, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.
Founded in 2005, Voices.com is the largest online marketplace for voice over products and services in the world. The platform is composed of half a million producers, voice actors, and talent agents. Its flagship website, Voices.com, records approximately two million unique visitors annually and has enabled over 500,000 transactions to date. Headquartered in London, Canada, the company employs more than 120 people and has clients and voice talent in 160 countries.
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