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What It's Really Like Being A Voice Talent In The Philippines

Inka Magnaye is also a host, announcer, and a dubber and writer for Mexican telenovelas.
PHOTO: Instagram/inkamagnaye

Former DJ and voice over talent Inka Magnaye recently shared on Instagram what it felt like commanding the attendees of the recent 2017 ASEAN Opening Ceremonies. People were asking the director if the voice was a sound engineered recording. Nope. That was live. And that was me.

But Inka does so much more than that: She’s a dubber and a writer for Mexican telenovelas, an announcer and a voice over talent for radio and TV ads, as well as a host for various events. She was a DJ for 99.5RT (now known as 99.5 PlayFM) for eight years before doing her own thing as a freelancer. At 28, Inka has managed to learn the ins and outs of the industry and make a name for herself through her impressionable voice. She also cemented her unique branding with #EverydayVoiceOvers, a video series about mundane things made funnier and more special with voice over narration.

How did you get started? What was your first gig?

I started when I was 5 years old because both my parents were voice over talents as well. They started out as DJs on The Rhythm of the City 99.5RT as Jeremiah Jr. and Lindy. They opened a production house when I was a baby and when I was old enough, I was cast in my first radio commercial. I cant remember what my first gig was exactly, but as a child, I did different fast food and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) ads. As a teen, I recorded for all the telcos and then some, and as an adult I get gigs ranging from corporate AVPs to TV and radio ads to big events.

What are the best and worst parts of being a voice over talent? 

I dont appreciate when people unintentionally belittle my skills when they exclaim how “easy” my job is because “all you have to do is talk!” or when they comment that they want to just “quit their real jobs” and do what I do. This is a real job, and if it was so easy, then anyone can just do it. It takes skill, and my skill set is something Ive worked on for most of my life.

For some reason, in this industry, it takes really long to get paid sometimes even when the talent always gets paid last. I did an ad for a big shampoo brand when I was a teenager, and I was following up about my talent fee for around two years until I realized I was never going to be compensated. Not getting paid doesnt happen regularly, but taking months before you do is unfortunately pretty normal for radio and TV ad recordings. 

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It’s great when the talent (whether host or voice over) gets paid right after the event. Lots of recordings I do for AVPs are also done from home, and the client deposits the talent fee straight into my account right after I send them the file. It’s pretty hassle-free, so it evens out and because it sometimes takes a while before you can collect talent fees for TVCs (TV commercials) and RCs (radio commercials), its nice to know that you have money floating around somewhere that you arent spending. 

As for the perks, I’m in charge of my own time. I only ever go out when I have work, and it saves me a lot of money, as well as stress, because I dont have to face EDSA every day. I also get the most interesting projects. Last year, I watched Lea Salonga perform live at least 4 times because I was the live voice over for all those events.

What's the difference between being a host and being a voice over talent? 

I was a radio DJ for eight years on the same station my parents came from, 99.5RT. Here’s the thing: A host and a voice over talent arent always one and the same. Professional hosts came in to try their luck at the station, but they couldn't make the cut because they just dont sound good. The same goes for the events industry. Some clients or organizers try to get hosts as live voice overs. Hosting and announcing have completely different cadences. On the flip side, not all voice overs can host as well. Most prefer to stay behind the scenes. In my family of voice over talents and DJs, I'm the only one who hosts events regularly.

Apart from that, you can be more versatile as a VO talent simply because people dont see what you look like. As a host, you need to be able to fit the brand of whatever youre hosting for, which is why you usually see the same people hosting health and wellness events, or tech events, or rock concerts.

How much can aspiring voice over talents and freelance hosts expect to earn? 

As a VO talent, you can earn around P14,000 to P15,000 per project. A lot of talents have home studios so thats something you can record from home without spending on gas, parking, etc. Sometimes, people ask me to record a few lines, and they deposit an easy P5,000 right after. Some projects go as high as P80,000, like when I provide the voice of the “operator” when you call a company. If it's an event, expect to eventually earn P15,000 in one day. As a host, some charge at least P10,000 per hour. You only earn as much as you work, so it's really up to your hustle.

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How competitive is it?

Theres a trend now where clients are leaning more toward VO talents who dont sound like they're announcers, so a lot of first-timers get gigs. This is only a trend, however, so it's always good to have different deliveries up your sleeve. On the flip side, there are also many skilled VO talents who sound amazing, so you need to find a way to get yourself out there to make sure youre top of mind. To do that, I started a video series called #EverydayVoiceOvers. Its something to make people laugh but it also serves as sort of my demo reel or portfolio.

What skills do aspiring voice over talents and hosts need to succeed?

You need to be able to train your ear. You need to hone your modulation and your speech, but mostly work on your enunciation and cadence. Too many voice talents have a certain sing-song delivery that's way overused, so being able to direct and produce yourself gives you a big advantage because you can give the client something different. As a host, you really need to learn how to connect with your audience. The mark of a good host for me isnt how much they can talk, but how well they can make the audience feel at ease. Everyone hates watching an awkward host—it makes you cringe, right? But if the host makes you feel comfortable, even if they arent saying much, youll pay attention.

What advice would you give aspiring voice over talents and hosts? 

Practice, practice, practice! Read books out loud; record yourself (audio or video) so you can review what you sound like and how your body language is. Have a peg you can model yourself after, but always remember to develop your own style because as a host, the crowd can always feel if you aren’t sincere. Clients arent going to get you again if they dont like what they see or hear. Also, get advice and training from the right people. There are a few cooks out there who claim to give great training but actually churn out sub-par talents who muddle the pool and contribute to the pwede na 'yan mindset, and that brings the rates down for everyone. Get proper training, work on your craft, and take pride in your work. But most importantly, know your worth. 

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