Ever wondered what it's like to be a...voiceover artist

VOICEOVER ARTIST: Emma Hignett

VOICEOVER ARTIST: Emma Hignett

First published in Business: Odd Jobs The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

EMMA Hignett's voice is hard to avoid.

Her announcements on London's buses make sure the capital's six million commuters and tourists don't miss their stops.

For several years she was the voice of Sensodyne toothpaste's TV advertisements.

Climb aboard the Sky Train ride at Alton Towers theme park and it's Emma's quietly authoritative tones that instruct you to sit down and prepare for take off. If Visa credit card customers phone to check their account balances Emma tells them the good or the bad news.

The former weather girl and radio presenter has done voice over work for global brands such as Yahoo, Bing, Xbox and Paypal, many from the recording studio in her home at Staindrop, County Durham.

Q Do you like the sound of your own voice?

A I have grown to like it.

I'm very self critical. I have been known to go on a bus and take notes and then go back in and re-record my announcements.

We did the first recordings for Transport For London 2,000 at a time over a five hour session. Most of them were straightforward such as Oxford Circus or Regent Square, but they become more difficult when you are telling people about places of interest. I had to say the name of a Sikh Temple and none of us in the studio knew the correct pronunciation. We were rattling through them so there was no time to check. They are the ones you often record again.

Q How did your career start?

A It all stems from my time in radio.

I was a radio presenter working for Red Dragon FM in Cardiff and Capital Gold in London. In 2005, I was asked to run Alpha FM in Darlington.

In the early years of my career I was a traffic reporter. A property development company heard my voice and said that's the one we want for our advert. It started as this sideline that was a nice little earner but nothing serious. I wasn't going looking for voice over work. But it steadily built up into something much bigger.

Q Does it pay well?

A There was a TV ad I did that paid me £5,000 for an hour's work.

The big earners are TV campaigns. You pitch up every six months and earn thousands of pounds for a few hours work. A friend of mine got a job on a very big campaign and told me they'd earned a year's salary for a morning in the studio.

It sounds like a ridiculously easy way of earning money, but it's not. One of the most important things you need to know is how to use your voice to deliver a script.

You also need audio editing skills. Nowadays people expect you to record in your own studio and send it through.

Because of technological developments, through the internet and interactive phone systems there is a lot of work out there. I was on an ISDN at 8.30pm last night to a company in Chicago recording prompts for outgoing and incoming phone calls to Microsoft.

Q What is it about your voice that makes you in demand?

A It has an Englishness that's not overly-plummy.

It's also has clarity. There are lots of lovely voices that have a quirkiness to them, which can in some instances be a bit distracting.

When they did the research for the bus contract they chose me because of all the voices they tested they thought it would be the least likely to wind people up. You are going to hear it every 30-40 seconds on a bus route so it has to be voice that isn't going to grate.

I haven't got a fanclub. I'm just glad that there isn't a Facebook page for people who can't stand my voice. There are a few transport fans that mention me on the internet, but thankfully they have said only nice things.

Q What would be your dream voice over job?

A I'd love to do an animation - that would be amazing. Recently I have done a lot of audiobooks that are sold through online bookstores such as Amazon and Audible. They can be fun. I've recorded short stories by American writers Herman Melville and O Henry. I read one written by Lord Byron and there was really long one about Buddhism that was quite difficult to get right.

Strangely, I've had people asking for my Northern accent rather than the one I do on my demo. I find it hard to do my normal accent in front of a microphone.

Q Have you have elocution lessons?

A No, but I do pick up tips as much as I can. Your voice is a muscle therefore you have to treat it correctly.

I have a good friend who is a trained singer and I have learned techniques from her. Yawning helps a lot because it opens the throat. I haven't insured my voice but I do all that I can to avoid coughs and colds.

I have read that (opera singer) Katherine Jenkins doesn't talk for 24 hours before a performance. I have a three year old son, so that isn't an option for me.

For more information visit www.emmahignett.com

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