Bad audio can ruin a good video. After spending hours, days even, on a video, the last thing you want to do is ruin it with an amateurish voiceover. But, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on getting it right. These nine tips for creating a professional voiceover will really help you get your message across.

1. Make sure you have everything else right

The voiceover will be the last piece of the puzzle. But if you’re not happy with the video content, a voiceover isn’t going to magically transform it. If the surrounding footage isn’t communicating the message you want, you risk confusing viewers. Ensure the visual aspects of your video are aligned with the content in the voiceover, and make sense on their own.

2. Create a voiceover studio

Chances are you will need to do more than one voiceover. It’s worth investing in the right environment for a professional voiceover.

The one thing every studio needs is silence. Is there a space in your home or office that is quiet for long periods of time? If so, you’ve hit the jackpot! If not, it’s time to get to your local DIY store. Materials like egg crate foam, heavy, dense vinyl material and fiberglass panels can help soundproof the walls, and solid wood doors.

3. Reduce background noise

What do you mean your manager won’t allow you to construct your own permanent sound booth? Windows and walls can be covered with heavy curtains to reduce sound, and couch pillows or foam can do a lot to reduce subtle background noise. For instance, if a particular wall lets in a lot of noise, stick a large block of foam to it and hang a tapestry over the foam.

You can also take steps to eliminate some of the sources of unwanted sounds. The noise from heating vents and aircon ducts can be reduced by closing the vents or draping heavy blankets over them. Fluorescent lights can be switched off, and as an extra precaution, temporarily unplug any electronics in the room that are not in use.

If you have absolutely no budget or time to create a studio, then it’s time to think outside the box. Or rather, into the closet. This is a great space to record voiceovers, as the clothing stops the sound waves from bouncing. Or, you could carry your equipment outside to your car, provided it’s on a quiet street, and record inside it (with the car off). Easy.

4. Research before committing to software

You’ll need to purchase some audio recording and editing software. Audacity is free, but if you want to record voiceovers regularly, look for one of the big hitters like Adobe Audition, Sony’s Sound Forge, Avid’s Pro Tools or Apple’s Logic. Adobe, Sony and Avid make lite versions of their software, so try these out before investing in the more expensive professional product.

5. Don’t skimp on sound equipment

One of the most important pieces of equipment for a voiceover is the microphone. A great option is the Yeti USB Microphone by Blue Microphones. It records high-quality audio and is really easy to use, but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Cheaper options likely won’t have the polish you need, and the built-in microphone on your computer won’t record the quality audio you want.

6. Don’t ignore the details of your setup, either

It’s worth picking up a couple accessories, such as a windscreen to stop the air from your breath reaching the microphone. You can find these online for a few dollars.

Headphones are also an essential piece of equipment for your voiceover. Invest as much money as you can in good quality over-ear headphones that will let you hear your voice as you record. Headphones are critical for catching unwanted background noises your microphone is picking up that you might not be able to to detect with just your ears.

7. Don’t wing it

A script is an essential – and free – element of every professional voiceover. You need to know how long to talk, when to make certain points, and when to respond to certain cues.

8. Don’t think you have to do it yourself

If you lack confidence or don’t feel like your voice is the right fit for your video, then hiring a professional voiceover artist is an option that doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of trained professionals whose services are keenly priced – you just need to find them. Try making contact with artists through freelance websites like Fiverr or Upwork. Websites like Voice Bunny, VoiceBox and Voices.Com offer the services of professional voiceover artists.

9. Don’t do just one take

You’ll want to reread nearly every phrase in your script several times to test out different cadences, emphases, and tones. This will give you more options in the editing process, helping to ensure a professional result.

The voiceover is a powerful tool that can set the mood and tone of your video. With a little forward planning and the right equipment for your requirements, it can take your video to a whole new level.