“You have to be yourself”

Manuel Naranjo - Voice Actor

“Just one word cannot define all the pleasure, freedom and satisfaction that this profession offers me. That’s a dream made true.”

Manuel Naranjo is an Excellent Professional Voice Over. He records documentary, narrations, commercials, promotions and tv spots for a broad range of Spanish, German and Swiss companies that rely on his experience for audiovisual media. Manuel is son of Spanish parents who migrated to Switzerland seeking for a better life. He lives in Kriens, Switzerland, and from there he develops his professional activity as voice over, musician and marketer. Thanks to his talent as musician and singer, Manuel was chosen in 2013 to participate in the Switzerland TV show “The Voice”. We talk about his work and his thoughts about the industry.

Explain briefly how long you have lived in Switzerland

My parents took the decision to live in Switzerland about forty years ago when they migrated to this country seeking a more promising future. My parents met here, in Lucerne, working in the same hotel.  As my parents are from different cities in Spain, God knows where I would be if they had not made that decision.

When did you begin your career as a Voice Over?

Like many of my fellow voice-overs, my first passion was radio. Although I have never worked at a radio station, it is a medium that has always excited me. I found my voice recording my little radio shows in my room with my father’s cassette recorder at the age of 12 or 13 years. Then I discovered my great passion: music. At the age of 15, I founded my first group with which I still play today. I always had the dream of making a living with my voice and so in 2012 after being laid off from my job as a marketing assistant at a retail chain, my wife and I decided to take risks and launch my career as a Voice Over.

You are also dedicated to marketing and you are a musician. How do you combine these aspects with the profession of Voice Over?

Although at first glance it may not seem that all these facets are perfectly combined:
My knowledge in marketing has helped me to gain notoriety and place myself in the market, to contact potential customers and to build a brand around my services. Many of my fellow voice-overs here in Switzerland, have basic training as actors. Most of them do not give equal importance to marketing as I do. This factor has been my great advantage to enter the market.
My musicality helps me in my work behind the microphone. Humans speak in melodies. Melodies reinforce the message of a sentence and turn them into questions, exclamations etc. As an experienced singer, it helps me a lot to have the awareness and know-how to present the melodies according to the instructions of the producer or client. This forms a good basis which has to be regularly enriched with training and courses.

How would you define this profession in a single word?

A single word can not define all the pleasure, freedom and satisfaction that this profession gives me. For me it’s a dream come true.  But if I had to define it in one word, what this profession makes me feel, it would be: Gratitude

Manuel Naranjo

Do you think you must have an innate talent to be a Voice Over?  What characteristics do you think a professional in this sector should have?

A specific innate talent certainly helps. But it’s also a profession that can be learned. In addition, there are so many different formats: advertising narration, audiobooks, documentaries, narration of E-learning which requires more or less theatrical skills.  There is something for all tastes and all skills.
The main characteristics are those of any entrepreneur. Patience, perseverance, faith in yourself and your project, especially at the beginning because you have to digest some negative attitudes and critics. I always looked for personal contact with those who convey these negative and critical attitudes to find out the reasons, learn and improve. It is also important to find your niche where you have advantages over your competitors and create your playing field around this niche.

You offer your services as a speaker in German, Swiss German and Castilian Spanish. Comparatively, which market offers more advantages and why?

These three languages ​​allow me to “fish in three ponds with different baits”.
I prioritise one language or any other language depending on the market. In Switzerland, I offer all languages; in Germany for example I prioritise Spanish and Swiss German. In the Spanish market however, I prioritise German and Swiss German. Thus I have the option to excel with several distinctive brands in different markets.

As a Voice Over, what kind of project would you be most excited to do and why?”

Among the many things that I have on my list, I’d love to do movie trailers because they fit very well with my tone of voice and it’s something I like to watch on TV or in the cinema.

Tell us how your time on the Swiss TV programme “The Voice” was.  Would you return to repeat the experience?

After having sung for nearly twenty years in a rock band with many people telling me that they liked my voice, I decided to participate in the first edition of the “The Voice” in Switzerland. I wanted to know how far I could go in a competition with so many talented contestants.
Singing on that stage, receiving all these reactions in Switzerland, meeting such nice people, all influenced me and encouraged me to live the dream and among other things, to start my career as Voice Over.  It was a unique experience and I would not give it up, but I don’t know if I would do it again.

What do you like most and least about this profession?”

What I like most is to be able to do something with passion and make money. Meeting interesting people and receiving support when you have made a project to your liking or until you’ve given it an unexpected finishing touch.
What I like least about my job is having to argue with people about the price of my services. As Voice Overs, we invest in our knowledge and in our recording studios. Sure, today anyone can record on their computer and many websites offer speakers at dumping prices. But I would like to put the focus more on the quality than the price. I have had some clients who, after having commissioned a job to a cheap Voice Over, have come to me for better quality.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far as a Voice Over?

One of the most important lessons has been knowing when to say “No”. “No” to certain projects and to underpaid projects. It is clear that, in the beginning, you do any project even for little money. But from a certain point, you have to evaluate your ability and achievements and put them into perspective. Because at the end of the day I am my brand and how can I convince others, if I have doubts that I’m doing it right. Sometimes a door closes when you reject a project, but a window opens on the other side.
And another very important thing is that you have to be yourself. You will not get far trying to be the voice over you like on TV. You are you, and no one is better than you! Your clients will hire you by how you sound or are, not for how well you imitate any other voice over.

What’s your advice to anyone who wants to work in this sector?

I advise you to keep yourself informed about where training is offered, take courses, workshops, etc. I would also advise you to connect with people on social networks who are working in this sector and join groups where issues of voice overs and dubbing are discussed. After publishing a website with demos and information about them.
But the most important thing is not to be disillusioned by others. There will always be people who criticise you and throw frogs and snakes. Surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams and support you. And as Antonio Machado once said, we are brave and risk something: “Wayfarer, there is no path, you make one as you go.”

Voice Actor & Musician
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