Profiles: Ilari Hoevenaars – “My voice is my business”

Profiles: Ilari Hoevenaars – “My voice is my business”

Every few weeks we interview an inspiring entrepreneur or artist chosen from our online network, Profiles. This week: Ilari Hoevenaars.

Ilari Hoevenaars has a voice that probably everyone knows. He’s been an all-round voice actor for almost thirty years and he’s one of the most requested voice-overs. From his home studio in Amsterdam he works for a big bunch of clients. We met him and asked: how do you turn talking into a profession?

When I was seventeen, I wanted to go to acting school. Looking back now I see how acting doesn’t suit me as well as what I’m doing now. I’m impatient and being an actor means endless rehearsing of plays. My input as a voice-over is mostly at the end of long line of production, so usually it’s done and send to the client in about an hour or so. I’m like the icing on the cake. It’s like playing shop and that suits me.

My voice is my business; a talent I was born with and then developed further

I got into this profession after a long path of different jobs: in restaurants, as a tour guide and in aviation. I was flying as a steward for Lufthansa and I thought it was a little too shallow. I wanted to do something more useful for mankind. So I started reading for the blind and visually impaired alongside my job. There I first got introduced to working with my voice.

The newcomers cassette

I got my very first paid job through my job at a local radio station in Brabant. A technician friend and colleague of mine sometimes did voice overs for commercials en he asked me to come with him. I thought it was very exciting. I was asked to do the voice over for a couple of commercials. For Restaurant Onder de Pannen and Disco Dancing De Drie Fonteinen. The technician was really enthusiastic and asked what my rate was. I thought: well 5 gulden for a commercial is a lot of money. But fortunately my friend Ad was negotiating. He said: you should charge 50 gulden for each commercial. So I made 250 gulden in fifteen minutes. That was my first introduction to the business aspect of my profession.

When I started it, there was only a select group of people doing it. Actors thought it wasn’t classy to do voice-overs for commercials, so clients were lining up. The voice agency that I joined put me on a newcomers cassette – and I was number one instantly.

Profiles: Ilari Hoevenaars – “My voice is my business”
Profiles: Ilari Hoevenaars – “My voice is my business”

I once stood on a chair to make a call

As far as running a business is concerned I feel blessed that it has been running so well from day one. But I did always work hard for it. I always made sure my business was running. In the beginning I even invested 90% of my time in trying to land jobs. I also put money aside for the future straight away. I can proudly say that I’ve chatted together my whole Amsterdam home. For some parts of being an entrepreneur I had to do some tricks. For instance, when I was trying to get paid by a client that wouldn’t pay I would stand on a chair and call so I’d feel stronger and bigger. Right now I got these things down, but it used to help me.
I think certain traits can help you to organize your things better as an entrepreneur. If you’re chaotic, it can be hard. I’m a neurotic so that helps.


My most interesting client at the moment is one I don’t get paid by. It’s Stichting Vluchteling (foundation Refugee). I like to lend my voice to organisations that I whole heartedly support. As for paid clients, I like to work for museums. I’m an art lover and I think it’s an honour to explain what people see in a museum. My guilty pleasures are the really wrong jobs. I once did the voice of a talking toilet for a cleaning agent commercial.
My ambition is to complete my career in a nice way. I’ll be 57 this summer and I started when I was 30. I love that: thirty years. I’ll never give it up completely, because I think it’s too much fun, but I’m more selective. My other ambition is to pass on my knowledge to younger colleagues. I sometimes give masterclasses and when I get questions from people by mail, I take it seriously and answer them. I spend a lot of time helping people, because I also appreciated it when people helped me back in the days.

Translation by: Renée ter Berg


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