Setting Your Voice Actor Salary
Anyone who has ever been asked for their salary expectations knows the awkward tension between wanting to make as much money as possible, but also wanting to be realistic and hireable.
It’s the same when you’re quoting for voice acting work: you want to be fair and get what you’re worth.
So where do you begin?
Meeting the salary expectation that you set for yourself boils down to making what you want on a job-by-job basis.
You should always quote what you want to be paid for any job. And, what you want to be paid should be the result of your understanding of industry considerations like usage and the typical pricing models used for quoting.
Key Considerations When Calculating Your Voice Over Rates
1. Know Your Business Goals and Crunch the Numbers
One of the most helpful steps you can take to become profitable is to first understand the cost of business. Once you know how much you’re spending, you’ll know how much of a salary you need to earn to meet your personal needs and business goals.
As an example, if you calculate that your business costs roughly around $2500 each year to run, then you know you’re not profitable until you’re making more than $2500.
Afterwards, how you create your plan to earn money as a voice over artist is up to you.
Go through the exercise of crunching the numbers and get a picture of what feels realistic and achievable. There’s no right or wrong answer, just what works for you. For example, do you think it’s more realistic for you to complete over 10 jobs at $250 each (10 x $250 = $2500), or 5 jobs at $500 each (5 x $500 = $2500)?
It’s also worth noting that not every business has a goal of being profitable in year one. Sometimes it can take a few years of developing your business, building your skills and your client base—and that’s okay. We all move at our own pace. However, keeping a finger on the pulse of how you’re doing financially should be motivating. How you build your business is in your hands!
2. Be Realistic About Where Your Salary Expectations Fall on the Industry Scale
The highest-paid voice actors on the planet tend to lend their talents to television shows or animated movies, and they can easily make hundreds of thousands of dollars per episode or per film. The ceiling of what you can make in the voice over industry is very high, but like all success, it takes a combination of hard work and, more often than not, a few lucky breaks along the way. Narrator Ilyanna Kadushin is a perfect example of this.
Generally speaking, voice actors find that they’re able to charge higher rates and a higher annual salary as they become more experienced and add recognizable brands and gear into their portfolio.
How much do voice actors make?
Annual earnings range from a few thousand dollars for part-time work if you treat it like a passion project or hobby, all the way up to $250,000 or more for professionals who work full-time, have a home studio, and operate like a business.
How can I determine how much I’ll make as a voice actor?
To estimate your earning potential, you’ll need to determine your level of experience. You may consider:
- Where you are in your career, including how long you’ve been voice acting.
- The kind of training you’ve received.
- The profile of the clients in your portfolio.
A great way to expand your portfolio is to get permission from clients to use a portion of the completed project as a demo within it.
However, there are a number of other things that professional voice actors do to grow their businesses and ability to command more per job.
Like voice talent Chris Phillips says, the voice over industry is always changing and growing, and as an entrepreneur, you always need to be thinking about new ways to apply your voice acting skills.
Tip: Voice Actors Share Their Success Strategies in this post.
3. Sort How You Like to Charge for Your Time (and for How Long)
Consider Hourly Rates and Project Rates
There are a number of ways that voice over actors consider their quotes. Some may use an hourly rate, some may use a project rate, and others may use a different system or any combination therein, at any given time.
Hourly Rate Example:
As context, with an hourly rate, you might find yourself calculating the number of hours a job will take and then multiplying that with what you’re comfortable charging per hour.
Example 1: Animated Explainer
25-hour job at $55/hour = $1375
Example 2: Phone System
6-hour job at $55/hour = $330
Project Rate Example:
With project rates, the individual quoting may think of their time in ‘blocks’ – like half days, or full days. Example: A job that is estimated to take a day ($800) and a half ($400) would be around $1200.
Usage: Don’t Forget to Consider Distribution Channel and Air Time
Hourly rates and project rates are a great way to put yourself into a mental space where you’re weighing the value of your time against the amount of work required for each job. As a voice actor, you should always weigh your quote against the end-use for the voice over. In the industry, this is referred to as usage.
Important: Voices has minimums in place for broadcast rates. Check out our updated voice over rates guide.
For example, regardless of the amount of time each project takes to produce, when you layer on ‘end use’ and run time, a voice over for a national television commercial that runs for 13 weeks may be priced very differently from an internet ad that runs for 2 weeks.
Put into context, pricing will vary for voice over work in a similar way to how pricing varies for advertisers who are purchasing time and/or placement for their media. For example, a 30-second spot airing on a major network during the Super Bowl can go at a much higher premium than a 30-second spot that runs on your local cable access channel.
As another note, today’s digital economy is making it so that advertisers are creating more and more content with national or international audiences in mind. One of the reasons for this is because the internet offers so many affordable options for wide distribution. However, as a voice actor, it’s always worth it to consider distribution and run time when quoting. You may begin to run into situations where clients would prefer a full buyout, or to have the recording for use in-perpetuity.
In-perpetuity refers to usage that has no end date. It can be used as long as the client likes, so long as it is on the predetermined media source (ie: TV, radio, online).
What’s Full Buyout?
Full buyout: A full buyout has unlimited usage on an unlimited amount of media. In-perpetuity relates to the time of the usage but can only be used on the pre-agreed upon media.
4. Work Your Niche Market Skills and Charge Accordingly
Another consideration to make is whether or not what you’re able to offer as a voice over actor is rare or commonplace.
It’s always a good idea to know your personal brand and work on differentiating your offer. The reason why the top voice over actors in television and film get paid so much is because they’ve carved out their own place in the market—their clients feel that no one else can do what they do in the way they do it.
So if you have a niche skill, like fluency in a rare language, or the ability to create characters at the drop of a hat, you should be sure to explicitly state these skills.
Tip: Here are some other great ways to create a Winning Voices Profile.
It’s a basic rule of business that prices tend to increase when demand surpasses supply—people will pay a premium for products and services that are rare and valuable.
With every project you complete, you further hone your craft and improve on your abilities. To keep yourself represented as accurately as possible throughout your career, review your demos at least every six months to catch anything sub-par to your current skill level. Voice talent Christy Fabbri has taken on this task, and it has made her more aware of her progress as well!
The more up-to-date your demos are, the more likely you are to book more jobs and bring in more revenue for yourself, especially if updating your demos involves using completed projects from recognizable brands! However, if your demo updates won’t be including any of those past completed works, you can use sample script libraries like this one to record new demos.
What’s the Best Advice You’ve Received for Setting a Salary Goal?
Do you have some salary expectation advice to share with other voice actors in the community?
Maybe someone has given you great advice as you’ve built your career, and you’d like to pay it forward.
Please share your best tips, tricks, and considerations to help other voice over actors build their businesses in the comments below!