Making Money Doing Voice-Overs

Whether you're recording in-studio or from your home recording studio, open and clear communication with your clients will be what keeps the relationships harmonious. As a voice talent you can foster this philosophy with each and everyone one of your clients.

Some of the most common questions we get asked here at are around making money doing voice-overs. How much can I make? When can I expect my first job? How do I get paid? When do I get paid?

Making Money

If those are your first questions when thinking about a career in voice-over, that concerns us. This is the entertainment industry. You need to do it because it is your passion. You love performing and want to do it for a living.

When starting any business, you are in charge of how you make money but you have to work every single day at drumming up that business. That's the real work. Once that ball gets rolling though so does the money. If you have the passion, drive, and determination to stick with your conviction to make this your career then you will never regret it.

You will stick with it because you love voice-overs. Because you get a thrill out of hearing your voice on the radio, television, or knowing that you narrated a documentary heard by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. You will do it because you can't imagine doing anything else.

Earning a Living Doing Voice-Overs

Are voice-overs a viable way to earn a living?

Yes! With the training, skills, and tools necessary, over time, you will be able to make a comfortable living doing voice-overs.

The annual income of a voice talent varies greatly from person to person and from year to year. When you're just starting out most of what you earn from voice-overs should be reinvested into your studio, demos, and marketing efforts. After you start building a book of clients you'll see your revenue streams coming in and will really start to get a feel for the potential your voice-over business has. In time, you'll be living the dream.

Voice Over Salaries: Freelance versus Annual Salaries

When you’re trying to determine how much money you can make as a voice actor, it only makes sense that your industry research should compare apples to apples. For instance, someone who provides voice over services ‘on the side’ as a freelancer, will have earnings that are very different from someone who works as a voice actor full-time. Furthermore, someone who has extensive training, reliable equipment and great demos may also make a vastly different salary from someone who has no training, low-grade equipment and weak demos.

For a lot of people who are starting out, freelancing, or part-time work as a voice actor makes sense for them as they ‘feel’ out the craft and figure out whether or not they like the work.

However, for those who are certain that they’ve found their calling, there tends to be a different level of commitment to the craft.

This is not to say that they jump ‘all the way in’ and go full-time right away. But for those serious actors, much more time is spent on auditioning, networking, and developing their skills. And just like any profession, those who are committed and highly-skilled often end up working more often.

Compared to when you’re starting out, once you’ve established yourself as an in-demand ‘pro,’ you can expect to command higher rates.

But when it comes to building your business, there’s more to it than how good you are. Make no mistake - voice acting is highly relational. Building up your brand as an actor and establishing relationships with clients is crucial to long term success. However, once you’re able to start the ball rolling in a positive direction, things tend to pick up quickly.

For more information on how to market yourself as a professional, see the final segment of this Beginner’s Guide.

RememberHow much should you quote for voice-over work?

Knowing what to quote a prospective client on a job depends on a variety of factors. When you have all the information you need, you can then send them an accurate estimate. You'll need to know:

Where it will be aired (locally, regionally or nationally)

The market size where it will be aired largely influences the cost of the voice-over. This can be applied to more than just television and radio commercials. We'll break it down for you:

  • Local refers to a small population such as a single city centre under one million listeners/viewers, internal training videos for a small corporation, or short telephone messages for small businesses would all be considered under the local realm.
  • Regional markets have a target audience with the potential to reach over one million people and cover a particular geographical area that spans across several cities. Generally, they do not include any major metropolitan city centres.
  • National (or major) refers to a listening or viewing audience greater than one million people. In North America these metropolitan areas include New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Vancouver. National or major markets also refer to Internet/News Media applications, documentaries, and trailers, station IDs and in-house advertising across chain stores.

How much do voice actors get paid?

Voice actors get paid on a per project or per job basis.  Your earnings as a voice actor range from $100 for a 15 second recording, $250 for a 30 or 60 second commercial to about $3000 per audiobook.  There are several ways to calculate how much voice actors get paid, with the most common being the word count of the script.

Earning money in a global marketplace

One of the best parts of being part of the voice acting community is that not only can you work from anywhere - but your work can be sent anywhere. This means you could have clients from Japan, Spain, New Zealand and Canada, all at once. As an actor, you are truly part of a global marketplace and network.

As part of the community, you will have access to jobs for clients who are all across the world. But luckily, the money you earn will always be available in one currency (USD)!

Word Count and Duration

Knowing the word count for long-form narration can greatly simplify the process, and if more is added to the script, the client will know what they can expect. Here is a common formula:

Word Count / Words Spoken Per Minute = Total Minutes it will take you to record.

Total Minutes / Length of an Hour (60) = Total number of hours to record.

Word count / Total Hours / 60 minutes = Price per hour

Price per hour x 60 (minutes) = Your total quote

Developing a rate sheet

To establish yourself as a professional don't undervalue your services. A professional voice-over should cost a minimum amount, even if you're new. If you allow clients to low-ball your work from the outset it will continue to set the expectation that they can get a voice-over from you on the cheap.

Keep it classy and charge what your time and services are worth. That means establishing some minimums. For example, at there is a minimum price of $100 per job. So if the client says they can get it done locally for less than half that price, we explain that they are getting a professional recording and the difference is in the quality of the recording. They, in turn, need to decide whether they want their business to sound cheap or sound professional.

Many voice talent develop a rate sheet to help simplify the quoting process. A rate sheet can be a handy reference guide that will help you keep your pricing consistent and reliable. The following is an example of typical non-union voice-over rates that you can use as a guideline, too.

Your earning potential is in your hands

Through, voice actors create their own quotes and set their own rates. You’ll never be required to bid for work at a rate below what you feel is fair for the job.

But just in case you didn’t pick up on it from the above, while there are a lot of factors to consider in how much you can make, the most influential factor is you.

Are you taking the time to ensure that you’re auditioning for jobs that suit your voice? Or just blasting out generic demos to everyone?

Have you differentiated your brand in your site profile so that clients can find you when they’re looking for a specific sound or persona? Or have you included very little, or unspecific information?

If you say that you have a speciality - like an accent, another language or a regional dialect - have you included a demo of this vocal style so that clients can clearly find it? Or have you left them hanging with no proof?

Are you keeping up to speed with what’s going on in the industry, seeking out new opportunities to learn from peers, mentors, and coaches - or sitting back and hoping that you’ll make it on talent alone?

While it’s true that having control over the ability to assert the monetary value of your work is a powerful asset, whether or not you land a lot of gigs, or have a hard time finding work will depend on more than the pay you’re asking for. Investing in understanding the industry, how to market yourself and hone your craft are always worthwhile endeavors that pay you back in dividends!

Residual Payments

Residuals, which you've likely heard about, are recurring payments every time the voice-over is played publicly. You'll likely be offered residuals if you've landed work on a union production.

When you're just starting out, and even beyond that, the majority of your voice-over work will likely be non-union. Non-union voice-over work is typically paid out on full buy-out. That means that you get one bulk payment. So no matter how many times it's aired, the client owns sole copyright and can air it whenever they want, for however many years they like.

So there are a few other things you'll want to consider when quoting for a job. If the spot will run for the typical 13-week cycle of most commercial broadcast campaigns, make sure you factor the runtime into your quote. If they plan on using it seasonally, factor that in as well.

Respect the profession, recognize your value.

In the final segment of our Beginner's Guide, we'll show you how to optimize your marketing efforts to get real results