With permission and reposted from my friend and colleague (and overall badass) Brigid Reale. The original Facebook post can be found here.
LONG & HOPEFULLY HELPFUL POST WARNING
Something I (and many of my fellow Voice Actors) hear often is “How do I get into/break into voiceover? People always tell me I have a great voice (can be replaced with “I do all kinds of voices”)”. To be 100% honest and transparent, when I hear that last part, I fight the eye-roll, take a deep calming breath, and mindfully unclench my shoulders. It’s like when I was a yoga instructor and people would say, “You teach yoga? Oh I LOVE TO STRETCH!” 🙄🤦♀️🤯 Honestly, I can’t really be salty. Compared to other careers, you don’t run into voice actors everyday like you might IT people, unless you are a voice actor. And there are thousands of us! We are actually a pretty tight knit community. But to the rest of world, yeah, we’re kinda like rainbows. And you don’t know what you don’t know.
It seems like I am (or my non-vo hubby is) being approached by people more frequently right now, understandably, due to the pandemic hitting employment so hard. This is one of the reasons I am writing this now. And yes, I’d guesstimate that 90% or more of voiceover work is happening from home studios at the moment. It seems like a win-win! And let me be clear- I am not trying to dissuade anyone from having a dream. I simply want to be fair and honest. Voiceover is cool, and fun, full of variety, and potentially lucrative, but it is not something you wake up and decide to do on a whim.
Having a great voice is wonderful and certainly can serve you well in this industry. But it is one of the smallest parts of the big picture. I have been a voice actor for a short 7 years now, and the one thing I have learned– Voiceover is not a job. It is a small business; one that requires a pretty hefty initial investment of time, education, and money to get you up and running. Think of it like being a coffee lover, who thinks it would be great to own a coffee shop. That love of coffee is amazing, but you have a lot to buy, prep, and organize before you can start selling your signature lattes.
In your first 6 months to a year, you should expect to spend between $10k – $20k. Why? Because you will need to:
- Build a home studio (whether in a closet, out of PVC piping, converting a room, or buying a fancy professional isolation booth).
- Buy your equipment (XLR microphone, interface, audio-production level headphones, recording software, just to start).
- Get many many MANY sessions of training in genre-specific voiceover technique, vo business training, audio production and editing training. Training can be done 1-on-1 (around $175 per hour), or in workshops and conferences (prices vary from $25-$40 for group classes, up to several hundred dollars for weekend long conferences).
- Get professionally produced demos for EACH genre for which you are looking to book work. Demos run between $1800-$2500 each for the pro ones that you really DO want.
- Build a website.
- Acquire various other memberships, crm software, marketing, networking, engineering, bookkeeping tools, and business resources to help you organize your business, find opportunities, deliver work, and collect payment.
And I’m just scratching the surface here. Once you have everything in place, you will need to know:
- Where to find opportunities (It’s not just one place or type of place).
- Industry standard rates for all the different areas of voiceover. TV Commercial work charges differently from radio commercial work or explainer video work or e-learning or audiobooks or IVR or podcasts or animation or video games or mobile apps or museum tours or or or. Usage is not one size fits all.
- How to generate a quote with all the necessary line items and terms & conditions.
- How to audition.
- How to record work, edit it, and deliver it to the client in their desired audio format quickly. Also how to do pick-ups quickly and efficiently.
- How to run and be directed in a live session.
- How to invoice and collect payment.
It’s a lot! In no way, shape, or form is this a thing that you should think, “OH! I wanna do some voiceover work.” NOPE! This is a full-blown small business, and the minute you enter this arena, you are an entrepreneur. You should think, “OH! I want to open a voiceover business!” There are no shortcuts to this. And like I said, the industry is a very supportive and inclusive community. I LOVE MY TRIBE OF COLLEAGUES! They are some of the best people I have the privilege to include in my daily life.
Can you make a fulltime living? The short, sing-songy answer- Yeees! When you are first starting, you should expect to be seeking opportunities 80% of the time, and working…maybe 20% of the time, more or less. And do not expect to recoup your investment right away. If you do, I suggest you also go buy a lottery ticket, because your luck is on fire! It takes time– not uncommonly, years. As you market, create connections, and develop strong business relationships, that 80:20 balance should change, but again takes time. My point is, yes, voiceover is really cool, interesting, diverse and well-paying work, when done right. Yes, it is as fun as it looks most of the time. But it’s not easy, nor is it for the faint of heart. It’s a long game, not a lightning round. Hope this helps!
For more information on Brigid check out realevoices.com