How to Make a Decent Living Out of Voice Over Work

What does a decent income look like for an average American these days? How much income do you need to be happy? One study put the break point at somewhere between $50,000 and $90,000 per year. Of course, being happy is relative – and, that’s beside the point. Many jobs in the US are very well paid, maybe even beyond this range, including voice over jobs. In an article on Buzzle, Voice Over Artist Salary, “Big and renowned voice studios pay an amount as high as USD 500 for an hour. But these studios also demand that amount of skill and perfection.” According to David Rosenthal of the Internet Voice Coach, “There really is no hard and fast rate to go by; each circumstance is different and you just have to go with the flow.” Nonetheless, he goes on to say that, “most everyone I know in the industry says that $200 is the least they’ve heard of for a job handled through an agency, and that’s usually for a local commercial or something of that nature. Now, to clarify, that $200 fee I mentioned is not per hour but rather per job, and that job can take an hour to voice or 15 minutes. If you are contracted with a company to do their voiceover work through your agent, he or she has usually worked out a nice minimum recurring rate that can really add up if the client uses you regularly. This rate could be $300 or $400 an hour with a two hour minimum while voicing for video game work is somewhere between $150 and $200 an hour, usually with a two hour minimum and voicing corporate narration can vary wildly from $300 a job to well over $1000 depending on the company and the job.”

“Voice over is the art of using the voice to sell, inform or entertain on radio and TV commercials, non-broadcast narrations for corporate audio or phone lines, and animation or cartoons”, says Susan Berkley, a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world on how to become successful voice over actors. Top voice over talents make six and even seven figure income. If you are lucky enough to book a long-running national commercial you can make well over $10,000 in residual payments for just one spot!” However, she states that, “It can take many years of perfecting your talent and marketing yourself before you reach this level of success. Non-union jobs pay anywhere from $75-$400 a commercial depending on market size and whether your commercial runs on TV or radio. While these fees are not astronomical they are certainly good pay for something that’s so much fun to do!”

For some very talented and experienced voice actors, this has become a very lucrative profession while for some, who are as talented but maybe not as experienced, this has provided for them a decent living. However, there are a few others who are just getting by. So, what is the secret to becoming a successful voice over actor? Let’s look at what the experts have to say.

If you are already a voice actor, it is important to understand the expanse of the market for voice over work. According to actor Gary Moore, “Voiceover, like with the other areas in the entertainment industries, has moved into digital. While voiceover work has existed for decades, new technologies have enabled voiceover actors to record with more quality and to do so virtually anywhere they happen to be. Most of us probably take many voiceovers for granted: telephony (such as voice prompts and on-hold messages); animation dialogue; videogame voices; audiobook readings; corporate and training video work; dubbing work; e-learning instruction; webinar speaking; documentary film narration; radio, podcast, promo, trailer (the famous Don LaFontaine) narration, and television voicing. This growing need for voiceover work, along with the opportunities to work from anywhere, makes this profession a great and burgeoning business for voice actors.” In other words, for voice over actors to succeed in this business, they need to expand their reach by establishing more connections and continue to hone their craft by attending trainings and seminars, among other things.

Now, if you are just getting started, you may want to invest on a good demo tape that you can send out to voice over agents. They’re the ones who could get you into auditions. However, getting into this business requires a considerable investment primarily because you need to be able to put together a demo tape that shows your range as a voice actor. There are many types of voice over jobs that you could do like commercials, promo, narrative, foreign language, audiobook, and animation. Getting a good voiceover training or coach will help you achieve the desired outcome for your demo tape. Once you get started, there are ways to help yourself climb the ladder like putting up your own home studio, investing in a portable studio to keep up with the work that comes in when you need to be away from home, make voiceover friends or establish connections, attend voice over conferences, and keep on training.

In the review by Crispin Freeman of the book by Jack Angel entitled, “How to Succeed in Voice Overs Without Ever Losing”, he noted that Jack does not believe that all you have to do to make it as a voice actor is to think positively. Jack says, “Of course, we’ll eat you alive if you jump in without knowing what you’re doing. That’s why classes were invented. So take a few classes, learn the language of the game… Then practice, practice, practice!” Crispin further stated that, “In addition to fostering a positive outlook, you need to develop the craft of voice acting in order to succeed. Voice over is a competitive business.”

There is a vast opportunity to make a decent living doing voice over work but you have to be up to the challenge in order to succeed. So good luck, make waves, and have fun!

CM Serra

CM Serra has a long history of working with voice talent. Starting out as an assistant and working her way up to a Casting Director, she's seen it all. Her forte may be working with 'old school' agents, but she's witnessed the voice over industry move online in recent years.

  • Interesting article but it doesn’t address those of us who rely on our own efforts, not an agent’s to bring the work in. Does anyone cold call anymore? I see very little about the sales aspect of the business written anywhere. I cold call all the time and feel it is really an empowering skill. One caveat-have a rate sheet ready to send via email or in person. They always want that.