The idea of getting paid to read words off a bit of paper sounds unbelievable to some. But it’s what hundreds of thousands of voice talent around the world do on a daily basis.
The little known, but highly lucrative, voice over industry is exploding as applications like iPhone, iPad and Android games and tablets, utilize human voices thank to the ability for clients to easily hire and work with professional voice over talent.
With the price of studio equipment becoming more affordable to most people serious about earning an income from their chops, home studios have been popping up across the globe, replicating the exact same sound as expensive hourly studios in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and London.
But it may not be as simple as it seems. There’s a lot more to the industry than just buying a microphone and hitting record. The voice actors who are scoring the top gigs have years of experience under their belt, countless studio hours perfecting their craft, and submitting auditions on a daily basis.
The benefits of being a modern voice over artist include the ability to work from home, choosing your own hours, declining jobs and generally being your own boss. Work pays anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a few minutes of audio to tens of thousands for national radio or TV spots.
Nowadays, most jobs are cast online through voice over websites that connect clients, like production companies and advertising agencies with voice actors. Essentially the clients browse through a database of talent, or send out a script for actors to submit custom auditions. The client then makes a selection, and the voice records from their own studio.
Michael Schwalbe decided to take the plunge into full-time voice acting in October 2013, and it was a decision he doesn’t regret. Most of his work comes through the internet. “I use a variety of methods to find work online. Since the internet allows me to be a global talent, rather than being constrained by local opportunities, I try to take advantage of everything I can. I use Google Alerts to notify me of job postings around the internet, and I use various freelance websites to find other occasional gigs. I also do a lot of direct cold-calls and cold emails to production companies around the world, discussing their needs and sending my demos to their in-house talent rosters.”
Many talent work toward establishing a regular handful of clients that hire them weekly or monthly for ongoing projects With e-Learning projects and national television commercials being the most lucrative.
Using a mix of traditional agents and online voice over websites, it’s not unheard of for talent to earn in excess of six figures.
The explosion of these casting websites in recent years has meant that recordings can be delivered faster to clients.
Schwalbe uses these websites to source new clients that he may not find through traditional avenues. “As of now, The Voice Realm is the only P2P that I use. I’ve tried others in the past, but what draws me to The Voice Realm is the simple fact that it’s a website for professionals, that eliminates the counter-productive bidding wars that permeates the other cattle-call-esque clearinghouses. They pay rates that are reasonable, and they don’t flood me with mountains of junk jobs that I wouldn’t want to do.”
A professional home studio can be setup up to provide adequate recordings for under $500. And voice over coaching can cost anywhere between $300 and $1000 for 10 sessions, enough for a beginner to sink their teeth in and decide if they are suited to the business.
But before you get too excited, Schawalbe is quick to point out that it’s not a quick trick to riches. “You have to be fearless about cold-calls, unwavering in the face of the constant rejection you’ll find, and get comfortable auditioning unsuccessfully maybe 50-100 times for every single job you get hired for. You also need a firm business sense, because you are the only employee working in HR, Marketing, Sales, Video/Audio, and Reception at your VO business. You also need to be an ongoing student, learning about audio, acting, reading, and more. It’s not an easy job.”
The voice over industry is estimated to be worth over 12 billion dollars globally.