I have been asked by a few people “can I make money with my voice” – partly because I do voiceovers myself and so I have an idea of how the business works and partly because they’ve started to hear about online voice agencies that anyone can join.
The answer is ‘yes, you can make money with your voice, and it’s much easier to do it than before.’
It used to be that only a select few actors and personalities could get voiceover work, but now, thanks to the internet and easily available software, literally anyone can do it if they have a decent voice, can read well and have a good quality microphone and a computer.
Here’s how you can make money with your voice.
- What sort of work can I get as a voiceover artist?
- How can I make money with my voice through websites
- How to create a voice reel
- How to create a mini studio out of a box and blankets!
- Download free editing software
If you listen to ads on the TV and radio you can probably recognise a few celebs such as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Caroline Quentin and Tamzin Outhwaite.
But those are the big, expensive ads. There are also loads of smaller jobs that are straightforward and quick to do and, unlike when I started doing voice-overs in the 90’s, you don’t have to have an agent to get them.
There are websites, such as Voices.com, that work internationally and anyone in the world can get work through them for all sorts of audio projects, from cartoons to ads and documentaries.
They are straightforward to do, you can put them together in your spare time and you can even do it in a spare cupboard!
There are a few projects that voiceover artists work on:
These could be for TV or radio.
You will either get paid a Basic Studio Fee (BSF) for the recording and a ‘buy-out’ (i.e. a one-off fee for usage, no matter how many times and where the ad is played)
Or you will get a BSF for the recording plus royalties for every time the ad is aired.
The second is better, unless you get a truly humungous buy-out at the beginning. However, more and more ad agencies are able to offer buy-outs as the competition among voiceover artists is so keen and the client wants to lock in the budgeted cost of the ad campaign.
On the whole, TV ads pay better than radio ads but the radio ones are still good, particularly if they are for national or international radio.
If you can do funny voices – or even have a good acting voice – then you could potentially play characters in cartoons and games. Again, this can be a very good earner if you get royalties and if you get to do a very popular cartoon series like Angelina Ballerina or Peppa Pig.
Once it gets into the realms of Shrek or Finding Dory they tend to go for big-name (and some small-name) actors. However, thanks to the internet there are new and smaller cartoon series’ being made and aired and they often hunt around for voices that they can afford.
These could be for TV, cinema, radio or online. They could be on any subject, as you know, from history to nature to finance to current affairs. You need a good, clear and interesting reading style here that will keep people listening and engaged and not want to switch over!
This is a growing market thanks to Audible and other talking book sites.
You will get work here if you are a good, clear reader and particularly if you are clever at different accents and voices. There are also a lot of non-fiction books that need to be read and for these you need a straight, clear and interesting voice only.
You know those voices that come on the line when you call the bank or some other call centre telling you to ‘press 1 for x’ and ‘press 2 for y’? Those have to be recorded by somebody. Ditto the announcers in big stations and those in some buses and trams.
Here you need to have a good, clear voice and be able to speak in a steady, almost monotonous way so that your reads can be cut together where necessary.
Voiceover work used to be a closed shop with only trained actors and presenters getting work through agencies. But nowadays, because of the internet, the work is available to anyone in the world.
If you’re serious about getting voiceover work that you can do in your spare time, from home, with minimal outlay on equipment, this is good news!
sign up to Voices.com
Your first stop should be to sign up to the voiceover websites like Voices.com.
Voices.com is a good one to join because it has 125,000 clients and 4,000 jobs posted every month. They say it takes an average of 48 hours to complete a job so it’s not a long and drawn-out process.
Anyone can sign up and it’s free to join at least at the basic, ‘Guest Membership’ level. At this level you can apply for jobs if invited by the client. If you want to check jobs as they come in and apply for them, simply upgrade to ‘Premium Lite’ membership at $49.95 (about £37) per month or $399 for an annual membership (about £300).
Once you have filled in your details and uploaded a voice reel (information about how to do that below) you can subscribe to the service for a monthly/annual fee, just check the jobs as they come in and apply for the ones you think you would be good for, normally by submitting a demo/audition recording of the script provided.
You can do this work, at any time, anywhere (so long as it’s quiet!).
Janna polzin, voiceover artist
Janna Polzin who lives in Toronto, Canada, has a two and a half-year-old son, Simon, and gets regular work through Voices.com. Here’s her profile.
She says, “All my recordings are done in my home studio in my condo apartment in Toronto. I have a walk-through closet between the main hallway and the master bedroom that I have closed off and treated, and we are actually planning a renovation to soundproof just that section into a vocal booth, while still keeping it a functioning closet. Small condos help develop innovative space ideas!”
“Many times I have left the mic saying, ‘I can’t believe I just made $$$ for doing that!’”
geoff cotton, Voiceover artist
Geoff, an actor and presenter, has been making regular money for a few years from voiceover work that he has picked up exclusively through online sites.
He did languages at university which has helped him get certain jobs. He says, `”I voiced both British and German tank commanders in a very moving BBC2 documentary about D-Day…I recently translated and voiced the French/German/Italian trailers for Aegis Interactive’s game Gods Of Olympus…working in English, I’ve voiced infomercials for a German time/attendance management company and an image film for a Spanish winery who sent me a case of their wines.
“I love the variety of the Voiceover work I’m getting now. My latest completed jobs are an audiobook about the Internet of Things for a Silicon Valley digital publishing company and a TV wildlife presenter for a dating website!”
To get the work, you need some good voice reels to show off your skills to potential clients.
Geoff Cotton says his first one was produced by Guy Michaels at The Voiceover Kickstart and cost him £280. He says “having learnt some of the tricks of the trade, I then produced and recorded my second corporate reel at home…and it’s this one which gets me more work in that sector!”
Ideally you should have separate reels for different sectors of the business such as commercials, corporate reads, gaming, audiobooks, cartoons and so on.
Obviously you don’t have to have a reel for every one of those, it depends on what your forte is. If you can do lots of great voices then do reels for commercials, gaming, audiobooks and cartoons.
If your US accent is flawless, include at least one clip of that, and some RP (Received Pronunciation, also known as ‘BBC English’) reads as well (if you can do that accent).
Geoff says that it is also worth investing £25 in a half hour consultation with Lara Parmiani . Lara is a specialist voice actress with an encyclopaedic knowledge of voice scripts. She will listen to your voice and give you advice and scripts which suit it.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to set up your home studio. In fact, many people who make money on the side through voiceover work use a wardrobe full of clothes because the material absorbs enough echo and reflection to do it well. Others use a small cupboard that they line with foam and into which they put a microphone, recorder and pop shield (to stop those noises the mic sometimes makes when we do loud ‘p’s and ‘b’s!). Many professional voiceover artists have a soundproof booth costing £1500-£2000. But others have created something very simple for just a couple of hundred quid.
Geoff is one of those. He has created a very simple, and inexpensive ‘studio’ out of an old plastic recycling crate!
What you do is:
Spend around £120 on a good quality USB mic, which you can plug straight into your computer/tablet (Geoff highly recommends the RODE NT-USB)
Get a plastic recycling crate and lay it horizontally on an ironing board, so you can adjust its height
Pack the sides and top of the crate with acoustic foam to absorb reflection and echo (cheap from Studiospares.com)
Put a SE semi-circular Reflexion filter into the crate
Then put the mic in front of the filter on its stand at the front of the crate
Put a dual layer pop shield in front of the mic (Geoff recommends Editors Keys)…and you have a home studio
Alternatively, if you prefer to get a voiceover booth which is portable and light enough to travel with, Geoff recommends you consider the Essentials VB50 Portable Vocal Booth which retails for just £69.00.
Next to record, edit and master your recordings, you’ll need software…and the good news is it’s free at Audacity.
Not only is it free but it’s not difficult to learn. Download it and have a play. It looks complex at first, but it’s actually very easy to use once you understand the process.
It’s important to understand the two file formats you can use to export your recordings
- A .wav file contains all the audio information in the recording with no compression or limiting. As a result, it’s normally a big file, too big to send as an attachment to an email, or upload a demo for a job. But can be sent via WeTransfer or DropBox.
- An mp3 file is a compressed, limited, condensed version of the recording which is small enough to attach or upload/download easily so you will normally export your finished recording in an mp3 file, so it can be easily sent to its destination. You may also wish to save the recording in a .wav format, in case it’s needed for further work later on.
Geoff Cotton has created this homemade video tutorial for friends…and you can see it too!
It’s also well worth going to http://www.freeaudacitytutorials.com/ and investing the princely sum of $5.99 in their beginners course.
Geoff says “I wish I’d done this when I started..it would have saved me around six months of trial and error…typical man who wouldn’t ask for directions!”
So join up to a website like Voices.com today, and start your voiceover career.