How to get started in voice over workJul 12, 2023
When I was a child, I was fascinated with writing and recording. I wrote regularly, and I would often make recordings where I pretended to be a radio deejay. I found one of those recordings recently, and I have to admit it was highly entertaining to listen to my voice as a 10-year-old pretending to host a show.
Fast forward a few decades to the early 2000s, and I was in my office listening to the radio when I heard a quick advertisement requesting auditions to become an on-air personality and production director for that particular station. Within a few minutes, I called them and scheduled an interview. During the interview, they asked me to make some sample recordings in their studio. I guess they liked what they heard because they hired me soon afterward.
While working at the station, I became familiar with the ins and outs of radio broadcasting. I learned how to host shows, record promotional spots, give weather reports, and edit digital audio. I really enjoyed it, and I was grateful for the privilege to serve in this capacity.
Soon after, this experience led to my first voiceover gig. My brother-in-law was setting up the internal phone system for a local doctor’s office, and they asked him if he was familiar with anyone who might be available to record the audio menus. He gave them my name, and after I recorded the audio menus and hold messages, they paid me $250. Up to that point, that was the easiest $250 I had earned in my life, and I was eager to see if there might be additional opportunities for me to do more voice work like this.
A few years later, I was talking to a local videographer and he asked me, “Have you ever done voiceover work?” I told him I had, and he invited me to help him with a few projects. That turned into a regular task with repeat clients that kept requesting me.
At the time, my personal finances were stretched thin, so I was grateful to begin developing a pipeline of repeat clients. Word of mouth started spreading and additional clients were added to my roster soon afterward, some of which paid a very healthy amount.
I even had the opportunity to voice the audio edition of my book “Dwell On These Things.” I requested the opportunity to do it, and assumed I would be doing it for free, but the publisher paid me $5,000 for the recording and they hired someone else to do all the editing, which was a huge time saver.
Because of my experience in voiceover work, I’m often asked by others if I think they should their hand at it as well. My answer to that is, “Absolutely!” If you can speak clearly and you like the process of recording, it can turn into a very healthy income. My average rate for recording is right around $50/minute, but I’m regularly offered gigs that pay anywhere from $20/minute to $90/minute.
If you have the desire to begin doing voiceover work yourself, let me make a few practical suggestions that I think you’ll find helpful.
1. This is a form of acting. Many voice professionals refer to themselves as “voice actors.” That makes a lot of sense because most of the scripts you receive are going to require you to do some form of acting. You’re going to need to adjust your voice and the way you respond to certain things accordingly. Most scripts will need more than just a dull read-through.
2. All kinds of voices are needed. I think my voice falls into the category of being a traditional announcer voice. That certainly helps me get some gigs, but there are certain opportunities I’ll never be offered because my voice isn’t the right fit. Producers and videographers need voices from women, children, young people, old people, and people with unique accents. Just about anyone who can articulate their words clearly and incorporate a little acting into their presentation would be a good candidate.
3. You’re going to need a good microphone, but it doesn’t need to be the absolute best. When I started getting invitations to do voice work, I used to drive to the studios of whoever was producing the recording. After doing this for a little while, it dawned on me that it would actually be more efficient to buy my own microphone so I spent about $100 on something that was easy to use at home. As more jobs came in, I started upgrading my equipment, but my present microphone only cost me $250, and it works perfectly fine for most of the jobs I’m offered.
4. Create a demo reel and upload it to YouTube. Record the audio of you voicing several sample commercials and make it easily accessible online. This can help potential clients gain an understanding of your range and whether you might be a good fit for their projects.
5. Use some of these websites to get started if you’re new. Some of them will connect you with gigs or audition opportunities. Others will let you post your demo reel for potential clients to discover you.
Voices.com, Upwork, Audible, ACX, Bunny Studio, Peopleperhour, Findaway Voices, Voice 123, Filmless, Snap Recordings, Envato, Voice Crafters, Bodalgo, The Voice Realm, Mandy, and Brilliance Audio.
6. Develop a pipeline of regular clients. At this point, this is where most of my voiceover work comes from. I don’t really spend time looking for new clients. I just keep serving the ones I’ve been serving because they keep coming back to me. On occasion, I add a new client, but I have just about as much voiceover work as a really want to be doing. Keep in mind, it’s just part of what I like to do online. For me, it isn’t my entire meal ticket.
7. Develop the reputation of turning projects around quickly and being generally easy to work with. In addition to doing quality work, this is the primary reason I have repeat clients to work with. They like working with me and I don’t keep them waiting for a long period of time for their finished projects to be returned.
8. Get good at working with audio software like Audacity. It’s relatively easy to use, but most of your clients will expect the recordings you send to them to be edited. They will expect you (or someone on your team) to do the editing before sending them the audio file.
I hope some of these ideas resonate with you because voiceover work can be an enjoyable and lucrative way to earn some extra income.
© John Stange
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