If you’re someone who’s looking for a voice talent, you might be wondering what it even means to have a voice over “business”? Surely a voice over artist simply provides a nice voice in exchange for a fee?
It’s actually a little bit more than that.
A voice over business, is a business like any other. There are assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses, legalities and taxes. There is probably a business plan and marketing plan, even a brand plan. Voice over artists are professionals; their product is their voice and their service is providing you with a performance that serves your content best.
And if you’re someone who is hoping to start a voice over business yourself, here’s a quick guide to get started:
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This post has been updated in August 2021.
No-one is in business to lose money so let’s talk shop. The business of voice acting may be on the rise, but how much do voice actors actually make?
There’s actually no simple answer to that. It depends on many variables like your experience, the type of work, the size of the project, whether it is long or short term and many others. The use of material is also taken into account (is it for a small market, or a big market?). Fees also encompass licensing – is your material only for a specific duration on specific channels, or are you selling full rights along with it?
Movie star who do voice acting on the side, of course, command millions.
Someone who is just starting out on freelance sites may make as little as $30 for a radio commercial targeted to a small market. A major market radio commercial might pay more; $250-350.
Established voice talents may command up to $5000 for an audiobook.
You may be starting very small on a platform like Fiverr, but it is not unheard of for a voice artist to pull in up to $9000 a month.
Here is a common formula to help you out:
Word Count / Words Spoken Per Minute = Total minutes it takes you to record.
Total Minutes / Length of an Hour (60) = Total number of hours to record.
Total Hours X Hourly Rate = Recording price
Price per hour to edit X Editing hours = Post Production fee
Total fees = Recording price + Post Production fee
One thing for sure is that voice over is a very competitive industry. However, it is not a good idea to undervalue your service as it can be very difficult to charge the correct rates later. Determine a healthy minimum price, and if you can, make yourself a rate sheet.
Your voice is your primary asset.
Your voice forms the backbone of your business; consider it your primary asset. Therefore, to succeed as a voice artist, one of the first things you’ll need to do is to develop your voice and take steps to maintain and protect it.
To develop your voice, you can practice reading things out loud, working on your enunciation and intonation. Try different voices and emphasizing different words to see if you can achieve different effects. You should aim to sound like you’re performing, not merely reading.
If you can, invest in voice and even acting lessons. A large part of voice-over work is acting work, and further education can help you maximize your innate talent and equip you with skills to go further. Even if you’re already a pro with several years experience under the belt, it can only be to your benefit to continue practicing, training and upgrading your knowledge.
Once you’ve started out on the job, you have to also remember to maintain your voice. IT is not a machine; if you were to use it to its fullest potential every day you could risk damaging your vocal cords. It is also unrealistic to expect to be able to deliver the same quality consistently for an entire day.
You will quickly realize that even a few hours of continuous work can be strenuous. Some forms of voice acting like providing voice for game characters is particularly challenging because there will be shouting and you’ll be expected to use the full range of your voice, often for different characters.
You will need to take steps to protect and maintain your vocal health. Some voice over artists even avoid talking too much on the phone to protect their delicate instrument. Makes sense when your voice is your bread and butter.
Voice is only the first part
Ideally you’ll be able to invest in quality equipment to start your voice over business with. To begin, you’ll need a good microphone, an audio mixer, and good editing software. You’ll need the knowhow to operate said equipment, or you’ll need to hire someone with the appropriate skills. If you’re recording at home, it will also help to have a room which you can soundproof and turn into a studio. If you have a separate office, you’ll need to take into account the costs of renting or ownership. Here we’ve written a quick guide to essential equipment you’ll need to start your voice over business.
Brush up on your industry knowledge
Just like with any other business, you should update your knowledge of the voice over market, the opportunities and the challenges.
What are the current rates for voice over? How do people promote themselves? How do they get paid?
You may want to learn how competitive the current landscape is and in which niche your skills would be most marketable. For instance, did you know that the voice over industry in fact has many different niches of work? Many different industries use voice over for different reasons on different media and channels.
Here are the main sectors:
- Commercials (Radio, television and web content)
- TV (Longform or short form)
- Radio (DJs and announcers also count as voice over)
- Movie Trailers
- Animation films and series
- Phone Messages
- GPS and Electronics (think Google Maps and Siri)
- Training videos
- Explainer videos
With each of these different types of voice over work come different types of clients from various industries. They can include: creative directors, copywriters, ad agency executives, producers (ad agencies hire producers, as do TV networks), voice over talent scouts, voice over casting directors, TV network producers, video game developers, and more. Everyone will work in different ways and you will have to manage different expectations on what constitutes a good vocal performance.
Setting up your business
It would be a mistake to assume that a home-based business makes you exempt from legal requirements. To legitimize your venture, you’ll need to establish it legally. This means forming a legal entity, registering for taxes, obtaining necessary business permits, opening a business bank account and credit card and procuring business insurance.
This is the not so fun part; but it is just as important as all the other components as these measures prevent you from being considered an illegal operator! As the business is also an entity by itself, you will not be personally liable in the event your voice-over business is sued.
You may even want to consider asking your clients to sign a service agreement before commencing a new project. This is a paper that clarifies client expectations and what you’ll be delivering as a service provider; it sets out payment terms, service level expectations and IP ownership and it can help minimize the risk of legal disputes.
Consider branding and marketing a mandatory component
It’s tempting to think that branding and marketing may not actually be necessary, but it is an integral ingredient to make your business look professional and make a great first impression. Therefore, you should be actively putting aside a portion of your budget to advertise your product and services. In a crowded and competitive market, marketing, promotions, and branding strategies are essential to stand out and help you differentiate your company and your services from the rest.
Some things to consider when creating your branding and marketing plan:
- Business name
- Business, financial and marketing plan
- Logo and brand identity
- Business e-mail
- Business cards
- Bank account
- Social media presence
- High-quality demo reels
On top of this list (which already involves a lot of work!), you should be thinking about how to build your network of relationships to get more work. You may even want to consider getting in touch with a talent agent to start you off.
The business of client management
Remember that voice over is not just reading something nicely. Part of any of your given day will be tied up in dealing with your clients. As a professional, you will want to reply to any messages or emails promptly; you may get return clients based on your talent or competitive pricing, but don’t discount the power of effective client servicing.
Communicate with your client when you receive the script, during the recording, and after the assignment, to ensure that you’ve given them exactly what they need. Nurture strong relationships with your existing clients; they are the ones who will give you stability and the possibility of a long-term career.
You’ll also be spending much of your days reading through scripts, practicing different deliveries and intonations and also auditioning for new roles. While it’s always great to have a repeat client who knows and trusts you, you will always want to generate new leads and new opportunities. To do this, you will have to audition and to continuously submit your demo reel to studios and contacts.
In conclusion, for a successful voice over business, you will first need a great voice that you maintain and protect and quality equipment to help you capture the best of your instrument. You’ll then need to set your business up legitimately, and then promote yourself relentlessly. It’s exciting and scary to start on a new journey, but a positive mindset is probably one of the most important requirements not listed in the above! Good luck, we wish you all the best.
Find the right voice for you today with Bunny Studio!