Everyone came out of the COVID-19 pandemic feeling a little disoriented. It’s like that first step out into the summer sun after a long lockdown — the world can feel hazy and dreamlike. And that includes returning to the normal flow of work. If you’re like all of us, and your finances suffered a blow during these times of crisis, you may have heard of remote work. There are many careers you can do from home, and that may have piqued your interest. Today, I’m going to make a case for becoming a freelance voice over artist.
But, are there really freelance voice over jobs available? Will anyone hire me if I’m only just starting out? How do I get one foot in the door? All these questions may seem like they pose their own insurmountable challenges. But, if you have a little patience, persistence, and faith in yourself, you may find that they don’t amount to much.
There’s plenty of work available even for those starting out. I’m going to share some of the perks of this profession, as well as where you can find tons of work. Be mindful, though, that as with everything, you’ll have to work your way up from the bottom. Still, you’ll find that recording voice overs allow you to have an adequate work/life balance, as well as the possibility to work from your own space. It’s a good life for those willing to embrace it.
And, the good thing is that you won’t have to go all over the internet scouring for work either; there are plenty of freelance voice over sites out there if you prove to be skilled enough.
What is Freelance Voice Over?
Voice over is, in and of itself, a production technique. When you perform a voice over (VO), you record your voice in order to use it in a piece of media. This could be audiovisual, or audio-only; the only requirement to something being considered a VO is it being performed off-camera (ie: not recorded live). The voice can be part of a narrative, but it’s superimposed, or overlaid over the images.
If you stop and think about it for a moment, you’ll find that voice overs are everywhere. It’s not just character recordings for animation and video games or movie dubs; voice overs are also those PA announcements you hear at the train station or that celebrity voice that you bought to use in your GPS. They’re a fact of life in modern society, just as inevitable as death and taxes.
Check out some of the diverse things that voice overs can be used for (from our article “What is Voice Over?“):
- Voice over films
- Dubbed foreign language films
- Animation shorts or films
- TV programs
- Radio or audio dramas
- Video games
- Live events
- Awards shows
- Toys and games
- Vehicle and transportation
- Phone messages and IVR
- Training / E-learning
And that’s only a partial list. Truth be told, the sky’s the limit on this one. Truth be told, there are new subcategories born every minute.
So, you may be wondering about the “freelance” part of things. Freelance means, in essence, that you work for yourself. You’re independent, have no bosses, only clients. This self-employed way of life has always been around, but, exploded with the advent of the internet. Slowly but surely, the freelance lifestyle started gaining an even deeper foothold. Many administrative professions also started becoming commonplace among freelancers — even office work can be outsourced!
And it’s not just typically “techie” professions like programming, design, or SEO that have hit the freelancing mainstream. Professions like copywriting, marketing, video editing, voice acting, and many more lead the charge in the freelance market. And they’re also an integral part of creating a revolution in remote work.
Don’t believe me? Just check out a snippet from this report by Quartz:
A new report from Freelancers Union and Upwork estimates that there are now 56.7 million Americans freelancers, an increase of 3.7 million in the past five years.
“The shift has really been enabled by technology,” says Freelancer Union director Caitlin Pearce. “Companies are increasingly looking for freelance labor because of the cost savings they represent and because of its efficiency as companies scale up and down their work.”
So, if you decide to become a freelance voice over artist, you’ll be in good company. It doesn’t hurt that you’ll also be taking a big chunk out of the $4.4 billion/year voice over industry. Just sayin’. I know you’re in it to win it, after all.
Is There Any Voice Over Freelance Training Required?
The good thing is that the answer to that question is no. While you won’t beat out competitors for some jobs (like say, video game voice overs) unless you have a God-given natural touch, there are many jobs available for the gifted conversationalist. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be irresponsible about your craft; no one’s going to like a smart-aleck who believes they can pull a fast one over their clients.
You’ll be required to perform professional, high-quality readings every time you apply. You may find it’s easy if you start out slow and work within your existing abilities. There will be time to stretch your freelance voice over skills over time if you’re so willing.
Say you’re one of those people who’s great at performing character voices. That doesn’t instantly turn you into the new go-to guy to voice Bugs Bunny. Even if you’ve got a million-dollar voice, it’s likely going to be a diamond in the rough. Hard work and a little talent beat no work and a lot of talent any day of the week. If you’ve got a great work ethic and talent, then the sky’s the limit.
The internet is a great equalizer. There are few jobs (except the most technical) that require certification. But you always have to be able to do what you claim. Freelance voice acting is no exception. While there’s no requirement for formal training, it can’t help to try it before, or during you get your career off the ground.
After all, you’re going to be expected to be able to record for long hours. Some projects will challenge you, and force you to stay in the booth for far longer than you anticipated. Having the right technique is going to go a long way.
So, Where do I Find Freelance Voice Over Jobs?
Another round of great news for you! You can find plenty of freelance voice over jobs plastered all over the internet. There are two main types of platforms where you should be looking intently.
Sites like Freelancer, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, Workana, are exploding with job posting clamoring for voice actors. I’d say that, on average, one every ten of these job postings pays well. But, I’d recommend you try out the less demanding ones and give it a go first. You’ll have to settle into a groove first, and clients can be very demanding if you miss out on deadlines.
That being said, it’s very easy to find work if high pay is not what you’re after. There’s plenty of people trying to break into the audiobook publishing business, for example. Most of them are tired of their day jobs and would like to have a hit on Audible or two. Their whole gig is passing themselves off as “freelance publishers” who will voice your book for next to nothing. These people tend to pay on the lower end of the scale (around $20-25 per hour of finished audio), but they’re good if you’re just starting out.
If you’re one of those whose voice has been described as “commanding”, “sexy”, “deep”, “strong”, then you can probably find some IVR work waiting for you also. Somebody’s always in need of a freelance voice over artist to re-record their company’s messaging system.
In fact, that’s how I discovered Bunny Studio.
Freelance Voice Over Sites
There are sites out there dedicated solely (or mostly) to voice overs. Instead of just basically becoming a message board where clients post job searches, they offer a platform for curated content. They, in essence, become the mediator between the client and the freelancer. In most cases, the client will simply put out a job, and the platform will automatically pair them to a suitable freelancer. If the client wants to, they can just pick out a freelancer directly from a huge reservoir of vocal talents.
I’ll list the virtues of these sites as follows:
Their talent is curated. That means that while not easy if you get in there, it means you’ve got the goods.
Quality assurance. When a client purchases a freelancer’s time, they also get a whole QA and client satisfaction team to back ’em up. They ensure that the job gets done on time according to the client’s needs. They also liaise with the freelancer and make sure they understand the guidelines set by the client, and that everything flows smoothly. In the end, it’s the job of the whole team to turn in a quality product.
Satisfaction guarantees. There’s a lot of crap (pardon my Francoise) in many freelancing sites and no one takes responsibility for it. Clients can have their money in escrow, but they can have ridiculous claims that no one in their right mind could accomplish. Freelance voice over sites tend to avoid lengthy mediations, and they have been known to back up freelancers when the going gets tough.
So, it seems like there’s a whole world to know about freelance voice over. While it’s true, and you’ll definitely need more than just a good microphone and your wits, all you really need is just a bit of up and at ’em. And it doesn’t hurt if you check out a good freelance voice over site to start your journey. It all may seem like too much to handle at first, but it all gets easy after a short while.
I’m going to do you a solid and tell you that you should start out slow. Check out freelancing sites first, and build your way up with small, low-risk jobs. Then, when you’re feeling confident and gain more mastery in your craft, go for broke. I would definitely recommend trying out Bunny Studio. Don’t get discouraged if they tell you that you still haven’t got what it takes, though! It normally takes voice artists quite a few tries to nail their auditions. There are many pieces to the voice acting puzzle other than just a good performance; you’ll need great recording, editing, and production skills to prove you’re deserving of standing with the other 28,000 great voice artists on the site.
But, once you do, you’ll be on an express ride straight to a better life. One not tied down by having to go to an office, dull end-of-the-year parties, seeing the same faces every day, wishing you could sleep in. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, the freelance life offers perks for everyone.
The 21st century’s already started, in case you hadn’t noticed, and it waits for no one. Why stay stuck on the 19th, even? We’ll be waiting for when you want to get with the times!