Before you pursue any career, you have to ask how much you will potentially earn. However, when it comes to voice actor salary, there is no easy answer to your earning potential.
While there is tremendous opportunity in the voice talent industry, it’s not easy to be successful. If you’re lucky, you may be one of the very few who make millions doing the job they love. If not, you can still earn a significant hourly rate for your projects. We will look at the critical factors determining voice actor salary after exploring the responsibilities of a voice actor.
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This article was updated on March 2021
What Does a Voice Actor Do?
Voice artists give life to a film, documentary, commercial, or event through the use of their voice. These talents usually read from a script for each project. While it may sound like a simple job, it’s one of the hardest industries to gain any traction in.
So becoming a voice talent is not a walk in the park. First, you have to possess an amazing voice; but that alone is not enough to set your career ablaze. Reading and speaking clearly is vital, as well as the ability to interpret the script through the right tone and attitude. One of the most important responsibilities of a good voice actor is to convey the ideal emotion to make whatever they are saying believable.
A person can take part in many types of voice over work. This decision determines their voice actor salary. Each project requires them to read a script in various ways. For example, a voice talent working for a shampoo commercial should sound excited and joyful. For a public message, a voice talent speaks in a way that generates an emotional response from listeners.
Voice Actor Salary: How Much?
Typically, the voice actor salary for most people varies significantly from month to month or year to year. Different talents command different rates as well. So don’t compare your earnings to a colleague.
For a newcomer in the industry, understand that the specific market distribution for each voice acting role is important. This aspect will ultimately determine how much you will earn. For instance, you earn more if you become the voice of a national campaign compared to a job for a local radio ad.
Voice actor salary for television
A 30-second voice over for a TV ad may have a budget of close to a thousand dollars. A local ad, on the other hand, may only have a budget of anywhere between less than fifty dollars to a few hundred dollars. The rate also depends on the size of the project, as well as the size of the audience it is expected to reach.
Nancy Cartwright, who lent her voice to some of your favorite characters in The Simpsons, gets paid a whopping $400,000 per episode. But for any beginner, you cannot expect to earn hundreds of thousands instantly since your experience plays a major factor in your earning potential.
Voice actor salary for radio
If you do a short radio spot for a small company, expect to get paid around $35 to $50. For a half-minute long spot for a big brand, you can charge up to $400, excluding usage fees.
Voice actor salary for non-broadcast work
Clients offering non-broadcast work, such as explainer videos, will pay you depending on the word count of the script and its duration. On the other hand, audiobooks are some of the most high-paying projects, although these projects can also be time-consuming to complete. Typically, the voice actor salary for an audiobook runs from $2,000 to $5,000 for someone established in the field.
Be realistic about your voice actor salary
The key to getting your salary right is to be realistic. For newbies that lack experience, work from home, and set your schedule proactively to reach your goals. Consider how much you need to support yourself. Over time, as you gain more training, experience, and tools, you will be able to enhance your skills and sustain your lifestyle through this type of work.
As a general rule, those in their first year of doing voice over work should expect to reinvest their earnings in marketing campaigns and high-quality demos. At this stage, it may be hard to rely on voice acting to cover your daily expenses. To become profitable, you have to calculate your expenses. For example, if you need $200 to run per month, your voice over work would not be profitable unless you make more than the said amount.
Once your portfolio and clientele start to increase, you will see your regular earnings rise and become more steady.
Other things to know about determining your voice actor salary
When learning about voice actor salary, keep in mind that the job is very demanding. People are not machines. Their voices are sensitive and cannot be used at the same level every single day. If you make this mistake, you risk damaging your vocal cords. So say goodbye to your career.
Delivering the same quality of work over long hours is also impossible. Around four hours of straight voice recording is already stressful for most voice over talents.
Voice talents have to be careful about their vocal health if they want to keep doing their job. This is true for everyone, especially for those who do video games and characterizations.
A huge chunk of a voice actor’s time is not taken up recording or signing checks. It’s taken over by auditioning, which acts as the foundation of the voice actor salary. When auditioning, ensure that you understand what the client wants and how you can achieve their objectives with your talent and technical skills. This way, you will build your reputation and get more paid work.
Figures for the Average Voice Actor Salary
While the figures for voice actor salary vary depending on the location, we can establish a rough estimate for how much you will earn annually. An average voice actor may take home around $90,000 per year – a large number compared to the $14,000 expected earnings of entry-level talents. Established voice talents in the industry for years earn mostly six-figure incomes.
Determining Your Salary
One of the key rules of being a voice actor is to value your worth and talent. Never undervalue the service you give or allow clients to low-ball your work. This mistake will make it hard for you to charge reasonable fees in the future once clients associate a price level with your work. Every voice over artist should have a minimum rate. If you continue charging low fees, you may not be able to pay your bills.
Charge for your services based on what you think your time is worth. How long will you spend time practicing, recording, and editing for a specific project? You may set a minimum of $75 per job. If a client wants to pay less than your rate for a small ad, explain that they are getting a professional to do the job, and the quality of the work they’ll get is worth it.
Eventually, make a personalized rate sheet that will aid you to quote prices for different projects. This document typically contains your rate for specific durations, usages, or the number of words. When you have this reference to guide you, your pricing will remain consistent.
Factors That Affect Voice Actor Salary
There are many factors that affect your voice over salary, aside from the quality of your voice. Here are some of the important considerations.
Duration and word count
Because there is no universal set fee for professionals, many voice talents do not know where to begin in setting their rates. One advantage of this job is the ability to set pay rates.
One of the easiest methods you can follow is to use the per-page quoting method. This method helps if you are working with long scripts, such as e-learning programs and lengthy narration pieces. You may also charge per hour for the edited output. For shorter scripts, you can quote per word.
Working with the right agency can provide you with more paid projects. There are countless voice over agencies that boast top-caliber actors, and there are also companies that work with those who are just starting in the industry. Whichever stage you are in your career, you can find an agency that works for you.
Most voice actors should aim to get represented by an agency. But before you audition, wait until you’ve put together high-quality demos that you can send them. Selecting the right agency can either make or break your career.
Are you just starting in the industry, or have you been on this career path for several years now? What projects have you done before?
Talents always start as a novice even if they have the best voice. Your success and ability to increase your voice over salary will largely depend on how many hours you’ve put in. Since the expertise of each artist is unique, their rates also differ.
Another thing you should consider is your skill for the niche you are in. Voice over talents usually work in the corporate and commercial side before specializing in their specific niche. How much money you make will also depend on the experience you have in your given focus, whether it be gaming, audiobooks, or narration.
Unions in play
Depending on where you are, there will be a union you should join. In the US, the Screen Actors Guild ‐ American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG – AFTRA) is the union to join. This organization stipulates that speaking roles should have a minimum payment of $782 for a day of work and $2,713 for five days of work.
In Canada, the union to join is the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television, and Radio Artists (ACTRA). Just like SAG – AFTRA, you also get paid according to their guidelines if you are a member. However, not all countries have unions. Of course, the more experienced you are, the more you can go beyond the union’s standard rates.
Whether or not you work with an agent, you have to work hard and invest in your marketing strategies. This step is not just limited to ads, but also building relationships with brands and clients to get more projects. Marketing your personal brand is integral to becoming a successful voice over talent. Make sure you have a website that contains your online portfolio, calling cards, an easily recognizable logo, and an active social media presence.
A major bearing on voice actor salary is where you are. Some of the best places for voice talents are Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and Montreal. Most of the time, the voice actor salary mirrors the cost of living in their respective cities.
Ready to Be a Voice Actor?
There are thousands of voice actors who earn more than the industry’s $91,000 average. This fact only proves the potential of this lucrative industry. The secret in getting your dream voice actor salary is to keep on nurturing your unique speaking style. This way, you can access a marketplace that values you for the incredible work that you do.