How To Get Started in Voice Over: A Comprehensive Guide
So you’re interested in voice over work?
I mean, naturally. It’s an amazing industry, and it has been life-changing for me and my family.
You can work from home most of the time (depending on the kind of voice over work you do).
It’s flexible, fun, and allows you to grow and develop creatively, which has been so huge for me.
It’s also a lot of work. Fortunately, I love the work. And the rewards are multi-faceted and worth it. But it takes time and commitment.
And to add to this, “rejection” is a normal part of my day. I’ve learned how to handle the regular doubts that come with the territory.
The whole process might sound simple: read a script, get paid. And at a basic level, that’s not entirely wrong.
But keep reading and you’ll quickly find out, like every other job out there, there’s much more to it.
I know plenty of people who started making real money with voice over in less than a year and I know just as many who are two or even three years in and haven’t made any sustained progress. I also know people who have stuck with it for three or more years and are just now starting to gain momentum.
But wait, really? It can’t be that hard, can it?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s hard. But it is nuanced, and so much of it has to do with your expectations starting out.
This is probably a good place to mention that what I’m going to be writing about in the following paragraphs is not the final word on how to get started in voiceover. There are other philosophies and strategies.
What you’ll find here is a balanced, realistic, high earning potential, and high integrity model for starting a voiceover business.
What you won’t find here is “proven systems” that you can execute in “3 easy steps.” I won’t talk about how easy it is to buy a cheap microphone and start doing $20 voiceover jobs.
My business has looked very different at different points in my career. But the model that I am encouraging you towards ends in booking regular, high-paying work, which I believe is the best way to approach this business.
I have talked to people who feel stuck in and even enslaved by the “book a bunch of low-paying gigs” model. They’re finally making enough money, but are working way too many hours for unappreciative clients. And it’s hard to get out of that.
There are clients who are willing to pay what you’re worth. The first job I ever booked was a $450 two-minute narration.
But there are also clients who will happily pay you $20 for a radio spot.
You get to decide what type of voice talent you want to be, what type of clients you want to serve, and what kind of business you want to have.
This model won’t be for everyone. So if you find yourself thinking, “This sounds like a lot of work. I’d rather start making money sooner,” just Google something like how to make money fast in voiceover, and I’m sure you’ll find someone who will be glad to sell you their system.
I have put a lot of time and dollars into developing myself as a voice talent, and I always want to be proud of the work I do and how I position myself in the industry. So that’s the perspective I’m coming from.
Okay, I did my best to (scare you off) set realistic expectations. That part is over. I’ll spend the rest of this massive post telling you everything I know about the journey from beginner to advanced voice over actor.
Let’s get to the fun stuff!
HOW TO GET STARTED IN VOICE OVER: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE
Voice Over Coaching
The first thing I did when I got excited about voice over was hire a coach, and I’m so glad I did.
I got coaching before I submitted my first audition, before I joined a casting site, roster, or a pay-to-play, before I recorded a demo, before I got my first job, before I reached out to voiceover agents, and before I joined the union.
Without the guidance of my coach I would have wasted a huge amount of time chasing things that sounded like good ideas but ultimately would have caused confusion and frustration.
Voiceover is a skill that needs to be learned, practiced, and developed. Although there are acting schools you can attend (many of which would probably be very helpful), my preferred method of learning for voiceover resembles a teacher-apprentice relationship, which is modeled by coaching.
What is Apprenticeship?
According to Vocobulary.com:
"Apprenticeship is a kind of job training that involves following and studying a master of the trade on the job instead of in school. ... An apprenticeship is when someone is in a state or condition of learning from a master in a field. "
This Mentorship/Apprenticeship model harkens back to Ye Days of Olde’ when the only way to learn a trade was in-person with hands-on learning over a long period of time. Before books, schools, and the internet, learning in person was the only way.
I only mention all this to frame the idea of voice over coaching. Even after a person goes to school and gets a degree they usually have on-the-job-training. The on the job training is when they really learn how to do their job. Not in school.
For a lot of reasons, the road to voiceover mastery is a very personal journey that is difficult to distill down to a formal school-like process. You cannot get a degree in voiceover that will then guarantee a job doing voice work. Think less schooling and more coaching, and you are on the right path.
A good coach/mentor will teach and guide you along your path.
Figuring it out on your own might sound easy (and some people do manage to do this, though it is more time consuming and a lot more work) but most people will need a coach to guide them.
For example, when I booked my first studio job, my coach gave me some super helpful tips to help me get through this nerve-racking experience.
Example: Don’t touch the microphone
One of these tips was to keep from touching the microphone. Never having had a recording session in a studio before, I was unaware of the etiquette that was expected of voice talent. The engineer will place the microphone exactly where he or she wants it. If the talent moves the mic, it will affect the recorded audio. Also, the microphones are very sensitive. So if the talent moves or bumps the mic, the noise can startle the engineer who may be listening in with headphones on.
Example: Picture your audience
This is one of the simplest and most important lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) throughout my voiceover business.
It’s simple in that, at a basic level, it just requires a little bit of imagination. But it’s also something all voice actors have various levels of proficiency at.
To draw a parallel to acting, to be a good actor, you just have to react to your imagined environment as believably as possible, right? Simple enough. But there are definitely people who have put in a lot of time honing this craft and are much more efficient than others.
How to find a good voice over coach
I’ve heard stories of new voice actors getting training from a weekend program at a local community college. There also may be local voice coaches who offer their services for a decent rate. But there are a couple things you want to look at when deciding to hire a voiceover coach.
1. What is their goal?
The weekend workshops I’ve heard about almost inevitably end in offering each student a package deal to get a demo made. This means that the program isn’t primarily focused on getting the participants prepared to compete in this industry, but rather their focus is on making a sale.
2. What is their connection in the current industry?
Maybe the local voiceover coach is an amazing singer, has a lot of degrees, and used to do some voice work back in the day. But are their methods relevant today? Have they personally booked work in the current climate? Are they actively coaching students who are booking?
You can start by asking agents, other voice talent, and reputable demo producers who they recommend for coaching. If you ask talent whose careers you wish to model who they have coached with, you will likely get some good recommendations.
What exactly is voiceover coaching?
We recently had a Q&A for my Voiceover Success Intensive membership program all about coaching. What I found was that a lot of new voice talent didn’t know the difference between a voiceover course and coaching. They also didn’t know exactly what they were supposed to be learning in coaching.
You'll Need Voice Over BUSINESS Coaching TOO
I treated my voiceover journey like a business from the very beginning. My husband and I had a four month old baby girl at home and there was absolutely no room to put a lot of time into a hobby with no chance of monetary gain.
It’s super important to have voiceover skills (the acting skills discussed above that a coach will help you with), but it’s just as important to have a business plan that includes marketing your services to the right clients.
This is where your business starts to mirror any start-up. You’ll want to be thinking about your income goals, profit margins, taxes, income projections, overhead, etc.
You’ll eventually need everything from a website to a bank account, a way to send invoices and get paid, you might need to set up an LLC and other business systems that have nothing to do with the creative work of doing voiceover.
We will talk more about the business and marketing side throughout this post.
What I want you to understand for now is that you are starting a business. You aren’t just talking into a mic.
Listen (and Learn) More than You Talk
You’ll be talking a lot. But remember to listen.
Listen to your coach. Learn about the industry. The more you listen and learn, the better.
The second thing I did (after getting coaching) was listen and learn. I devoured the content from reputable voiceover websites, blogposts, articles, YouTube videos, podcasts, and books.
I knew enough to know I needed to learn more. I was having a blast just learning about voice over, which was a good sign that I had stumbled upon something I was going to enjoy.
You’ll likely have an idea of how the voice over industry works that will need to be deconstructed and reconstructed as you go deeper. Most successful voice actors will tell you that the reality of the industry (and what it takes to make it) is different from what they first thought.
The more you learn about the industry, then better you’ll be able to navigate it.
Voice Over Equipment
One of the best things about starting a voice over business is the low overhead.
You don’t need a $30,000 loan or loads of inventory.
$500 is more than enough to get great gear that will take you far.
To keep it simple for now I’ll just list the most important things you need to get started.
If you happen to buy some gear using these links, I’ll earn a referral commission (thanks!), and you’ll pay the same price.
If you bought everything listed in the box, it would be about $450. If you’ve already got a quiet closet and a decent pair of headphones you’re looking at about $300 for just the mic and interface.
The best advice I can give on equipment is to do the best with what you have and upgrade as you go. Do not break the bank! Don’t buy a thousand dollar mic if you are just starting. But also, don’t go cheap with a $50 USB mic either.
Also, get coaching first! You don’t need to have equipment to get started coaching.
If you start with coaching first, you’ll get a better feel for if voiceover is something you really want to pursue. Then you can dish out the cash for equipment.
I started with a $100 mic and a $100 interface that I already owned, and used foam in a closet for years before I upgraded. I recorded hundreds of jobs including national radio campaigns with that gear. My equipment cost was $0.00 (ZERO) because I already owned a decent mic, interface, and headphones from my podcasting days.
I’ve got a voice over equipment page that lists all the gear you could possibly need. From beginner to professional mics, editing software and even business solutions.
Editing audio will be part of your job. Learning tips, tricks, and shortcuts will save you time. Editing takes three times longer than you think it will.
When To Make Your Voice Over Demo
I’m putting this early in the post so that you DON’T make your demo too early!
You’ve probably already come across advice like, “Just record your demo and start submitting it to agents.”
Nope. Stop. Don’t.
If you record your demo first thing, you are going to be showcasing your talent at its *worst*.
You are going to get coaching and training and practice a ton, remember? So wouldn’t you expect to get better—much, much better—just in the first six months alone?
Your vocal delivery will be much better after just six months, but that demo you spent so much time and money on represents the old you, before you had coaching. You don’t want to showcase a demo from your beginner days all over the place.
Making a bad demo too early and depending on it to magically bring you work will only lead to frustration and wasted time and money. It will put your focus, attention, and hope in the wrong place.
You could have spent all that time and effort practicing, training, auditioning, and booking paid work. You could have invested the money spent on the demo with a coach who would have helped you develop your vocal and business skills to a competitive level.
You can absolutely get paid voice over jobs without a demo.
For quite a while too.
I did hundreds of paid VO jobs before I recorded my first demo. Thanks to the guidance from my amazing coach this saved me a lot of time and effort.
It also put my focus in the right place. Rather than thinking my demo was going to magically bring jobs to me, without a demo it forced me to rely on *me* to get jobs. It forced me to focus on improving my vocal skills and marketing which helped move my career along much faster than a (subpar) demo would have done in the beginning.
Even with an amazing demo you have to actively market yourself. Your demo doesn’t do any of the work for you. Your demo is just another tool in your tool kit. You still have to be able to read a blueprint and build the house with your own two hands. Hammers don’t build houses, people do.
There is a workaround for this that I call a “sample reel,” but I don’t like to talk about it much outside of 1-on-1 conversations because it’s a very nuanced and important idea that’s really easy to get wrong.
When you and your (well-selected) coach decide it’s time to make a demo, he or she should walk you through the process, from which producer to use to what spots should be on the demo.
This isn’t something you should be navigating alone.
So if your primary question is, “What should go on my demo?” Take that as a signal that you may be putting the cart before the horse. What does your coach say about your demo? If you don’t have a coach or mentor, it’s time to get one.
Here’s a few examples of demos that are booking work for the voice actor. They didn’t make theirs way back when they were a beginner and it shows!
Your First Voice Over Audition
Okay, you’ve got some coaching and equipment, and you’ve learned about the voice over industry. (And you didn’t make your demo too early, right?)
You’ve hit record, read some practice scripts and listened back. Maybe it felt silly at first or maybe it brought a huge amount of energy and excitement!
After a while you’re starting to think you’ve made some real progress and it’s starting to show in your practice recordings. You can literally hear the confidence growing in your reads and they are starting to sound legit.
There are a couple of directions you can go from here, and your coaching can help you navigate this.
Auditioning will mostly likely be a part of your business at some point in your career.
My first year in voiceover, my entire business model was auditioning.
If you decide to start auditioning, here’s what you need to know.
Auditions will come directly from potential clients, from agents, or (most likely for new voice actors) from online casting sites, sometimes called pay-to-plays.
These are subscription sites that typically charge voiceover talent a monthly or annual fee in exchange for the opportunity to audition for paying jobs.
Look around the online voiceover world for a while, and you’ll find all kinds of different opinions on online casting sites.
You’ll find some very heated opinions on why they are the worst thing you can do for your business or how they are killing the industry. You’ll also find claims that they are the key to building your business and that you can more or less get rich quick from them if you follow a suggested “proven system.”
Here are my thoughts:
There is nothing inherently wrong with online casting sites. They are actually really beneficial for voice talent, specifically those of us who don’t live in major voiceover markets. And, of course, they are allow voice seekers more access to talent.
However, the sites can still be problematic for voice talent and the industry.
The issues arise because of the way that some voice talent and voice seekers choose to use and interact with the sites.
It is fine for a voice talent to bid on a job on a casting site. It is not okay for a voice talent to grossly underbid jobs just to book work. This is harmful to the overall industry because it drives perceived value down, it undervalues all the work and training you put into developing your instrument (your vocal delivery), and it is a formula for burnout.
When you book a lot of work for a lot less than you should charge, you start to resent the work. And it is usually the clients who pay the least who tend to be the most troublesome: asking for multiple unpaid re-records, trying to squeeze as much out of their already low rate as possible.
BUT it is also very possible to responsibly utilize these sites in a way that properly values your skill and is still good for the industry.
Here are some tips to do that:
- Charge what you’re worth
- Don’t just try to undercut other talent rates
- Instead, justify your rate with what you bring to the table
I know when you’re just getting started it is tempting to take any job that pays anything. Trust me, I know! I have taken on clients early on that I later regretted. But it was a learning experience.
If you find yourself getting discouraged, remember, this isn’t meant to be a fast process! If you don’t book your first 20, 30, or even 100 auditions, that’s normal!
Go back to your coach to learn what you need to be working on to improve your booking rates.
Or join a group coaching session to get some personalized feedback.
Each online casting site operates a little different. Some charge annually and then also take a percentage of each job you book. Some facilitate every interaction you have with the client. Others let you interface with clients directly. Some have their own rate cards, others require you to bid on each job.
As of the time of writing this post, I’m on voiceovers.com and have a free profile on voice123.com, but I have been on many in the past (bodalgo.com, thevoicerealm.com, voices dot com).
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Tips for auditioning
It can be really easy to overthink your auditions!
But you don’t want to approach your auditions (or anything in your business) with an air of desperation. That will show through in your reads.
This takes time to master, so be patient and let the process work itself out as you study with your coach and on your own.
There are several aspects of a good audition.
Obviously, your read needs to be good. This is a combination of having good acting skills (see above) and bringing something uniquely “you” to the read. You have to have both. If you have a technically sound read, but it is boring, that isn’t going to book. If you have a super interesting read, but you didn’t follow any of the specs, that’s not going to book, either.
I audition as if I’ve already booked the job. My reads tend to be better if I let go of the pressure of trying to book, and just tell myself the job is already mine. I also read as if I’m in the booth with the client doing a directed session. That Psychologically helps me to deliver a better read (the whole process is very psychological). Find what works for you.
I started thinking this way a while back and I’ll never forget the first time I told my husband, “Okay, I’m gonna go get this job now.” And he was like, “You mean submit an audition?” And I said, “Well technically yeah, but it’s already mine.”
I’ve submitted auditions that the client ended up using for the final product, like this Claws recap for TNT. I didn’t mind getting paid for the audition. And it’s easier on the client when they don’t have to do a separate session. Win-win.
How to prepare for a directed session.
Don’t be afraid of rejection
Don’t let no keep you from yes. The more no’s you get, the more yesses you’ll get. No’s are collected along the way to yesses. Some will say yes, some will say no, it all comes from the same place. So don’t be afraid of the place where the no’s come from, it’s the same place the yesses come from.
How do I get Voice Over Jobs, Really!?
Just tell me where the voice over jobs are already!
This question is a bit tricky so I’m gonna give another word of caution and then I’ll give some real advice after.
Caution: Usually, when people ask this question right away, it’s a red flag.
This is because the underlying assumption is usually, “Voiceover jobs are something that I just go out and ‘get.’” Or “Finding the jobs is the hard part. If I knew where to go to get the jobs, I could just go get some.”
But trust me, finding the jobs is just the beginning. And having that knowledge will do you no good if you don’t have the skills to book the work yet.
Sure, it’s possible that you’re a unicorn, and you are just naturally gifted enough to book work without having training first.
But in my opinion, the first question you should be asking is, “How do I hone my abilities so that I can become skilled at this?”
Just show me where the jobs are!
It’s important that you know where the jobs are, but you have to get the order right. Voiceover work is not like a “job” that you go “get”. It’s work that you earn for yourself through training, coaching, marketing, and auditioning. You can’t just call the VO job store and order up a job.
Voiceover is highly competitive and you have to prove yourself every day.
“Just show me where the jobs are.” is another version of “Just tell me how to get a quick job and make some money.”
Okay so, here’s the real answer(s). You’ll either love it and get excited at the possibilities or you might find it discouraging. Either way, the truth will set you free.
Look in the mirror, there’s your answer.
The jobs are where *you* find them.
Seriously, this needs to be your mindset. And this is good news, too! One of the things I love about voice over is that my success is mostly in my own hands. I’m not waiting around for someone else to “show up with the jobs”. Or waiting in line and hoping they don’t run out of jobs before it's my turn.
I go out and get jobs.
Okay, okay… I’m not going to leave you hanging there.
Here's how I get voice over jobs:
I got my first 100-ish jobs on online casting sites like Voices dot com, Voice123.com, and thevoicerealm.com. At the time of the update of this post, I have a free profile on Voice123.com and a paid account on voiceovers.com.
One of those jobs turned in to a $20,000 national radio campaign over the first year of my career. Yes, jobs like that are out there on pay-to-plays.
I get opportunities from my manager, Jason Marks and auditions from my agents at Atlas Talent.
I even get jobs by sharing some examples of voiceover work I did for clients (with their permission) on my social media pages! (Here is my Facebook page - follow me if you haven’t!)
I get jobs by auditioning like it’s already mine and I’m delivering the final product.
I get jobs because I go above and beyond for my clients. They tell me I’m easy to work with. They tell me they like me. They tell me they give me more work because they have confidence in my talent and in my work ethic and I’ve got the nice emails and the invoices to prove it. 😉
You’ll get more jobs if you’ve had lots of coaching and training and practice.
Be willing to do the work of systematically researching and reaching out to potential clients and sending excellent outreach emails. Check out My Take Action Accelerator program if you want to know the best way to do that.
Network with other talent when you get the chance. Don’t make this your primary strategy for booking work, but I got added to a roster that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in VO work simply by attending a VO event and getting to know other VO talent who then referred me to the production company.
No one is going to give you a VO job. It’s all earned 100% every time.
This is exciting because your path is unique! You get to forge it and play to your strengths. No one’s career will look exactly like yours. Only you have your unique background, skills, interests, and network.
If you’re going to start on online casting sites, avoid places where undercutting is a strategy that actually works. Stay in places where clients put real value on real talent and aren’t as interested in who is the cheapest. I don’t want to deliver cheap work and I don’t want to work for clients who want cheap work above all else.
"If I make your decisions for you, I have made you weaker. Not Stronger. "
- Erwin Mcmanus
So how do you find high quality, well-paying jobs without all the undercutting and competition?
I was excited five minutes ago and now I’m not so sure.
Voice Over Rates and Pricing:
How Much Should You Charge?
How to Value Yourself
You booked a job?!
I will never forget the moment I found out I booked my first job.
But depending on how you booked it, it may come with a huge question mark:
How much should I charge?
It may be that the rate is already established when you audition, but many times you have to submit a rate as you audition, or negotiate it after you’ve booked it.
One thing to remember is that as a voice actor, you’re not always thinking “hourly” anymore. You must think in terms of usage. Meaning how is the audio that you record going to be used? If it takes you 10 minutes to record a 30-second commercial that is going to air nationally, that job will pay significantly more than an audiobook at standard rates that takes you 10 hours to record (and another 20 to edit…).
There are standard voice over pricing charts you can use as a guide. If you have an agent, they will negotiate rates for you. But there will be plenty of times you’ll have to pick a number (a well researched number that values your time and talent) and go for it.
However, I always suggest asking, “What’s your budget?” before suggesting a rate.
Well-established production companies realize they need to pay well in order to attract and keep top talent. They are larger, profitable, stable companies that have a budget set aside for production, and that includes voice talent. These companies aren’t just squeezing in voice talent at the last second, they already have a line item on the budget set aside for voice talent.
Check out this quick video for an overview of different pricing structures using the GVAA rate guide.
Pricing and value is a two-way street. Established, confident voice actors who understand placing value on their work will drop clients who don’t keep up.
Tips on Setting Prices
Agree and get it in writing.
It’s far better to hash out the details ahead of time than it is to get caught in a never-ending back and forth after you thought the job was finished.
Is it per finished minute? Per session? Word count? Where will it air, and for how long?
Don’t feel weird about asking these questions, especially if you’re recording a commercial.
For e-learning, you’re typically safe to just use the standard rate guide quotes without a bunch of additional information. However, you’ll still want to know what file format the client wants the files in, if the files are to be split, if they would like breaths removed, and other information unique to that client or project so that you can deliver it as expected the first time.
Don’t fear the re-read; be prepared for it!
What’s a re-read? It’s when the client asks you to re-record some or all of a script after you already completed it.
It’s super common and doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong.
As long as there is a plan for it, it’s not a big deal.
Here’s where it turns into a problem. You agreed to the job for a fixed dollar amount and there was no discussion from either you or the client about how much to charge for re-reads. Uh oh, this can turn an easy, well-paying job into a nightmare of re-reads that you don’t get paid for and leaves you so frustrated you want to throw your mic out the window.
Have pricing for re-reads established up front
I get urgent emails and messages in my Facebook group about pricing and rates every now and then and it’s always so exciting to help someone figure this out.
When a pricing problem comes along, slow down.
If you don’t know what to do, ask for help. You’ll get more comfortable charging real rates as you go. Every voice actor I’ve talked to made pricing mistakes and got burned somewhere along the way. It happens. But it will happen less and less as you gain industry knowledge and experience.
How To Charge What You Are Worth And Give Yourself A Raise
At the end of the day you’ve got to decide what your time is worth.
Close your eyes and picture you and your business. Now, say out loud what it is you do as a voice talent. If your answer is something like, “I’m trying to make it in voiceovers,” you’ve already self-identified as someone who is not going to command very high rates.
Learning how to value yourself comes with time, and it will be an ever-evolving journey as you get more and more confident in your abilities through practice, coaching, and validation from clients in the form of booked work.
If you saw a brand new Porsche for sale for $1,000 you would immediately wonder what was wrong with it. In much the same way, charging what you’re worth will actually make some clients feel more comfortable hiring you because they won’t feel like they’re getting bargain bin quality VO.
Give yourself a raise.
Almost every time I raise my rates, my clients accept the new rate with no problems. I do lose one here and there, but I understand that this is a necessary practice in order for my business to grow.
Something to remember:
But you can’t ask for a raise too early either. You need to prove to the client you are going to be around for a while and deliver great work. You need to build trust and a relationship first. There is value in trust and reliability.
Eventually you’ll get such a good feel for your rates you’ll be able to raise pricing in such a way that if you lose the client you won’t mind because it will free up that time for another higher paying client. And if they accept the new rate, you’ll be happy to keep them.
Pricing Tip: How to drop your lower-paying clients and replace them with higher paying clients.
Sounds like a jerk move? Nope. Not at all. Not when your value as a voice actor increases and you need to adjust your rates accordingly. Not when you have bills to pay and it’s up to *you* to make sure your business is bringing in more than enough cash to cover everything. There is nothing fun about being a “starving voice actor”.
Replacing lower paying clients with higher paying clients is one way to value your work and move yourself up the pay scale. Don’t sit around waiting for higher paying clients to replace your lower paying clients for you; create a plan and do it yourself. You aren’t going to be getting an automatic 3% raise each year from your clients either. I’d love to see you give yourself a significant raise every year, depending on what your business looks like. And you can easily do that by simply raising your rates and replacing lower paying clients with higher paying clients strategically over time.
Whether you are a full-time or part-time voice actor, at some point you will find out that there is a limit to the number of jobs you can feasibly do each week. Eventually you can’t just do more work. So, when you hit that wall, the only way to increase your income is to raise your rates or simply do more higher paying work. You’ll want to do the same number of jobs (or fewer) at higher rates. Easier said than done? Yep. But when you are smart with your business, this is something you will face at some point.
When I joined the union, I was initially afraid of losing a lot of my long-term clients who wouldn’t be able to pay union rates. To my pleasant surprise, I was able to convert most of that work to union, and the clients were willing to pay my new union rates.
There were some I had to lose, but my goal was to replace them with clients who could afford the new rates.
Something to remember:
But it’s not even about rates, really. It’s about the value that you bring to your clients.
Rather than “How much can I charge” think “how much value am I bringing them?” for a different perspective on pricing.
Okay wow, I guess I’ve got a lot to say about pricing and getting paid what you are worth. It’s important to me because it’s the number one thing that has allowed me to stay in the game and move up the pay scale.
"Coaching, training, practicing, and marketing got me in the game.
Making money keeps you there.
How long would you stay at a job that never gave out raises, ever?
Same thing with your voice over career."
Switching gears for a moment to talk
about my voiceover courses
I charge (what some people consider) a lot for my training and programs. One reason I do this is to set an example for my students. I teach my students to charge what they are worth, so I do the same. It would be strange to not charge what I know my programs to be worth and then tell my students to charge what they are worth. I set the pricing example from day one before the training even starts by charging what it’s worth.
When I think about setting prices for my products I think “How much value is this going to bring my students?” ...not, “How much can I charge?” And that is exactly what I teach in the sections on pricing and rates in my courses.
Your Voice Over Brand
This is one of those often-overlooked aspects of starting a voiceover business.
Maybe one of the easiest ways to advocate for intentional branding is to say - you already have a brand. Whether you intentionally crafted it or not, your potential clients and agents are going to get a certain feel when they land on your website, read your emails, see your headshot, etc.
So, since you already have a brand that is influencing the way that people feel about you (which is a huge factor in whether or not they decide to learn more about you), you might as well spend some time (I recommend a lot of time) crafting that brand so you can be sure you’re communicating what you want to communicate through all of your messaging, verbal or otherwise.
How To Market your voice over Business
This is one of the many areas you’ll get helpful, not-helpful, confusing and even contradictory advice and information on.
It’s also one of my favorite things to talk about!
From underpriced freelance sites to agents, to standing on the street corner... where should you start marketing?
Start where you are with what you already have.
Start with your warm market.
Start with what is right under your nose.
Start with what you feel comfortable with and then evolve as you go.
You’ve got to find a foothold to get some traction first. You can adjust your aim, change your strategy and try different things as you move along.
Reality check: If you didn’t have any VO work yesterday, did you spend 8 hours reaching out to potential clients? Totally serious about this question. Not hypothetical.
I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a marketing course, but something you won’t have to look far to learn is the importance of follow-up. I am a huge believer in developing relationships with potential clients (email is my preferred method), and following up is a huge part of that.
You want to stay top of mind.
How many emails do you get every day. Most likely hundreds. Your potential clients are dealing with this as well. So when you reach out to a potential client and they don’t respond, it could just be that they were overwhelmed with email that day. It is your responsibility to follow up with them.
This will also set you apart from most of the other people out there trying to win business and build relationships. Most people won’t follow up, which is so interesting given the statistics that it takes upwards of 7 touch points before the average person makes a buying decision.
I’ve had potential clients thank me for following up with them because they had overlooked the first email I sent, but had intended to get back to me.
Being easy to work with is marketing.Marketing is not only trying to get the attention of new people. Marketing is also keeping in touch with and doing great work for existing clients. It’s way easier to just do good work for an existing client than it is to get the attention of and build trust with a totally new client. You’ve probably heard that it costs less (time and money) to keep a customer than it does to gain a new customer.
Follow up with clients: If you haven’t heard from a client in a month or two, email them to check in.
It’s a Numbers Game
If you didn’t have any voice over work yesterday, did you spend 6 hours auditioning, marketing, and reaching out to new clients?
I’m dead serious about that question. Read it again.
(Second time I’ve asked. Not a mistake.)
What gets measured gets done!
Voice over is a numbers game. It’s also a job just like any other. How many days could you take off from your job before you don’t have a job anymore? Same thing here. If you didn’t have any jobs or auditions yesterday and you didn’t reach out to anyone (or submit some stellar auditions), you aren’t going to have any jobs tomorrow.
You have to set yourself up for success.
The more time you spend coaching, training, learning and practicing, the better you are going to get.
You can also increase your booking percentage by only auditioning for the jobs you are most likely to book. Rather than throwing lots of darts randomly, throw fewer, more focused darts at the targets you are most likely to hit. This will lead to landing the same number of jobs with fewer auditions. Then you can re-invest that time in coaching, marketing, going to the spa, or… just doing more auditions!
The more marketing outreach you do, the more client connections you will make.
The more often you replace your lowest paying client with a higher paying client, the more money you will make.
Work the numbers game at least once a month and write down your strategy for number of emails sent, number of auditions, number of paid bookings, and how much you’ve invoiced. Then work your strategy and try to make the numbers look better each month.
Examples of Different kinds of VO
Voice Over Performance Tips
This section is intentionally short. I’ll link to some resources for you, but I believe the most effective way to learn performance is to have a coach walk you personally through it. In fact, it can actually be harmful to you to try to do too much on your own if you don’t also have a coach you can lean on to let you know if you’re developing any bad habits from your solo practicing.
How to Land a Voice Over Agent
(Do You Need an Agent?)
Similar to not making your demo too early (and not putting all your hopes and dreams into it either).... You don’t want to approach agents too early and put all your time, effort, energy, and hope there.
An agency wants to get to know you first. And what I mean by that is, they want to know where your voice fits into the market and where it fits into their roster. They need to know you are bookable and in what niche. They will look first at their current roster and evaluate if they have a need for a voice like yours. They want to know that you are committed to showing up everyday and not that you bought a mic last week and might not even be around in 2 months from now.
Here’s some great advice from one of my agents at Atlas Talent:
Agents don’t give you jobs. They offer auditions. You have to book the job by being the best you can possibly be (and beat out all the other talent auditioning for that job).
The Actors Union: What Is It and Should You Join?
If you’re just starting out as a voice actor, you really don’t need to be thinking about joining the union. In short, when you’re in the union, you can only do union work. Which is great if you have access to and are booking a lot of that kind of work. But if you join too early, you will be taken out of the running for all of the non-union work out there. And there is a lot.
So, when you book your first union job (most likely through an agent), then you will need to revisit this question and make some decisions about what you want your business to look like moving forward. Discuss with your agents (and manager if you’ve got one).
But the short of it is - this won’t be a concern for most voice actors, and especially actors who are just starting out.
SHOW UP EVERYDAY
Imagine that just two years ago you had started and stuck with any number of personal development programs. From diet and exercise to developing a hobby to building a voice over business.
Let’s get super specific and say the only thing you did was drink 20% more water, eat 20% less sugar and stretched every day for just ten minutes. Having done these things for two years now, you’d be in a different place. And how difficult would that have been? Not very. Would it have been worth it? Absolutely. I’m not afraid of the cost, as long as it’s worth it.
Back to voice over.
Imagine it’s two years later and you’ve *consistently* invested even a modest amount of time and energy on developing your voice over business. How much further along will you be?
How much progress could you make with just five hours a week to start. Bump it up to ten hours a week after a few months. Maybe at the end of the first or second year you are seeing real income and can justify bumping your hours up to 20 or 30 hours a week. Between 1-5 years from today you may be at that point where you need to make the decision between moving into full-time voiceover or staying at your current job and working a lot of voiceover hours on the side.
Another two years go by and you are slowly replacing lower paying clients with higher paying clients. You are having a ball and you are so happy you consistently invested time into your voice over business over the past several years.
You just made a new demo and landed an agent. How did you get here?
Perhaps some of the items listed below sound familiar.
Consistency wins every time
Could you imagine inconsistently getting anywhere good? Any amount of consistency is better than random spurts of work followed by random gaps in effort. When you are inconsistent with most things in life you can’t make progress fast enough, sometimes at all. You’ll end up spending too much time trying to catch back up to the spot where you left off rather than starting where you left off and moving forward.
Develop your own strategy that is based on your unique skills and focused on your unique goals. Almost any strategy at all is better than waking up everyday and making it up. A strategy that includes consistent coaching, training, practicing, auditioning, marketing and delivering high quality reads to your clients and then doing that over and over for at least a year.
My courses are excellent tools for developing strategy. I recommend working up to the point where you can join my Take Action Accelerator. It takes all the guesswork out of how to bring more clients into your world.
It’s only going to work if you’re all in. You’ve got to be dedicated for the long haul. Describe what you want the next 12-24 months to look like. Decide what you’re willing to do to make that a reality. Then think about what it would look like in 12-24 months if you did nothing today. Can you afford to not be dedicated?
DON'T BE INVISIBLE
How many people know you are a voice actor? 0? 5? 9? 100?
I’m consistently letting more and more people know about my business. You will NEVER run out of new people to reach out to. The voice over industry is constantly evolving and growing. Even within an agency or a production house people are coming and going.
Create a winning system
"You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results"
What systems are supporting your goals?
GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE EVERYDAY
You got this far and you’re still excited? Maybe even more excited than you were before because now you have a feel for what is involved and you aren’t afraid of putting in the work.
Now it’s time to stretch your comfort zone a little and take a few steps forward. This will most likely mean stepping out of your comfort zone! Name one thing about your comfort zone you need to push against and do it today. Be specific and then practice doing that thing. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Ask yourself where your comfort zone needs to be stretched in the following areas. Then come up with just one thing to do that will move you further along down the path.
- Charging what you are worth
Then, after you’re ready and feel 80% confident in your ability to do this, go get in slightly over your head and book a job. You’ll learn to swim, fast when you’ve got a job with a deadline.
MAKE NEXT MONTH BETTER
There’s a time to only focus on the very next step, especially in the beginning. But there’s also a time to sit back and do some reflecting.
Spend some time each week thinking about how to make next month better. Next month is going to be here in the blink of an eye anyway. Let’s do a few things to make sure it’s going to be great.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Be willing to consider the possibility that you can make this happen. You have to want it more (way more) than any other person wants it for you.
I’m hoping you have a coach, spouse, friend, or group of supportive people in your life. I hope you get tremendous amounts of confidence and support from these people. But man, it’s gotta start and end with you. You can search out and invite others to support your circle of confidence, but you’ve eventually got to be the strongest link, not the weakest.
I spend a ton of time interacting with other voice actors and it’s obviously helpful. But I’m also deeply involved in a very small mastermind group we call The Belief Table. There’s only four of us. I’m the only voice actor. We only meet every other month. We hardly talk about our actual work much, we talk about what we believe. We talk about our fears and doubts. We talk about that far off mountain in the distance that we can barely see and how ridiculous it sounds to say out loud that we want to go there. But we say it out loud to each other. And it’s every bit as helpful to my business as anything else has been.
I’m not saying all you have to do is “believe hard enough” and it will come true. Or, “Just say it out loud and it will become real.” Not even close. I’m saying don’t let your inner critic be the reason you quit. And don’t let other people’s doubts or less-than-supportive attitude be the thing that ends your career, either. If it’s not going to work for you, let it be something more real.
There’s going to come a moment when you need to think of yourself as a voice actor. When is that moment? Is it the moment you plug in your microphone for the first time? The first time you submit an audition? After your first job? How about after 10 years of earning a full-time income?
My point is that you need to think of yourself as and believe you are a voice actor before anyone else will. Your first client doesn’t need to know they are your first client. They need to believe you know what you are doing. If you don’t even believe you are a voice actor, how are they going to have confidence in your abilities?
I’m a voice actor.
PRO TIP: GET OFF THE STRUGGLE BUS
Get past the fear, doubt, and the noise quickly.
So many people waste so much time stuck in this phase. It’s understandable, but not necessary. You don’t have to sit in the “I’m just a beginner trying this out to see if it might work” phase for more than a couple weeks. Don’t let six months go by still thinking of yourself as a beginner.
IGNORE THE NOISE
I stay as far away from “the noise” as possible.
What’s the noise? It’s the cool kids club (that doesn’t have anything to do with getting work).
Voiceover is an amazing industry filled with amazing people. But just like in every industry, there are people (many of whom feel threatened by change and/or new voice talent) who have negative mindsets. You can find them in forums being more accusatory than helpful.
Stay positive, keep asking questions, keep learning, keep growing, keep going.
Don’t ever allow another voice actor to ruin your career before it even starts. They are not your boss. You don’t need their permission. If they aren’t encouraging, teaching, and supportive, why are you still hanging around them? (They won’t understand this either, it’s up to you to avoid “the noise.”) There are tons and tons of nice, helpful, supportive voice actors. But they are busy actually working and you might not see them much because of that.
There is no one right way to build a voice over career, but there are absolutely some guidelines you should consider following. Ask 10 voice actors how they did it and you might get 10 very different stories. But if you listen closely, you’ll start to notice some similarities.
WHAT YOUR JOB IS, REALLY.
Training, marketing, and auditioning.
Most people think a voice actors job is voicing work. And of course, that’s why we’re here!
But when you think of voicing work as a result of training, auditioning, and marketing, you’ll end up booking more of that work.
Your job is training, marketing, and auditioning. Jobs and invoicing are the *reward*.
Become an expert at training, marketing, and auditioning and you’ll start booking like an expert, too
BEGINNER TO FULL-TIME
It's okay to be a beginner.
It’s okay to ask beginner questions.
It’s okay to do beginner things.
It’s okay to take beginner jobs.
I can’t think of anyone who started voice over work with a full schedule of paid work and a full time paycheck two weeks after starting. It’s not like a regular job where you do actually get a full time paycheck two weeks after starting. You have to build up to it. You have to be a beginner and be okay with being a beginner.
Everyone who is and has ever earned a full time income from voice over started as a beginner. They also didn’t stay a beginner. They made plans and made moves that moved them beyond beginner.
Most clients don’t care how long you have been doing voice work. If you can get the job done, that’s all that matters.
START WHERE YOU ARE
I hope this post didn’t overwhelm you too much.
I hope it set a realistic expectation.
So what should you do now?
Do the only thing you can do.
Start where you are now with what you already have and focus only on the next step.
Focus on training and nailing that first audition.
Focus on today. Focus on the very next step.
Stay calm and have fun.
Join our community,
the Voiceover Success Intensive!
You'll spend enough time alone in your voiceover booth (or closet!) when you're recording. For all the other stuff, take advantage of a community of other voice actors on the same journey you're on.
Learn more about The Voiceover Success Intensive membership here!