Amateur vs. pro voice acting
voice over

The voiceover spectrum, from amateur to the many levels of pro

“Oh, you’re a voice actor? Me, too!”

Doesn’t this sound like the start to a beautiful relationship? I mean, how often do voice actors actually run into other voice actors in every day life? Not often. Especially if you’re in the middle of the country like I am. But what these two self-proclaimed voice actors may realize after a very short time in conversation is that their worlds couldn’t be more different. Enter the voiceover spectrum.

These days, many voice actors get their start by auditioning on pay-to-plays. There are even some who earn a full-time income solely from them. Then there are voice actors who have mid-level agents and also gain new clients by marketing themselves well. And finally we have the few who make a living doing very high profile, high dollar work. And if we’re going to be truly inclusive, there are hobbyist voice actors who record things mostly for their own enjoyment or for very low rates.

What does all this mean? Is it good? Is it bad? Or is it just a thing? Dig around the internet a bit, and you’ll get some very strong opinions on the matter: “Anyone who accepts a job that pays less than union rates is hurting the voiceover industry.” You’ll also hear (or read), “It’s the wild west out there. Get whatever jobs you can, however you can. It’s nobody’s business but yours how you make a living.”

So, which is it? Are voice actors who get all of their business on Fiverr taking work from those of us who drum up our own business and work with agents?

My thoughts? Honestly, despite the time I spent writing this post, I try not to spend too much time thinking about it because… well, I have work to do. And I’ve found that worrying about what everyone else is doing isn’t really the best use of my time. Things change. Not just in voiceover, but in every industry. The people with the most resilient businesses are the ones who have learned to go with the flow. To focus on what they do best and to constantly work to do it better. That means never getting comfortable, especially with how fast technology changes these days.

I’m hardly an expert on building a long-lasting voiceover career. I haven’t been at it that long myself. But I can absolutely see the benefit of keeping my nose to the grindstone, so to speak. Instead of worrying about how the new crop of voice actors coming in might hurt me, I choose to spend my energy making myself as indispensable as possible to my clients. I’m not saying I ignore what’s going on with newer voice actors. Quite the opposite. I think it’s important to stay up to date on what’s going on in the tech scene, as well as what’s changing from a customer service viewpoint, so that I can adapt if necessary. But I don’t let the fear of someone else taking my job keep me up at night. If anything, I invite the competition as an opportunity to continue improving. It definitely keeps me from getting lazy!

It is understandable how emotions can get tied up in this conversation. Especially if you’re genuinely concerned for the well-being of your personal business or the industry as a whole. And I’m all about allowing yourself to feel your emotions. But I’m also all about productivity. So after the feelings have been felt, you have to decide what you’re going to do. And I hope what you decide to do doesn’t hinder you, but allows you to grow personally and as a business.

So, where do you fall in the spectrum? Are you happy with your place there? And is this conversation worth getting worked up about? Or should we all just get back to work?

Carrie Olsen

I'm a full-time professional voice actor and voiceover business coach. I have done work for Taco Bell, REI, BNSF Railway, Bank of America and ESPN to name a few. I dreamed up this community of voice actors to connect, grow, learn and get mentorship from each other. We're the most dedicated group of voice actors on the net, and we're here to help each other build and sustain profitable voiceover businesses.

  • Theresa "T" Koenke Diaz says:

    Hi Carrie – I love this blog. My thoughts exactly. It reminds me of what VO actor Tom Dheere had to say in his blog post, “There is No Competition in the Voice Over Industry,”” which I just cited for my business plan to address, what else? , competition in the industry! The basic premise is that the competition is you yourself. Applicable not only to VO, I think, but to most any profession and to life in general.

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Yes! So true that this is true in VO, in most businesses, and in life. If you choose to focus on the things you can’t control, you have less energy to give to the things you can. Thanks for the comment!

  • Great article and attitude Carrie! It’s “show business” – emphasis on business – getting it done and as you said, solving your client’s problems so well, they can’t think of doing it without you.

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Amen 🙂 While you shouldn’t ignore what’s going on around you, it doesn’t do much good to dwell on it, either!

  • Therese says:

    Love this Carrie, if we spend time looking over our shoulders there will be little time left to create our own identity, so tally ho!!

  • Larry Hudson says:

    Carrie, I so appreciated your perspective. I, like you, just keep my head down and WORK! Worrying about what others are doing or not doing is wasted energy (not that I don’t have my opinions and do express them from time to time with a select few). Keeping my eyes on my own work is not only productive but it keeps me sane. There is plenty in our world to distract us (politically) but I don’t find it worth the energy because truth be told, I know I won’t do anything about it and therefore give up my right to complain about it. People contact me all the time and ask “do you think I have what it takes to make money in VO”. I have never had that question for myself. Is there more to learn, SURE, but “will I make it” has never been a thought. Without action there are no results, so I just stay in action! To Your Success! Larry

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Thanks for the comment, Larry! I’m so glad to have you weigh in here. It’s so true that no one can answer that question of, “Can I make money in VO?” for you. You’re a great example of someone who made the decision to put in the work and didn’t look back. I’m glad to know you 🙂

    • Stephen A Matthews says:

      Hi Carrie
      I like your blog because. it puts into words what I sometimes find myself thinking. I believe that Larry also hit the nail pn the head with the statement “Without action there are no results ” that says that we all need to keep working to get where we want to be…

  • >