Your voice can make you money — loads of it. As a voice-over artist, you possess a unique power: the ability to breathe life into words and stories, captivating audiences with every inflection. Beyond the obvious charm, there’s a world of opportunities waiting to be explored. This guide provides insights into the art and business of voice-over work that can ultimately lead not just to recognition but to a substantial and sustainable income stream on the side.

What is Voice-Over?

Voice-over refers to the technique of recording a voice to be used in a film, television show, video game, commercial, narration, or any other medium where a spoken commentary or dialogue is needed but the speaker is not directly visible. In voice-over, a performer’s voice is recorded and layered onto the visual content to provide context, information, character dialogue, or any other necessary audio.

How to Become a Voice-Over Artist

Skills Needed to Become a Voice-over Artist

There are core skills individuals must possess before starting their voice-over side hustle. Let us take a closer look at the skills needed to succeed in this field:

  • Vocal Control: To become a voice-over artist, a strong command over vocal techniques is crucial. This involves controlling pitch, pace, volume, and modulation to convey emotions, create different character voices, and maintain consistent quality throughout a performance.
  • Versatility and Emotional Range: Voice-over artists should be versatile and able to adapt their voices to different characters, tones, and styles. This includes varying pitch, tone, accent, and delivery to match the requirements of different projects. The point of versatility is to help you deliver on different voice ranges as needed. Also, being able to express a wide range of emotions through the voice is essential. This includes conveying happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, and more, as required by the script.
  • Acting Skills and Script Interpretation: Voice-over work often involves portraying characters and delivering lines convincingly. Effective acting skills help bring characters to life and make the narration and dialogue more engaging. Understanding the script’s context, tone, and intention is vital. Voice-over artists need to interpret the material accurately to deliver lines that fit the desired mood and message.
  • Diction and Pronunciation: Clear diction and proper pronunciation are paramount in voice-over to ensure that the audience can understand the content easily. Pronouncing words correctly is crucial, especially for informative or instructional content.
  • Breath Control: Proper breath control helps voice-over artists maintain consistent quality and delivery over longer passages of text without sounding strained or out of breath.
  • Technical Proficiency: Basic knowledge of audio recording equipment, editing software, and microphone techniques is important for recording high-quality voice tracks. Many voice-over artists are expected to deliver professional-grade recordings from their home studios.

Tools and Equipment Needed to Start a Voice-over Side Hustle

To kickstart your voice-over side hustle and deliver top-notch recordings, you’ll need these essential tools and equipment.

  • Microphone: Invest in a good-quality microphone suited for voice recording. A condenser microphone is commonly used for voice-over work due to its sensitivity and ability to capture nuances in your voice.
  • Computer: A reliable computer or laptop with enough processing power and storage is necessary for recording, editing, and managing your voice-over files.
  • Recording and Editing Software: Choose a digital audio workstation (DAW) software for recording and editing your voice-over recordings. Popular options include Audacity, Adobe Audition, and Pro Tools.
  • Pop Filter: A pop filter or windscreen helps reduce plosive sounds (like “p” and “b” sounds) and minimizes unwanted noise caused by air bursts hitting the microphone.
  • Headphones: Closed-back headphones are essential for monitoring your recordings in real time, ensuring audio quality, and catching any issues during recording.
  • Microphone Stand or Boom Arm: A stand or boom arm holds the microphone in place, allowing you to record comfortably without handling noise or other disruptions.
  • Acoustic Treatment: While not mandatory, some basic acoustic treatments like foam panels or baffles can help improve the sound quality in your recording space by minimizing echo and reverb.
  • Audio Interface: An audio interface connects your microphone to your computer, providing better audio quality than directly plugging your microphone into your computer’s built-in audio jack.
  • Script and Stand: A tablet or a printed script stand can help you read scripts comfortably while recording, allowing for better eye contact with the microphone.
  • Reference Material: Keep pronunciation guides, dictionaries, and other reference materials handy for challenging words or terms.

You don’t necessarily need to have all the equipment listed here to start. The most important are a microphone, computer, recording and editing software, and headphones.

How to Make Money Doing Voiceovers

The great thing about being a voice-over artist is that you have several ways of making money. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy. Instead, it means you have a variety of avenues to explore, each requiring dedication and effort to excel.

Commercials

Commercials are one of the most popular ways of earning money as a voice actor. To get started, create a compelling demo reel that showcases your ability to convey different emotions, tones, and styles. Tailor your reel to match the type of commercials you want to work on.

Also, study the brands you want to work with. Understand their image, target audience, and messaging style. This will help you align your voice with their needs. When voicing commercials, you can earn between $100 for a local radio commercial and $10,000 for a national TV commercial!

Audiobooks

Audiobook narration requires the ability to engage listeners for extended periods. To break into the audiobook market, work on your vocal range, pacing, diction, and emotional expression. Dedicate time to practice reading aloud various genres and styles to showcase your versatility. Narrate and record samples of different genres, such as fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance, and more. Create a diverse and engaging demo reel that showcases your ability to bring different types of content to life.

Audiobook narrators are mostly paid on a per-project basis. This could take the form of per finished hour (PFH), where the narrator’s rate is tied to the total time of finished audio at the end of the process. For those just starting out, you can expect a per-finished-hour rate that ranges between $10 and $100. Voice-over artists could also receive a royalty share per sale of the audiobook.

Video Games

Voice-over artists find ample opportunities in the video game industry, contributing character voices ranging from heroes to creatures, narrating cutscenes and dialogues, providing battle cries and exertion sounds, serving as announcers in sports and simulation games, and adding authenticity to NPCs (non-player characters).

Depending on your years of experience and the project, video game voice actors can get paid up to $850 for four hours of work. They can also get bonuses for great performances. Video game voice actors may be entitled to royalties if it is outlined in their contract.

Animation and Dubbing

In animation, voice-over artists bring characters to life through their voices, infusing personalities and emotions into the on-screen figures. This includes voicing protagonists, antagonists, sidekicks, and even animals, each requiring distinct vocal traits.

Furthermore, dubbing roles involve lending voices to characters in foreign-language films or TV shows, ensuring seamless localization and accessibility for global audiences. This field demands precision in lip-syncing and maintaining the original performance’s intent while delivering lines in a different language.

Typically, most anime voice actors get paid between $35 and $75 per hour as needed. Similarly, most voice dubbing actors get paid between $60 and $80 per hour, usually for 2 to 4 hours.

Corporate Projects

Corporate projects like training videos, presentations, and e-learning modules are another way for voice-over artists to earn. In training videos, voice-over artists provide clear and engaging narration for instructional content, enhancing employee learning experiences. They contribute to presentations by delivering key information in a compelling manner, ensuring that complex concepts are understood easily. E-learning modules benefit from their ability to convey knowledge with a balanced tone, aiding in retaining information.

Earning through Freelancing Platforms

If you want to get in front of ready-made audiences more easily, freelancing platforms are a good option to consider. Through these platforms, you can create a profile, showcase your skills, and bid on projects posted by clients looking for voice-over services. This allows you to access various opportunities, from commercials to explainer videos, and establish connections with clients worldwide. While freelancing platforms provide visibility and convenience, it’s essential to craft compelling proposals, set competitive rates, and maintain professionalism to stand out and secure consistent voice-over gigs.

Don’t know where to start? Check out these platforms.

  • Voices: One of the largest platforms for voice-over work, offering a range of projects from commercials to audiobooks. Artists create profiles, audition for posted jobs, and negotiate terms directly with clients.
  • Voice123: Voices123 prides itself as the world’s first and largest freelancing platform exclusively for professional voice actors. It offers a platform for creators, crafters, and dreamers to be the voice for themselves and others. Voices123 empowers users to believe in their potential while providing a meaningful and transparent environment for connecting voice actors with clients.
  • Fiverr: Fiverr is a freelance marketplace where voice-over artists can create profiles, offer various services, set their own rates, and attract clients looking for voice-over work. While Fiverr is not exclusively for voice-over artists, it offers a decent avenue for you to kickstart your voice-over side hustle,
  • Upwork: Upwork is another general freelance platform that includes voice-over as one of its categories. Artists can bid on voice-over projects, set their rates, and build relationships with clients. In addition, the platform allows freelancers to create project catalogs that clients can browse through and purchase.
  • ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange): Operated by Audible, ACX connects audiobook narrators with authors and publishers. Narrators can audition for audiobook projects and negotiate royalty-sharing or per-finished-hour rates.
  • Bodalgo: The platform connecting voice-over artists with clients worldwide. It offers features like job postings, auditions, and networking opportunities.

How to Set Your Voice-over Rates

The average voice-over artist earns $40.58, according to Indeed. On the lower end of the spectrum, this could be as low as $19.20 per hour or $85.76 per hour on the higher end. Thus, it is clear that voice-over rates can vary significantly based on factors such as experience, project complexity, industry demand, and the unique value an artist brings to their work.

Setting voice-over rates requires a strategic approach that factors in your skills, experience, project complexity, and market trends. Begin by assessing your expertise and researching industry standards for various project types. If you’re taking baby steps in the industry, your rate should reflect this. You can make upward reviews as you move up the ladder.

You should also consider project intricacies, editing time, and usage rights when calculating rates, whether per hour or per project. Factor in your expenses and aim for competitive but fair pricing that reflects your value and aligns with your niche.

Tips for Negotiating Better Voice-over Deals

  • Be Professional: Always approach negotiations with the highest sense of professionalism. You don’t want to come off as inflexible but rather as someone who values their expertise and is willing to find mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Highlight Your Expertise: Clients can sometimes be adamant. Thus, highlighting your expertise, unique selling points and the value you bring helps you negotiate better rates.
  • Have a Clear Bottom Line: Be open to negotiation, but have a clear bottom line.
  • Offer Tiered Pricing: If clients have budget constraints, you can make things easier by offering flexibility through pricing tiers.

On a final note, you should regularly review and adjust your rates as you gain experience and recognition, ensuring your compensation aligns with your skills and the industry standards.

Marketing Yourself

Build a Portfolio

Marketing yourself in the voice-over industry is about showcasing your skills and demonstrating your versatility. It’s less about telling and more about showing what you can do. Start by creating a professional and diversified demo reel that highlights your ability to deliver various tones, styles, and character voices.

Different clients have distinct needs. A diverse portfolio appeals to a broader audience, from commercial brands to indie game developers. Also, a range of samples implies that you’re proficient in various voice techniques and can deliver high-quality performances across different contexts. Your portfolio is an ongoing work. Thus, as you complete new projects, you should update your portfolio to keep it current and relevant.

Networking

To build beneficial connections for your voice-over side hustle, you will need to network.

If time permits, strive to attend industry events, both in-person and online, to meet peers, clients, and agents. Further, engage in online forums, maintain a professional website and active social media profiles, and collaborate with fellow artists.

Social media visibility is particularly important for voice-over artists. You can take advantage of the rise of platforms like Instagram and TikTok to put out your voice-overs, engage with a wider audience, and showcase your skills in creative and engaging ways.

Sharing short voice samples, offering industry insights, and participating in relevant challenges can help you build a strong online presence.

Regularly posting fresh content and utilizing relevant hashtags can boost your discoverability and reach within the social media landscape, ultimately contributing to your success in the voice-over industry.

Conclusion

Overall, voice-over demands a fusion of skill, networking, and adaptability. It is a side hustle that can bring on considerable income when you perfect your craft. As you embark on this journey, remember that every voice carries a distinctive narrative. Embrace the learning curve, embrace risk-taking, and, most importantly, uphold your authenticity.

The industry thrives on diversity and passion, be it for animations, games, commercials, or corporate projects. With determination and an openness to growth, you can chart your course in the world of voice-over. No two projects are the same. Thus, you should be willing to tackle challenges as they come. Ultimately, celebrate your achievements, and let your voice resonate as a testament to your unique journey.

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Ibrahim Okunade

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