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Saturday, March 19, 2016

How To Earn £1k Doing Voice Overs (Even If You're A Complete Beginner)

One of my students recently complained that she was only earning about £3,000 a year doing voice overs. When I pointed out that many of my other students would be quite happy with that amount, she remarked "how on earth do they survive?"

The point is that most people starting out in the industry are not doing voice overs as their main job, but as a sideline or hobby. They are not looking to replace their income, but rather supplement it with something that is fun and different.

Start small and grow your voiceover income in stages.

If you keep a sense of proportion, I believe £1,000 per annum (or $1k or €1k, even though they convert into different amounts) is achievable, even for a complete novice. Let's face it, we are not talking about huge sums here... in fact all you have to do is earn £20 per week from your voice.

But how?

First and foremost you must enjoy what you do. It is no good embarking on a path if you have little interest in the subject matter. Here are questions you should be asking:

  • Do I like reading? Voice overs are all about lifting words off the page and the more you read, the better your voice over performance will be.
  • Am I up for learning something new? An open mind (as well as an open mouth) are essential in voice overs. Could you develop new skills such as recording from home?
  • Have I enough spare time?  You will require commitment and tenacity; if you are easily distracted or lack focus, voice overs may not be for you.
Notice, I haven't even mentioned your voice yet.

So what about suitability? Potentially every voice is suitable for some sort of VO work, but the key is delivery. If two similar voices were going for the same job, the one with the better performance would win. Obvious? You would be amazed at the number of people who put performance at the bottom of their list.

Your first steps should include
  • Researching the industry. Where is most of the work to be found? Are there some areas where you are likely to be more successful such as audiobooks or e-Learning?
  • Hiring a coach. If you really don't know anything about voice overs, you will no doubt benefit from someone guiding you through the VO jungle. 
  • Recording a showreel. Future clients want to hear what you sound like reading scripts.

Once you have done the above, the next step is to start recording from home. Always remember to use a condenser microphone and have plenty of sound deadening with duvets, curtains and other soft furnishings. Buy the best equipment you can afford.

Still up for it?

It is time to start marketing. Use the pay-to-play sites such as Voice123, the freelancer sites (eg and contact local production companies.

Starting to feel a little daunted? Perhaps voice overs are not for you. However if you are thinking 'yeah I would like to give it a go' then you sound like the kind of person who could reap some rewards.

Do you recall the amount I promised at the beginning of this post? £1,000. Does it seem any nearer? We could argue twenty jobs at £50 each would do it, or a handful of juicy £200 gigs - but maybe you should work even more tentatively towards your target.

To be honest in your first year you will be finding your feet, developing contacts and learning to create a professional sound from home so you could aim just to reach break-even on your investments. But by the second year, your coaching and equipment costs will be lower (perhaps even zero) and you will be more confident as a voice over artist making your objective much more attainable.

I am a great believer in baby steps. If you start with a silly amount you want to earn, such as £40,000 then you are deluding yourself and setting incredibly high walls to scale. Disappointment is surely around the corner.

If, on the other hand, you take a piecemeal approach and aim for making a little pocket money along the way whilst having fun, then these acorns really can grow into something bigger.

As I always say, don't give up the day job just yet.

Gary Terzza coaches voice overs at studios based in London and via Skype.

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