We love finding new ways to make money, which is why we were super excited to receive this guest post from our friend Carrie Olsen! She’s got an awesome gig that you may be able to turn into a side hustle of your own. Take it away Carrie!
“You talk for a living?”
This is the question I get from people when I tell them what I do. Usually followed by either, “That’s a thing?” or “And they pay you for that?”
Yes and yes.
My home office isn’t normal either. There’s a 4’X4’X7’ sound proof box that I stand in all day and talk to what would appear to be no one. Sometimes I’m reading for radio and TV commercials. Sometimes I’m reading audiobooks. Sometimes I’m reading for a company’s voicemail or e-learning program. Or even ads that appear before movies at the theatre and on Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube. I get to play different characters every day, and I don’t have to do my hair or wear heels because no one can see me anyway.
Voiceover (VO) is my dream job.
Since I started my VO business I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I did it and how they can get started in the voiceover industry, too. Because who wouldn’t want to read scripts from their home office in their pajamas for a living? It sounds dreamy (and it is), but when I tell people what’s really involved in running your own VO business, many are surprised by how much work it takes. While VO is not a good way to make a quick buck, it is possible to make a full time living. Like all things in life, it takes hard work and dedication to make a go of it in this business. And if you’re like I was when I was first introduced to VO, that fact makes it even more intriguing.
Table of Contents
Asking the Right Questions
When someone asks me about getting into voiceover, I can usually gauge how likely they are to succeed by the questions they ask. I often get questions like, “Is it easy to find voiceover work?” and “What’s the cheapest way to get started?” I love answering these questions because I know how awesome voiceover is, and I like being able to help other people start their own voiceover businesses and potentially have their lives changed like I did. But I also know that I am probably busting some bubbles when I do answer these questions.
“Is it easy to find voiceover work?” Nope. It absolutely isn’t. I like to compare starting a voiceover business to starting any kind of business. Whether it’s a restaurant, a lawn care business, or a network marketing business, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. But that’s to be expected. The formula goes something like: you make a business plan, you put in a bunch of work, you stick with it and perfect the craft, you reap the benefits. Voiceover is no different. Reading out loud into a microphone isn’t grueling work (usually), but getting to the point where people are willing to pay you for it is difficult and can take years.
“What’s the cheapest way to get started?” I have some recommendations for getting started in voiceover on the cheap (more on this later if you’re interested). I spent around $350 on my business before I booked my first job (a $450 two-minute narration) because I already had recording equipment from podcasting. But I also have to warn that you’re going to get out of the endeavor what you put in. So if you skimp on coaching, you’re not likely to be that good at performing. If you buy a cheap microphone, your sound won’t be great. And if you make your own demo reel, it’s going to sound homemade. You will be competing with people who put a bunch of resources into their training, equipment, and demos and who have been at it for years. What I’m trying to say is, you’ve got to be willing to put in the work, effort, and yes, money if you want to be successful.
How Do I Get Started?
“Okay Carrie,” you say. “You’ve told me the questions not to ask. Are you going to tell me how I can actually do this thing?”
Yep. I am.
If you think voiceover could be the thing for you (you love to act, read or perform; you like the idea of running your own business; and you are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to be successful), I’ve got some basic steps you can take to dip your toes in the water and get a better feel for the VO world.
Hire a Coach
There is no way I would have been successful without the guidance of my coach Alyson Steel. She undoubtedly saved me months of wasted time trying to figure things out on my own. It may sound crazy to hire a coach to essentially teach you how to talk. But it’s so much more than that. It’s acting, performing, and communicating a clear message to a specific person for a specific purpose, using only your voice. Very (very) few voice actors have built successful businesses without the help of a coach. And most continue training throughout their entire careers. Getting coaching isn’t a sign that you don’t know what you’re doing; it’s a sign that you are taking your career seriously and want to succeed.
I consumed everything I could about VO when I first started. Books, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels. If there was something out there that would help me, I was all over it. I was obsessed with VO and still am. I think you have to be in order to be successful. VO is a career just like any other and to be and stay successful you need to keep up on your training and on your knowledge of the industry, too.
VO is not something you can fake. You must be good. And to get good you must practice. The good news is you can start practicing right now. Start paying closer attention to the VO that you hear all the time throughout your day. Radio spots, Spotify and Pandora Ads, YouTube videos, cartoons, video games, and of course TV spots. There’s even VO for live events like award shows and special events.
Listen carefully to the VO you hear every day. Who are they talking to? What message are they trying to get across?
Also, start recording yourself and listening back. You don’t need a professional set up to do this. Just use the recording feature in your smart phone. When you listen back, think to yourself, how does my take compare to the VO I’ve been listening to?
You’ll eventually need to get good equipment. But it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. I was able to book thousands of dollars in work using a $120 mic while I was recording in a closet! I’ve upgraded since then, but I have some recommendations for equipment in my free Getting Started guide.
Become Obsessed and Have Fun
You’re not likely to get very far with your voiceover business if practicing and training feels like a chore. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you look forward to those things and if you find yourself craving more and more information and knowledge. It’s hard work, but you should also enjoy it.
Getting Started in Voiceover Guide. (Free Download)
This guide is 35 pages long. It’s got all the info you’ll need to get an idea of how to get started. When you download the guide, you’ll be signed up for my email list too. I give my best tips via my email list and make announcements on new VO trainings and programs fro me and other VO professionals that I trust.
If you’re ready to jump in and start devouring information, you’ll want to get in on my membership site. It contains hours of videos, MP3s, slides, and transcripts about how to build your voiceover business from A to Z. It starts from the beginning, and even gets into marketing and demos. I’m always adding more features to the membership site, so join us to see what’s new. You’ll get access to some rockstar performance lessons from my amazing coach, Alyson Steel, too. I wanted it to be a low barrier-to-entry resource, so you can join monthly for less than the cost of a single coaching lesson. And we’ve got deals on group coaching sessions for members!
When you first get started in voiceover, you’re going to have a lot of questions. And there are some great forums and groups out there where you can find support. I recommend mine, the Voiceover Start-up Facebook group. It’s for voice actors and aspiring voice actors at all levels, from professional to, “I just heard about this thing called voiceover, and it sounds interesting.” I do a live Q&A session in the FB group once a week. I take questions and give tips on what’s working in VO. There are other groups and forums around LinkedIn and Facebook as well. Just search around and find a group that looks helpful to you.
We live in such a cool time in history with so many opportunities and creative ways to make a living while creating the lifestyle we want. Voiceover is just one of those many opportunities. If you’ve always been interested in VO, or you’re just now learning about it and are excited, I’m so glad to be able to share this post with you. Whether you jump in with both feet and end up with your own success story two years from now, or you decide it’s not for you after a couple of months, pursuing your dreams is always a win in my book.