How much do voice actors make? There is of course no simple answer to this. What you get paid as a voice actor will depend on the type of work, size of project, your experience and many other factors. Some voice actors who are also movie stars, are worth millions. Others, who use freelancing sites can make as little as $30 for a simple radio commercial in a small market. Most professional voice actors fall in between.
Later in this guide we will attempt to answer the question: How much do voice actors make, in much greater detail. For now though, we cover the basics and hopefully give you a way to plan your first year in the business.
When you are considering how to become a voice actor, it is important to know that you can earn enough initially to support yourself. With training and the tools necessary, over time, you will be able to enhance your skills and make a comfortable living doing voice-overs.
The annual income of a voice talent varies greatly from person to person and from year to year. When you’re just starting out most of what you earn from voice over work should be reinvested into your studio, demos, and marketing efforts, so at this stage you will need a second job to support your daily living expenses. Once you start building a portfolio of clients, you’ll see your regular earnings grow and will really start to get a feel for the potential your voice over business has. In time, you’ll be enjoying a satisfying career.
So, How Much Do Voice Actors Make?
OK. Let’s get straight to the point about voice acting and pay. The same rule applies whenever you setup any business. It will be slow at first, but if you work hard, and find innovative ways to market yourself, you can make a good living at it.
When considering “how much do voice actors make”, you have to consider the physical demands of the job. A voiceover actor’s main tool is their voice. Unlike a machine, the voice is a sensitive instrument and cannot be used to extremes all day, every day. If you did, you would risk damaging your vocal chords. Of course delivering the same consistent quality 12 hours a day would also be impossible. For many established voiceover talent, even long periods of use, 3-4 hours at a stretch can be tiring. At the extreme vocal end of voice acting you have gaming. In gaming the physicality of shouting and using the full range of voice, often for different characters takes it’s toll. For this reason many gaming voice actors are particularly careful about their vocal health.
Much of the working week as a voice actor, is taken up with auditioning. The success of auditions will depend on your skill, understanding of the brief, speed to deliver, your technical ability and how well you record your voice. By tracking and improving your success your can improve the ratio of auditions to paid work. This in itself requires you to match your voice to the auditions that are a natural fit to your vocal ability and style. As your experience and voice skills expand, so the breadth of work that you can audition for increases.
How Much Do Voice Actors Make – The Basics
How much do voice actors make?
Voice actors get paid on a per project or per job basis. Your earnings as a voice actor range from: $35 for a small market radio spot, $150 for a 15 second recording for say a small website, $250 – $350 for a 30 second major market radio commercial (Plus use fees) to about $2000 – $5000 per audiobook, as an established voice talent. There are several ways to calculate how much voice actors get paid, with the most common being the word count of the script. The use of the material is also taken into consideration and whether or not you are granting a license to use your material for a specific duration on specific channels or if you are seeking a fee for a universal buyout.
Word Count and Duration
Knowing the word count for long-form narration can greatly simplify the process, and if more is added to the script, the client will know what they can expect. Here is a common formula:
Word Count / Words Spoken Per Minute = Total Minutes it will take you to record.
Total Minutes / Length of an Hour (60) = Total number of hours to record.
Total Hours X Hourly Rate = Price to record
Price per hour to edit and complete X Hours to edit = Post Production fee
Total fees = Price to record + Post Production fee
Determine Your Minimum
One of the most important rules is to ensure you value yourself as a professional. If you undervalue your own service it can be hard to later charge for the correct rates. A professional voice-over should cost a minimum amount, even if you’re new. If you allow clients to low-ball your work from the outset it will continue to set the expectation that they can get a voiceover from you on the cheap. This can then mean the difference between making a living and paying bills or not.
Keep it respectable and charge what your time and services are worth. That means establishing some minimums. For example, you might set a minimum price of $100 per job. So if the client says they can get it done locally for less than half that price, you explain that they are getting a professional recording and the difference is in the quality of the recording.
Many voice actors develop a rate sheet to help in the quoting process. You don’t have to publish this, but it puts in writing the minimum you are willing to work to. A rate sheet is a useful reference guide to keep your pricing consistent and reliable. Although as with all business, there are always deals to be done.
How Much Do Voice Actors Make? – Some Figures
The following figures are only indicators and may vary by Country. Hopefully they will give you some idea of the differences in how much voice actors get paid.
The average voice actor has a salary of $31,400 a year. An entry level voice actor can expect to earn $18,390 a year while an experienced voice actor has an average annual salary of $90,000 a year. Top level voice actors can earn way in excess of this – with some at the top of the profession earning healthy 6 figure incomes
Average Voice Actor Salary
Top 10% of voice actors earn $90,000 and above
Top 25% of voice actors earn $51,000 and above
Median voice actors pay is $31,400
Bottom 25% of voice actors earn $21,700 and above
Bottom 10% of voice actors earn $18,390 and above
How Much Do Voice Actors Make? – Other Factors
The factors that determine your earnings are:
- Union vs Non union work
- Level of skill and niche talent
- Number of auditions submitted
- Agency listings
- How well you market yourself and nurture clients
1. Union vs Non-Union Work Voice Acting Work
How much voice actors make will depend on whether it is a union (SAG-AFTRA) or non-union job. Unions don’t exist in every Country but in the United States the union is SAG AFTRA. Voice actors who are members of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) are paid according to union guidelines.
If you have a good head for business, you can do extremely well. In other words, your ability to get paid the kind of money you want (even parity with Union rates) is directly proportional to how much you prepare, and what kind of opportunities present themselves at any given time. Then you need to seize those opportunities.
The more experience you get the more confident you will feel in charging standard, or above standard rates. Don’t forget though, you can do lots of small jobs not just big projects to make a living. It all adds up to that annual figure.
2. Level of skill and niche talent
Initially you will of course be a novice and even if you have a great voice, you will need to get yourself grounded in the industry. Again, this process will be down to how many hours you put in. Each person’s voice is individual and unique. For some people that means that they have a natural signature voice which is suited to certain types of voice over work. Other voice over actors have a natural passion for a particular aspect of the industry, such as character acting and so pursue their goals in that genre.
While having a broad set of voice skills is beneficial, many voice overs establish themselves in commercials and more general corporate voiceover work before specialising. Having a niche or specialist focus though can make a difference in earning potential. So, bearing in mind the question: how much money do a voice actors make, will also depend on the level and experience in a given niche e.g. animation, audiobooks or gaming.
3. Agency Representation
Working with a top voiceover agency can bring you a steady stream of well paid work. The top voiceover agencies, like Hobsons in London or Abrams in NY and LA, have an elite set of voice actors as well as recognised visual actors who do voiceover. These top agencies are hard to get into though. They only take the very best established voice talent.
However, there are lots of second tier voice over agencies and ones that are just getting established. One of your goals as a voice actor should be to get listed by an agency. However, wait until you have at least established yourself and put together a portfolio of work and super hot demos you can send out to them for consideration. When selecting an agent you need to carefully examine who they currently represent and then ask yourself: How do I fit in here? Does this agent have anyone like me on their books? If not, you will most definitely stand a better chance of being represented.
4. How Well You Market Yourself
Voiceover actors that stay focused and build their network of relationships get more work. It’s that simple. This is the same for any professional in almost all industries. Marketing yourself as a voiceover actor is not a one off activity. To be effective you need to continually market and develop your personal brand. We cover this in more detail in this guide.
So how much do voice actors make? The answer, as you are discovering is very much to do with how hard they train and work on developing their business. Those who are ambitious and who work very hard, can be in the top 10% of voice over earners globally.
For more information on voice acting visit our series of posts on how to become a voice actor