Making Money with a Good Voice? (Not a face for radio!)

PriestPriest Registered User regular
Hey PA,

For the last 15 years, just about everyone I meet tells me what an awesome voice I have, how I should be on TV/Radio/Voice Acting. I've not given this much thought, to be honest, as it didn't really have much to do with my career other than helping me engage students as a teacher. I thought it might just be people flattering me (imposter syndrome!), but it has continued unabated.

I'm trying to figure out if there's a way that I can leverage this into a side hustle in any meaningful way? From everything I've read in passing, it seems like there's a glut of voice actors out there, plus the difficulties presented in going through SAG without going full time. I have a decent singing voice (would need to get back into practice to extend my range - just nothing pro-music level.)

Ultimately however, I feel that this is a skill that is not terribly uncommon in the world, and haven't really pursued it because of that. The more I hear it though, the more I think about it. I'm a teacher always looking for ways to pad the paycheck or make the most of my summers. What can I do with my voice that doesn't involve living in a van down by the river trying to make it big? I'd be fine with doing advertisements, audiobooks, the gamut, it's not like I'm hoping to make it big in games/animation or anything like that (not that I'd turn it down if the opportunity came my way!)

QuidFatWagon

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  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    I'm not speaking from any kind of personal experience here, but I think that if I were in your situation I'd start with a YouTube channel then branch into SoundCloud or some other more podcast focused service and create some audio books.

    Get a good sound recording setup, (you probably don't want to invest $Texas on it at first, but something better than the average wal-mart brand gaming headset) and some video editing software (lots of open source choices, I use VSDC for some video editing I do at work, it's not technically my job but it's a nice break from what I'm actually paid to do).
    Find some public domain novel that you like (https://www.gutenberg.org/), then find a quiet corner in your domicile and record yourself reading a chapter or two of the book. Listen to the quality of the recording (do you hear echoes, background noise, do you pause or hesitate as you read etc...) and make adjustments as needed. Once you've finished reading the book, put it up on YouTube a chapter or two per video. Add some intros/outros, maybe some brief recaps every 6-10 chapters as their own videos so someone can catch up or just refresh their memory as to what's happened so far. If you pick books that high school students are likely to be assigned to read these may wind up with more views than any other, I'm not saying I would have listened back in the day, but Cliff's Notes are a thing for a reason.

    The tough parts are getting the videos to stand out and be heard, and leveraging social media to drive traffic to your channel.
    After you've built a following, maybe put up a Patreon (assuming they haven't been burnt to the ground by bad business decisions by that time). This is the point where you're glad you picked public domain works as it reduces the likelihood of a copyright holder from showing up demanding money for their copyrighted material.
    Follow podcasts/channels/twitter feeds/facebook/etc... from people related to the books you're reading. If you're picking sci-fi or fantasy or western novels there's plenty of people around who like to talk about anything, it's just a matter of finding them and letting them know you like to talk about the same thing. Once you've got an established presence you might be able to leverage that into guesting on other people's pod casts and using that platform to further grow your own following.

    But you're absolutely right. The ability to speak for long periods of time isn't exactly rare, nor is having a pretty good voice to listen too. And the current creating and sharing that vocal content with the world means that anyone who's willing to dedicate the time to doing so can easily share their voice with the world. It's not going to be easy to stand out from the crowd.

    But, again, this isn't from personal experience. It might work, it might not, it might just be a fun hobby thing to do over the summer.
    You might search for any voice acting opportunities in your area through craigslist or some job search sites, or keep an eye on your local radio station and see if they might have positions open (radio stations are still a thing, right?), but most other options are going to require you to work to their schedule as opposed to your own.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • ScooterScooter Registered User regular
    If you'd be interested in some part-time adult work, I might know a good hangout actually. It's more a field for female VAs, but that means when someone is looking for a male, there's often not a lot of competition around.

  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    I'd start with a podcast about a subject you really enjoy. Lots of people have interesting thoughts or opinions, few of them have the talent to make those thoughts something other people want to listen to. A good voice, vocabulary and perspective can make almost any subject fascinating.

    ArbitraryDescriptor
  • ArbitraryDescriptorArbitraryDescriptor Registered User regular
    Scooter wrote: »
    If you'd be interested in some part-time adult work, I might know a good hangout actually. It's more a field for female VAs, but that means when someone is looking for a male, there's often not a lot of competition around.

    Adult as in: subject matter likely to get a teacher fired?

  • DarkPrimusDarkPrimus premium Registered User regular
    Enunciation is just as important as how your voice "sounds." Having a clear, understandable cadence and not losing syllables are things we all assume that we have, but if you just record people speaking casually, it's not going to sound anything like a conversation in a professional piece of media, even if they are saying the exact same things.

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    dispatch.o
  • DaimarDaimar A Million Feet Tall of Awesome Registered User regular
    I can't remember who the voice actor was, but I listened to one podcast once upon a time where a voice actor said that he got parts because his sample reel was a bunch of re-dubbed commercials for things like Dodge trucks or other products where their voice would fit. One of the casting agents mentioned that they thought he was actually the one who did the original commercials since they did such a good job on it.

    Also, as mentioned above, buy the best mic you can afford since that makes a world of difference. If you need a quiet room to record in, a small walk in closet filled with clothes is great for recording since it damps all the echos or reverb that you might get in a larger room with windows or bad acoustics.

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    twitch.tv/kragaar
  • Drake ChambersDrake Chambers Lay out my formal shorts. Registered User regular
    First off, I don't say the following with the intent of being discouraging, but so that you're aware of the challenges and opportunities of voice work.

    Depending on your local market, voice acting can be as competitive as or even worse than the on-camera acting market. I lived and worked in the industry in Washington DC for years and I can tell you that the entire region was basically completely locked down by a small handful of VO professionals. One of the the reasons that happens is that, much like in film and television, directors want to work with people that are proven and have been successful in the past. Unlike film and television, however, the skilled professionals can much more easily change their voice and delivery for any number of different projects. Add to that the fact that voices change far less over time than faces do and you end up with a pretty stagnant talent pool where the local pro's are your go-to people for decades.

    Opportunities in areas with a smaller entertainment market might sometimes be easier to find without an agent (which you'll more likely need in a major metro area), though at the same time if there's less work to go around you may still find that more than the lion's share just goes to the one old dude / lady in town who's done everyone's voice work for years.

    All the advice given so far about posting your own stuff online and recording tips is great -- and if you enjoy it, go for it! Again, I don't mean to discourage but because the industry has lower visibility I think sometimes people think "I'm going to make a living doing voiceovers!" is inherently more feasible than "I'm going to move to LA and be in movies!" when in fact the two goals have more in common than many might think. I believe going forward with an informed view is better for all involved.

  • StraygatsbyStraygatsby Registered User regular
    edited February 2018
    Drake has it pretty dead on. I knew a few VO actors in LA years ago who did it as a side gig while they auditioned for on camera work, and they were considered very lucky to have that work. It's many times harder these days with the explosion of higher end VO jobs (animated movies and video games and whatnot). At least one of them ended up doing anime and foreign dub VO, which reminded me of Scooter's mention of adult work, as they regularly had to do hours of pretty squicky recording work playing the (un)willing recipient of various tenticalia and demon dongs. It paid the bills, but they came home and had to shower.

    Straygatsby on
  • McVikingMcViking Registered User regular
    Podcasts are great if you also have content. If you don't have and don't want to produce the content, audiobook recording may be the way to go. ACX is the big DIY market for that:

    http://www.acx.com/help/narrators/200484550?utm_medium=narrator&utm_campaign=hiwtable

    Most of those are pay-per-finished-minute, so the faster you're able to produce finished content, the more you can make.

  • HikkinsHikkins Registered User regular
    Former radio journalist/presenter here. Plenty of great advice already in this thread so I'll try not to repeat any of that.

    What I will say is that while a great voice will help you open doors, it's very rare that it'll be enough on its own. Whether you go down the acting road or find some other way to make money off your voice you're going to need to work on some skills, be that learning how to make interesting content to put your voice to or working on your acting abilities.

    On a more practical note, you will almost certainly need to work on your vocal delivery. I've known so many people (myself included) whose voices sound great in normal conversation, but as soon as they're reading something off a script it all starts to sound unnatural. While you're figuring out what it is you want to do with your voice you should spend time practicing your delivery, thinking about things like cadence, intonation and clarity. Try to record yourself doing this so you can listen back afterwards and see what you're doing well and what you need to work on. While you're at it, try and record yourself just having a normal conversation so that you how you should sound when you're speaking naturally.

    It's important to understand that even if you have the greatest voice, using it in a work setting is a skill that you'll need to work on in order to stand out and get anywhere. If you're serious about it then maybe consider a few vocal coaching sessions, or failing that some acting lessons could prove useful.

    Good luck!

    MrVyngaardQuidTofystedeth
  • NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited February 2018
    I hire voice over artists for advertising and animation occasionally. When I do I often go to a number of websites where they have library's of different VO artists with different voices, ages, etc. Then I listen to their reel. Once I find someone I like, I hire them.

    There are TONS of these sites. Get a reel on as many as you can.

    Also you either need cheap access to a recording studio, or you need to have your own equipment and know how to setup a sound proof room.

    You can make a ton of money with a national commercial (many thousands) and a couple hundred for a random gig that isn't going to be seen much.

    NotYou on
  • Psychotic OnePsychotic One The Lord of No Pants Parts UnknownRegistered User regular
    There was a response from a convention where someone asked Troy Baker this question.

    Step 1. Buy a quality microphone to record your work with.
    Step 2. Wait for me and Steve Blum to die.

    But in all honesty. Starting a podcast and using it to build an audience. And then also maybe recording and posting to a channel readings of stories (creepy pasta, submitted, etc) or your own interpretations of character voices (rerecord character lines for videogames, etc) and posting them to build a portfolio of your talent. That and maybe follow people in the industry and maybe when they are looking for talent, offer your portfolio of examples of your range would help you get work starting out.

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