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Do Voice Overs For Free? Sometimes
It's The Right Thing To Do. Here's Where ...
July 22, 2015

By Joe Thomas

Voice Actor

Do you ever give away your VO work for free? Why would anyone do that?!?!?

Well, actually, there are a number of great reasons to work for free (and a metric tonne of reasons NOT to work for free).

Here’s just a few ways to use your voice over powers for good:

1. Reading for the Blind and Visually Impaired

AIRSLA provides podcasts on news, current events and entertainment. More info at: AIRSLA: Audio Internet Reading Service of Los Angeles

Audio Eyes adds captions and verbal descriptions to videos. More info at: Audio Eyes: Video Description and Captioning Provider

Google "Reading For The Blind” to find out if there are any companies local to you.

2. Donating Your Voice… Literally!

Vocal ID is a very unique project that allows people to donate their voice for people who have trouble speaking. This may be due to issues with their voice, brain injuries, or other medical problems.

Donating is as easy as reading. Their site has a very easy-to-use interface that presents you with one sentence at a time. You record that sentence and move on. During each session, record as little or as much as you’d like. I tend to do it in my spare time between work and auditions.

After a while, the tools build up a profile of your speech. These profiles are combined with other donors, and even the recipient’s own voice, to create a unique voice for them.

Watch this short clip to see a real example of how it works:

More info at: Vocal ID: Voices for Those Who Can’t Speak

3. Future Possibilities

Giving some of your time to new businesses, student film projects, and new ideas can be a benefit in the long run. You never know who may turn out to be big in the future!

One group that I’ve donated my voice to is BattleBards. They provide background audio for people who do table gaming (ala Dungeons and Dragons). More info at: BattleBards: Voices, Music, and SFX for Table Gaming

4. Charities and Causes

If you have a cause you truly believe in, or a charity you’d like to donate to, giving your voice can be a good way to chip in. Call them and see if they have any need of VO.

Maybe it’s for some PSA spots on the radio. Or their phone system needs updating. Perhaps they’d like to start a podcast.

5. Audio Dramas and Podcasts

I’ve always thought of online audio drama as the VO equivalent of local theater. It provides a great way to hone your acting skills, develop new characters, and get feedback on your performance.

Here are two that I’ve worked with:
Pendant Productions
Dream Realm Enterprises
6. And of Course, Joe’s Dump!

Songs, animation, poems and other miscellaneous audio baubles - all creative uses of my voice that I don’t get any direct compensation for. However, the skills I gain, characters developed, and creative inspiration all come into play daily in my career. And that’s an invaluable benefit!

So - where do you give it away?
Joe J Thomas is a voice actor in Los Angeles specializing in characters, accents and impressions for animation, video games, ADR, commercials and promos. In his spare time he dabbles with graphics and animation, and uses his prior skills as a programmer to devour new tools and applications and bend them until they break in funny ways. His blog, Joe's Dump, gives mental health professionals free research material on a regular basis.


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Comments (5)
Cecelia Jones
7/23/2015 at 3:18 PM
Thanks for sharing great info that can help me help someone else.

steve hammill
7/22/2015 at 4:13 PM
#1 & #2 are great suggestions, Joe, but over the years I've found that #3 & #4 are, more often than not, slippery slopes best avoided. ...just my experience. YMMV.

Ed (Ed-VO) Waldorph
7/22/2015 at 2:29 PM
I'll just reprise what I posted to Joe's Blog:

I have in the past done Recording for the Blind at university. All textbooks and required reading materials. Now I do pro bono work for what are called “Modders.”

Modders are game enthusiasts who singly or in collectives create new content for some of the major Role-Playing Games, like Fallout and the Bethesda Elder Scrolls series. I’m a big gamer myself and it is my way of giving back to a community that has given me so much pleasure and entertainment over the years..
Guy Harris
7/22/2015 at 2:19 PM
I had an email last year that read "you may remember you helped me some time back on my little project..."

I scrolled back through some old emails, and found the thread. A guy out of nowhere asked for some help on a personal venture. I did it and thought no more about it.

Turns out he worked at an agency... Turns out he remembered me... Turns out he gives me a very easy voice job... Turns out $6500 entered my bank account 4 weeks later.

Can you give your voice for free??? Of course you can. It's YOUR voice. It's also YOUR business. What you do with it is up to you.

There will always be people that will tell you to NEVER give your voice for free, more than likely people that have done it for years. Cleared the mortgage, and have good work coming in and can be stubborn enough to never offer it.

Speculate to accumulate. Of course no overtime will pay off. But if you get a nice email from someone who happens to 'like' your work and wants a little help. Don't be so quick to think you need to charge for everything. You don't.

The voiceover landscape has changed. Evolve with it or get left behind.

I've said my bit. Thank you ;-)
Elizabeth Holmes
7/22/2015 at 1:45 PM
Thank you for this, Joe! These are wonderful resources. I agree with you about occasionally donating voice services. For me, it has almost always led to paid VO work, and it's a no-cost way to benefit causes we care about.
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