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Voice Actors Answer Poll: 'What Are
You Doing, And How Are You Doing It?'

October 26, 2012

By Bettye Zoller
Voice Actor & Coach

Starting in mid-summer and continuing through early October, I did an extensive email poll to voice actors, asking what they were voicing, the types of jobs, and general areas of operation.

I also sent questions to friends in the business and posed questions to attendees at my voice over seminars in many cities.

Then we used a summary of the replies as "talking points" to be used in the Oct. 9 VoiceOverXtra webinar with guest Bob Bergen, Show Me The Money.
Ed. note: The recording of that highly informative session is available here - a click on "registration" gets you the recording.

But there is also so much to learn from the individual replies to my questions! So I'd like to share them with you here. These quotes are mostly verbatim, and of course, presented anonymously.

I've had one client who has used me since 2001 for auto-attendant messages (telephone) and sometimes I voice political 'robo-calls' for his company (recorded messages sent automatically to numbers on phone lists). I've even hired other voices for this company now and then, which means I am a contractor of talent. I have worked steadily for these folks, sometimes with a salary plus benefits, other times part time.

My bread-and-butter gigs are commercial radio ads and one-liners and sweepers for small market radio stations. I voice for stations in the U.S., Canada, and even the U.K. - and I speak general American English!

My business is never slow. I have a good recording studio in my home and I'm a good audio engineer. That's the ticket to steady work in my business because my clients demand professional audio quality. What I want next is to break into audiobooks. They take a lot of time, though, and I'll have to work them in among my good paying radio voice jobs.


My first voice gig was recording a folk story for a client, and that's the direction my new occupation took after that for a while - recording stories that my clients wanted on audio for various reasons. 

The 'straight announce stuff' came later, such as a launch of radio ads [for a major brand]. Paid better too. 

For some time, I voiced computer games but became weary of the conflict and warring scripts. I did some gaming work for smaller companies that were joys to work with. I am also a writer and thinking about getting more into copywriting.I also am a good copy editor.

I sell my own jobs. I have a couple of advertising agency clients that use me quite often.  Although I live in --, most of my clients are in other states. I have steady clients, retail stores.

I've not quit my 'day job.' I love voicing for clients even though it doesn't mean a 'full time job.' Many clients want female or other male voices so I also make some money off talent commissions.

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is complicated until you become familiar with using it. I am spending more time on audiobook narration jobs won from that site. The ACX audio production standards are daunting for me. It's a steep hill, not a mountain, but scary. Of course, I'm becoming more skilled with my audio editing software.

I suggest looking for 'stipend jobs' first. (Look up the definition of that word on ACX). You won't be paid the ACX stipend for at least a month or more after a book is finished and accepted. If you are a union talent, there are other rules too lengthy for this answer.

My 'bread and butter' is automotive advertising. Several advertising agencies hire me for 10-20 spots per week. I am also a script writer for one of those agencies. Another source of income: Radio and TV ads for gaming and gambling properties.

To fill in the gaps, I voice non-broadcast and e-learning projects. Late August usually is my slow season.

I'm getting regular work voicing video and TV real estate tours. It's wonderful work and pays well. Just make sure you keep your clients happy by always being available on short notice. You either have to study photos of a property or you have to go visit the property and take a tour.

As it's always been, it's the aggregate of opportunities taken together that not only make my career, but keep things from being predictable. In the past month, I have voiced TV and audio commercials, audiobooks, video games, web-based narration, anime and voices on a children's TV educational program. It's challenging work and I love it.

When work is slow, I audition for audiobooks. I've gotten hired to voice a few, but it's low and slow pay unless you nab a best seller.

So far, my voice jobs are mostly voicing radio and TV commercials. I'd like to break into other types of voice work, and that's my goal now.

I'm working to build up my client portfolio. I voice mostly radio-TV commercials, though when I 'grow up,' I want to be a cartoon voice.

I'm struggling to find my 'niche.' My clients come mostly from freelance websites and they are one-time jobs. I work part-time for a local corporation to 'make ends meet.' I'm also an on-camera actress which brings in money from time to time.

I found my 'niche' voicing commercials about business products. I really enjoy this work! I am finding new ways of marketing to companies who realize they need a professional voice to advertise their products in the best way. This is much better than using someone who 'works in the back office' even if they announce free of charge, and wow I'm glad I get the work.

I am both an on-camera and voice over performer. I convinced a local TV station here in my town to give me a once-weekly show on healthy eating for adults and children. It's led to more voice over work for me, too, and I'm assembling a good video reel.

Next month, I'm traveling to Dallas to make my voice over demo in Bettye Zoller' studio.

Double-threat. If you do on-camera, try to get a show on your town's local TV station.

I assembled an audition audio for an Internet interview radio station and they've hired me! Now, I interview celebrities who visit our town for various reasons and my voice is gaining notoriety because of it.

I have a 30-minute radio show once each month. It's a bit time-consuming to contact a star's manager or the star him- or herself and arrange an interview at their hotel while they're in our town, but it's worth the extra effort. My voice is getting heard! And I think I can gain ground by this initial radio effort.

While I have agents booking me - I currently have seven agents in various parts of the U.S. - and sending me auditions, I also rely on myself, selling jobs and then turning non-union jobs into union ones.

Yes, it can be done. Ask your agents and your local agent representatives for information on accomplishing this. It's easier than you might imagine! And another word to the wise, give it another year, but since the union mergers, the unions are determined to make working union jobs more simple and the contracts less complex.

I am targeting the medical announcing industry. It's growing bigger all the time. Most hospitals or clinics of medium- to large-size contain recording studios within their plants. The audio visual departments hire voices for wide varieties of reasons, announcing videos and audios. 

Those who hire tend to be loyal to voices they've used and had good results with also. To get hired, a good medical VO demo is the first step. Once you get one or two or more medical voice over jobs, add those to your demo with credits and your medical career is assured!


Yes, voice overs today are wide ranging, versatile, and limited only by your imagination.  
Acclaimed as one the legends of the voice over industry, Bettye Zoller is a voice actor, coach, vocalist and owner of the VoicesVoices voice over production and training company. She began her career as a child actor on the MGM movie lot and toured the U.S. as a leading vocalist for many years before targeting voice overs. She conducts workshops in home city Dallas and world-wide, and presents monthly webinars for VoiceOverXtra.


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Comments (2)
10/27/2012 at 11:25 PM
I like your articles - they're very informative and me make feel a part of a line of fine actors, thank you.
10/25/2012 at 9:20 PM
It's frustrating to be talented, well-regarded and technologically proficient, but living in a space that is suboptimal for recording. On a high floor in a big city, I can get a good *enough* recording for the odd corporate video job that I get, and clients are always delighted with the results, and I do long-form as well, but deadlines are daunting because at any given time I can be unable to record due to internal or external noise. (I never hear my neighbors but in addition to outside noise, the elevators, HVAC etc. are just discernable enough to render a recording below standard.) Studio rental is expensive even when I just need a "quiet room" and can bring my own mic and equipment! I envy those of you with adequate living situations for recording, it really frees you up.
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