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'How Much Money Do You Make?'
... And Other Questions Never To Ask
January 20, 2014

By Tom Dheere
Voice Actor

Recently I attended an Audio Publishers Association mixer in New York City. I go as often as I can because it’s a chance to hang out with old friends, make new ones, and squeeze in some networking if it comes up.

Networking is important for learning and making personal connections. But networking has do's and don'ts. It's easy to do it right and even easier to do it wrong.

With that in mind, here are five questions that you should never ask a voice talent:

1. "How much money do you make?"

I've been asked that, but it's rude. Why? Most people feel it’s nobody else's business. While I agree, the topic of money can also be embarrassing for one or both parties involved.

If someone asks how much money you make, you can just say, "Enough to pay my bills and have a little fun.” Or if you wanna keep it light, "Not enough!”

2. "If you’re union, do you do non-union work?"

This is far more rude than the money question! A union talent doing non-union work is considered unethical.

How often do you ask people you've just met if they steal office supplies from their workplace or accept kickbacks? How well do you think that would go over?

3. 'How did you land your best clients?'

Really? You want their phone numbers, too?

Actually, somebody did ask me for a list of my clients once!

4. 'Who sends you out?'

In other words, which agents send you out on auditions?

While this question is not as rude as the others, it’s still pretty tacky because of the question that almost invariably follows: "Can you introduce me to your agent?”

5. 'How many hours a week do you work?'

This isn’t blatantly rude like the first four questions, but it’s pretty nosy.

Usually it’s asked by people thinking about becoming a voice talent, or by people who regard you incredulously or enviously.

Basically, wannabe’s are asking how little time can they put into a voice over career. Others hate their jobs and have a "Who the hell do you think you are?” attitude.

How much time I put into my career is my business. Some people work 60 hours a week and are below the poverty level. Some people work 10 hours a week and are millionaires.

There is obviously not a correlation between ergonomics and income, and it is very difficult to quantify or qualify that in the voice over industry. It just doesn’t match up!


I must admit that I asked fellow voice talents some of these questions when I was starting out. Oops!

These are questions that pretty much everyone wants to ask, but it’s just not appropriate to do so.

And if you are asked these questions by people new to the industry - realize that they mean well. Educate them, but do it nicely! Treat them the way you would want to be treated if you unknowingly committed a faux pas.

Of course, if they’re clowns, have fun with them!
Tom Dheere is an 18-year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for clients in over a dozen countries. He is also a voice over business consultant, content programmer for the Voiceover Café podcast, coach at Edge Studio,
was marketing consultant for the Voice Over Virtual online conference, and is writing and producing a comic book.


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Comments (5)
Tom Daniels
1/21/2014 at 3:30 PM
Thanks, Tom, I agree with your thoughts on what not to ask.

I also enjoyed your shared wisdom at FaffCon3 (the only one I've been able to attend.)

Since there are conflicting opinions on the issues mentioned and you're instructing with Edge Studios these days, I thought it would be helpful and educational to present both aspects of the topic, as many voice artists like myself are creative types who struggle with the business building side of voice-over.
Tom Daniels
1/21/2014 at 4:55 AM
Good information to know, Tom. However, as I keep hearing about the caring and sharing nature of the voice-over industry compared to other areas of the performing arts, and you are placing yourself in the role of authority on this matter, that you won't feel threatened by this comment.

I'm sure that many interested parties, both up and coming and working voice artists in the early stages of growing their businesses would like to see you to follow-up with a blog on the right questions to ask, in the interest of achieving their goal of generating enough revenue to support themselves full-time in their chosen career.

Two things to consider here are; that the general opinion seems to be that obtaining an agent who actually gets you work not just auditions, requires a referral from someone already represented (suggesting an insider clique), and for various reasons, at least in the United States, the majority of working voice artists do not have the choice of residing in Los Angeles or New York and may not have the ability or mobility to travel in order to do their networking, a definite disadvantage but surely not insurmountable.
Liz de Nesnera-Bilingual English/French VO
1/20/2014 at 8:21 PM
This is AWESOME!!!! :-)
Dan....YOU made me LAFF as well :-)
Dan Hurst
1/20/2014 at 6:47 PM
Well done, Tom! Well done!

While your answers are far better than mine, here are my humble responses:

1. 12

2. Which union?

3. With a #13 hook.

4. My wife. Every day.

5. On what?
Dan Deslaurier
1/19/2014 at 9:46 AM
Well said Tom, very collegial. I've read pieces like this where too many "pros" feel the need to flavor their words with an attitude. Very refreshing to encounter another like-minded colleague. Thanks for sharing!

Dan Deslaurier
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