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Newcomers: How Much Is This
Gonna Cost? A Realistic Answer ...
By Jim Conlan
Voice Talent & Coach
©Jim Conlan Voice Overs 2010
There are two questions I hear all the time about getting into voice-overs.
First, “How long is it gonna take me before I start making money?” And second, “How much is it gonna cost?”
These are good questions. Especially since many people who are interested in doing voice-overs are being downsized, outsourced, or otherwise thwarted in their attempts to keep food on the table.
They need another source of income … the sooner, the better.
I know, some talent-development services claim you’re just moments away from a career in voice-overs.
So I make sure that the people I work with understand the process involved in getting to the pro level.
Because it’s a profession, there’s the cost of training, of course. And because it’s a business, there’s the cost of marketing.
Because everybody has a voice, I suppose they assume it shouldn’t take long to become a professional voice talent.
But I like to think of the voice the way musicians do – as an instrument.
So I recommend thinking of voice-over training the same way you’d think of learning to play a musical instrument.
  • How many years do people study music before they start getting paid for what they do?
  • How much focus and dedication do they apply to that study?
  • And how much of a financial commitment do they make?
It takes four things to make a professional voice talent:
  • a voice,
  • a personality,
  • substantial talent, and
  • training.
It’s the role of training to help you get the most out of your voice, personality, and talent.
That’s not usually a quickie proposition. More likely, there’s going to be quite a bit of exploration, experimentation, and evaluation before you feel you know exactly what you bring to the party.
Naturally, that kind of training takes more than a couple of trips to a studio and a flair for editing.
It takes time and money.
How much time and money? A good voice-over coach will be able to determine the answer after you’ve spent a bit of time together.
Just be careful of people who want a lot of your money … but don’t require a lot of your time.
Once you have a good idea of your talent and skill as a voice-over artist, it’s time to think of yourself as a business.
And starting a business requires money – perhaps not as much money as some businesses (you won’t need to stock inventory or rent a storefront), but you’ll need some amount of money.
You’ll need a home studio. Business cards. Demo CDs. A web site.
And you’ll need to put money into marketing.
Although lots of modern marketing techniques cost little or nothing (email campaigns, social networking, industry memberships, cold-calling, etc.), some do require an investment. For instance:
  • Most online talent services are pay-to-play, and you may want to join several.
  • Talent agents may ask for a fee to include you in their marketing.
  • You may want to take specialized workshops in your own town or out of town. Or show up at a national convention once in a while.
I know it’s hard to make financial decisions when you don’t have the experience of hindsight.
In many ways it's a new game, and we're all learning or re-learning the rules. So check in often with people in the industry. Not just one or two people, but lots.
You’ll find quite a lot of good dialog, for example, on VoiceOverXtra.
Look for consensus – how most people view the state of the business. But also look for the maverick point of view. That may turn out to be the prophetic one.
Over time, your research and experience will help you make educated decisions about how to spend your time – and money – to increase your chances of success as a voice-over artist.

Jim Conlan has worked continuously as a voice-over artist since the 1970’s. During that time he has served hundreds of clients all over the country in radio and television commercials, corporate web sites, informational videos, and training programs. As a writer and producer, he directs many of the top voice-over artists in the country. And as a member of Lone Star Actors Studio, his popular series of workshops and seminars gives professionals the tools they need to stand out in a competitive business.
Lone Star Actors Studio:
Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success

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Comments (4)
Jay Webb
2/17/2010 at 10:31 AM
To make the most of this article, take stock in where you already are.

I'm certain that no one can tell any other person exactly how much it's going to cost OR when one can expect to start making money. The figures are different for every person and will encompass a vast range of dollar amounts. Some people will be able to get going by spending $500, others may spend $5,000 or more. There are SO many factors at play.

The way I see it, someone with recording experience and who already has audio gear obviously won't be putting money on the table for more gear. An accomplished actor won't necessarily be interested in basic acting courses, and someone who is amazing at graphic design may not need to fork out the dough for professionally designed marketing materials. Do you see what I mean?

So back to what I said at the beginning ...

To make the most of this article, take stock in where you are. Assess what you already have and then go do research on the costs involved in the rest.

For the question as to how long it will take? Hmmm. That one has to be left to sayings like this: "It will take as long as it takes." This IS a business, and one has to expect it to take time - possibly many, many months to build a clientele list who use you enough to be profitable and pay the bills.
Alan Sklar
2/17/2010 at 9:27 AM
This article is full of useful information. But what's missing is the fact that unless you have a fire in your belly ... unless you are a goal-oriented, single-minded lunatic with tunnel vision and are willing to work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week at building a career ... it ain't going to happen.

Here's an evocative quote by W. Clement Stone, the founder of Success Magazine: "A person does not truly achieve maturity until they realize once and for all that no one is coming to the rescue."

You are on your own. It's not about a beautiful voice! As one wag said: "Good marketing beats a good product any time!"

Following all the sensible advice offered in these VocieOverXtra articles may produce an annual income for you of $10,000. Is that your goal? I encourage you to aim higher than that. Become a lunatic!
Chris Coulter
2/17/2010 at 9:05 AM
This is the most objective and informative article I've ever read on the subject of the time and money we need to put into our training for voice-over work. As a musician I can relate to what was said about using the voice being similar to learning to play an instrument. This article is actually quite encouraging to me.
Philip Banks
2/16/2010 at 5:37 PM
Raises more questions than it answers and failed to answer the question which was chosen as the title of the article. How much is this gonna cost? By that, I mean getting into Voice Over work. As most people reading this work in US dollars, then that would be the best currency to choose. Obviously the writer started some years ago and so the number will need to be adjusted to take inflation into account.

For the record I spent around $600 (inflation adjusted) before I booked my first session, the fee for which was around $380 (again, inflation adjusted).
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