There’s Nothing to This, Right?

by | Jul 9, 2013 | Op/Ed

newspaperRecent articles from two well-known national publications will no doubt swell the ranks of voiceover wannabe’s.  I mean, this stuff is easy!  All you do is talk… how hard can it be?

The RD

A June 2013 article in Reader’s Digest  is titled: “These High-Paying Jobs Are Definitely Not for Everyone“, but luckily mentions in the subtitle: “While these high-paying jobs definitely aren’t typical, those who have them claim they’re worth the bucks.”  And sure enough, of the 8 jobs mentioned, Voiceovers is there at #7 withe the write-up: “Showcase your pipes in a quirky cartoon or comical radio commercial and, after five minutes, you could earn $325. Even lesser-known voice-over artists can pull in $50,000 to $80,000 per year.”

I suppose there’s nothing factually wrong with that claim.  It’s just what they leave out that misconstrues the promise.  You know, the equipment, the coaching, the marketing, the time spent practicing…inconvenient truths, I suppose.


Then there’s the vaunted New York Times article of June 29th:  “Actors Today Don’t Just Read for the Part. Reading IS the Part.”  This article is about audiobook narrating, and features a headline picture of the highly-accomplished Katherine Kellgren.  Again, the factual article quotes several successful actors, talks to the founder of Audible, and mentions the high-paying per-hour sums the best actors receive for their dedicated work.  Please don’t mention the word “voiceover” to these folks…this is the high-brow cousin of VO, even though plenty of people do both, as was evidenced by a workshop at the recent Audio Publishers Association Conference where people like Pat Fraley and Jeff Kafer offered instruction on how to segue from one to the other.

Again, the NYT article failed to reference the distinct challenges of breaking into audiobook narrating…a different kettle of fish entirely than mining for, say, Elearning producers in the corporate world.

The Fallout

If all this caterwauling about the promise of using your voice to make money causes you to roll your eyes…good for you!  YOU KNOW the reality of breaking the $50-80-thousand-per-year barrier.  You’ve lived through the lean months.  You’ve struggled to find your freelance legs.  You’ve experienced the rejection.

Let me be the last one to discourage any one to take the first or second step in this business.  I had plenty of encouragement when I was starting, and I doubt I’d still be standing if that had not come my way.

What I worry about is a resurgence of unscrupulous “weekend demo” coaches, a tsunami of over-exuberant responses to cattle-call online casting sites, and a dumbing-down of rates in the market-place.

So what can you do?

  • Be courteous to those who approach you for advice.  Tell them about Doug Turkel’s “Learn from the Voices of Experience“…or Peter O’Connell’s VoiceOver Entrance Exam.
  • Warn newbies of grasping, misleading, and over-promising demo mills
  • Contribute sound counsel when asked, just don’t become a crutch for someone who needs to stand
  • Refer serious candidates to resources on the web, like:  groups, forums, and communities that can answer questions
  • Encourage interested parties to do their research, and get experience doing pro-bono work for charitable organizations

I want to thank Voice actor, coach, producer, narrator, and icon Bettye Zoller for providing the inspiration for today’s article.




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