The estimate that only 5% of voice actors are truly supporting themselves and their families with strictly voiceover work is probably correct. (remember, 47.93% of all numbers quoted online are made-up).
Whatever the number (almost impossible to discern), it’s disappointingly low. The “haves” are making 6 figures… pulling in as much as $300-500 thousand (or more)/yr.
The majority of the “have nots” are making anywhere from a few hundred dollars all the way up to $70-80 thousand/yr. Apparently there is no middle-class in voice-over.
Terming it “haves” and “have-nots” is actually not a fair representation. “Full-time” and “part-time” is not right either. Labels fail. I think you get my drift. Those on the lower compensation end of the spectrum are having to depend on other work besides VO to pay the bills, and those at the top end of the compensation grid are making it purely on VO work.
Is it not always thus among creatives?
My daughter has been pursuing her dancing dream in NYC for at least four years. So far it hasn’t been paying the rent. Not near. She’s had a handful of other traditional jobs to make ends meet, but is only truly satisfied in doing the dance. I suspect that’s why many people continue doing VO; because it’s just so darned satisfying to their soul.
What amazes me is the amount of people in the middle-to-low end of the pay spectrum who are supplementing their VO work with VO coaching…because they have to make ends meet. [People like Bob Bergen don’t really have to…but coach because they love it. Bill DeWees is making 6 figures, so I can only assume he’s coaching because he loves it.]
I’m not judging. Some of those middle-to-low pay spectrum voice actors probably love coaching too. But would they be doing that if it wasn’t a convenient (maybe too convenient) way to supplement a failing VO career? Why not just work harder at doing the voiceover work, and not be FORCED to coach?
Wouldn’t working at being a coach just increasingly draw you away from the talent work? If you’re not making enough money to support yourself as a voice-actor, can you legitimately COACH voice-acting? Wouldn’t coaching newbies just make the field of competition even more crowded for you as a talent?
So which would you rather do?
I keep coming back to this question, ’cause I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so inundated with requests for how to get started in VO. There’s always an ebb and flow to it… but lately it’s been a flood.
I write the industry’s only 5-day-a-week blog. I’ve published a book and released an audiobook on VO. Does that make me a coach? No. That’s marketing. I just wanna be a full time VO talent. I lose money on the blog, and I’ll never recover costs on the book…but that doesn’t mean I’m going to coach to make up for it. Some might think that’d be a natural progression for me — to coach — but I just wanna be a full time VO talent.
I guess it comes back to finding your own way through all this. If I was as gifted as Pat Fraley, I’d never coach another day in my life. But he LOVES coaching. Me? I just wanna be a full time VO talent.
I’d feel like a charlatain to coach. I have no qualifications. Only experience. Why coach when I can mentor? That’s safe. Mentoring takes no money, makes no promises, requires a minimum amount of time, fulfills a big need, and is its own reward.
So do you wanna coach or do you wanna be a full-time VO talent? Those jobs are not mutually exclusive, but only 93.65% of voice actors can legitimately claim to do both well.
Thanks for another great blog post! You always manage to write something that has been on my mind as well as answer a few questions along the way for me too.
Thanks for all the work that goes into everything you do (that is not directly vo work) like the blog, the book and steering WoVO. Much appreciated!
When I started full-time in VO in 2012, I had no clue about the business of voice over. Doing the recording, the editing, that part I understood. I’d been doing that for nearly two decades. The business side, however. Yeah. No clue.
Failure was not an option for me, and I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I consumed anything and everything I felt would help me grow my business. College courses on entrepreneurship. Books on sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, etc.
Teaching is also something I love. I spent 3 years doing online college courses to earn my Teaching & Training Adults certification. I’m involved with training through the fire department, and a desire to teach with voice over felt natural to me. I want to fill the gap between the voice coach who prepares you for your demo and you actually finding and booking work. To teach people the business / marketing side of voice over.
Daily I receive emails from talent who have been taken by another predatory coach. Hundreds or thousands of dollars invested with little or no ROI, simply because the course content was crap. It’s so frustrating to me. I feel bad for people who have a voice over dream, like I did, and are trying to find a way to make it a reality. Then someone takes advantage of them.
In the fire department there’s a saying. Veteran firefighters have a responsibility to junior firefighters to make them veteran firefighters. In other words, the old guys teach the new guys the job, so the new guys survive to become old guys.
If the voice over industry is going to thrive and grow, personally, I think successful talent have a responsibility to new talent to teach them the right way to do business so they can become successful talent themselves and better the industry as a whole. Otherwise where do we end up? A bunch of clueless wannabes selling themselves on Fiverr? Then none of us can earn a living!
As with any industry, I suppose, there will always be people who are genuine and people looking for fast and easy money.
Ron Burgundy speaks.