How Much Voice Actors Cost and 6 Tips for Getting Your Money’s Worth

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Universal Pictures paid Chris Pratt a cool $5 million for lending his voice to “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”; as Mario himself might say, “Mamma mia!” Alternatively, authors using the Audiobook Creation Exchange might hire talent for the much more wallet-friendly rate of less than $10/hour. For anyone looking to cast your next VO project, we’ve put together this explainer of the factors that impact rates, average pricing for different gigs, and how to get the best bang for your buck.

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How much does it cost to hire a voice actor?

$350–$5,000: It will usually cost between $350 and $5,000 to hire a voice actor. Voice actor and founder of RPS podcast production company Jamie Muffett (who also produces our own “In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast”) tells us that, in his experience, this range covers “99% of voice acting work,” with most gigs falling somewhere in the middle. 

The Global Voice Academy provides updated comprehensive guides for both SAG and nonunion rates. As per Voices, Gravy for the Brain, and BunnyStudio, these are the expected ranges for different mediums:

  • Radio spot: $250–$350
  • TV commercials: $100–$10,000
  • Audiobook: $2,000–$5,000 
  • Video games: $200–$350 per hour
  • Starring role in animated feature film: $10,000

On freelance sites Fiverr and Upwork, voice actors work for anywhere from $10–$200 per 100 words or $10–$250 per hour. 

As for VO-specific sites, prices on Voquent start at $0.02 per word and build from there. Voices charges $5–$200 for 0–9 seconds up to $1,300-$2,499 for 45–60 minutes for non-broadcast jobs; it pays $250–$5,000 for broadcast jobs, depending on the medium and market.

What factors affect voice actor rates?

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Medium: Voice actors charge varying rates for different mediums, such as TV commercials, films, radio spots, audiobooks, video games, podcasts, and multimedia. Projects that will be broadcast on TV, radio, or online usually cost more than non-broadcast ones.

Market: Market size (local, regional, national, or international) and length of use (weeks, months, years, or forever), also impact rates—the bigger the market and longer the use, the greater the pay. 

Size and scope: Voice actors often charge either per-finished-hour (PFH) or per word, so think about a project’s time commitment and breadth when creating its budget. It would take many more a pretty penny to record Fyodor Dostoevsky’s epic tome “Crime and Punishment,” for example, than his short story “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.” 

Sectors and conflicts: A brand might pay extra to ensure it’s the only one in its sector aligned with a specific voice. Think of it like this: If you run a nationwide athleticwear ad campaign narrated by an actor with unique intonations, you probably don’t want that same distinctive sound also plugging leggings for Fabletics. Muffett tells us that voice actors require higher pay if a gig pushes them out of a sector. Muffett recently recorded commercials for a specific whiskey label, which means he’s unlikely to find work with any other whiskey companies for as long as the ads run. “That factors in” to his pay, he explains, since he’s “out of that sector for a while.” 

Pickups: Clients usually pay more for pickups, or re-recordings if the original isn’t right for the job. “Performance, inflection, or script changes can all be reasons for pickups,” writes senior creative producer–assistant director at VMG Studios Shawna Mascarelli. “Typically, misreads or performance issues are included as part of the talent’s responsibility (as many pickups it takes to get it right), but things like script changes or other unexpected asks either need to be negotiated in the original price or added on as an additional cost.”

Cut downs, lifts, and tags: If you’re “creating whole new ads” out of a finished recording, Muffett says, “you should be paying the talent for those variations.” Let’s say you hire someone to record a minute-long commercial for a dog treat brand. You may want to cut down the ad to 30 seconds for a social media campaign, lift a segment to use in a different ad, or apply different tags for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and National Rescue Dog Day. If you hope to extend an original recording’s usage in these ways, also plan to compensate appropriately. 

Union status: SAG contracts abide by minimum rate guidelines, which are usually higher than rates for nonunion members—although nonunion members often charge within 10% of SAG minimums.

Experience: Experience and reputation in the industry also affect rates. An experienced voice actor like Tara Strong, who has given voice to iconic roles including Dil Pickles on “Rugrats,” Bubbles on “The Powerpuff Girls,” and Timmy Turner on “Fairly OddParents,” rightfully charges significantly more than an industry novice.

Tips to get your money’s worth—no matter the rate

Voice actor

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Scope out talent. Peruse the Backstage database of nearly 50,000 voice actors, filtering by gender, age, style, accents, languages, location, union status, and home studio access. Listen to an array of demos to get an ear on what’s out there, and search for voices that match your project type. For example, Gilbert Gottfried’s nasally inflection may be perfect for portraying Iago in “Aladdin,” but it’s likely not what you want for an educational nonfiction audiobook.

Save with home studios. Voice actors with their own recording studios can save you money on post-production costs and ensure a higher-quality final product for various project types, including audiobooks and video games,” notes CEO-founder of Speechify Cliff Weitzman.

Play fair. It may be tempting to lowball the talent and demand terms that favor you over them, but try to avoid any less-than-savory practices, which can come back to bite you. For instance, most seasoned voice actors avoid perpetuity clauses, which are seen as predatory. If you’re like Ursula the sea witch and want talent to sign over their voice “for all eternity,” just remember: While it may seem like a savvy financial move, “you’re not going to get the best and the brightest,” Muffett says. “I would suggest don’t say ‘in perpetuity’ just for an easier ride, because you’re going to just lock out the top people in the whole industry.”

Seek quality. Even though they may charge more, SAG actors usually “have more training, more experience, longer résumés, and you can be 100% sure they are in fact legit actors,” according to the Voiceover Collective. “That’s not to say there aren’t great voice actors that work nonunion,” just that they may be harder to find. Beyond union status, remember that compensation often matches the job’s worth, and skilled voice actors will gravitate toward higher-paying jobs.

Feel the vibe. Getting that perfect recording can require a lot of back and forth, so find someone you feel comfortable working with. “A voiceover artist who is able to take direction is preferred,” advises Flor Zaccagnino, content marketing lead at Bunny Studio, adding that it’s best to find a professional who’s “flexible, even-tempered, and able to improvise and adjust at the moment.”

Communicate. Once you’re in the talks with potential talent, aim for clear communication. “If you’re clear and up-front and you say, ‘Look, this is the budget we have and this is what we want to do with it’ from the outset, then the talent can choose whether they’re cool with that or not,” Muffett concludes. “Transparency is generally the best way forward.”

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