How Much Should You Invest in Your Voiceover Career?

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Money: it's the elephant in the room when discussing any new career, and voiceover is no exception.

So how much should you invest? Where should that investment go and when should you expect to see a return on it? It may surprise you to learn that I'm going to be vague, unspecific and couch all of my “answers” in caveats. Sorry.

The truth is that everyone's situation is unique, and as cliched as that sounds it's frustratingly true.

Consider the sheer number of factors involved, and this list is far from exhaustive:

  • What area of voiceover are you focused on?

  • Do you face significant competition?

  • Is it geographically dependent? If so, are you where you need to be?

  • Do you have time to throw yourself into learning the craft?

  • Can you afford acting/business/marketing classes?

  • Do you have any acting experience?

  • Can you afford to buy equipment?

  • Is your home conducive to recording?

  • Are you a hard worker?

  • Are you able to absorb and redirect rejection into positive action?

  • Are you patient?

  • Are your family and friends supportive?

  • Are you confident? Can you sell yourself?

  • Do you have dependants?

  • Are you a quick learner?

  • Are you adaptable?

  • Are you good at sight reading?

  • Are you organized?

  • Is your style of delivery or voice timbre in demand today?

  • Do you have an accent that is a marketable commodity or a hindrance?

Questions like ‘Are you good at sight reading?’ are an easy fix and needn’t hold you back. Location restrictions and familial responsibilities are of course much much harder to overcome and can only really be determined on a case by case basis. So be very cautious if someone promises you a career in exchange for a coaching fee—that is an almost impossible promise to keep every time. As the great Seth Godin says: “Walk away from a consultant who can transform your organization in one fell swoop. Your project (and your health) is too valuable to depend on lottery tickets.”

If voice acting is a strong pull and your life can be balanced to allow for it, you will eventually have to make your first leap. Many of the less critical bullet points above may be left unchecked and while this may be daunting it does help develop a certain amount of adventurousness and self confidence. It is also good practice for developing the improvisational part of your brain.

READ: “10 Questions Every New Voiceover Actor Must Ask”

Lots of platitudes here, you might say, but I can't stand these types of articles, the writer presents a list of vague questions with vague answers and concludes that fundamentally you have to “decide for yourself”—what a cop out!

Guilty as charged.

The truth is that it may take you a long time and a lot of training and investment to book gigs, and even then it will be some time before you make your investment back. How does one low-paid booking for every 500 auditions sound? What about one in every 100 auditions? What if that ratio took three years to achieve?

So let's step back from finance for a moment to look at the art of voice acting, and more specifically ‘acting’ itself. This is the part of the job that we all love, it sustains us and is the thing we would love to spend our whole day doing. The good news is that this is also ultimately what books us jobs and grows our careers.

There are no tricks to building a career with longevity where you offer something of real value. Your value comes from your skills, your unique talent and your work ethic. No clever marketing strategies or gaming of the system can compete with this. So every moment spent improving your craft as an actor is time and money well spent. This is the only sure guarantee that I can offer you today.

If I started again today I would prioritize spending my time and money on learning the art and craft of acting: learning how to read and interpret scripts, putting myself into the mind of the character, taking direction and adapting my delivery (whether that be for video games, commercials or uninspiring corporate narrations). I would invest my money in acting classes both group and private, voiceover specific as well as monologue and improvisational. The other stuff (recording technology, business, marketing, etc.) is secondary and can be learned as needed. Talent will set you apart.

So why is acting so important in voiceover? And how is this the best use of your initial investment?

Aside from the obvious advantage of performing better in auditions and increasing your chances of booking, any voice actor will tell you that they make their money from an array of different genres within the scope of the voice acting profession as a whole. So it stands to reason that the more flexible you are as a voice actor, the greater the chance of working consistently. Eventually you will build momentum, foster more work and over time it will all pay dividends.

The other investments you must make will be unique to your own career, though I have tried in this article to pull out the most common questions asked by every voice actor at the start of their career. Become a learning sponge but do it in a focused fashion that will get you to your goal in as straight a line as possible.

This series is presented in conjunction with VO School, an entirely free online course, which examines everything a prospective voice talent will need to know to embark on a career in VO. This course includes contributions from some of the industry’s biggest players building week-on-week into a comprehensive syllabus, which will serve as a jumping off point for further private study, one to one and group coaching.
Jamie Muffett is a British voice actor and Backstage Expert who lives in New York City. He is the driving force behind VO School, a free online resource that provides students with a comprehensive training in voiceover.
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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.
Jamie Muffett
Jamie Muffett is a British voice actor, audio engineer, and photographer based in New York City and Philadelphia. His voiceover clients include NBC, ESPN, Warner Brothers, Microsoft, and National Geographic. For more information, visit