A career or side gig using your voice is a dream for many: working from home in your pajamas, creating characters, the freedom to work on your own schedule. But does the reality match the idealized picture?
The truth is yes, maybe, no, and absolutely not! As with any freelance career, much of what you get out of it will depend on that which you put in. And as with any creative career, some of that will be determined by your natural abilities, predispositions, and life circumstances.
The reality of voiceover, in particular, is that it’s an industry of industries. The Los Angeles animation world shares little in common with e-learning or corporate narration. Video games are a totally different animal from documentary animation, and so on.
If your dream is to voice Hollywood blockbusters for Dreamworks, you have to go where the work is: L.A. If, however, you harbor a passion for educating or telling long-form stories, you can record training or audiobooks from your home studio, which could be anywhere on the planet, assuming it’s quiet and has an internet connection.
To further complicate things, your voice qualities may suit a genre of voiceover that’s different than your intended ones. This can alter or determine the practicality of that work given your circumstances (location, home studio facilities, responsibilities, time freedom, etc.).
And then comes the many financial considerations. Coaching may be required to accelerate the learning of skills to compete against peers. Recording equipment and some kind of room treatment will be required to work from home. Long periods without income will have to be accounted for (particularly when starting) and unless you are able to join the union and meet its earning requirements, you’ll also have to budget for out of pocket health insurance.
Even when established, there are few guarantees of work in this industry. Genres like audiobooks and e-learning can offer more stability but any periods of illness affecting your ability to talk (even slightly) can halt your earning potential in its tracks. And then there are shifting industry trends that are entirely out of your hands.
In summary, the reality of a career in voiceover for you individually will be entirely unique. It is advisable to keep an open mind about the kind of VO work you may ultimately excel at as it may not match your current ambitions or predictions.
If financial uncertainty, consistent rejection, and a potentially protracted gestation period seem like a bridge too far, that is absolutely fine—it may not be for you! But if that sounds like something you could tolerate, you may well find yourself a niche or two in this wacky industry.
*This post was originally published on Feb. 12, 2019. It has since been updated.
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