The Frustrations Of Being An Emerging Deep Male Voice Over Talent
The frustration of being an emerging deep male voice over talent. Where do I even begin? Let’s start with the notion that the financial barrier to entry in the voice actor world is low. This is patently false! Does that mean that the voice actor industry is a predatory profession? I wouldn’t say that at all as it’s been my experience that it is one of the kindest and most giving industries I’ve experienced. Honestly, there are some of the nicest, most genuine people you’ll ever meet in the VO world.
But there are PLENTY of opportunities to spend money and I’m coming to find out that everyone is an expert and everyone will sell you their expertise. Some are better than others. Your opportunity to spend your hard-earned money is without boundaries in this industry so it’s imperative to spend money wisely and in the areas that are will give you the most bang for the buck.
Let’s start adding it up, shall we?
Outfitting a voice acting recording space = $0 – $500
- Depending on your needs, it could be little money to somewhat expensive. For example, if you have a large closet and can fit into a space where you’re surrounded by blankets and clothes and things of that sort, well then your cost is zero dollars.
- If however, that is not a luxury you have, you’ll have to spend some money treating your space. The amount you spend will depend on the space but it can get quite expensive. Certainly when you look up professional panels, sound deadening blankets, and things of that sort. You’ll be north of $100 in the snap of your fingers.
- This is probably the cheapest thing you’ll do when entering the profession.
Compiling your voice over equipment = $840 – $7,400+
That’s quite a difference in expenses but it all depends on your desire. Do you want to start out by trying to be at the top of your equipment game or do you want to gradually grow into it?
- Essential equipment:
- Microphone = $150 – $3500
- Boom Stand/Mic Mount = $20 – $200
- Pop filter $10 – $15
- XLR microphone cable = $10 – $$30
- Interface = $150 – $800
- Computer = $500 – $2500
- DAW Software for editing your sound = $0 – an ongoing monthly cost with Adobe Audition
I am taking the middle road. I found a more cost-effective microphone that compares very favorably with one of the more famous VO microphones. So, I was able to have great sound quality while still saving almost $1,000.
Since I was able to save money on the microphone, I splurged on the Apollo Arrow, which was $500
I chose to buy a new MacBook Pro that I could dedicate to VO work because I’m in it for the long haul. The stubborn journey, if you will. I knew it would be important to have a dedicated computer used ONLY for VO. Nothing else. So that it would work efficiently and as needed. Piling a lot of extra programs on your work computer is a recipe for a computer to become unreliable eventually. You can’t have that when you’re on a time schedule many times.
The DAW I use for editing sound, at this time, is Twisted Wave which had a $79 price tag.
Voice Over Effects Stack = $400+
Alright, we have our space in order and we have our equipment up and running. But can you make your space and your voice sound ideal to give you that edge in your auditions? The answer is, “Probably.” You can do this by getting in touch with folks like Tim Tippets at VO Tech Guru to log into your computer over Zoom and tweak the EQ and the settings, he’ll recommend a couple of programs to get that will make all the difference in the world for you, and he’ll create an effects stack for you. When you record an audition, you run the effects stack on it, then normalize it to -3 dB, and then submit it rather than submitting a dry recording.
Guys like Tim are about $200 or so but the programs you need will run an additional $200 or so. Every time you switch your room up or your microphone, you’ll want to pay guys like Tim another $200 to get you all set up and optimized again.
Voice Actor Business Cards = $25 – $50
It would be a great idea to get business cards but it’s honestly not absolutely necessary in the beginning. Especially in the COVID area. It’s not like we are physically attending seminars and handing out cards. Correct?
But, if you are doing some direct mail marketing, including a business card in the packet might not be a bad idea.
Voice Over Website = $7/month – $2500+
Again, a wide range of costs here. The difference comes down to whether you are proficient in setting up your site and doing the SEO optimization on it yourself. If you are not, you guessed it….there are plenty of designers out there eager to get paid to do it for you. Regardless of how it gets done, you need a website and that website needs to have a way for people to listen to your demo on it.
Voice Over Demo = $0 – $2600+ EACH
The end-all, be-all of the VO industry. THE DEMO! The demo is basically your real VO business card. Everyone that has spent any time whatsoever in the VO industry will tell you NOT to make your own demo.
OK, cool. And that makes sense too. We aren’t all masters at sound production after all. BUT, when the industry places a value of $2500+ on a demo with decent quality, my question for them is, “How the hell do you expect anyone and everyone to afford such an entry price to play the game?” Most cannot. Therefore, self-made demos there will be. And they’ll be around in masses because they are too damned expensive for beginners that have no paying gigs or clientele to afford. Plain and simple.
It makes sense to pay that for a demo when you are making money on voice-over gigs and you can re-invest that money. Of course. But until you have paying gigs, it makes zero sense and voice actors simply have to do the best they can to walk the line between having a presentable commercial demo and not paying $2500 for one in the beginning.
This has been one of my biggest obstacles and frustrations so far. Not only do they price demos out of the range of so many folks’ abilities to pay, but they also want a demo for every single genre. So separate demos for commercial, promo, narrator, eLearning, animation, radio, auto, and on and on and on. Now it’s REALLY starting to add up. Right?
I would add that while they say don’t ever make your own demo, the industry is also loaded with those that will make your demo for you that started out by making their own demos and they’ll admit they had no engineering or production background. They just figured it out. So, take that as you receive it. If you make your own in the beginning, I’m behind you 100%. Just have several listen to it. If it sucks, take the advice on the chin and go back to the drawing board to make it sound as close to professional demos as you can.
Voice Over / Voice Acting Coaching $25/hr – INFINITY
Every VO professional will tell you coaching is a must. Then again, many will tell you they never had a class and are loaded with work. I err on the side of coaching here. There is no way we can know it all and, let’s be honest, we all think our ideas are the best or that our abilities aren’t as bad as others think. You know it’s true. It’s helpful to have an outside point of view or perspective. Reputable coaches will bring something new to the table and, hopefully, renew your energy and drive.
Coaching comes at all costs. Some coaching is $25/hr while some cost $125/hr or more. Some voice-over coaches are for newbies. Some voice actor coaches only accept those that have been in the business a while. Trust me here, there are PLENTY of ‘coaches’ that are happy to take your money just to give you generalized and mostly unhelpful guidance.
Make sure you look around and ask around for recommendations for reputable coaching before spending that money.
Voice Over / Voice Actor Pay To Play Sites = $300 – $500 per year
You’re going to hear many in the voice over / voice actor industry tell you that pay to play sites are the devil. I can see their point. They see it as racing to the bottom and competing for the lowest dollar amount while devaluing the profession. I get it. I truly do. Then you look at some of the biggest talents and they’re on the pay to play sites.
So, what gives?
For beginners specifically, voices.com or voices123.com provide you access to quality clients and quality opportunities immediately without going through the middlemen like agents. It’s like a direct line to the boss and that’s appealing.
At the end of the day, if many of the biggest talents are on it, if it’s good for the goose, then it’s probably good for the gander.
Voice Over / Voice Actor Seminars = $150 – $300 EACH
I took my first seminar about 2 weeks ago. Since we are in the time of COVID, it was through Zoom so it was nice to be able to sit at my table in my home and still get the same instruction I would have had to fly to New York City for just last year. COVID ain’t all bad, folks.
The seminar was called eVOcation and was put together by Carin Gilfry and Jamie Muffett. There were about 150 attendees and I have to admit, it was wonderful. It was packed with useful information and inspiration all weekend long. Seminars sure aren’t a required first step but, in my first experience with a voice over / voice actor seminar, it was well worth every penny.
The bottom line of entry sits very very conservatively at about $2,000. The top end of entry sits at as much as $16,000 or MORE!
However, the more realistic number to a decent entry into the profession that is comprehensive and adequate but still on the financially conservative side is probably more around the $3,500 – $5,000 mark. For some, that’s not all that bad. For others, that’s impossible.
You are probably getting the idea here that not only are there infinite ways to make money in the voice over industry but there are infinite ways a voice actor can spend their money. Especially when trying to break into the profession.
For those veterans in the industry to say there is little to no cost to get started is either disingenuous, out of touch, or it’s just ill-informed.
If a new voice actor is going to ‘burst’ onto the scene with any effectiveness, they need the talent certainly. But, they’ll also need a good amount of money if they want to start of with a bang.
Just my experience so far.
by Jeff Williams