I’ve had a lot of hobbies, a lot of interests, over the years: animation, acting, leatherworking, and writing to name a few. Every one of these had their financial costs. Some more than others of course. I mean, what did writing really cost me other than a few dollars for a notebook and pens plus the occasional convention here and there. Where on the other side was leatherworking, which the upfront costs there can be pretty staggering to get the necessary tools to be able to make some fun stuff.
Then I met Voice Acting and it left leatherworking in the dust.
I’m getting into my third year of being a voice actor. I had started small with a silly mic bundle from Amazon for $40 setup in a giant den for recording -- it’s pretty embarrassing to go back and listen to some of my first recordings -- to now having a mid tier setup that I’m very proud of and a couple of demos. I’ve sunk a lot into this new career and yet the costs keep coming and at times seem to be getting bigger every time I make it to the next “level.”
So I started to wonder, what is the real cost of being a voice actor? If someone had told me just how much I could be looking at to spend, would I have started to begin with? I probably still would because dammit I love getting in the booth and recording. But I can’t deny it would have been nice to have a realistic perspective on what I was getting in to.
And that’s just what we’ll do. We are going to break this down and see, at least at a minimum, what the true costs of becoming a Voice Actor is.
I’ve identified three main categories and gave them pseudo-military names: Your Battlestation, Your Support Team, and Your Ammunition.
This is everything you need to record. Here I’m going to be looking at the price for making yourself competitive in both animation and commercial.
Sound Treatment: PVC Booth w/ Moving Blankets or Acoustic Curtains. $100-120 (I’ve found this to be the best bang for your buck as acoustical foam can be costly)
Mic: AT2020 XLR $100
Preamp: Scarlett 2i2 $150
Computer: $500 (I’m going with a bare minimum here, but if you’re wanting something quiet that you can have in the booth with you then you’ll easily double that price and more)
DAW: Free - $60 (This one really depends on what you’re wanting to accomplish. If you just want to hit record and go, Audacity. If you want to mix, Reaper)
Total: $850 just using minimums, you’re starting at $850 to get your battlestation ready in order to audition and get coaching.
But before you get in to battle, you’ll need…
This is your coaching, hiring a marketing expert, and maybe even hiring some management. That last one is probably best left for when you’re really pulling in the jobs so I won’t worry about it too much here. Hiring marketing expert, I feel, is a must at some point unless that's a degree you already have.
Coaching: $1,000 - $1,850 just to start! Coaching will be a career long endeavor for every new genre. And it's probably an unpopular opinion, but I do think you should stick with a coach that's at least $100 a session.
Marketing: $500 - $2,200 and I know that's a huge margin. From my research that's starting at getting a workbook with some one-on-one help to full on branding overhaul. The mid point I've found is $1,500 for three months of help.
Total: At minimum $1,500
(My cynical take away from this section is, it's more financially viable to play the support role for other people's dreams.)
This is everything you need to get your name out there: Signing up for Pay to Play sites, getting a website, and having demos made.
P2P: It's hard to put a number here because it's going to largely depend on how many you want to sign up for. But let's just say one on the mid range at $300
Website: Another huge variable that will depend on if you're using stock templates from something like Weebly or hiring a team to build you a specific voice actor site. Let's just go with $50
Demo(s): Depending on who you go to, this could range from $300 - $2,250 A DEMO. And you're probably going to want to have a few in order to diversify your portfolio. So let's call it $5,000
Total: Looking at, realistically, $2,500 (this is taking into account just one demo)
(Again, seems like ancillary jobs around voice actors is where the money is!)
All right we've broken down the costs. So what's our total? $4,850. Which may not seem like a lot, but many of those costs above are recurring or at least happen more than once. If we go top end it's now closer to $11k when including multiple demos, the best marketing, and the most expensive coaching.
What's my take away here? Other than my cynical one, ha!
I think it's more simple than what I'd thought going into this blog post. My initial mindset was to treat it like getting a secondary education. Art School cost me a fair amount, this isn't too dissimilar. But that's the wrong way of thinking. No what it is, and you've heard this time and again, but being a Voice Actor is running a business. Everything I listed above is simply operating costs.
Once you can wrap your head around that I think it helps. You're starting a business and this is your overhead. If you can handle being underwater for potentially years… well… you may just be OK.
While I've been working on starting my voice over career, during the day I've continued with my job as an animator and illustrator. Having a degree in both and working with amazingly talented people over the past twelve years has really taught me a lot and about design and how to use it to elicit certain reactions. Having this foundation in animation and illustration has served me well in all of the other aspects of my art. Chiefly, whenever I've needed to design logos for myself or friends I've been lucky to be able to draw on all of that training.
And now I'd like to extend my 12 years of knowledge out to my fellow voice actors to help them with their own branding by lending my artistic eye. Now I'll be up front, my knowledge of branding as a philosophy is just beginning and I'm learning a lot about it. But when it comes to the artist side of things, I'm your critical eye.
So if you have a logo or site already designed, I'll be here to help you check to see where you can improve. Or maybe you have some ideas and need someone to help you make sure you're on the right track.
I'm offering several levels of help, which go into more detail on my Branding Page. But here is a quick run down of the options.
1. FREE 15 Minute consult: We'll meet online where you're comfortable and you can pick my brain about what you have or what you want to do and I'll give you my thoughts.
2. Deep Dive: We'll meet for an hour and go over what you have in depth, or work on some ideas together. We'll end the session with a branding direction that you can take to an artist of your choice and have a solid beginning point.
3. Deep Dive +: Same as above but I'll continue to work with you or your artist until the project is complete and you are happy.
4. The Max: You'll hire me to do the WHOLE thing. If this is the option you're most interested in, we'll do the 15 Minute Consult to work out exactly what all you're wanting and build a branding plan for you.
If any of this interests you, jump on over to the Branding Page and fill out the form for what you want and let's get you a great brand!