What's Your Motivation? - Voiceover -

21 November 2013
Comments: 15

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logo 4voBy Dan Friedman

The voiceover industry… we all know that it is a place to make some fast and easy money with minimal investment. I already have a voice! I know how to read! Audacity is free! I can buy a USB microphone for less than $100! What more could I possibly need?


Here are two things I’ve been hearing and seeing quite a bit lately. First, people in desperate situations hoping that becoming a voiceover talent will be the answer to all of their financial troubles. Second, people commenting (complaining?) about the amount of money they need to invest, in an effort to be or remain competitive.

At one time or another, nearly all of us have dealt with financial or other challenges. At the time I left college and went to recording school, I owned: a small pickup truck, a mattress, three milk crates (which held my clothes and some books) a small refrigerator and not much else. I lived in a crappy apartment with two (usually intoxicated) roommates. I rented P.A. equipment to set up live shows and saved every extra dollar of income (sometimes a dollar was all that was “extra”) to start buying microphones and cables. Slowly, I began to acquire some critical pieces of gear. I was passionate about what I was doing and wasn’t going to let my circumstances get in the way of achieving my goals.

That journey began in 1995. Needless to say, I was in a difficult financial situation. Since that time, my passion and my financial situation have changed. My needs and the technology have changed a little bit too. 😉 What hasn’t changed is my desire to succeed. This means I must invest in my business. To this day I continue to purchase new equipment and invest in training, marketing, legal, travel and many other things that this business requires so that I may remain competitive.

If you are thinking about becoming a voiceover talent, it is absolutely necessary to have some other source of income while you’re getting started. In fact, of the many people I know personally who are professional voiceover talent, there are only a handful who do voiceover work exclusively and have no additional source of income. Many are also musicians, actors, artists, photographers, teachers, coaches, consultants, graphic designers, copywriters, salesmen… the list goes on and on. Some even have “real jobs” in a real office.

While it is entirely possible to earn a good living, for most just starting out, it can take years before they see a return on their initial investment. Also, far too many beginners are by-passing training and decent equipment in exchange for the “opportunity” to jump right in and go after low-paying jobs. This may seem like a good idea, until you consider time, taxes, and the invariable need to eventually upgrade equipment and/or environment. The small amount of income and the certainty that daily rejection will become a part of your life (you didn’t think you were going to win every audition did you?) can make even voiceover seem no better and maybe even worse than many other jobs.

Furthermore, many VO jobs and leads come from peers and other industry professionals. If you are working as a bottom feeder in the business with little or no training and only fair or poor quality recordings, who will trust you enough to recommend you to agents or better paying clients?

Being in a place of financial or emotional desperation is not a good starting point for a career that requires emotional connection, often over-the-top positivity, and unwavering  dedication toward doing one thing everyday to help build your business. Also, if you are in that desperate place, I certainly wouldn’t suggest adding the daily rejection that accompanies a voiceover career to your life here. Nothing good can come from that. If you are looking at voiceover as a simple way to make a quick buck, then it is probably not the right path for you. It is neither simple or quick. I’m not looking to shatter anyone’s dream here. But it is important to have realistic expectations and a clear understanding that this business is not a fast track to wealth and financial security.

On the other hand, if a career in voiceover is truly your passion than no matter what your circumstances, you will find a way to make your dream become reality. Develop a realistic plan to help you get started. Read out loud everyday. Read about the industry everyday. When you are able, get training. Practice listening. Invest in your recording environment and in the best sounding gear you can afford in your current situation. Be patient and persevere. Make a full commitment to voiceover as a career by taking small but calculated steps. It will take some time, but with the a good foundation and passion (vs. desperation) as your motivation… you will succeed.

15 responses on “What’s Your Motivation? – Voiceover

  1. Dan you’ve eloquently put into words that there are no free rides or silver platters in voice-over. Success doesn’t just happen. It has to be earned and it comes at a price.

    Almost every week I get approached by people who expect me to hand them some golden nuggets. In exchange for my time and experience, they’re willing to offer me…. nothing. As soon as I bring up coaching, the interest suddenly disappears.

    I refuse to work for free because people attach little value to the things that don’t cost them anything.

    These days I only work with those who are committed. Not with those who are merely interested. Commitment requires investment.

    I have encountered a few people who are truly committed and passionate, and who are just down on their luck. In the United States, having a child with an expensive medical condition can still bankrupt you. You can be a great employee with an outstanding track record and lose your job to someone working for peanuts in some foreign country. You can be a war veteran in a wheelchair waiting for services, only to find out that politicians are letting you down. It’s enough to make a person desperate.

    Compared to many European countries, the US safety net is small and it has many holes.

    If money is an obstacle but the commitment is there, I’m willing to work out a barter. It’s old-fashioned, but it can be done, especially if a student is local. As a coach it is very gratifying to be able to give someone a break and a start to a new career.

    • Dan says:

      Thank you Paul!

      “If money is an obstacle but the commitment is there… As a coach it is very gratifying to be able to give someone a break and a start to a new career”

      I agree.

  2. Art Spencer says:

    Thanks for this article. I felt as if it was directed at me. Very helpful and encouraging.

  3. Hi Dan: I could relate to your story SO MUCH and appreciate the realistic advice and the tone with which it was delivered. I think I’ll save this to forward to all the people who contact me wanting “free” help to get into a business they have somehow convinced themselves will be their salvation 🙂 Thank you!

  4. Bravo Dan! I love the way you can take any topic you write about and connect with the reader in about 3 words. Great advice, which you can tell, comes from experience. Much appreciated.

  5. Nathan says:

    Passion is definitely my motivation. Uphill climb to my goal of being in animation, but I am in it for the long haul. Great writing and very inspirational to an aspiring actor like myself.

  6. SingletonSaysVO says:

    Hi Dan! This article was a great read and very realistic! VO isn’t a get rich quick career and it DEFINITELY requires time, energy and patience for you to succeed. Whenever I have the opportunity to upgrade my equipment or pay for additional training, I pay myself forward.

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Gregory says:

    This is a GREAT article Dan,

    As someone who is just starting out, my “big picture” right now is getting the right training, getting my equipment piece by piece, and not giving up, just because i cant afford the latest high tech gadget. I’ll get what I can afford, then trade up as time and money will allow. For me, this is a career re-boot. I’m a Chef by trade right now, but always had a passion for broadcasting, and voiceover. My dream is to be an animated character (bucket list) I WILL get there, but there’s so much exciting work to be had, I will do what I must do now, have a blast doing it, and reach that dream. It ain’t gonna be easy……but hey, it wouldn’t be any fun if it was handed to me (well….yeah, it would be, but I’m not complaining) I look forward to working with you in the future!!!!

  8. Don’t let some in a panic or desperate situation near weapons, heavy machinery or a microphone.

    I know. It’s like Yoda is alive and well…I get that all the time.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  9. Andrew says:

    I agree with Paul. It is important to invest and get good quality coaching, no matter the business. Sometimes though, it is hard to know if the materials or training you are looking at purchasing are worth the money and time. There are so many schools in so many industries that are not worth the investment. They don’t teach what you need to know, or worse, they teach the wrong things. You pay for faulty training, then have to spend more money with a reputable teacher to undo the faulty training.

    I agree there is a price to be paid, and money and time to be invested. I am a mobile DJ with 8 years experience, 3 in business for myself. I have averaged over 115 events per year the past two years. This is in addition to my full-time “real job” at a flooring manufacturing company.

    I am the sole breadwinner for my family. Because the day job supports our family and provides our insurance, I keep working it. I have slept in my car at lunchtime many days, after getting home at midnight to 4 AM from an event, and having to be back at work at 7 AM. I would LOVE to be in business for myself full-time, and I believe I will eventually get there.

    Because I do not have to rely on the DJ business to feed my family, I am able to invest almost every dollar from gigs back into the business. I do not borrow money, so I cash flow the business, purchasing gear as I have money for it. It has probably grown more slowly than if I’d borrowed money, but there are no debt collectors calling if I have a slow month.

    Some people told me I should consider VO/advertising work, as they say I have a good voice. I don’t know very much about VO yet. I think it would fit nicely with my DJ/audio services business. I purchased your VO ebook, Dan, and am looking into training now here in my area (I’m near Atlanta, GA). I don’t have a studio, but I have some of the basic gear (MacBook Pro’s, Audacity, Shure mics, mixers, etc). I don’t personally know anyone who does VO, so I feel like a blind man, feeling my way along.

    Anyway, I don’t mind paying for coaching, I just like to be sure the coach has played the game successfully. At this stage in the game, since I am so new, I could probably still be fooled by an armchair QB. 🙂 lol

    I have been doing “free” or cheap learning so far. I purchased your ebook, and have been reading your blogs, watching Bill Dewees’ YouTube channel, reading other VO blogs, etc. I appreciate your blog. I have found it to be educational and interesting.

    • Dan says:

      Thank you for your kind words Andrew. In March I will be speaking at VOAtlanta2014. It would be great to meet you there. Choosing a teacher/coach is a personal decision which depends greatly on your personality and desire (and that of the coaches). Let me know if you think I could be the right teacher/coach for you. Have a GREAT day!


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