A voice talent’s annual income can vary greatly, and when just starting out, most of what is earned should be reinvested into your studio, demos, and marketing. This means that a second job is sometimes necessary at this stage to support daily living expenses. However, as you build a portfolio of clients, you will begin to see your voice actor salary grow and get a better sense of the potential of your voice over business.
The fate of a voice actor is not set in stone. Many choose to do voice acting as a hobby, while others have gone on to make it a full-time career. Those who pursue careers in the entertainment industry can earn a substantial amount each year if they are willing to put in the hard work and effort required to succeed.
Average Annual Voice Actor Salary
The annual voice actor salary will correspond to the actor’s talent and experience. If you find work primarily in local projects, you’ll see a significant difference from those who regularly book feature films. A voice actor can earn $6,358 per month or $37 per hour. Remember that aspiring voice actors usually make less per month or hour until they have proven reliable and credible talents. Entry-level voice actors make around $1,916 per month or $12 per hour, but there is potential to make more money as time goes on.
According to ZipRecruiter, annual averages include:
- Experienced voice actors: $111,500–$199,000 per year
- Mid-level voice actors: $69,000–$87,499 per year
- Entry-level voice actors: $13,500–$31,999 per year
For the most up-to-date salary information, see the Global Voice Acting Academy (GVAA) rate guide.
Annual Income of a Voice Talent Varies Greatly
Voice acting is a competitive field, so you won’t earn high wages just by being talented. However, voice actors can earn an above-average income. In Los Angeles, the average rate for voice acting is $39.84 per hour. In New York, it’s $38.13 per hour, but the average gig earns about $30 per hour in a smaller market.
Doing voices for commercials and direct-response radio advertising can bring you substantial income quickly. Commercials usually pay between $200 and $1000 per script reading, and radio ads pay slightly less at around $100 per script reading. The actual rate depends on how the content is used, which media, duration, and geography.
Voiceover artists who broadcast commercials may also negotiate higher fees if they have skills that relate specifically to the target audience, such as a dialect or unusual pronunciation. Other ways to increase your income as a voice actor involve independent productions and recurring roles on television shows and movies.
Building a Portfolio and Networking Can Help You Earn More
In the beginning, you won’t be able to make high wages unless you have a reputable portfolio or invite others in your network to work with you. You can start building your portfolio by doing voiceovers in your spare time and inviting people in your network to hear your work. Voice acting is an emerging field, so there are many opportunities for the right people. If you’re willing to work hard and build a solid portfolio, you’ll earn a handsome wage, both now and in the future.
Consider the Physical Demands of Voiceover Work
Voiceover work is physically demanding. You need to sustain a high level of vocal energy for long periods to read dialogue effectively. A voice actor needs to speak loudly and clearly while staying within the limitations of their range and projecting their voice to an audience. It can take 1-3 hours per day for voice actors to record lines for TV or movie productions, and some may require up to 6 hours of recording each day.
The physical demands of voiceover work differ in radio ads and commercials, which usually require less energy than a movie or TV production. Commercials and radio ads usually last between 90 seconds and 2 minutes each, so they should be easier on your vocal cords. That said, some commercials are very fast-paced and intense, so they require more energy than others do.
Factors That Can Impact the Voice Actor Salary
When you first start your career as a voice actor, you might be tempted to take any gig that comes your way. However, it’s important to remember your time and talent are valuable and set a rate that reflects your willingness to book gigs without devaluing yourself.
One way to determine this is to use a simple hourly rate formula. While the pay range between mediums may vary, your time is one bankable constant. Start by considering the script’s length, and then calculate how long it will take you to record it. Additional factors to consider include:
- Per Project or Per Job: Most voice actor jobs are per project. This means that you will only get paid once for a particular job, regardless of how much time it takes to complete it. The exception to this is acting in major video games. These roles typically pay a fixed salary and work on a contract basis with the game company. There’s also some money in voiceover animation, like anime or cartoons.
- Word Count and Duration: Some voice actors have a lower word count requirement than others. Commercials usually need to record between 10 and 20 lines of dialogue per commercial. Although most artists have their own home studios, you must also be prepared for some long days on set if required.
- Usage: The amount of money paid for TV and radio ads varies depending on the scope of the broadcast. For example, ads shown on a national scale will typically earn more than ads only meant to run locally. Additionally, ads with a set expiration date will earn less than ads without an end date.
Determine Your Minimum Fee Per Voiceover Project
The amount of money you earn will significantly depend on the type of work you accept and how many projects you’re willing to take on. Determining your minimum fee per voiceover project is essential to maintaining your business. The average voiceover artist charges $150 for a 30-second commercial or radio ad, but that fee may vary depending on the customer and the commercial or radio spot itself.
Voice-over artists should be able to negotiate with their clients to ensure they don’t lose any potential future opportunities by accepting too low of a fee. You may also negotiate higher fees if you have other skills that match a specific project. This involves being able to do dialects or unusual pronunciation and having comedy or singing ability that sets you apart.
Non-Union Versus Union Voiceover Work
Non-union voiceover work is more common in this industry than union voiceover work. As a general rule, in the U.S., most union voice actors are members of SAG-AFTRA and pay dues to the organization to secure a contract. In contrast, non-union voice actors don’t need to worry about union restrictions on their time and rates.
The downside of working non-union without a contract is that there’s no guarantee that an actor will be paid. Some projects may not even offer you a fee, so you must be careful what you sign up for before accepting a project.
How Skill Level and Specialty Niche Affect Voice Actor Salary
The most crucial factor in determining your income is your skill level. Voice actors with years of experience and the time and equipment to take on high-profile projects will make much more than someone just starting. However, you can make significantly more money by focusing on niches such as films, commercials, radio spots, or video games than other mainstream genres.
Chart Your Own Course for a Voice Acting Career
In summary, voice actors have a wide range of earnings potential depending on how much time they spend working and what type of work they choose to do. However, according to payscale, most voice actors will find that they earn between $3865 and $8500 per year. The higher an individual’s experience level becomes, the more likely they will be able to command higher wages.
Voice acting is an exciting profession that allows individuals to work remotely. It’s flexible and rewarding work that doesn’t require an expensive degree or formal training. If you’re interested in pursuing this career option, it’s a good idea to start practicing now so that when you’re ready to launch a career, you’ll be well prepared.