Has anyone ever told you that you have a nice voice? If so, it may be a hidden goldmine.
One of my friends is a very talented voice artist. She’s recorded commercials for world-class brands such as Mastercard, GMC, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Airstream, Nintendo, and dozens more.
I was exposed to the world of voice talent after working with her on a project. My view of the potential markets for voice artists had been pretty narrow (e.g., music, animated movies, cartoons, video games). However, I soon discovered how many industries rely on voice over actors.
We first met many years ago. At the time, I overlooked one of the best benefits of her freelance work:
She can work from anywhere in the world.
She’s her own boss, works her own hours, and can choose to record her voice sessions at home, in a studio, or on the road. She has a lot of freedom in her lifestyle, and it’s pretty cool that she can generate income simply with her amazing voice.
Now, I’m guessing that almost all of you already have a primary profession, and that’s how you make a living. But, as I’ve said before, it’s smart to have multiple income streams and a backup plan.
I’ve always been on the other side of the table looking for voice talent (e.g., for a song, my startup, an audiobook). But, as I explored and utilized these voice marketplaces, I couldn’t help but notice that people are sometimes making a living doing this. Or, at least, they are generating additional income from it as a side hustle.
I want to share a couple of the larger voice marketplaces with you. The fascinating thing about these opportunities is that you don’t need a magical, melodious, singing voice to be in demand. There’s a need for all kinds of voices from people of all ages around the world.
They provide voice talent for advertising, animation (e.g., cartoons, movies), broadcasting (e.g., podcasts, radio, television), consumer brands, education, financial services, gaming, healthcare, nonprofits, publishing (e.g., audiobooks), technology solutions (e.g., apps, text-to-speech, explainer videos), and other video production.
Professional voice artists can make a pretty good living. For example, Nancy Cartwright is Bart Simpson's voice on The Simpsons and has a net worth of about $85M. But, the average voice actor makes around $76K. Still, not bad!
Even if you only want to record a voice gig here and there, you can still make hundreds or thousands of dollars doing so. Voices.com shares that you could make around $100 for a local radio commercial or up to $10K for a national commercial. You could make between $100 to $1K if someone wants your voice for a short animation or in a video game.
Maybe it’s just me, but it is pretty cool to imagine your voice being heard around the world in a video game, animated show, or even a commercial. I’ve had a small taste of that with my podcast.
It’s even more amazing to get paid just for recording your voice in the comfort of your home. Yes, you do need a reasonable microphone (more on that below), the ability to take direction and read a script, and some basic audio editing software. But, the investment (i.e., of your time, energy, and money) is a lot less than many other side hustle options.
If you’re interested in checking it out, you can learn more here.
I discovered the ACX marketplace while I was researching what it would take to publish my book. I was already interested in print and Kindle format. But, my good friend and podcast co-host, Trip, reminded me of how valuable it would be to create an audiobook version, as well.
ACX is a service where authors, literary agents, publishers, and rights owners can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and other producers to create a finished audiobook. Much like the Voices.com platform, you can hire a narrator to read your book.
As I explored the service and learned more, I found that they also have book titles that are open for submissions. You can essentially audition to be hired as the narrator by the author, publisher, agent, or rights holder.
The side hustle income from ACX is slightly different from Voices.com and presents a unique opportunity to earn passive income for years! You can choose a per-finished-hour rate for a project paid upon successful completion of the audiobook. Most experienced narrators charge between $200-$400 per finished hour, but you will probably start at a lower price as a novice (e.g., $80-100).
The interesting “passive income” option is to share royalties from the finished audiobook sales with the author or rights holder. Rather than getting paid a flat fee for the completed project, you receive 50% of the sales on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If a book is “evergreen” and popular, you could receive royalties for years.
Learn more about how you can earn both active and passive income as a narrator on ACX.
Equipment and setup
There is already a ton of information online about setting up a quiet space for recording, microphones, headphones, software, and other equipment. So, I will share my one fundamental rule:
Do not invest a lot of money until you are consistently making money!
I apply a “lean approach” to every new business or side hustle I explore. Invest minimal time, money, and energy to see if it has promise. When I make some money from the venture, I invest a little more in growing it (e.g., services, equipment, marketing, my time).
You will need some basics to get started with making money by recording your voice, whether it’s for voice over work or audiobooks. The quality won’t be good enough if you try to use your laptop’s built-in microphone or a Bluetooth headset while recording in a noisy environment.
The minimal setup:
A computer to record, edit, and upload the finished audio files.
Software to record, edit, and export your audio. I use GarageBand (free on my Macbook Pro). Many people use Audacity, which is free open source cross-platform software for audio editing.
A decent microphone. It’s tempting to buy a really nice microphone before you’ve earned a single dollar with your voice. Don’t do that. The high-end ones — like Neumann — can be over $3K! But, you can find a reasonable Rode NT1-A for around $300 or get an MXL 770 for around $80. Note: Experts recommend getting a condenser microphone vs. a dynamic mic if you want true, subtle quality and a wider range of frequencies.
A pop filter helps reduce “plosives” while recording. Plosives are those hissing, lisping, and popping sounds that happen when you pronounce letters such as S, B, P, and T. These filters are placed between your mouth and the mic, and they can be as cheap as $9.
A quiet space to record. Believe it or not, many work-at-home voice artists record in a closet. I’ve done that too. I hung up some blankets to soundproof it a bit and closed the door to reduce noise from the rest of the house. Some intrepid folks have even recorded on the road from a motel room. They sat under a blanket! That might be ok for recording short segments, but I wouldn’t do that for an entire book.
Basic over-the-ear headphones to listen to your audio while editing later. You don’t need to splurge on these, either. You can get some for less than $50. However, don’t use noise-canceling ones because that won’t give you a true representation of the sound.
So, it may not be free to create a setup to “sell your voice” and make some additional active and passive income, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Start lean, land some gigs, make some money, and slowly ramp up your investment later.
Make money before you spend more money!
If you have a nice or interesting voice, you might be surprised by how valuable it is to others. You’ll never know unless you try. 😀
My referral program
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This week’s professional development challenge
⭐ Schedule Time for Friends and Family
Rely on to-do lists if you want to fail. Or — instead — schedule the things that matter most to you…
Larry Cornett is a leadership coach and business advisor. He lives in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with his wife and children, and a gigantic Great Dane. He does his best to share advice that can help others take full control of their work and life. He’s also on Twitter @cornett.