How Kids and Adults Can Earn Extra Income by Doing Voice-Overs

By Michael Kling on 30 November 2012 (Updated 4 December 2012) 5 comments

If you have a golden voice, you might be able to rake in a good part-time income doing voice-overs — recording the words for commercials, cartoons, or movie trailers. In recent years, the boom in podcasts and audio books has created more demand for the work.

Plus, the rise of computers with digital recording software now allows voice actors to work remotely from anywhere. Voice actors often work part-time from their homes, and established professionals may take in thousands of dollars for a few hours of work. (See also: 12 Side Jobs for Stay-at-Home Moms and Dads)

Still, becoming a successful voice actor isn't easy as plugging in a mic. Winning voice-over gigs requires training and persistence. Unless you're an established veteran or have a gifted voice, you should live near a large metro area like New York City or Los Angeles.

Interestingly, your son or daughter might have a better shot at voice-over success. Many adults can artfully imitate children's voices, but casting directors seem to prefer "real" children's voices. Children have been known to make a few thousand dollars over the summer — and we're talking about a child too young to legally mow lawns or wait on tables at your local diner.

Steven Lowell, community manager at the voice-over casting website Voice123.com, noticed that over the past two years the top-paying jobs have been going to children. One child, Lowell wrote in a voice-over industry blog, received $4,000 and a recurring contract to do a series of children’s audio books. In another instance, a voice-over professional told him her son made more money than she did in the past month.

Why Kids Get Good Voice-Over Pay

There are several reasons for the increasing demand for children's voices, Lowell explained.

Studios demand real children. In the last couple years, Voice123 started getting emails directly from agents seeking child voices — from real children, that is. After an agent found that Lowell was 39, he never heard another reply.

The decrease in privacy in today's online world has increased transparency, making it harder for grown-ups to hide their true identity — and their real age. Actors have been known to post a child's photo on their profile. At one point, Lowell's casting website banned children from creating profiles unless someone first spoke to their parents.

Online networks have made children more visible. Since they have more time for social media networking, they might be more visible online.

The fact that children can only work during summer months, at least in the U.S. and Canada, has further increased the demand for real children.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Does Your Child Have What It Takes?

Doing voice-overs can be great fun for the kids, and it pays much better than babysitting or mowing lawns. But children need more than just a flair for the dramatic if they want to succeed in the business. Getting jobs means work.

  • Children must be able to, or be able to learn to: read well, memorize lines, and enunciate well.
     
  • They must have patience. They'll be reading lines over and over again in a sound studio. Sound work is typically not as time-consuming as traditional physical acting. Still, kids who can't sit still for long in a studio don't work out well. Sound equipment picks up rustling clothes of wiggly children.
     
  • Fame should not be their, or your, top concern. Voice actors don't get much recognition. Sometimes they don't even get a credit.
     
  • Although their face isn't shown, they still have to be good actors with a feel for timing and emphasis.
     
  • Having a unique voice will give them an extra advantage. Being bilingual, being able to sing, and speak in different dialects and accents are also advantages.

How to Break Into the Business

For both adults and children, finding voice-over work is about the same.

1. Train

Enroll in classes with a professional voice-over coach or online classes. Practice reading scripts.

2. Produce a Demo

Make sure it includes a sample of voicing various commercials, cartoons, and so forth. In addition to teaching how to read scripts and audition, the coach can help prepare a demo to submit to agents.

3. Subscribe to an Online Casting Service

For example, Voice123.com or Voices.com, which might cost a couple hundred dollars a year. Some casting websites offer special memberships for children. The service emails you — and hundreds of others — notices of auditions.

4. Record the Audition

You can do this at a home studio or pay to rent a studio. Email or mail audio files to prospective clients. If you get the job, you record it, again either at a home studio or a rented studio.

5. Obtain Agents Who Also Market for You

This does take time. Some agents accept emailed digital files; others prefer physical copies. Some may make a hiring decision after hearing a demo; others want to hear you in the studio.

6. Keep Trying

Keep auditioning, sending demos, and following up.

If your child does the voice acting, the parent is the child's manager and handles auditions and other business matters. For more information, you can visit the BizParentz Foundation, a nonprofit corporation for parents and children in the entertainment business.

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Guest's picture

Hey quick fact check note from me,

I am not the owner of Voice123.

I work as a community manager, and have been with the company since 2007 holding several positions.

Thank though, LOL!!!
Steven

Meg Favreau's picture

Sorry about that, Steven! I've updated the piece.

Andrea Karim's picture

I took a voice class a few years back in hopes of getting gigs with some of my weirder character voices. Most voice work goes to normal, or "golden", as you put it, voices.

I never thought about it as being work that kids could do, but I have to admit that I'm relieved that studios are demanding real children's voices now, because nothing is more grating than hearing a 45 year-old woman playing the role of an 8 year-old kid on a radio commercial.

Guest's picture
Guest

Mr. Kling neglected to mention a few facts:
The voice over business is extremely competitive. Extremely. Thousands of people who think they have a "great voice" and access to the internet believe they can become a player. All this has flooded a market with wannabes who will work for next to nothing. It's ruining the marketplace for them, and for union professionals like myself. It's rare to find people who break into the business and start working immediately. It takes a lot of hard work. It's a full time job.

The name of the game is auditions. It could take a hundred auditions before booking a job. Does you kid have the patience for that?

It's expensive. It costs $1,000 and up to have a commercial demo professionally produced in Los Angeles. Good actors also have demos for animation, narration, video games, and more. Classes and workshops can run $600 to $1,000 for six to eight week sessions, or $100 an hour. Hopefully you can afford to spend this kind of dough on your kid.

Mom or Dad needs to learn how to become a recording engineer. If your kid is lucky enough to start working from home, you'll need good equipment, a quiet workspace, and the know-how to record and edit. This takes $$$ and time. Clients don't want to hear crappy audio.

Mr. Kling failed to mention that the "pay to play" websites require you to submit a bid on the job along with your audition. Are you prepared to do that?

Guest's picture
Guest

For those with skill, persistence, patience, and good luck voice overs is a fantastic career. HOWEVER, any person considering this as a possible "work at home" career path needs to be prepared that they'll most likely to spend a lot more than they'll get back for several years before it starts to become even a "part time" job. Many people think it sounds like a fun & easy thing to do, only to be disappointed after 4 years and thousands in expense, with NO return. So keep expectations realistic - the percentage of people booking off those voices-type websites is very slim... many report having to complete 100 or more auditions before booking their first - and that is even for professional level talent. I'm not sure if the booking margin is more slim for children, but it is best not to set up unrealistic expectations, just in case. Hope for the best, but be prepared for a long, expensive journey.
If the child is talented, the parents have extra cash to spend, and the child finds joy just in the pursuit of the work (regardless of booking) - then give it a shot! If & when those bookings do start to come in, it is worth the journey.