If you were the class clown, joyously imitating your favorite cartoon heroes in the back of the classroom, only to be rebuked with “children should be seen and not heard,” have we got a gig for you.
As one of the fastest-growing industries of last year, voice acting is offering up career opportunities for those who choose to be heard and not seen. In other words, you finally have an outlet for all those silly voices you’ve been saving up since your elementary school days — and you can get paid for them!
The field of voice acting is a vast one, covering not only traditional gigs such as voice work for cartoons (ala Mel Blanc), films and television; but also video games, puppetry, radio work, dubbing, commercials and any other form of voice over. Audio books in particular have exploded, with over $1 billion dollars spent by consumers in 2010 alone.
Now that digital media has become more accessible to obtain and create, smaller businesses are playing catch-up with the big leagues, creating their own online commercials with professionally done voice overs. But the truth is, you don’t need professional training to become a “professional” voice actor.
How to Get Started as a Voice Actor
Georgia-based Chris Hardy works as a repairman at Kirkwood’s Music and Repair for his day job. But Hardy has created a profitable side-hustle as a voice actor — offering up personalized audio files with famous cartoon voice impersonations, from Homer Simpson to Hank Hill — on Fiverr.com.
Since activating his account in 2010, Hardy has become one of Fiverr’s top sellers, and his voice-over talents have been utilized by thousands of individuals worldwide.
Hardy noted two “main ingredients” as the foundation to his voice acting career: “One, as a child growing up with Saturday morning cartoons, I enjoyed mocking all the characters and memorizing the commercials (much to the annoyance of my parents). And, two, I’ve been a songwriter/musician/vocalist since the late ’70s, so I’ve always had decent recording gear at my disposal.”
“Enter Fiverr,” he said, “and it all came together.”
How Fiverr Helps Hardy Earn a Side Income as a Voice Actor
What’s Fiverr? It’s a website where users sell products and services for $5. Here’s a post that explains how to make thousands of dollars on the platform.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of standing out as a business professional, Hardy suggests “uniqueness and treating your buyers as humans” are the most important elements to success. (Click to tweet this idea.)
“When I got on Fiverr, the Fiverr folks saw my gig ‘I will speak your message in the cartoon voice of your choosing for $5‘ [and] they thought it was different, so they featured it — meaning it popped up on the home page more often than non-featured gigs, resulting in many orders!” says Hardy. “Also, I see sellers on Fiverr that simply have no manners and appear to be really gruff to their buyers. They may actually be nice people, but they need to make the extra effort to type in a nice way. If the buyer signs their name [on their order], at least say ‘Thanks for your order, James.'”
Hardy also notes that niceties go a long way toward repeat business: “I offer to fix anything that may need fixing in the voice overs I deliver — pronunciations, tone, whatever. Some sellers would charge for that, but I’ve found that happy customers tend to return.”
As for the bottom line? When we asked Chris Hardy if the rumors of his making an estimated $10,000 per year from voice acting were true, he had this to say: “No, that is completely false! It’s more like $13,000 per year.”
Sell Your Personality, Not Just Your Voice
As the voice acting trend continues to rise, more individuals are jumping on the bandwagon. And with the technology needed to get started now available to virtually everyone, standing out has become more important than ever.
“In 2010 when I started on Fiverr, there seemed to be a good amount of voice over gigs, but now it seems like anybody with a USB microphone and a laptop has a gig posted on Fiverr. It appears that there are far more cheap voice overs available to the public now,” says Hardy. “This is why I cannot stress enough that it’s the non-voice-related things that will keep your buyers ordering: treat them well, try to actually care about their needs, and try not to be so formal and anonymous. The human element will make the difference.”
Although there is money to be made as a voice actor, Hardy wanted to pass on one last tidbit of overall career wisdom: “Instead of trying to mold oneself into being a voice actor — or any other profession — try to look for opportunities that actually fit what you already do. You’ll be far happier that way, and I’m a big fan of happiness.”
Your Turn: Would you try voice-over acting as a side business?
Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of LittleZotz Writing. Through her website, Lauren helps small businesses bring their brands to life through written content; and she also helps fellow writers get started as freelancers via weekly blog posts, bi-monthly newsletters, free e-books, and one-on-one mentoring.