Everyone knows working from home is awesome, and not just because it means pajama pants are totally dress-code friendly.
(Although, as someone who works from home pretty frequently, I’ll tell you: It’s just as big a deal as you think.)
If you have a family, or are planning to start one soon, you may be longing for a flexible, work-from-home job for a whole host of other reasons.
You’d save time and money on your commute and minimize your spending on a sitter.
You’d avoid missing those all-important firsts: steps, words, successful solo journeys to the potty.
You’d actually be able to get all the laundry done in one day. Well, maybe.
But with an internet full of scams and low-paying, one-off gigs, how do you find a work from home job that’s both legit and liveable?
Toronto-based mother Janna Polzin was able to do just that.
Since her son was born in 2013, she’s earned $7,000… by talking to herself. In her closet.
Let me explain.
Polzin was a successful, professional theater performer for almost a decade after she graduated — as valedictorian, no less — from the Sheridan Institute Music Theater Performance program in 2005.
But when she learned she was expecting, she knew her days traveling to follow gigs, living in a new town every few months, had to draw to a close — a fact that made itself evident immediately.
In the hullaballoo of discovering her pregnancy, she missed a flight to her next performance.
Polzin knew she needed a change, but didn’t want to give up the career she’d worked so hard to build.
Pulled in two directions, she was at a loss… until she curled up on the couch one evening to destress with a video game.
A New Way to Perform
As Polzin moved through the immersive world of Mass Effect 2, she had a sudden realization.
“I just got so into the story and so into [the playable female character], that I felt like her,” Polzin says. “It was just crazy.”
She realized part of what fueled her connection to her avatar: the character’s spoken dialogue. It had been voiced by another successful Canadian actress, Jennifer Hale.
Suddenly Polzin discovered she could keep performing and bringing characters to life from the comfort of her own home — just by speaking.
Make Money From Home, Just By Talking
Polzin had done some voice-over acting before, but not much. Over the course of her 10 year career with her agency, she’d had only a handful of auditions.
Although her agency was willing to help her find voice work and she loved doing it, her stage career came first.
“Anytime I felt like I gained a bit of momentum, I’d have to go to Thunder Bay for a gig for four months, or go to Niagara Falls or something,” she explains.
But she turned to the online acting community and kept hearing about one voice-acting platform again and again: Voices.com.
Voices.com is an international online voice-over acting marketplace that helps vocal talent — both professional and amateur — find the clients who need them.
And make no mistake, demand is high.
Think about all the times you hear a recorded human voice.
TV commercials, animations, radio spots — even the pre-recorded routing system you get when you call your bank or doctor’s office all rely on voiceovers.
That’s a lot of recording, which means even people who’ve never done any voice acting or training can find relevant gigs on Voices.com.
And since technology carries your voice far and wide, you can do this work from almost any place on the globe.
As for Polzin, she was most excited to land a character role in a videogame… which she was able to accomplish just a month after signing up.
Voices.com allowed Polzin to work from home, using her own equpiment, at her own pace — which was largely determined by the napping cycle of her newborn son, Simon.
“Basically, I do it all while he’s sleeping,” Polzin says. Even though her son doesn’t nap much, most pieces only require an hour or less of actual silence for recording, and then maybe an hour’s worth of editing.
Polzin can get the majority of the preparation work — emails with clients and scoping out which jobs to audition for — done sporadically throughout the day, when her son doesn’t need her immediate attention.
Depending on the client’s budget, she could earn as much as $500 for just a couple of hours’ work. And since Voices.com sets adament guidelines for minimum pricing, she knows every job is worth her while.
Oh, and did I mention she set up her recording studio… in a closet?
How to Get Started as a Voice Over Actor
In Polzin’s two-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto, space is limited.
“Everything has to have dual purpose,” Polzin says. “If we get a new piece of furniture, it’s got to have storage as well as being a functioning table.”
There wasn’t space for a standalone recording booth — and besides, they’re expensive! — so she whittled out some space in her hall closet.
You can find her tucked away amidst their sweaters and jeans a few nights a week, getting paid to talk to herself.
It’s actually a brilliant Penny Hoarder move: Clothing is a good sound insulator.
As her client base has grown, Polzin and her husband are working with a contractor to formally sound-proof the room.
But if you don’t live in a busy city in a condo adjacent to a major highway like they do, you probably wouldn’t have too much to worry about.
“If you live in a rural place, you can probably get away with not doing any sound-proofing,” Polzin says. You probably already have inexpensive sound dampeners lying around the house, like moving blankets, rolls of foam, even yoga mats.
And you don’t need to spend a ton of money on special sound-editing software, either. Polzin uses GarageBand, which comes pre-installed on every Mac. Other voice actors use Audacity, which is free to download onto any computer.
As far as equipment, a little investment can go a long way.
“You don’t have to spend $500 on a good microphone,” Polzin explains, “but you will get more recognition [and] positive feedback with a better mic than the one built into your laptop.”
The most important part of being successful a voice actor? Persistence, and the business management skills required of any freelancer.
Polzin says her monthly returns are highly variable based on how many gigs she auditions for.
“You have to think of yourself as a business that you’re trying to sell to other people,” Polzin says.
But even if you’ve never done any voice acting or run a freelance business before, we like that Voices.com has resources to help you get started. They even have a series of podcasts so you can learn to make the most of your business while you’re on the go.
The site is packed with tips for amateur and professional voice actors and podcasters, and offers videos, blogs and can even connect you to voiceover coaches.
These voiceover lessons can be helpful: Not only will you learn how to manipulate your range and be able to work even when you’re sick, it might help you figure out what to do when a client has an… odd request.
“You get some clients who’ll say, ‘We want it to sound fresh,’” Polzin said. “What does that mean? [Another] came in and said they want every word to sound ‘delicious.’ You have to try to get into the mind of the client in order to understand, OK, how do I make my voice sound delicious?”
Once you’ve found your unique style, Voices.com helps you leverage your skills to find the right clients.
You can categorize your demos using a huge selection of adjectives and characters, from “Girl Next Door” to “Annoying Kid.”
The more complete your profile, the better your chance for landing a gig. Besides, who doesn’t want to figure out if they can voice an “Elvish Princess”?
A Flexible, Freelance, Work-From-Home Business
Polzin loves working with Voices.com because she can make money at home using the skills she’s cultivated for years in the acting world.
“I often walk away from my computer thinking, I can’t believe I just made money from that!” she said.
She’s able to work on her own terms, in her own time, without compromising her privacy.
Plus, she found a whole new way to channel her love of acting.
“[It’s] such a cool way to connect with an audience, in such a different way than I had thought,” she says.
And the best part of all? She still gets to work in her PJs.
“I have full-on purple plaid pajama pants on right now,” she told me on our call.
We couldn’t approve more of her choice of color — or the entrepreneurial spirit that allows her to have it all.
Your Turn: Could you voice an Elvish princess or annoying kid? Or are you more of a “girl next door”? Let us know in the comments!
Disclosure: A toast to savings! Thanks for allowing us to work with our sponsor, Voices.com on this post.
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Her creative writing has been featured in DMQ Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection and elsewhere.