Voice acting is often coveted as a job where you’re able to get some flexibility with your work if you have a talent for it. But can you get enough hours to make a full-time career out of the work? It might not be easy if you’re getting started, but you can eventually work your way up to a full schedule.
Voice acting can eventually become a full-time position, with many professional voice actors working between 40 and 60 hours a week. Voice actors have to participate in auditions that can create hours of unpaid work a week. Many voice actors do voice acting part-time in addition to other work.
Voice-acting is unpredictable work, and not all voice actors will end up working the same amount of hours. There are also other factors that go into how much a voice actor gets to work. Keep reading to learn more about how many hours a voice actor works and what kind of schedule you’ll deal with in this career choice.
How Many Hours Does a Voice Actor Work a Week?
While voice-acting work itself pays well by the hour, the struggle with making a living as a voice actor full time is that it’s a freelance gig.
Freelancing as a voice actor means that you’ll only work as many hours a week as you’re willing to audition for, and voice acting is a competitive field. Especially at the beginning, before you’ve built up a portfolio and a reputation, you’ll likely spend many hours of your voice-acting career just lining up unpaid auditions for work.
So what does this mean for voice actors and their weekly work hours? Generally, it means that for most members of the voice-acting community, voice acting is not a full-time job. (Source: Moonlighting Voice) Many voice actors can’t accrue the amount of work needed to pay bills on voice-acting alone.
Many hours that voice-actors put into their careers during the week are auditions they don’t get paid to perform. Even if a voice actor works forty to sixty hours a week in voice acting, that doesn’t represent how much they’re actually getting paid.
How Long Do Voice Actors Work?
The amount of time a voice actor puts into any given gig is dependent on several different factors. Here are the kinds of variables that go into determining the length of a voice-acting gig:
- How many sessions are necessary to complete the recording
- Whether the voice actor is brought back for editing or revisions after recording
- How long each recording session lasts
Depending on the length of an animated feature film or television show, a voice actor may be required to return to the studio for a single project many times over the course of a few years. A recording session usually only lasts 2-3 hours, but a voice actor may be called back in to record for a movie or TV show several times before the job is complete. (Source: Quora)
If there are any sequels to the original work, the voice actor may also be called back to do work on the sequel as well. For character voice acting, voice actors are sometimes contracted to do work on any further titles that may be generated in the same series so that the voice acting is consistent from movie to movie or episode to episode.
Is Voice Acting a Full-Time Job?
Even for actors who do full-time acting work, voice acting is rarely a full-time career for anyone.
The truth is that this type of work is so sporadic that the chances of you lining up enough voice acting work to fill a forty-hour workweek consistently week after week is not very good. Many voice actors do voice acting on top of a more steady source of income. Regular actors rarely have steady work too, even if they’re relatively famous. It’s the nature of the gig.
You might not be able to get paid full time for voice acting, but that doesn’t mean you won’t end up putting in dozens of hours of work a week to build a voice-acting career. It may take that much time outside of the day job you use to pay your bills in order to build up your reputation as a voice actor. Even once you have a reputation, work probably won’t be steady.
Can You Make a Full-Time Income Voice Acting?
If you can only get voice acting work part-time, how is it possible to make a living doing it? The answer is that a lot of voice acting working pays a higher rate per hour than many other types of work you might do otherwise.
While you aren’t likely to get forty hours of voice-acting work a week, that isn’t important when an hour of voice-acting work is worth three hours of work somewhere else. You’re not likely to get enough voice acting work to fill a forty-hour week, but you may eventually get to the point that you get enough acting work that you can pay bills without having to do other types of work.
That being said, voice actors shouldn’t enter the field as a novice expecting to get enough income from their voice acting work to pay bills right out of the gate. It takes even reputable voice actors many years to build up the networking connections in the industry to guarantee regular acting work.
How Much Do Voice Actors Make an Hour?
The amount of money that a voice actor makes an hour varies wildly from contract to contract, and it also depends on the time of voice acting you’re planning to do for the bulk of your career. If your interest is in voicing audiobook narration, most audiobook recordings are billed at roughly two hundred to three hundred dollars an hour. (Source: Voice)
On the other hand, you may end up doing more short-term gigs such as short radio spots or advertising voice-overs that pay anywhere from fifty bucks to a hundred bucks for the entire job.
National television commercial voice-overs can pay as much as 10,000 dollars for a single session. Contracts for voicing an animated feature film can also range in the thousands of dollars since they typically require months or years’ worth of recording sessions, but many recording sessions will run roughly sixty-five dollars an hour give or take.
So what’s the takeaway from all this?
- Voice actors get paid well by the hour. Because it is creative work and it’s usually performed by freelancers who aren’t offered any other employment benefits, the hourly rate for voice acting work is usually favorable compared to many other jobs.
- Voice actors don’t have a standard hourly rate. Each voice acting gig is going to be vastly different depending on the preferences of the employer and the needs of the job. Some voice-acting jobs may pay more based on the stipulations of recording or based on the number of revisions expected. Moral of the story: read your contracts carefully.
- Voice actors aren’t company men. Chances are if you’re wanting to do voice acting work, you’re not going to be doing it as part of a full-time staff at a business. While some independent publishers of video games and animated films do sometimes use their full-time animators or other staff to fulfill voice acting duties, this isn’t standard practice.
- Voice acting work is not steady. Even though voice acting itself can pay a full-time income, chances are even with studio auditions you won’t be pursuing voice acting work for forty hours a week or more. When you’re first getting started, you aren’t likely to get much voice acting work at all.
Voice actors have the potential to make good money by the hour, but the unpredictable nature of the work means that many of them end up having to take on other types of work to make ends meet. However, this is a lifestyle option that appeals to many of the personality types that are attracted to voice acting and other creative types of work in the first place.
Can Voice Actors Work From Home?
One of the major advantages of voice acting work is that if you have the money to invest in some decent studio equipment and some home office equipment for the transferral of MP3 recordings, there are many voice acting gigs that can be performed from home.
This flexibility makes voice acting a great career choice for stay-at-home parents or other people who want to make money as a side hustle but don’t want to commit to any other type of full-time career. It’s also a suitable career choice for introverts and people who prefer to work in solitude rather than in a traditional office environment.
While four hours of voice acting at around sixty-five dollars, an hour may not be enough for someone to live on, it’s the kind of side hustle money that can help ambitious freelancers put away funds for retirement or have some extra money to spend on luxury items.
Even though voice acting is competitive work, there’s also always the chance that you’ll end up with a once-in-a-lifetime role in a blockbuster film or video game. However, the roles for those kinds of positions tend to be a matter of who you know rather than how strong your voice acting portfolio is. This is why hours of unpaid networking in voice acting are part of the gig.
Do Voice Actors Get Residuals?
Residuals, like royalties, are fees that are paid to actors and other creatives for the syndicated use of their work. Unlike traditional actors, voice actors who work in television rarely get residuals as part of their contract. Instead, voice actors are paid at an hourly tracked rate like any other creative freelancer. (Source: Everyday Performers)
This doesn’t mean that if you become a famous freelancer, you don’t have the option to negotiate for residuals in your contract. But overall, it isn’t common practice in the voice acting world to get paid after the fact for your voice acting work. In many contracts, you’ll get paid for the hours you put in at the recording studio and nothing more.
How Do Voice Actors Make a Living?
If voice actors don’t work enough hours or get paid enough to make a full-time career out of their voice acting work, then how exactly do they make a living?
The answer is as diverse as voice actors themselves. The phrase “don’t quit your day job” is often flung at freelancing creatives who are trying to make a go of it full-time. A “day job” is the type of job that a freelance voice actor takes in order to pay their bills between paid voice acting contracts. Voice actors can take day jobs in a variety of industries.
These are some of the traits to look for in a good day job for a voice actor:
- Flexibility: Voice actors require a flexible day job that allows them to take time off work to go to in-studio auditions for voice acting work. For many voice actors, this may mean taking a steady night shift job to leave their day-time hours open for auditions, or working several part-time shifts and juggling them to leave holes in their schedule for auditions.
- Networking opportunity: Some industries, such as radio, provide networking opportunities for voice actors since they already use voices. Radio stations also often work with advertisers who are always drafting new voice talent.
- Public-facing work: Sales is a great industry for voice actors to work in as a day job because it helps them learn how to deal with clients, how to cold-call gracefully, how to pitch, and how to sell themselves to a skeptical public. These are all necessary and useful skills to have as an actor trying to self-promote.
At the end of the day, the type of day job you choose to supplement your voice acting income will depend on your personal preferences and the types of jobs available near you.
Some voice actors may end up working in retail, while others will manage to get their foot in the door at a radio or video production company. To get the best day jobs for voice acting, you have to be willing to hustle.
Is Voice Acting a Good Career?
If you ask a dozen different seasoned voice actors whether it’s a good career to go into, you’re going to get a dozen different answers depending on how well each individual voice actor is doing in their field. The industry of voice acting is so diverse that two voice actors can work their entire careers and never have any overlapping jobs.
If you have a passion for voice acting or you want to make some supplemental income at home using voice recording equipment, voice acting is a satisfying way to make extra money and build your creative portfolio. But voice acting is a career choice that takes several years of hard work to build up into a profitable venture.
While there are some drawbacks associated with being a voice actor, such as lack of protections and benefits compared to other types of actors, there are also some major benefits to being a voice actor too. These are some of the reasons why voice acting might be a good career for you:
- You want to be immortalized in advertisements, movies, television, or video games. Even if you just land a bit part as a voice-over extra in an animated film or a cartoon, there’s a certain artistic pride in knowing that your name will be associated with that piece of media forever.
- You’re willing to play the long game. Voice acting isn’t a job where you can jump in and start making tons of money right away, but it is a lucrative career for people who are willing to build up their voice acting portfolio slowly and make the professional connections necessary to land strong acting roles.
- You don’t mind working multiple jobs to make the dream happen. Many, many voice actors have to work a job in an unrelated field to keep their bills paid while they pursue their dream of becoming a voice actor. Non-hustlers need not apply.
- You’re willing to invest in some professional equipment. The most successful voice actors set up a home studio with audio editing equipment to submit their audition tapes from home rather than going door to door in studio auditions. While it requires some financial investment, it’s a much more efficient way to audition for freelance VA work.
Just because you’re only able to pursue voice acting on the side at first doesn’t mean that you can’t ever make a full-time gig out of it. However, very few people have the professional persistence it takes to make voice acting their full-time career.
Voice Acting Is a Career That Takes Time
Almost nobody is able to go into voice-acting and end up with forty hours of paid work a week right at the beginning. Like other types of creative freelance work, voice acting requires building up a portfolio and a reputation to garner the kind of long-term work you can build a career on.