The difference between doing voice acting on the side and doing it as a pro is that, as a pro, you have to be available at a moment’s notice. If an old client needs something voiced urgently or a current client needs you to re-record something, you need to be ready to do that, ASAP!
Which means that folks like you and me, doing voice acting on the side, we need to focus on work that is a little less time-sensitive. And that’s what this article is all about. Gigs that you can do well at, even if you’re just doing voice acting as a side job.
In this video, Carrie Olsen reveals how she get started with VO on the side and went full-time in just 4 months. (Pay attention to how quickly she got a voice coach.)
Practice Wherever You Can
Doing voice acting on the side probably means you don’t have a lot of time to improve yourself. Which means you need to wisely use the time that you do have.
- Making a sandwich? Practice some lines.
- Showering? Do some warm-up exercises.
- Driving to the shops? Practice some voices.
You’re getting to know your voice and you’re improving your voice at the same time.
Knowing your voice is important because you’ll eventually find some “sweet spots” for your voice that just naturally sound good. These are areas where you can focus your attention and do better than other people with the same amount of practice. And when you’re doing this on the side, you need those quick wins. Or you’ll stay stuck in “amateur” mode.
On top of that, you need to keep improving your voice or you’ll never book a single gig. Maybe you’ve been told you have a great voice (or you decided you do) but that doesn’t mean you’re “production ready” yet.
You still need to learn the basics of voice control, acting for the role, creating characters, different styles of delivery and so on. You might have a natural talent for one of those things and that’s great, focus on that. But you’ll also need to develop your other voice skills in order to put out quality recordings.
Here’s a great video with 3 exercises you can practice in your free time:
Record Yourself Often
You won’t know what you really sound like until you record yourself. And you won’t know how to get a good sound out of your equipment until you record yourself.
So set aside some time, every day, to record yourself. Even if it’s just 5 minutes. And then, before you record yourself the next day, play back your last recording.
Tip: You can find some great (free and paid ) software and microphones for recording yourself on my resources page.
It’s called a “feedback loop” and it means that you’re constantly learning from your past attempts. The more times you go through your feedback loop, the better you’ll get. The faster you go through your feedback loop, the faster you’ll improve. Quantity and speed.
Some folks will practice a skill for months before actually recording themselves. That can result in months of “wrong practice”. Wrong practice is when you focus your practice time on stuff that doesn’t actually make you better at your end goal. That’s just as true for sports as it is for voice acting or any other kind of performance.
Set up your recording space, hit record and actually try nail a script. There are tons of free practice scripts for voice actors all around the web. Pick some that you like and record yourself every day!
5 minutes of focused practice every day, is more powerful than 8 hours of “wrong practice” once a week.
Side Tip: This is also a great way to improve your “mic technique”. Mic technique is how you use the mic while recording. A lot of beginners won’t have the mic close enough to their mouths or they’ll have it too close. Or they’ll keep touching the mic. All of this adds up to a pretty bad sounding audio recording.
Another Tip: You can shorten your feedback loop even more by monitoring yourself while you’re recording. You do this by plugging in headphones directly into your mic or recording interface. Some VOs find it distracting to wear headphones while performing but, when you’re starting out, it can quickly help you pick up some glaring issues with your inflection, tonality and mic technique.
Here’s a great video on recording yourself, over and over, and for free, so you can improve:
Put Together A Demo
You should have a demo for each type (or genre) of voice acting you want to do. A producer looking for character voices doesn’t want to hear your demo for commercial work and vice versa.
So maybe the first thing you need to do is decide what kind of work you want to do (and can actually do). For some budding voice actors, those 2 things won’t line up. You might want to do characters but you just don’t have the chops yet. Or you might want to do commercial but you sound like an over-the-top radio personality. Figure it out.
And then record a demo for each kind of VO work.
The general rule is to record your demo as “dry” as possible. Showcase your voice, not all the sound effects you can add in post-processing. If the only way you can make your voice sound good is to add effects & samples in post-processing then you need to work on your voice. (Or how you’re recording your voice!)
Your demo should be made up of 1-5 examples of what you can do in that category.
So for commercial work, that would mean recording between 1 and 5 commercials. There are a lot of scripts available out there for free. Borrow some and record.
For character work, that means recording 1-5 different characters. If your characters all sound pretty much the same, then maybe just record that as one character. And then keep working at improving yourself and adding (truly unique) characters to your repertoire.
Your demos (and auditions) are critical to your success as a VO. So don’t stop at this article. Go do a deep dive “research session” on recording good demos. It’ll pay off later.
I’ll help you get started with this video from “VO Buzz Weekly”:
Get A Voice Coach
No matter what level you’re at as a voice actor, a voice coach will help you improve and get the gigs you want to get. There’s just no way for you to know what your weakspots are.
And if you rely solely on online communities for “coaching” you to improve, you’ll end up spreading yourself way too thin. That’s because if you ask 10 people for advice on how to improve, you might end up with 10 different bits of advice. And that’ll just confuse you and slow you down.
Getting a voice coach will help you focus on the areas that will give you the fastest wins the soonest. Which means you’ll book work faster and turn this into a serious side-gig way faster than the guy (or gal) who decided to skip voice coaching.
Another important reason to get a coach is so that you don’t spend hours and hours practicing “bad habits” by yourself. Those habits will become difficult to break later. And there’s no way, without being a pro in the industry, that you’ll know what your bad habits are. Stuff that sounds good to you could be completely awful for the kind of work you wanna go after.
Be Prepared To Put In The Time
A lot of VO work will come in at the last minute or just at inconvenient times in the middle of the day. That’s the job, though. That’s what you’re signing up for.
In almost every story I’ve read of “side hustle” VOs who turned pro, they say that the “side job” part was actually harder than doing it full-time because they just didn’t have enough time. You need time to audition, time to record, time to edit and time to find the work and liaise with clients and potential clients.
And that means that, if you’re working full-time, you’ll end up working some crazy hours.
What probably makes sense is to transition your day job into a remote position (if possible) and then fit in VO in-between the hours you work on your day job. That only works if your day job isn’t time-sensitive. And you’ll still have to work weird hours to make up for the time you’re spending on all the VO work.
If you don’t love the work, it’ll eat you alive.
Check out this video on how to find the time for doing voice acting on the side:
5 Types Of Voice Acting You Can Do On The Side
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of what it takes to do voice acting on the side, let’s look at some of the kinds of gig that work as a side hustle.
(In no particular order…)
1. Audiobooks With Acx (royalties Or Outright Paid)
If you enjoy storytelling, then this could be for you. ACX is Audible’s website where you can sign up and “produce” an audiobook.
I say “produce” because you’re literally responsible for everything from recording, to mastering to delivery of the end product. You need to be able to create ready-for-retail audiobooks. You won’t get away with just recording your voice.
Tip: Make sure you’re ready to do all that work. Producing a single, finished hour of an audiobook can take 2 to 5 hours depending on your level of skill. If you can’t commit the time to complete the project, I wouldn’t do this.
So, maybe give audiobooks a skip if:
You don’t consistently have a way to record high-quality. Lawnmowers? Vacuum cleaners? Family running around the house at odd hours?
If you have all that going on and you have a day job, then audiobooks will be hard to do on the side because you’ll miss the deadlines. (Or do a crappy job while rushing to complete the gig in time.)
You don’t know how to edit and master your own recordings. This stuff takes time to learn. There’s a reason that some people are paid to do this separately as their one and only job. It’s serious work.
You don’t have the time to record. Audiobooks are no joke and it can easily take a pro a whole month to record an audiobook. So even if you have your own studio space and lots of quiet time, but your day-job keeps you busy, this might not be for you.
But it’s not all bad. Here’s a bit more help about getting started narrating audiobooks:
In that 👆 video, Kevin (an experienced audiobook narrator) answers these questions for you:
- Should you get someone else to edit your audio for you?
- What can you realistically expect to earn, starting out?
- How do you stay motivated? (And should you even try to stay motivated?)
- How much should I charge per hour of finished audio? (His advice contradicts what you’ll hear from other pros.)
- What’s the most important key to succeeding as a narrator? (It’s not your voice.)
- Where do you go to get free (and paid) advice that’s worth following?
2. Fiverr Gigs
There are a lot of voice actors who started out on Fiverr and are doing pretty well for themselves. You’ll still need to set aside time for last-minute deals and urgent deadlines but it’s doable.
Some VOs use Fiverr to supplement their other voice acting work. It’s a great way to keep work flowing when there aren’t bigger gigs going around.
Quick Tip: Use an alias if you’re not comfortable with bigger (potential) clients finding your Fiverr profile.
And remember: You don’t have to charge just $5. You could do 100 words for $5 and then some kind of pay-scale per word after the first 100. And you could add a licence fee of, say, $20 for commercial use. And another fee of $30 for a 24-hour turnaround time. All of that can add up into real money.
3. Characters and Sound Effects for Indie Games
Another great way to get into voice acting as a side hustle is to offer your services to indie creaters. They’ll need you to voice characters and do sound effects.
The pay on indie projects isn’t likely to be good but it can be an awesome start to your career.
Some places where you can find this kind of work include:
- Casting Call Club
- Behind the Voice Actors Casting Call
- Newgrounds Voice Acting Forum
- Voice Acting Alliance (Unofficial Group)
I’d recommend checking out this article I wrote on doing voice acting for fun where I go into more detail about each of these websites.
4. YouTube: Voice Characters and doing narration for other YouTubers
There are a lot of YouTubers looking for voice actors to voice their characters or do narration for them. You could find these folks and audition to do the work.
Chances are that, if they’re looking for VOs on YouTube, they’re a bit more flexible with deadlines.
Just hop onto YouTube and search for stuff like:
- voice actor casting call
- voice actors casting call
- voice actors needed
- voice actor needed
Then filter the results so you only see the most recent videos:
- Click “Filter”.
- Under “Sort By” click “Upload date”.
As soon as you do that, the videos will refresh with just the most recent stuff at the top. Here’s an example of what was available when I wrote this article:
5. YouTube: Starting Your Own Channel
Starting your own YouTube channel will give you the opportunity to earn from your voice acting for years and years. Most of the time, that’s not the case. Most of the time, you’ll record something, get paid and you’re done. But if you own what you record, that changes things.
Here are some ways that you can earn money from your own YouTube channel:
You Can Earn From Adsense.
AdSense is Google’s built-in way of earning from your videos. It also works for blogs and other websites.
All you do is sign up for AdSense and activate it for your videos. Once you’ve done that, every time someone watches one of your videos, you earn money.
This is the easiest way to earn money from YouTube but not the most lucrative.
You Can Ask Your Subscribers To Support You On “patreon”.
Patreon is a subscription service where your fans can pay a monthly fee to “support” your channel. In return, they get perks that non-paying subscribers don’t get.
You’re 100% in control over what they get and it’s typically delivered on Patreon’s website.
One of my favorite YouTube channels, “Ten Second Songs” has a Patreon account. To see how that works, click here.
You Can Add A Membership Option To Your Youtube Channel
This means that people who visit your channel will be given the option to pay a monthly fee to “Join” your channel. This is different to “subscribing”:
If someone subscribes to your channel, they’ll get notified when you put out new videos. They’ll also see your videos in their subscriptions feed.
But if someone “joins” your channel, they pay a monthly fee to get extra perks. The perks include: custom emojis, public badges, and other stuff you decide to give them.
Think of it as “Patreon” but it’s right there on YouTube, which should mean you get more people signing up just because it’s easier.
To see an example of a YouTuber doing this, check out IRLRosie. (She’s so awesome.)
You Can Recommend Products In Return For Affiliate Commissions.
There’s no shortage of people reviewing mics and vocal booths and audio interfaces on YouTube. But if you’re interesting and you can come at this all from an angle, then you can still get the views.
Basically, you’d review VO gear, or books and then add your (affiliate) links in the description of your videos. The biggest and best-known affiliate program is Amazon but there are a lot more options out there.
There are also courses out there that can help you learn how to monetize YouTube. It might make sense to save up for one of those and invest in your future as a YouTuber.
You Can Create Your Own Course And Promote It
Once you’ve gotten some kind of a following on YouTube, you might notice the same questions popping up over and over again. If you can put together a video course on how to solve the problems your audience is facing, and you do it better than anyone else, then you can make some serious money on YouTube, by selling your own course.
This is easily the most lucrative way to make money from YouTube but it does mean that you’ll need to think of your YouTube channel as a marketing channel to your “real business”: your course.
This option isn’t for someone who “just wants to do voice acting”. Once you go down this path, you become a business owner and you might actually find yourself doing less and less voice acting. So although this can make you some serious money, tread carefully. It can end up being soul-killing if business just isn’t your thing.
And again, there are courses out there teaching this stuff. Invest in yourself or you could end up spending weeks, months and even years trying to get a course off the ground and getting nowhere.
Learn from people who have already succeeded with this in the past. Don’t waste your time with teachers who can’t prove their successes.
Starting a voice acting career on the side can be fun and lucrative but it’s also going to be a lot of work. As long as you’re sober about it, it’s definitely a great option and might even lead to a full-time career in VO. Good luck and go be awesome!