Where should voice actors focus their skills and their quest for paying gigs? Consider this: all VO is fun, but commercial voice over has a ton of natural advantages baked in.
Let me start by quickly saying this: whether you’re a beginner or a veteran – if you already know what type of voice acting you want to do in your career, go for it. Hustle and make it happen.
There are successful voice actors in all genres.
I’m simply saying to beginners and veterans alike, the commercial realm has some pretty sweet fundamental advantages for the lion’s share of voice actors.
So let’s break down why commercial voice over covers so many bases for voice actors.
There’s a Lot of Work Out There
Ads are being made all the time.
- Some ads are serials. Think the ongoing Limu Emu Liberty Mutual series (props to the guy who gets paid over and over for saying …and Doug in the intro!).
- Some ads are a one-(cycle)-and-done. More on this in a second.
But, seriously – turn the TV on. Chances are that you’ll see a few ads you know by heart – and a whole bunch of new ones you didn’t know existed.
Advertisement is a constant creation machine.
And trust me, next week there will be new ads. And the week after… well, you get the idea.
The simple fact is: since there is such a massive volume of TV, new media, promos and radio commercials being made, that directly translates into a huge amount of work opportunities out there for voice talent.
Commercial Voice Over is Specialized – but Not Hyper-Specialized
While there can sometimes be a perceived commercial sound in certain advertising – the overarching need is for voices to sound natural.
Gone are the days of the hard sell.
But that also means you don’t need an amazing French accent, or a relaxing baritone you’d call on for a specific type of audiobook.
There’s no such thing as the perfect voice actor for all commercial jobs. But if you can portray a company message naturally, there is most definitely work out there.
Hyper-specialized genres like movie trailers and character acting for animation are in demand. But less widely needed than the broad spectrum you’ll find in the commercial field.
Commercial Voice Over Jobs Tend to Pay Quite Well
Let’s get this out of the way. Some voiceover jobs pay well. Others don’t.
We’ll talk about your time invested vs (potential) money earned for that time and your talent in a second.
But, generally, companies that are shelling out for ad buys on TV or the radio have decent budgets. They’re hiring ad agencies, on-screen actors and voice talent. All of that stuff is expensive. They’re usually accustomed to digging deep into those pockets.
Another thing that affects rates is where and how long the commercial will be used. TV tends to pay the best. While typically paying a bit less, radio, social media, in-store placements, etc. – can be pretty good though too.
- The typical commercial usage cycle is 13 weeks.
- Some ads are a single run.
- Many times, those ads are run for multiple cycles.
- There are also time sensitive promos and commercials that may only run a couple of times in highly targeted areas.
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But whether you’re getting high-value checks on a regular basis for a single national network SAG scale commercial – or just got a one time payment for a non-union spot that covered the session and usage (AKA: full buyout), the numbers can be quite nice for the voiceover artist.
Generally There’s a Good ROI in Terms of Compensation For Time Invested
Here are some things to consider when it comes to gauging return on investment:
- How much time you spent in the recording session
- What your time is worth
- The amount your talent is worth (tough to define, but play along)
- A fair value for the use of your voice to promote a product
Depending on where you are in your commercial voice acting career, different people will have different criteria and perceived value – and will come up with vastly different numbers.
But, for argument’s sake, let’s say you’re a relative beginner.
- In this example let’s say you booked a regional TV spot or a quick social media video.
- This theoretical job is a full buyout and pays $750 all in.
- The recording session is scheduled for two hours.
- At the end of that recording session, you’re essentially billing the client $375 per hour.
That’s doctor money.
Sure that example is an oversimplification and doesn’t take in all possible variables, or the value of the usage – but you get the point. Even a modest paying voiceover gig ain’t bad in terms of money for your time.
Commercial Voice Over is Creative
One of the biggest hesitations I had before going full steam ahead with commercial voiceover was that the much-younger-me wanted to specialize in a creative field like animation, audio books – or at least be a narrator in movies or something.
But it didn’t take long to realize that many of the vocal and acting techniques used in commercial voice over are essentially the same used in other fields.
Sure, it can seem all business when a producer or casting director is telling you that:
- “The target audience for this national commercial is the guy next door, aged 18-24, who has a puppy and loves DC Comics.”
- “You should derive your inspiration for reading this company slogan from the general disdain that particular target market has for anything sounding overly scripted.”
While that example is completely made up, it isn’t that far off. But if you can do that with your voice, my friend, you are CREATIVE. AS. HELL.
Commercial Voice Actors Still Work in Other Fields
In any job, most people naturally turn out being better at certain things than others. Not a surprise that we tend to gravitate to things we have a high success rate doing.
But that doesn’t mean voice actors are stuck in a specific field of the industry.
Commercial voice actors also work on cartoons, explainer videos, audiobooks, radio imaging, corporate on-boarding videos, video games, podcasts, ADR…
You get the idea.
Because There is a TON of Crossover in VO Genres
You’ll call on similar skillsets for all kinds of different types of work.
And I don’t actually know a single voice actor that identifies as a commercial voice actor – even though that may be where they tend to excel and make the majority of their income (myself included).
We’re all just voice actors first and foremost.
Curious about how to start your voice acting career? Want to learn more about voice acting and the things beginners should know about the voice over industry? Bring your natural talent and check out my class for beginners!
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