Ok, guys. We’re doing it. That TABOO topic no one wants to talk about. How much money do voice actors really make? For beginners and seasoned pros alike, it can sometimes be hard to know if your income is competitive in this industry. So, Anne and Gabby are taking it amongst themselves to try and desensitize the “ickiness” of the money talk and give you some REAL figures on where you should be financially.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
The VO industry can fluctuate
There are a lot of different factors that go into your expected income bracket
$20k-$40k a year as a beginner is GREAT!
If you’re new and have made ANY amount of money – celebrate that!
Don’t get caught up in the big promises
There is nothing in this industry that is permanent
Main point…IT TAKES TIME!
Referenced in this Episode
Direct links to things we brought up ++
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VO: Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice. Today’s voiceover talent has to be a boss, a VO BOSS. Set yourself up with business owner strategies and success with your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS.
Gabby: Hey, guys. It’s Gabby. So umm I’m hijacking Anne’s intro. Before we get started on today’s show, we wanted to tell you a little bit about all the ways that you can live the BOSS life, right?
Gabby: Heck yeah.
Anne: We have a brand-new product in our BOSS Shop called Book Out Build. I’m super excited about this concept. Gabby, tell us a little bit about this.
Gabby: Oh my gosh. So this is my, my baby, if I can, my little brain child, right. This is how I communicate with my clients every single month to make sure that I’m providing them with relevant information that they can actually use, and so that I’m not just, you know, spamming them or sending them something really annoying, right, because we all have to worry about that.
Gabby: And uh of course, you and our fabulous BOSS team kind of took this ball and ran with it, and we’re offering it to everyone now. And these are Book-Out Builds. So with a Book-Out Build, what you’re able to do is set up a system whereby you can communicate with clients on a regular basis about the number one thing they want to know about you, your availability and book-out dates in the studio.
Anne: Great stuff. And as Gabby said, you can do this on a monthly basis or a quarterly basis. So you can choose the frequency. What’s really cool is that we incorporate your own list, and we manage it and send out the marketing blast on your behalf, all in your own brand.
Gabby: You want to go to voboss.com, click on shop, and go check out the Book-out Build and Book-Out Blast features.
Anne: OK now, let’s get on with today’s episode. Welcome, everybody, to the VO boss podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my BFF bosstie, Gabby Nistico. Gabby!
Gabby: Hiii. [laughs]
Anne: Hey, girl. So Gabby, the other day, I was listening to uh the millionaire entrepreneur podcast. There were some really hardcore questions on this podcast like, ok, so how much money did you bring in in the first year? How much money did you invest? And it was like they were asking hard numbers. And I thought to myself, wow. You know, in our VO industry, we don’t really talk about the numbers and how much —
Gabby: No, we don’t.
Anne: Like how much money should I be making? I just got into the industry. Should I be making $1000 a month?
Should I be making $100 a month? What is it that I should be making? I thought it would be a really interesting topic to talk about.
Gabby: Really interesting. I think so too, and you know what else is fun? So I love that it was the millionaire podcast because be a millionaire day —
Gabby: Is on the calendar. It, it is in May.
Anne: Oh my gosh.
Gabby: So how interesting is that? We should totally talk about this because what better way —
Anne: To be a millionaire.
Gabby: To get, yeah, to be a millionaire than to talk about the numbers, right? How much, how much do I need to be making, or how much should I be making? I think this is great, and I think, you know, part of it is uh, it is the positive and the negative of our industry all rolled into one.
Gabby: Because on one hand, we’re so close knit, and we’re so friendly with one another, and we’re like family.
And you know, there’s this amazing camaraderie in the voiceover community. And on the other hand, it’s downright rude to ask someone about their earnings and their salary as a result, because it seems like a violation.
Anne: Yeah. Hush-hush.
Anne: It is like a hush-hush topic, because I think people are, are threatened. People are —
Gabby: They are.
Anne: People are threatened if they are not making a certain amount of money.
Gabby: Exactly, and it, you know, it is a very interesting dynamic. And then I think also the fact that realistically, because everyone in this business has ups and downs that vary year to year, everyone is worrying about maybe disclosing something that they don’t want to because they feel that it is going to tarnish the reputation.
Anne: And there is so many people out there, I am going to say, earned that six-figure income. It is not even just in the voiceover industry. It is everywhere. Earned that six-figure income or whatever in 10 days, or, you know all those webinars out there.
Gabby: Yeah, yeah.
Anne: And I think that that really intimidates people. So I want to talk real. I want to talk — and especially, Gabby, that you mentioned that we have such highs and lows. There can be months in this industry — now, I don’t — I like to say that I have set up my business so that I have some predictable income, but there are times in this industry when the voiceover jobs, like [laughs] You know, whoa! Like, I didn’t have anything yesterday, and should I be worried? I’m not making money. I didn’t hit my numbers this month.
Anne: And do I even say that, or how do I handle that? And I think that people are left to, to either commiserate or feel horrible, or you know, worried because nobody’s talking about it.
Gabby: Well, you and I fortunately talk about money quite a lot.
Anne: Yeah, we do. [laughs]
Gabby: And I think it’s smart, because the more we talk about it, the more we desensitize the ickyness of the conversation, right? And the more we come to I think realize that it really is just a standard part of business practices, and it’s OK. So let’s start with the very beginning. Let’s, let’s assume that we are talking about someone who’s in their first one, two, maybe three years in the voiceover industry. And where should they fall?
Anne: Well, good question. Now big, big differentiator is, are you part-time, or are you full-time?
Anne: So that is number one. And I think, I think most people now are starting part-time.
Anne: And that’s a really tough question because I always tell my students that are just starting out, that are working full-time or, you know, they have obligations that are, you know, a 9 to 5 or something that requires so many hours worth of work or time away, that you have to make sure you have the dedication and the time to put in for marketing so that you can get a return on your investment and start making some money. Most people, when they first get into the industry, are still working at another job. And so their time for marketing is limited.
Anne: And therefore their return [laughs] may also be limited, and that becomes very frustrating for a lot of people, and very worrisome, and very, very frustrating if they’re trying to use any type of income to pay bills.
Gabby: Well, yeah. But I think it’s also, we have to look at statistics nationwide and what averages are. The average business in this country, the average small business, is in the red in the first one to five years.
Gabby: They show a loss in the first one to five years. They are surviving.
Gabby: Almost exclusively on loans in the first one to five years. Very common. So I think a big question for the people who are just starting out is, are you still a student? Are you still training, and are you still working another job? If you are, then realistically, you can’t expect that you’re gonna make a whole ton of money. It, I would say if you make between $5,000 and $20,000 —
Anne: Oh yeah.
Gabby: In a year as a student or as a part-time voice actor, you are doing all right.
Anne: Absolutely. Gabby, I think, I think I tell people that my first year like part-time, I made maybe $2000 in that year because —
Anne: Number one was time. When I had a job that consumed me, gosh, if I made $100 in the month, I was happy.
Anne: You know? And all of that was just based on the amount of time that I could actually put into my business, my voiceover business, at the time, and, and also market myself. You are going to have to double your efforts. You double your marketing efforts, and you are going to have to try to audition those times that you can do it. I mean, a lot of times it is not convenient, you know, if you are working a 9 to 5. I had to wait until I got home at night. If you are full-time, Gabby, what about when you are full-time?
Gabby: Yeah, let’s talk about that next step up, up the ladder, right, that next rung. I believe that again, and this is keeping in mind that in the first one to five years, many people are operating at a loss, and voiceover is no exception to that, I think that as a full-time working voice actor, if you are making between $20,000 and $40,000, and you are still very early in your career, you are doing great.
Gabby: You are doing exactly what should be expected at that point. If you are making more than that, great for you.
Anne: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Gabby: You are amazeballs. [laughs] If you are doing less than that ehh, then yeah, there might be some tweaks and some modifications that you want to make to your marketing, to how you are getting yourself out there, and maybe even to the quality of the types of jobs that you are taking, because that could be a factor.
Anne: You know, Gabby, I am going to, I am going to tell people my first year full-time, when I moved here was not spectacular at all. I think that I um profited $12,000 that first year.
Anne: And that was a scary thing for me because I literally was like, I had come from my full-time job, you know, with a decent salary, to the first year of my full-time business making $12,000, and I was scared. I was scared.
Anne: I was working my tush off that first year.
Anne: You know, I think today might be more difficult today because of the whole casting situation that’s online, and you know, the proposed and devaluation of what is happening out there in the industry, and if you’re not careful about really charging what you’re worth. I think you have to really, really uhh take a look at the numbers as they’re coming in the first year, a figure out uh number one if, if you need to maybe do something different about your marketing, uhh about who you are reaching out to, and how you are getting work, and maybe how you’re going to — if it is not enough income, how you’re going to supplement that income.
Gabby: I’m also going to say this, and is a little uncharacteristic coming from me because I’m typically the pessimist of the two of us, but I will say go ahead, and if you are in that very early stage of being full-time, celebrate the validation. If you, you’ve made any amount of money, if you’ve had clients that are hiring you and paying you money to do this, honor that. Use that to validate your presence in the industry and to propel you forward, and knoq that whatever the number was, whether it was $10,000 or $15,000 or $20,000, if you were able to make that this year, you can do more next year.
Anne: And also know that, you know, Gabby, as you mentioned, the first five years of business are usually in the red.
Anne: So knowing that and understanding that about the business, I didn’t feel horrible. I was nervous, but I didn’t feel horrible, knowing that I would experience a loss, or I was going to, I was going to, you know, do that as I was building my business.
Gabby: But I think that’s also important because we’re coming at it from the standpoint of business owners, and we had a lot of that knowledge coming with us to the table of starting this. I think unfortunately a lot of folks who’ve bought into some of the shadier practices that exist elsewhere in our industry and the big promises, and these, you know —
Anne: Yeah. Dreams.
Gabby: Trumped up moves, dreams kind of get stuck in this idea that, oh my God, I should be making so much more than this or, or why haven’t I hit it big yet?
Gabby: And it’s because it is just not realistic. It isn’t. That is not how it goes. We can both tell you from experience, you start small, and you build.
Gabby: So, OK, let’s talk about the next hurdle, the five to ten-year Mark. So I feel comfortable with numbers between I would say $60,000 and $100,000.
Anne: Yes, I agree with you there. I agree with you there.
Gabby: And so, you guys can see how it is kind of like a slow, you know, uphill climb. Right? There’s a trajectory, and it starts to move upward the more you have been doing it. The $60,000 to $100,000 category, I believe, and Anne, feel free to tell me if you disagree, I believe that is the monetary amount that most working professional voice actors fall into.
Anne: Yeah. Most.
Gabby: Most people look at you and say, right, I’m not doing badly. I could always be doing a little bit better, but I do pretty OK for myself. I do pretty well.
Anne: And especially in the markets that are, that are smaller. Mm-hmm.
Gabby: When you’re at ten years plus is when you start hitting the $100,000 and over.
Gabby: And then I think from their, there’s a lot of other factors that start to come into people’s individual experiences.
Anne: Yes, and there becomes a maintenance factor.
Anne: Because as we know, the volatile aspect of this industry, highs and lows, at this point, after ten years, you have got to have that established client base, and you also now have, I think, at this, at this point in the game, you need to really continue the harvesting of new clients, because —
Anne: Clients — I, I have, you know, all these years, you know, I love having great clients. But there are times when they will need a new voice. As much as you can say I love my client that I’ve had for the past three years — I’ve had one client for nine years — but there are times when you will have to continually harvest those new clients because you never know.
Gabby: It’s true, there’s nothing in this industry that is permanent. I literally woke up one day and lost $50,000.
Gabby: I, I might has well have gone to the casino and gambled it.
Gabby: [laughs] Literally woke up and had a $50,000 contract disappear.
Gabby: Because it was no more. It literally, the company went under. It was no more.
Anne: And you know, I’m glad you said that because a lot of times, it may not even be because of you.
It’s not your voice, it’s not the — you know what I mean? It just might be the company, and that is actually what happens when you have long clients. I have a lot of long-term clients that the company gets taken over, uhh new people are in charge, you know, your contact at the company has left. You have to kind of anticipate those things and plan, because now that you’re at the ten-year mark, you have an income that you probably want to maintain.
Nobody likes to go down. [laughs] I like to always increase my income year after year. And so, you have to strategize for, for harvesting new clients. That is so, so important.
Gabby: Yeah, you can’t ever become complacent in this and think, I’m comfortable now. No, you’re really not.
Anne: Well, I’ve made my $100,000, and so I can sit quiet. Yeah, no.
Gabby: And, and then I think, I think just to be fair, we should touch on some of the, the upper tiers that do exist, mind you. There are — I would say probably about 10% or so of our industry is people that are making $250,000 plus.
Gabby: Annually. Umm and —
Anne: I think 10% might be a little high these days, believe it or not.
Gabby: Maybe. Yeah.
Anne: Because it again the economy is shifting, the industry is shifting.
Anne: Even the veterans of the industry that are used to enjoying, you know, the upper echelons of the, of the money there, are even saying how hard it is to get work. So I think that uhh –and I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I want to be realistic and, and say that —
Anne: That that percentage I think is dwindling. I think where a lot of the money came from was royalties, residuals, and that sort of —
Anne: Type of work, which I think is now becoming a little bit of a changing industry, whatever the reason.
Gabby: I think you have a really good uh finger on the pulse of that because you are in the L.A. market, and because the grand majority of the talent that are in that category making $250,000 plus do live in Los Angeles. So —
Gabby: So yeah. OK, so maybe it’s 5%.
Gabby: Something in there.
Gabby: Maybe 5% to 7%. And then, then we have this spectacularly unique category that I honestly believe is only about half a percent, which is pretty funny.
Gabby: It’s so tiny, I mean, it literally, you, you can’t even call it a percentage of the industry. It’s this very elite group that are voice actors who have become so famous, whether it be for things like something in animation or a movie, or trailer work.
Gabby: Something where they have just dominated to the point that they’re a $1 million plus talent.
Anne: Oh absolutely.
Gabby: Every year. They do exist. They are real, guys. They do –
Anne: They do.
Gabby: And they’re amazing.
Gabby: But they’re a very small percentage of our industry.
Anne: And I think at this point, their income is not just coming from voiceover work.
It’s coming from celebrity endorsements, etc.
Anne: Those types of things. So their income is coming not just from voiceover. I’m trying to think of anybody right now in the L.A. area uh that might fit that bill. I know a couple people that, that may be close to that. Not many though.
Gabby: But I do also think it comes back to your skills as a performer.
Gabby: And, and ultimately many of these folks, mind you, our actors who, yes, while they’re primarily known for their roles and the things that they do it voiceover, they have transcended what we consider to be the voiceover industry, and they’re celebrities now.
Anne: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Gabby: If they’re a household name, or you and your friends know them by name, then yeah, that’s who we’re talking about.
Anne: Absolutely, absolutely.
Gabby: H. John Benjamin, if you’re out there, call me. Call me.
Anne: I think, I think the thing [laughs] I think the one — I think the thing to really, you know, uhh to really take from here is that, it takes time. It’s, you know, the overnight –
Anne: Success thing, that old saying –
Gabby: Oh please.
Anne: It took me 10 years to be an overnight success. It, it — you, the money in this industry, it really is, I think something for 99.9% of the people is, we have to work. We have to work hard for it.
Gabby: We do, we do.
Anne: And it, and it’s not an overnight process, so don’t feel horrible this, you know, your, your numbers are where you think they should be. Make that million. Make that million.
Anne: I am listening to millionaire podcast because I believe it. [laughs]
Gabby: It is totally doable. It is a reasonable thing —
Gabby: To say I want to be a millionaire and to strive to get to those numbers. It can be done, but it’s a cumulative thing, and it’s over the course of multiple years, not a single one.
Anne: Have that entrepreneurial spirit. Like that I think is, you have to be fearless. I think you have to just –
Anne: Go forth and put a lot of faith in yourself, and I think it’s entirely possible.
Gabby: Hugely important, and this is just how you kind of keep things in check and keep yourself from becoming frustrated. Most of what other people show us, most of the sneak peek we get of their lives, especially social media-based, remember, we’re just getting to look at the best of the best. We’re not seeing what’s true necessarily. We’re seeing what they want us to see, and the veneer, the polish, that they are allowing us to see. So try not to compare yourself. Uh, the other thing that we run into in this business a lot is someone might be a ten-year person who’s established, who’s been doing this. I don’t necessarily want to say a ten-year person is a veteran of our industry, but they have definitely, you know, been doing it a while, and they make $80,000 a year. Well, they might have a friend in the industry who’s at the same place, a ten-year voice actor, making $150,000.
And they’re very frustrated with that gap of income. You could be serving two completely different marketplaces.
Gabby: That is such a big, big factor in what we do.
Anne: Oh, a huge component.
Anne: So it, it’s sometimes very difficult to, to judge, and it is easy to be swayed by what you’re reading on social media.
Anne: So I’ve seen a few rare is terraces where people say they have lost a job, but nobody’s really talking dollars. You know, they might have lost a big client.
Gabby: Yeah, I saw something the other day where someone said they had just lost a large account, and 25% of their income —
Gabby: Was, was now nonexistent.
Gabby: But they didn’t say what that really means. It was just a percentage as opposed to a number. So, I, I do think these things are important, and I do think that, you know, we should have friends in this industry that we’re close enough to that we can share these sorts of things non-judgmentally. But again, if you’re going to look for places to compare, keep your fruit together, right, apples with apples and oranges with oranges. Don’t start crossing over and mixing things up and thinking that it’s going to be an accurate representation. Big thanks to our sponsor ipDTL for our quality connection. You can of course learn more about how you too can record like a BOSS at ipdtl.com.
Anne: And you guys, check out our website, voboss.com. We have been doing a ton of work on it lately, and umm really excited about our, our rebranding, and so make sure you check that out, all things BOSS, all products BOSS, swag, all that good stuff, and also don’t forget to subscri — subscribe to us on iTunes or Sticher as well as Spotify, Google Play. We are on everything lately.
Gabby: And please rate us.
Gabby: Take a quick second to give us a little reading, a star rating as you’re listening to us.
Anne: We will love you forever. We love you forever anyways.
Gabby: We do.
Anne: Thanks, guys come up for listening, and we will see you next week.
Anne: Go be a millionaire.
Gabby: Get da money, get da money.
VO: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.