Voiceover genres and their associated pay scales
Voiceover encompasses approximately a billion genres* (well, maybe not that many), each with its unique characteristics and associated pay structure. Having a good grasp of the typical compensation in all genres you (plan to) work in is essential to make sure you’re getting paid appropriately and not undervaluing yourself or the industry.
Please note that this section should be used as a rough guide to give you an idea of what to expect. The fees quoted here are those gained from research and experience. For more accurate pricing, you can use the industry standard voiceover rates guide over at Gravy For The Brain.
These are some of the most prominent genres and their respective pay scales:
Commercial voiceover: Commercial voiceovers are often the most lucrative genre in the industry due to their broad audience reach. It might be stating the obvious but I’ll say it anyway. It’s a competitive area to get into. Compensation for commercial work varies based on factors such as the project's duration, media and geography. For example, a 30-second radio ad for a local business may pay anywhere between £50 and £500, while voicing a national TV commercial for a well-known brand could yield earnings into the thousands for a single project.
Narration voiceover: Narrative voice over is a really wide genre. It can include corporate narration, medical, e-learning, explainers. And yes, you’ve guessed it, they all have their own pricing structure. A generic internet video could get you £250, whereas e-learning you might charge 30p per word (with a minimum fee imposed) and a corporate narration might be £200. Thinking about it, it’s probably best to check out the GFTB rate guide again. It’s all broken down nicely for you and has helped me quote many times.
Audiobook voiceover: Voice actors working in this genre often negotiate a fee per finished hour/PFH. (PFH is the running time of the final piece of audio, not the time you spent recording and editing). Rates for newcomers may start at around £50 PFH and can rise to £150 per PFH for experienced audiobook narrators.
Character and Animation: Voicing characters in video games and animated series is both creatively rewarding and financially NICE. Fees for character work can vary considerably depending on the significance of the role, how many roles you take on and the project's scope. Leading roles in major productions can pay upwards of £500 per hour, while supporting or minor character roles typically offer rates from £100 to £300 per hour.
IVR and Phone Systems: Voice prompts for interactive voice response (IVR) systems and phone greetings provide a steady stream of work for voice actors. I had no interest in this genre when I started. I thought it would be boring. But actually, I love it, and now it’s one of the main pieces of my VO pie. Pricing here is often based on the number of prompts or messages. Typical rates range from £5 to £10 per prompt/message with a minimum starting price of anywhere between £30 and £100.
Here's an infographic that summarises the above with a few more genres throw in:
These are just a few examples of voiceover genres and their associated pay scales. Voice actors often have the flexibility to choose the genres that align with their strengths and interests, allowing them to optimize their income by ‘specializing’.
*You can break down genres into subgenres. For example, you could have a commercial demo reel. But you could also have an automotive commercial demo reel. A charity commercial demo reel. A non-bio washing detergent commercial demo reel. You get the point.
How much do voice actors make on average?
This all depends how much you're charging and where you're working. And if we take an average of ALL voice actors, it's likely to be somewhere around £65,000 a year. Remember, that takes into account some very low earners and some very high earners.
How much do voice actors make per year?
Working off of a BSF range of £100-£400, if you bag yourself one job every business day, you can earn a salary between £26,000 and £104,000. This of course can be a lot more. Many voice actors will do more than one job per day and work on projects that command residual payments.
The lucrative world of voiceover work
Ok, we all know why you’re here, and the answer is lots. You can earn lots of money working in voiceover - from tenners to hundreds of thousands of pounds. And more.
There’s other things you have to consider of course, like experience, project type, the source of the work and the demand for your type of voice.
It’s crowded, the world of VO. Because the idea of being paid to lend your voice to projects such as commercials, video games, audiobooks and animated series, is a rather cool proposition. And it never gets boring.
Voiceover artists are professionals skilled in the art of vocal delivery, and our work spans across a vast array of genres and industries. One day you could be working on a guided meditation, soothing your listeners into relaxation. The next, it could be a crazy scientist hell-bent on destroying the planet in a new video game.
Voices are everywhere. And when you start work as a VO, you’ll start to realise how wide “everywhere” really is.
The joy of landing a well paid project (this is me after eating a small Battenberg btw).
But just how much can you earn as a voiceover artist? Well, the answer is as complex and diverse as the industry itself. Like I said, earnings vary wildly and widely based on a multitude of factors. So in this stupidly long blog, I’ll try to uncover as many details as I can, exploring everything from the different genres and what fees they command (you've already read that bit), through to strategies to maximize your income.
Whether you're already working in the field, or you’re right at the start of your journey, understanding the earning potential of this industry is essential to achieving your financial goals. Wow, that sounded very professional.
Factors that influence voiceover earnings
The income of a voiceover artist is influenced by many different things, each playing a vital role in determining how much one can earn. You should pay attention to these before thinking VO is a get rich quick scheme. It really isn’t. I lost count of the number of people who bought a microphone during lockdown and proclaimed “I’m a voiceover artist now”.
Let’s have a look at what you need to consider.
Experience: Your level of experience in the industry significantly affects your earning potential. Beginners might start with lower rates but can certainly increase them year on year as they gain expertise and build a nice portfolio. More experienced voice actors can command higher fees due to their track record and reputation.
Project Type: Rather annoyingly, pretty much all types of voice work has different pricing structures. Voiceover for TV commercials, for example, is known for its higher pay rates, especially when associated with big name brands (£££££). Other project types, such as business telephone messages, is riiiiight at the other end of the scale (££).
Market Demand: The demand for voiceover work in your specific niche, region or indeed style, can influence your income. For example, voice artists who work mainly in audiobooks, are taking a bit of a hit at the moment due to the AI voice movement. In my experience, and from what I’ve witnessed with my voiceover colleagues, it’s important not to try and niche too soon. If at all.
Effective Business Practices: Beyond your vocal talent, effective business practices are extremely important. You shouldn’t just study the craft of VO, but also the craft of running a business. Negotiating fair rates, managing usage rights, building a strong network, and marketing your services strategically all contribute to your overall income. Additionally, repeat business and fostering long-term client relationships can lead to a steady stream of projects and income. I can’t emphasise that bit enough – actually I can. Hold on.
…fostering long-term client relationships can lead to a steady stream of projects and income
By taking note of these factors, you'll be better equipped to navigate around the world of voiceover remuneration. Yes. I said remuneration.
BSF (Basic studio fee or basic session fee)
Before we talk about actual quids for actual work, we need to talk about BSF.
The basic session fee in voiceover refers to the payment made to a voice actor for their time and services during a recording session. This fee typically covers the following aspects:
Studio Time: The fee compensates the voice actor for their time spent in the studio. This includes the time it takes to record the script, retakes, and any necessary pickups.
Performance: It accounts for the voice actor's performance during the session, including their delivery, interpretation of the script, and the quality of their voice work.
Directing: The session fee can include any direction provided by the client or director to ensure that the desired performance is achieved.
Editing: Some voice actors include editing services as part of the session fee. This can involve removing minor mistakes, syncing to time etc. Producers will let you know if this is needed.
Usage: Depending on the agreement, the session fee may also cover a specific usage or license for the recorded material. The extent of usage rights can vary and should be negotiated separately. More on this soon.
A voiceover recording studio (this isn't mine btw. Mine is MUCH bigger).
Although a VO should have their own session fee firmly set in their mind, session fees can vary depending on the project, their experience as a voice actor, the location of the recording, and any union or industry standards.
It's important to note that the session fee is just one component of the overall pay for a voiceover project. Additional fees, such as usage fees, residuals (for ongoing use of the recording), and other expenses, may also be negotiated separately. Clear terms should be agreed upon in advance to ensure a smooth working relationship between the client and the voice actor. Get agreements signed too!
Also, if you want a bit more confusion, some genres include the session fee in the overall price, which may not even be as high as the session fee you’ve set. Hmmm.
If you’re struggling to set your BSF, talk to voiceover peers. Talk to those newer than you, talk to those who’ve been doing it longer. We’re a chatty bunch. Funny that.
Half time video with notes on hourly rates and taking on free work
Strategies for setting your prices
Setting your prices as a voice actor is imperative for establishing a sustainable career in the industry. We’re self-employed so we don’t get salaries, which means we must determine our own rates based on several factors. As if it could get even more complicated!
Developing a pricing strategy that’s in line with your experience, the complexity of the project, the client's budget, market demand, etc etc etc, can be a confusing task. Hopefully this section will help.
Consider your experience
Your level of experience in the industry plays a significant role when working out your rates. Here's a breakdown…
Beginners: If you're just starting your voiceover career, it's common to begin with lower rates to attract clients and build a portfolio. Starting rates for beginners may range from £5 (yes, you know where) to £150 per hour or project. When I first got into VO, my basic session fee (for projects where my BSF applied) was £100.
Intermediate voice actors: As you gain experience and accumulate a body of work (with some swish logos for your website), you can start to increase your rates. Intermediate voice actors may charge between £150 and £300 per hour or project. I’ve been doing this a few years now and have been putting my price up year on year. My BSF currently stands at £200.
Experienced professionals: Seasoned voice actors with a strong portfolio, industry recognition, and a substantial client base can command higher rates. They’re in demand. Experienced professionals often charge £300 or more per hour or project, with some top-tier voice actors earning significantly more. Now, I’m not saying I’m NOT a top tier voice actor, just that I’ve not been doing it as long. Ahem.
Factor in Project Complexity
The complexity of the project can also impact your pricing.
Script Length: Longer scripts typically require more time and effort to record, especially if you’re doing the editing.
Technical Requirements: If you’re asked to record something to time, syncing it to a video, you’re well within your rights to charge for this.
Number of Revisions: Voice actors should establish clear policies for revisions in their pricing structure. Additional revisions beyond the agreed-upon number may incur extra charges. If the client changes the script beyond recognition and then asks for a full re-record under the guise of a “revision”, say nah mate.
Account for the Client's Budget
Of course a job has to be worth it. But there’s no harm in considering the client's budget when negotiating. While you want fair compensation for your work, accommodating the client's financial constraints can lead to successful collaborations, strong relationships and the holy grail… repeat business. Where’s the harm in knocking fifty quid off if you get 4 more jobs from them after that?
Consider Market Demand
The demand for voiceover work can vary by region and niche. Voice actors in high-demand markets or specialized niches may have the opportunity to charge more. If you’re snowed under and you have a quote come in, price it high. If they say yes, you’ll find the time.
Transparency in Pricing
Transparency is so important for building trust with clients. By clearly communicating your rates and any additional fees right from the off, you know where you stand and so does the client. Try to give a detailed breakdown of your quotes so everyone knows da rulez of vo yo.
By taking these factors into account and adopting a pricing strategy that aligns with your experience, the project and the client, you can set your fees at a level that reflects your value and expertise.
The pitfalls of under-pricing
Undervaluing your voiceover services can be detrimental to your long-term success. It may be tempting to offer lower rates to secure projects, but you must remember that it might actually have the opposite of the desired effect. Let’s look at why undervaluation can be harmful and how to set fair pricing.
Know your worth: Understanding your worth as a voiceover artist (and in fact whatever you do) is the first step in avoiding undervaluation. Consider factors such as your experience, expertise, versatility and the quality of your work. Research industry rates and compare them to yourself to determine fair pricing. Clients aren’t just paying for 60 seconds of audio. They’re paying for your years of training, years of knowledge garnered from the industry, and in my case, great puns.
Negotiate effectively: Instead of lowering your rates to secure projects, you can try negotiating other aspects of the project. For example, what about more favourable usage rights? Perhaps you can take the line of “I’ll do it for X this time, but in future it must be Y”. Effective negotiation means you maintain your pricing integrity, all while accommodating your client’s needs.
Build a strong portfolio: A swish looking/sounding portfolio that showcases your abilities and past work, can justify higher rates. Clients often perceive greater value in voice actors with a diverse and impressive body of work. Have a look at my past voiceover clients. If that had only a handful of names like Dave’s Fish n’ Chips and Sue’s Haircutters, I’d likely need to wait a bit to up my prices.
Educate clients: As this blog post has undoubtedly shown, voiceover pricing is a very confusing topic. So, help the client to understand this: the value of a professional voiceover and the positive impact it can have on their projects. We engage audiences and convey messages effectively, increasing watch-times, website clicks, conversions, etc etc etc. That justifies the rates. You’ll probably find that any self-respecting client will know VO isn’t a hobby and isn’t cheap.
Avoid overcommitting: Be mindful of overcommitting to low-paying projects that may not align with your financial goals. Yes, building your portfolio is important, but don’t “do it for the exposure”.
Seek mentorship: Consider getting a mentor in the form of an experienced voice actor who can provide guidance on everything from pricing to pausing. Their insights and advice can help you navigate not just pricing and business but also the performance side of things. Also, get training. You don’t know everything and you never will.
Evaluate project ROI: Assess the return on investment for each project. Something that takes extensive time and resources should command higher rates.
Some voiceover earnings (this isn't my money btw, I've got loads more pound coins than that).
Avoid undervaluing yourself. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing it for experience or practice so just assess it. Will the time be better spent elsewhere so you don’t have to do lower paid jobs?
Setting fair and competitive pricing benefits you and the sustainability of the voiceover industry as a whole. The longer it takes a client to find someone “to do it cheaper”, the better for us all.
Voiceover contracts and protecting your interests
Voiceover contracts are essential tools for protecting your interests and ensuring clear communication between you and your clients. Again… they are ESSENTIAL. They’re legally binding agreements that outline the terms and conditions of your voiceover projects, including compensation, usage rights, project scope, and etc. A well-structured contract can prevent misunderstandings, disputes, and payment issues, ultimately safeguarding your voiceover career. And again… they are essential. Don’t start a job, until a contract has been signed.
Ok, so what should you put in a voiceover contract?
Scope of work: Clearly define the scope of the project. Specify the type of voiceover work (e.g. narration, character, commercial), script details, project deadlines, and expected deliverables (what you’ll send the client).
Compensation: Outline the payment structure in detail. Specify your rates, payment milestones (if applicable), and any additional fees (revisions or usage etc) beyond the initial agreement. Include the payment terms, such as the due date for invoices. You can include accepted payment methods but that will be on the invoice sooo y’know, be efficient in your typing.
Usage rights: Define the rights granted to the client for the voice recording. This section should address the duration of usage rights (one year, perpetuity, etc), the media in which the recording can be used (radio, TV, online, cinema, etc), and the geographical reach (local, national, international).
Delivery timeline: Provide a clear timeline for the completion of the project. Include deadlines for script delivery, recording sessions, revisions, and final delivery of the voice recording. This helps both you and the client plan the project fully.
Revision policy: Define the number of revisions included in the fee. Outline any additional charges for extra revisions beyond this limit. A well-defined revision policy ensures that both you and the client have clear expectations regarding changes to the recording. Some VOs include a revision limit, say 10% of the total script. You don’t want to be re-recording full scripts if the mistakes aren’t yours.
Payment terms: Clearly state the payment terms in your contract, including any deposit requirements or upfront fees. (To date, I’ve not charged fees upfront. I always invoice after the job is complete). You can specify the consequences of late payments, such as late fees or project suspension, but again, this could go on the invoice.
Cancellation and termination: Include provisions for the cancellation of the project by either party. Specify the circumstances under which cancellation is permissible and outline the consequences, such as refund policies or termination fees. Being paid for something that doesn’t actually happen, although slightly disappointing, is actually pretty sweet!
Dispute resolution: Establish a process for resolving disputes. State whether disputes will be resolved through mediation, arbitration, or legal action. Having a clear dispute resolution system in place can prevent prolonged conflicts and legal complications. Saying that, sometimes you may just want to cut your losses and run. If it’s a small project with a small fee, put it down to learning and move on. (And never work with them again).
Signatures: Ensure that both you and the client sign the contract to indicate your agreement to its terms and conditions. Electronic signatures are commonly accepted for voiceover contracts. Some VOs won’t start the work until the contract has been signed, but if you know the client well or have no reason to suspect they’ll ghost you (yes, I know all the new lingo), feel free to get a head start.
Signing a voiceover contract (this isn't me btw. My pen is 24ct gold).
Having a comprehensive voiceover contract not only protects your interests but also ensures that both you and your client have a clear understanding of the project's terms and expectations. It serves as a legally binding document that can be referenced in case of disputes or disagreements, providing peace of mind for both parties. It’s a safety net that no VO should be without. Especially now, as we dive headfirst into AI. Which reminds me, here’s an additional point…
As well as stating what they CAN use the recording for, you should say what they CAN’T use it for. This is hyper important, say it’s not to be used for training AI.
What the future holds
The voiceover industry is always changing, with emerging trends that shape the earning potential of voiceover artists. You must adapt to the changes if you want to position yourself for future success. Here’s some notable industry trends and their potential impact on voiceover earnings…
1. Remote recording: The pandemic forced the industry to further adopt remote recording sessions and collaboration tools. Most voice actors now work from their own home studios, allowing them to take on projects from clients worldwide. This trend continues to expand earning opportunities. This year I’ve had remote recording sessions with studios in Italy, Greece, Poland and… England. Of course.
2. Audiobook market growth: The audiobook market has experienced significant growth in recent years, driven by digital platforms like Audible which make it so easy to consume the format. But…
3. Voice assistants and AI: AI is also growing. And it’s taking away some work in certain genres. However, we can use it to enhance the services we provide. For example, we can offer our own AI voice. And of course, voice actors are finding opportunities to become one of the AI voices!
4. Diversity and inclusion: There is a growing demand for diverse voices in the industry, reflecting the importance of inclusivity and representation in media and advertising. Voice actors who can authentically represent a range of cultures and backgrounds may find increased earning potential.
5. E-learning and online education: The e-learning industry has expanded, driven by the need for remote education and professional development. Voice actors who specialize in educational narration can tap into this market and secure consistent work. I’ve witnessed clients saying they still prefer real voices in this genre as they’re so much more engaging than AI. Their words, not mine.
6. Podcasting: The podcasting industry continues to thrive, creating opportunities for voice actors to provide intros, outros, ads, promos and character voices for podcasts. If you don’t think you’ve got something to say, you just haven’t found it yet.
7. Interactive and immersive content: The rise of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and interactive media has opened new avenues for voice actors. Projects in these areas often require specialized skills and offer higher compensation due to their complexity. There might even be a chance to wear a cool motion capture suit and look like a massive baby for the day.
8. Continued demand for animation and gaming: Animation and gaming remain lucrative genres, with ongoing demand for character voices and narration. Voice actors who excel in these areas may experience sustained growth in their earnings. That’s something to take note of – learn how to act. It’s voice acting and that’s something that humans, in my opinion, will always be better at than robots.
Always adapting to industry trends and diversifying your skills can position you for long-term success and higher earnings. Staying tuned in to market dynamics and emerging opportunities is essential for if you want to thrive in an ever more competitive and evolving landscape. Actually, that’s something I love about VO.
Despite the fear of AI, despite the fear of competition, LOTS of people still want to get into VO. Yes mate!
The voiceover industry offers a wealth of opportunities for talented artists to thrive both creatively and financially. Whether you're just embarking on your voiceover journey or have years of experience under your belt, understanding the intricacies of this part of your business is paramount for achieving your goals.
The factors that influence voiceover earnings are diverse and multifaceted, including your experience, staying fit for the role (yes, we have to voice train ourselves too) the project type, market demand, effective pricing strategies, usage rights, and the importance of comprehensive voiceover contracts. By navigating this complicated area, you can position yourself for financial success.
Building a network of trusted colleagues, securing repeat business through exceptional service, avoiding undervaluation and adopting effective marketing strategies are key components of maximizing your earnings as a voiceover artist.
Voiceover work is not solely about earning a living; it's about embracing your passion for voice acting and the opportunity to bring characters, brands and their stories to life with the power of your voice. By combining your talent with strategic business practices and building meaningful connections inside and outside of the industry, you can embark on an incredible journey in the world of voiceovers.
And maybe even get paid to make weird bodybuilder’s grunting noises.
Now you've had your whistle wet, you can start thinking about how to get voice over work. I've written a blog all about marketing yourself as a voice actor and places to find voice over jobs.