Does Voiceover Make Enough Money to Survive?
Short Answer: Yes.
Every actor’s got their ways. Most people start out with a full-time day job, a spouse, or both. I think—as wondrous and luxurious and normal as those things might be, they’re not necessary or maybe even helpful. I read a lot of FB posts saying things like, “I can’t narrate until I get home from work,” and it’s like, you’d better be a workout guru vegan powerhouse, because when my work is done…I can’t work some more. Sometimes the kids have to tuck me in at night.
This job is HARD. You have to BE a LOT of people. Your face has to change shape, your body morphs for every character, every scene, every project. You may be called upon to slay dragons, get raped, speak in tongues—the sky is not even the beginning of the limit. I need all of my energy to do these things. There’s nothing like being a murderer and a would-be victim screaming her head off to save her life—you are BOTH of these people! You do not record separately! You have to change faster than…anything I know, really.
Ok, so how do you do it financially? You can’t just ramp up, $0–$50k in two weeks. I highly suggest getting fired under mysterious circumstances. That’s what happened to me, and it worked. Get heinously fired in such a way that the company doesn’t want anyone else to know, so they tell the unemployment folk that you were laid off, and you can get unemployment insurance. Six months is plenty of time to ramp up, and if you own a house you can do something called Save the Dream and get almost a year of free house payments after that.
If that doesn’t sound great, which, believe me, it’s not, just know this—it’s desperation that got me here and keeps us in clean underwear. Were you up at 2 a.m. learning about medieval history? Nope? I was. It was great. The cat came in soaking wet from the rain, I drank an iced coffee, and learned a bunch about sex and France. It’s the gift of desperation. We’ve sold art off the walls and books off the shelves to put gas in the car. I’ve gone to sleep at midnight to get up at five, I’ve auditioned for anything, anything I could get my hands on, I’ve done commercials for ONION festivals, people. ONIONS.
Quit your day job so you can focus your work energy on voiceover, and take a job where you don’t have to think—like politics, for example.
The nap is your enemy. Halloween candy is your enemy. Facebook is your evil, wretched nemesis, as is its cousins Insty and Tweety. Comparison will try to kill you. Experience—coaching—making friends in the biz—coaching. Audition your head off. Audition until your head cannot remember being attached to your body. Learn and work as if, if you don’t, your children will go hungry and you will lose your house and your car and have to live in a cardboard box, which you will then have to pad with Auralex. A great man said, “Half measures availed us nothing,” and damnit, he was right. Love you. Carry on.