Business Basics for Voiceover Artists: 5 Tips For Setting Up A Voiceover Business

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If you’re considering starting a Voiceover business you need to consider the challenges you will face as well as the benefits you will hopefully reap. Here are the first 5 of ten tips to help start your voiceover business.

1. Do what you love.
This is often the first thing people think about when they consider setting up a business – here is an opportunity to make a living doing something I really love and that I’m passionate about.  I’m assuming that as a voiceover artist you have that passion because anyone pursing any creative business whether its voiceover or, acting, film directing, musicianship, writing – if you don’t love what you do you will find it so difficult to have a successful business with it.  The creative industries are incredibly overcrowded and are a really hard nut to crack and if you don’t have a love of what you do and a self-belief in your talents than it will be a struggle to make any money at all let alone enough to support yourself & your family. 
Also remember you’re going to be spending so much time and energy starting and developing your voiceover business its really important to know now that you do truly enjoy what you do.  And keep this in your head when you hit the tough times.

So we know you’ve got the passion  – now get rid of it.   Stand back – Think dispassionately.  Can you turn your voiceover hobby into a profitable enterprise?  Is there a market for your voice? This process of market research is probably something you’ve done without realising it already through your hobby as a voiceover talent.
If you look hard enough, even for the most unique unusual voices there will be projects and productions looking for a sound like yours.  Ask yourself whether these projects will be often enough and lucrative enough to make a living from it.  If not, what are your options? Change career?  Or maybe take some training to develop your range and techniques as a voice artist to improve your employability.

2. The business plan – it can be quite useful to write a business plan for your voiceover career.  I must admit its not something I did straight away but it is a good exercise in focusing your mind, getting in the professional mindset and defining exactly what you want to achieve, how and when.  Its also a great opportunity to dream!  They’re great to have to refer back to as your business develops and changes. 
You’ll find various general business templates available on the web and also voices.com have one available, which is designed specifically for the voiceover artist in mind. A business plan is also vital if you need to raise finance through a bank loan or overdraft for example.  Investors want to see in black and white what they’re investing in.  Finance also brings me to my next point…

3. Finance – how much money are you going to need, what do you need it for and how you going to get it?  With the credit crunch seemingly not wanting to go away, raising external finance through bank loans and investors isn’t as easy as it once was.  So you will need to consider your options.
Firstly – what do you need the money for?  Well to start with you’re going to need cash to pay the bills and feed yourself until your business gets going.  Some say that it takes about 3 years before a business gets really established and generates a decent income.  So having savings, an additional job, or in my case, like many others, a very understanding partner or spouse with a steady income!

So what else do you need finance for?  A home studio comes high on the list of most voiceover artists. There have been plenty of articles, blogs and pods about home studio equipment and their costs which I’’ not going to go over here.  Surfice to say, when you’re starting up you really don’t need all the fancy gear.  Start small and as your experience ad expertise grows then grow your equipment chain around that.  For my first voiceover jobs, I didn’t even have a proper microphone! I recorded into a Sony digital video camera and edited the audio using video editing software!  Needless to say the audio quality wasn’t brilliant, but it got me jobs and I could build up my portfolio and my bank balance so I could afford better and proper gear!  Take a look at Harlan Hogans portable studio booth for $129 what more could you ask for and he even has an article with instructions as to how to build one yourself – visit harlanhogan.com.  Think carefully and spend wisely – do you really need ISDN facilities right away?  So lets take a look at other set up costs.

4.  Setting up costs – business cards, website design, domain registration, hosting, office equipment, advertising & marketing costs and a whole host of others.  Work out what do you really need now, what would be nice to have in the future – what can you really do without.  Also look at your skills what can you do yourself to keep costs down – do you really need a website designer, can you design a simple site for yourself using FrontPage, or why not purchase an inexpensive web template which you can amend to your needs.  Are there any goods or services that you could do an exchange for your voiceover services?  Why not see if your local printers can print some free business cards or letterheads in exchange for recording their phone greetings or website audio?  And always look around on the internet to get a range of prices for whatever you need – vistaprint do an excellent range of free business cards and inexpensive postcards for marketing.

5. Professionalism.
Be professional from the start.  Everything about you and the way you do business needs to let people know that you are a serious professional.  Get yourself some business cards, a work phone number – get your voice on the business line voicemail, and a proper business email address.  And get professional help – it doesn’t take long to realise that running a voiceover business isn’t all about being a voiceover actor – you are now responsible for a whole diverse range of activities: book-keeping, sales & marketing, administration.  Some of these tasks would really benefit from expert help – If you’re not an accountant – hire one, if you need to write a contract why not hire a lawyer.  This also applies to tax and legal issues: it’s an awful lot easier (and cheaper) to get these things sorted right from the start rather than trying to unpick a mess afterwards.  Are you setting up as a sole trader or are you registering a business – these will have implications on the tax you’re liable for and the VAT you may have to pay.  Its worth seeking out professional help from your local tax office to get all the information you need and the forms that you need to fill in.

Consider joining professional organisations/ unions.  The recently created SAVOA organisation – Society of Accredited Voice Over Artists is a good place to start – visit their website at www.savoa.org to find out more.  Unions vary from country to country Equity in the UK, Screen Actors Guild, and American Federation of TV & Radio Artists (AFTRA) in the States and ACTRA Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists in Canada.  It may also be worth considering your local small business organisation – where you can keep up to date with the latest in general business practices as well as providing a good avenue for networking.

Written by Alison Pitman. For further information and to hear my voice demos please do visit my website at www.thephonevoice.com

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