5 Reasons Why You Should Never Become A Voice-Over

voice talent“Millions of dollars paid out to voice actors globally.”

“Audition for your dream job now.”

“Instant access to amazing opportunities.”

“New job postings every day.”

It sure sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Especially when you’re young, idealistic, and impressionable. It’s the way online casting sites throw out their net, hoping that loquacious people will bite.

Well, bite they do, and day after day an ever-growing army of hopefuls is eagerly looking at their inbox, waiting for the next “amazing opportunity” to arrive. It comes at a price, though. 

If you’re taking part in these online cattle calls, be ready to be milked!

Of course these casting sites won’t tell you that you have to spend between $349 and $399 per year to take part in a crapshoot. They’ll feed you success stories about people who claim to make a six-figure income by winning audition after audition. Anecdotal evidence always trumps independently verified numbers, right?

Believe me: People believe what they want to believe.

So, today I’m not going to give you the golden formula to online voice-over success. Sorry to break the news, but it does not exist. Instead, I will give you a few reasons why you probably should stay clear of this business. I’ll start with the most important one. 

1. The world doesn’t need you.

Yes, you’ve heard me.

We have enough people talking into microphones, thank you very much. What this world needs is less talk and more action. We need teachers, doctors, nurses, and scientists. We need experts in conflict resolution; people who know how to fight global warming, and first responders to natural disasters.

If you want to make a real difference on this planet, don’t hide behind soundproof walls selling stuff no one needs. Get out there and start helping the poor, the homeless, and the ones without a voice. They need you more than Disney does.

2. There’s no money in voice-overs.

The cost of living goes up every year, while voice-over rates are in steady decline. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Even the union can’t stop it. Thanks to online casting services and ignorant amateurs, your voice has become a commodity, sold by the lowest bidder to the cheapest client.

VO has become a game of averages, and here’s how it works.

The bottom feeders choose lowball sites like Elance, Fiverr, and freelancer.com to sell their services for beer money. The top end of the market consists of A-list actors making millions voicing cartoons and commercials. If you’re average, you’re forever stuck in the middle. You have enough integrity to leave the crumbs to the idiots, but you won’t get the big gigs for the big money.

Don’t be fooled by voice-over veterans posting on Facebook how well they are doing. Some of them confided in me that they’re just keeping up appearances. No one wants to hire a loser, so you’ve got to tell the world you’re still an important player. Yay for social media! Everything people post is 100% true. 

3. You are a social being.

Unless you enjoy going to expensive conferences to hear VoiceVIP’s talk about themselves and plug their books, you’re pretty much on your own in this business. I mean, who likes being locked up between the four carpeted walls of a 3.5’ by 3.5’ whisper box all day long?

You have no one to talk to but yourself, and you’ll never see a response from the people you’re supposedly entertaining. If acknowledgment is what you’re secretly longing for, go to a nursing home and read to the residents. Tell stories to kids in the cancer ward. It will make their day, and yours!

The sedentary lifestyle of a typical voice-over is unhealthy for the mind, body, and soul. If you’re an extrovert, you crave contact, and you thrive in the company of others. I can tell you right now that you will curse the day you decided to isolate yourself from the world, just so you could narrate some third-rate novel for a royalty share that doesn’t even pay this month’s water bill. 

4. You’ll spend at least 80% of your time trying to get work, and 20% doing the work.

Voice-overs spend a lot of time being busy without being productive. How rewarding is that? Regardless of what voice casting sites want you to believe, most jobs you audition for will go to someone else, and you’ll never know why. Don’t you love it?

But what about agents, you may ask. Once you have an agent or two, things will get better, right?

No they won’t.

The pickings are slim, and these days, all the agents in North America will send the same Quilted Northern audition to every talent with a potty mouth. That really makes you feel part of an exclusive club, doesn’t it?

5. It may take many years before you see a return on your investment.

A voice-over career cannot be bought. It has to be conquered. Slowly.

You may think you’re going to be successful because of your unique sound. Dream on! The only way you’ll stand a chance is if you stop treating your pipe dream as a hobby. This means you’ve got to invest in professional gear and in a quiet place to record. Then you have to get yourself a few top-notch demos, plus a website to tell the world what you’re doing. And this is just the beginning.

Having all of that in place is no guarantee that you’ll make any money with your voice. Thousands of people all over the world are doing exactly what you do, and they are giving up within a year. The only money they’ll ever see is when they’re selling their stuff on eBay. At a loss. 

When you really think about it, you have to be a fool to become a voice-over.

I was foolish enough to choose that as my career, and guess what?

I’ve never been happier!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS If you believe I’m being negative for no reason, you should read 5 awful things nobody tells you about being an actor. Then we’ll talk, okay?

photo credit: Sound Design: ADR Recording via photopin (license)

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Pay-to-Play

98 Responses to 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Become A Voice-Over

  1. Andrew Charlton

    why are you saying that we should not join voice over training.if their has negative point then positive points are also there.We can neglect all of them.Thanks for the blog but i don’t agree with your statement.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Andrew, I don’t blog to convince people of my opinion. It’s perfectly fine to disagree. Of course one, short blog post cannot cover all angles of the business. In other stories I write you’ll see that I consistently stress the need for coaching. I even provide free training through my writings! You say that you don’t agree with my statement. I’ve made many statements in this article, so I’m not clear what your statement means. I’m not sure why my readers should neglect all of my points, as you suggest.


  2. Rickie Jones

    It’s the harsh reality. I had to accept a few unpaid gigs before anyone would even considering me for a VO casting call. Thanks for sharing, it’s the harsh reality


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Rickie, there’s no unwritten rule that you “have to accept a few unpaid gigs” before people will take you seriously. It is a personal choice; not a professional must. If you’re good enough to do the job, then you must charge accordingly. If you’re not, you should get training until you’ve reached a certain level, and leave the real work to real pros. Let me put it even stronger: if you want clients to take you seriously, you much charge for your services. Otherwise they’ll think you’re an amateur.


  3. Andrew

    Right voice talent for e learning is a good option to keep up with the information us need Thanks for sharing your thought on this topic, it was very helpful.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re very welcome, Andrew.


  4. Andrew

    Thanks for the feedback and for tweeting the blog. I do love the practical side of v/o and write lots of blogs on technique! Not as much as I love the creative side though. Aren’t we lucky to be able to make a living in such a fabulous way


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    We are indeed very lucky. But luck is only a small part of the business. It takes a lot of talent, hard work, and determination to build and sustain a career.


  5. Thomas

    Bill Jack of the Trade

    I shoot (video), write, edit (video &audio), and voice productions for a large corporation. In between I have to play network technician, PC/Mac Repair guy, and equipment technician.

    It’s fun at times being part of the whole process (creative to ending) but it’s also very taxing. All the build up for a firecracker smoke like finish, then it’s on to the next project.

    Now I’ve been looking to just focus and transition into one vocation of the process. Voice is one of them, but the technical skills seem to be in high demand.

    Dropped the camera again? Well okay ill fix it…

    From your stand point what would you say the industry never seems to have enough of?


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s a cliche, but high quality will always be in demand in any field. There are way too many hopefuls in this business with big dreams but no credentials. My advice: don’t give up your day job, but let your success in e.g. voice-overs steer you in the right direction.


  6. Andrew

    Becoming a voice actor is about becoming an actor not about the pitch or age of you or your voice. Your voice will always change as will you. You make that a part of your acting.


  7. Jeff Lonetree

    Dave C. is my friend and I agee with his statement…many peoples out there think it’s easy to record in a microphone. The persons who disagree with your Blog are the ones who are frustrated with their performance. You’re doing a good job Paul.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you, Jeff. I welcome a lively debate on this site. No matter how thin the cheese is sliced, there will always be two sides (I’m paraphrasing the Dutch philosopher Spinoza here). I’m not one to speculate about the motives of those who don’t agree with me. Some may be frustrated. Others may need more training. People get to different conclusions for different reasons.


  8. Lisa

    Same kinds of reasons I was told not to be a writer. Learned the hard way that the logical way just leaves you stuck and unhappy. Better to say one tried and what a time that had.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    One of the reasons I wrote this article is to strengthen the resolve of those who are truly committed. They are the ones who are most likely to succeed. I was once one of them, and look at me now!


  9. Tom Brennan

    Wow way to put down anyone who actually has a talent for voice acting and hopes to one day bring joy to people like many cartoon characters, video game characters and animated movie characters have brought joy to them, you make it sound like all anyone cares about is the money not the passion of bringing these characters to life, I have been told in person by professional voice actors that I have a real talent, and one of them even told me that I should do what I think is best, if I want to be a writer be a writer if I want to be a farmer be a farmer if I want to be a voice actor be a voice actor. I’m not dismissing what you have said but telling all aspiring voice actors that the world doesn’t need them, is the same as telling someone who suffers from depression or social anxiety that the world doesn’t need than, and when someone tells you that the world doesn’t need you that often leads to isolation, self harm or in the worst case scenario suicide. The rate of suicide’s increase every day and by reading this I understand why, because people are being force feed crap like this the world needs connection not separation so how about you decide to tell people that they are not needed and that’s what you said, “The World Doesn’t Need You” why say that its not saying theirs enough voice actors its saying that you don’t matter you are a voice without words use some common sense before you tell others how to live their lives and maybe you will see that the world doesn’t need this.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Tom, I’m sorry to say that I could barely make sense of your stream-of-consciousness rant slash response. Your logic-defying link to depression and suicide had me wonder whether to take it seriously. I’m not even going to touch that subject.

    Let me be the bearer of bad news: just because a few people tell you that you have talent, doesn’t mean you will be able to make a living using that talent. That’s why 90% of actors are waiting tables. Of course they are entitled to pursuing their dreams. All of us are. But it is a simple fact that very few will ever make it to the top. I’m not saying that to put people down. I am saying that to warn them of the rocky road ahead.

    As I stated at the beginning of this article, there are plenty of companies and individuals who will happily sweet-talk you; sell you a dream, and take your money. They have big budgets to promote what they’re offering. Every day, gullible hopefuls are falling for these schemes, and I wrote this story to offer a different perspective. Of course you are free to disagree with this perspective, and work twice as hard to prove me wrong.

    And finally, most of my critics have one thing in common: they forgot to read the very last line of this story. It puts a different spin on what I have stated in all the paragraphs preceding it.


    Darryl Kurylo Reply:

    Your very last comment reveals the twist of the headline. It’s not “You Should Never Become a Voice Actor and Here Are 5 Reasons Why” Paul is a voice actor. Seems to enjoy it. I am as well. Why would I want to do anything else? But individuals who desire to do this need to examine if the 5 things on the list conflict with that desire. The headline for the article needs clarification. “If You Want To Become a Voice-Over Actor, You Must Understand These 5 Things”. N’est ce pas?


    Darryl Kurylo Reply:

    The Comment/Sentence…”I’ve never been happier” is the reference.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    To take up the point of the headline. A good headline is a hook, and that’s why I wanted it to be slightly controversial. So far, it seems that this strategy has worked, and I’m enjoying all the comments that are coming in.


  10. mark

    wait… is this the same paul strikweda…?



    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s also this Paul Strikwerda: http://www.nethervoice.com/clients/


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  12. Roberto Pompili

    all of this is true, but …
    could be more concisely summed up with:
    -market sucks
    -there are so many of us
    -toughen up, lads!

    very entertaining though, and representative of human nature (giggle)


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  17. Dustin Sopher

    May I say, Mr. Strikwerda, I rather enjoy your method of testing a voice talent’s mettle: Strip away the tinsel, send the ego reeling, and what do we have left? I would also like to motion that we abolish the phrase “break in to voice-over.” My experience level does not match many of the veterans posting here, but from all that I have seen, there is no magic wall one must surmount to achieve success.

    The one seemingly universal complaint I notice from the top players in this industry is that upstarts have no clue what they’re worth, and thus they devalue the craft each time they undercut the competition by accepting lowball compensation – a mad dash to the bottom, yes? With all due respect, your fellow initiates and yourself would benefit from helping others to understand exactly what they are worth. Education and solidarity among artists is something from which we can all profit.

    And, you never know, regular communication about proper standards just might preserve a nice buffer between the inspired and the Fiverr dwellers… (Should you decide to publish such a think piece, forward it to me, please. I’ll be the first to read it!)

    Lastly, would you consider making an addendum to this article to help the hopeful understand that having an unusual voice isn’t the first, nor is it the last, requirement for success in this field? The voice is an instrument to channel the performance, and it can be powerful. But what it’s really about is the acting, and it’s about the storytelling.

    I myself am a basso profundo, and all I can say is: Possessing the richest, most seductive voice in the world wouldn’t help any of us if we couldn’t find meaning in the words. (Also, it definitely does not guarantee that money and women will come pouring like an avalanche through your front door. Still, that scenario remains among my Top 5 fantasies… A man can dream!)


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  19. Jeff Lonetree

    I agree with you Dave Courvoisier and it’s not because I’m your friend…it’s also because Paul’s writing makes a ton of sense.


  20. Sarah

    Thank you very much Paul.

    It’s interesting though because I’m an LA native and trained actor. I am surrounded by plenty of people, actors and musicians that have stars in their eyes and sky high hopes yet none of them seem as in denial or outrageously offended as people do here at the reality that it is a very difficult goal (a career in the arts) with the odds against you.

    I have found this attitude very unique to VO, maybe I’m completely wrong in this but I’m curious about your opinion. I’ve thought maybe it’s because a lot of people pursue VO out of fear or discouragement related to on screen acting, or because people feel empowered because of the internet (ahhh, that old chesnut) or maybe just because people are so religiously hyped up by people eager to take their money?

    As I said, I’m still pursing this goal but I don’t find understanding the odds to be a dream-murderer. What do you think?


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I have no power to kill anyone’s hopes and dreams. All I can do is share my opinion, and leave it up to my readers to make up their minds.

    Having said that, I do believe some people have a strong tendency to underestimate what it takes to have a sustainable career as a voice-over artist. Perhaps it’s because what we do seems so simple. There’s no need to memorize any lines, or interact with a huge cast of characters. We “just” read off a piece of paper, and we get paid for that.

    As I said in my article: people hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe.

    Remember the gold rush?


  21. Paul Payton

    What Kent said. Amen!


    Kent Ingram Reply:

    Thanks, Paul Payton! Those of us who have been around for awhile in the VO biz know what the real world is like.


  22. Bob Bergen

    This is actually a brilliant post. A multi layered brilliant post.

    First of all, you could substitute the word voiceover with anything from the art and (or) performing arts: from painting to dance, stand up comedy, theater, singing, etc. This is the kind of article that separates those who poses the “it” factor and those who don’t. It’s that “it” factor that, when the artist sees/knows the truth and statistics, it matters not. It actually makes them want it even more. It lights a fire and drives them to want it more. and be willing to do more than anyone else. For those whom this scares off, is this such a bad thing? Show business can be heartbreaking. I used to roll my eyes, not able to understand the concept when people would talk about how hard it is to handle great success as an actor. But I absolutely understand this concept. I don’t relate to it as success is lovely! But I also know too many who could not handle success and self destructed. They handled the struggles of getting there far better.

    But this is all why I live my life, and I teach my students, that you cannot put a dollar sign on success as an artist. When it comes to voiceover, you have to get a high at the mic. That high is your return. Be it an audition in your home studio, a national commercial at a big recording studio, a vo workout group, or a day on a film at Disney. The work itself should satisfy. It feeds your soul, far more than food feeds your body. It’s the same high that a theater actor gets onstage. It’s what makes us HAVE to do this. You cannot put a dollar sign of that kind of euphoric satisfaction. It’s intoxicating. And when you do get to a place in your career where you are making the big bucks, you pinch yourself in disbelief that you are actually getting paid to do this amazingly joyful, fulfilling experience.

    But the joy is in the act of acting. Not in the financial return. Yes, the vo landscape has changed. Quite a bit since I started out. Technology has brought this industry to anyone with a USB mic and a free recording program. There is a distance between the current generation and the old school generation, which has created a generation gap where the two generations don’t relate to each other.

    It used to be that everyone pursuing vo, or any acting genre, did it for the love of the art. The majority pursuing always statistically didn’t make a dime at acting. They knew this going in. But they continued to study, to become the best actor they could be. They depended and counted on day and night jobs to pay the bills so they could pay for the habit of feeding their soul as an actor. And because success was not measured by a dollar sign, this brought with it a business philosophy and professionalism where the majority pursuing vo would never undercut or take low ball offers. It was’t worth it. It caused a downward spiral that just damaged their fellow actors and the industry as a whole. Integrity and professionalism also did not have a dollar sign.

    Cut to today. Technology and time has changed all of this. We have a generation of “make money at” when it comes to voiceover, rather than “do it because you love it.” Much of this original post is a byproduct of this.

    So what???!!! Change in show business is nothing new! It’s a very recent change in the world of vo, relative to the history of the industry. But technology and change has been a constant ever since cavemen put on skits for their friends by fire pit. And with each change came anger and complaints by the previous generation.

    – silent movies put Vaudeville out of business
    – sound put silent film actors out of business
    – television put a dent in feature films
    – cable put a dent in network tv
    – VOD (video on demand) is taking a dent out of all broadcast television


    Change? It’s a constant in show business. You can fight it or your can embrace it. But if a tide has turned you cannot stop it. I do appreciate it can frustrate. How do you deal with the frustration? Remember why you are an artist. Why you are a voice actor. You get a high at the mic. So much is out of your control. The one thing you can control is the fulfillment you get at that mic.

    A couple of years ago someone posted a quote from my buddy Bryan Cranston. It’s superb advice for any actor, be it vo, theater, film, etc. I’ve known Bryan for years. He and I used to make diddly squat dubbing anime in the 90s. We’ve served on committees together at The Television Academy. So I’ve seen his career from both ends of the spectrum. He sums it all up quite well in this clip:

    Apologize for my longwinded response. Blame the coffee. But I feel if more pursuing vo or any genre of acting did it for the love of the process and the work, rather than the money, this would be a better industry for everyone. And if Paul’s “scare tactic” really scares someone away? Well, do something easier with your life. Ain’t nothing easy about being an actor. But nothing worth having or working for is easy. Most in life don’t pursue their passion. To me, regret is a far worse thing than failure. I’d rather be 90, looking back thinking, “Well, didn’t make much money but damn, that was fun,” rather than, “Well, I made a ton of money and hated every minute of it!”


    Julio Rivera Reply:

    Thanks Paul for such an honest and transparent article and thank you Bob for such an insightful and touching reply. I don’t care what people say, my eyes got watery reading this… because voice over to me is a passion, it gives me that satisfaction that Bob is talking about, it fulfills me, it gives me life! I have been doing this since I was a child, my dad instilled this passion when he used to bring me along to the studio where he worked when I was very little. If money comes or if it doesn’t so be it, I will die with my VO boots on! Thank you , Thank you, Thank you for caring so much to write from your heart.


    Paul Payton Reply:

    Amen, Paul, Bob and Julio. If you don’t love this, don’t do it. Same for any art. Also, learn to accept rejection; it comes with the territory and there will be lots of it vs. the amount of success. This is simple, but not easy, but I’m sure happy I chose this career.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I love the phrase: “Accept rejection.” Two contrary concepts in one line!

    A long time ago, I stopped taking not being selected personally. As long as I know I did my very best, there’s nothing more I could have done to land the job.

    It’s not the “rejections” that matter. It’s the number of times one is chose, that creates a career.

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Just as my article was meant to be a counterweight to all the propaganda, Bob’s words were a counterweight to my cynicism and snarkasm. Bob has done more for our profession than most people realize, and he’s one of my unsung heroes.

    You need passion to make in in showbusiness, and at the same time, it is a business. Passion alone can only get you to a certain point. Passion is a diamond in the rough. It still needs to be polished before it can shine.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for infusing this discussion with your passion for voice-overs, Bob. It reminds us all why we’re doing what we’re doing.

    I agree that we can’t put a dollar sign on success as an artist. Success is really how we define it ourselves. But in order to survive, we can’t just do this for the sake of a warm and fuzzy feeling. The rent or mortgage needs to be paid. Most VO’s don’t make 400 thousand dollars per episode (Simpsons), and the ability to turn a profit separates the pro from the amateur.

    My article seems to have two effects: it either scares people away, or it makes them more determined to succeed. I have no influence over that. When I started at age 17, people thought I was foolish. Well, look at me now!


    Bob Bergen Reply:

    Wait-everyone doesn’t get Simpsons type fees?? Hmmm. Who knew??!!

    As for the surviving and paying of the bills, before the Internet vo actors did that with survival jobs. Day jobs, night jobs, we all had em. This allowed us to pursue professional vo professionally. The Internet changed all that. I quit my last day job in 1987. But there have been many times over the past 3 decades I was inches away from taking a survival job. What I would never do is take lowball vo jobs to pay the bills. Just couldn’t look my fellow actors in the face knowing I was contributing to damaging their pension and health benefit pool.

    But that whole phylosophy is generational. Today’s vo generation doesn’t relate to this. But it’s also this business phylosophy that allows the “warm fuzzy feeling” to continue at the mic today.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Apparently, Harry Shearer just walked away from a 14 million dollar deal. Money isn’t everything, especially if you have plenty of it.

    I commend you for not taking lowball VO jobs, Bob. You can never make up in volume what you lack in price. Once people realize they can get you for less money, you’re going to have such a hard time charging more.

    Andrew Vevers Reply:

    This is actually a brilliant response. A multi layered brilliant response.

    Long-winded? Not long enough Mr Bergen! You should write a book like Mr Strikwerda. The clip from Bryan (the finest actor this newb has ever seen) was icing on the cake. What advice from him. Real “lighbulb moment” stuff. Buddies? I bet you’ve some anecdotes…


    Bizzaro Reply:

    I am reminded of this Alan Watts talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSyHWMdH9gk

    As a performer myself and a friend of many VO folks, I agree that you have to come at any art with passion.

    The world has always been about money but I feel it has gotten worse in my time here and it’s become the number one consideration. Looks and aesthetic appeal overshadow talent in a lot of cases.

    The ones who truly fail are those who give up.


    Barbara Goodson Reply:

    What I have to say is this … love Bob’s response and being of service in the world doesn’t necessarily stop when one pursues acting. Hopefully you have more of an ability to do some good while still pursuing your craft. If I got into it for the money … I would be a bitter ol’thesbian right now! But, no. I work when I get lucky enough to book something and I live a full life and I am
    satisfied that I followed my heart and continue to do so lo these past 40+ years!!


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