voiceover online

making the business work for you

If you’re looking to break into the voiceover business, the internet is the best place to start. Talent agencies can be extremely competitive, and most will want to hear a reel of your prior VO experience. So how can you get started? Here are some of my thoughts on four of the biggest online voiceover marketplaces.

 

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that starting out as a voiceover artist is essentially the same thing as starting a new business. Expect to spend money before you make money. You’ll need high quality equipment, editing software, and of course the necessary recording and acting skills to begin your voiceover career.

 

As far as equipment goes, you’ll need the basics: a condenser microphone, a pop shield, a sound shield/mud guard, a good pair of over-the-ear headphones, and an acoustically-treated space. You may benefit from installing soundproof panels in your space, or just recording in a really “dry” space (it could be your closet). You just want to make sure there’s no natural echo in your space, as this will affect the “dryness” of your sound. Your goal is to have as little reverb in your raw audio as possible. Don’t rely solely on audio settings to cut out reverb. 

 

You may be thinking, “But I’m just a voiceover artist! It shouldn’t be my job to do all this mixing and mastering - that’s for the sound engineer to figure out!” True, the media teams you work with will do final mixing, condensing, and effects on your recording. But in order for them to do this, you need to provide them with high-quality raw audio. That means no buzzing or other background noise (turn off your air conditioner or heater, and pick a time when your roommates or neighbors will be quiet), no distortion (make sure your levels never hit the “red” zone or sound “buzzy”), no clipping (make sure consonants can be clearly heard at the beginnings and ends of words), and no mouth clicks (drink water frequently as you record to prevent those nasty, annoying mouth noises from creeping in).  

 

For editing software, I recommend Logic Pro X or Pro Tools. You can use GarageBand, but it is much more limited in terms of the things you can do to create a really clean sound. Another advantage of using one of the programs I mentioned is the multitude of plugins available for them that will make your voiceover work sound spotless. There are plenty of online tutorials for that (and you’ll need to spend plenty of time creating settings that work for you), but I’d like to focus today on navigating four of the online VO networks that you may come into contact with.

(Note: These are by no means the only ways to work in voiceover online! Other platforms that I've heard about but haven't extensively explored include Bodalgo, VO Planet, and UpWork. I've also heard of a lot of artists having success on Penguin Random House's site, narrating audiobooks. If that's your thing, look into it!)

I'd like to preface this by saying that doing voiceover work is my survival job, and that I love what I do. I have built my business from the ground up, through trial and error, from earning nothing at all to making a decent living. I have created this article simply to be able to keep track of the ups and downs of each of these platforms, recognizing that while there is no perfect platform, the online business is a lot of fun and I'm very grateful to be able to call voiceover work my bread and butter.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

FIVERR

 

Fiverr is an online marketplace that famously started as the place to get “any service starting at $5.” Of course, you can charge more than that, and there are many who do. Fiverr has recently launched a section called “Fiverr Pros” where people charge industry-level, competitive rates for their work and artistry. But for rookies as well, it’s a great training ground. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

 

PROS:

  • You get to set your own rates for everything you do. You can get really specific about this: $5 for a 50 word script, $25 for a dialect or character voice, $100 for commercial use. Adding these “gig extras” can be a great way to earn more than that base $5.

  • You can apply for jobs often without submitting a custom sample. There is a section on the Fiverr website called “Buyer Requests” where people post essentially casting breakdowns. All you have to do to apply is hit the “Send Offer” button, compile a quote, send a nice little message, and that’s it. In some cases, the client might ask for a custom sample, but more often than not, they’ll hire you based on the samples you have on your gig page.

  • Buyers will often come to you without you initiating anything. Fiverr is a huge marketplace, and you'll come up in search results as people are browsing voiceover talent. This is one of the reasons I've left my Fiverr account active even though I rarely use it anymore – once in a while, I'll get messages or jobs without even applying for them.

  • You have payment protection. What I mean by this is that payment is ensured as long as you complete the job. The client has to put in their payment information before you even start the order, to prove that they can actually pay for it. You, of course, won’t see the money until after you finish the job, but at least you know there’s money coming if you can manage to finish the job to the client’s satisfaction.

  • PayPal no longer takes a cut of your transfers. So even though you're giving Fiverr 20% of what you earned on every job, at least you're not also giving PayPal a cut too. This change was made in December 2018, and still isn't true for some other services, e.g. VoiceBunny.

  • You can work fairly consistently. My best weeks on Fiverr, I was doing 5 jobs or so.

  • You can declare yourself “out of office” to stop receiving bookings when you’re unable to work. You can also choose not to receive messages while out of office. This is nice because if you’re away from your studio for a length of time, you won’t have to worry about timers running out or your response rate going down while you’re gone.

  • You can build up a regular clientele. I have many clients that send me all of their work because they liked what I did the first time and they want to have a consistent voice of their company. This majorly plays into the “working consistently” factor. I've also had some clients find me on Fiverr, but then Google me and contact me about a job through my website, which is nice, because it allows me to work for my full rates.

  • You can take proficiency tests and apply to be a "Fiverr Pro" to grow your business. Fiverr offers several little in-platform quizzes (English grammar tests, foreign language translation tests, etc.) that you can take and allow the score to be displayed on your profile. This can be to your advantage if your service includes multiple languages or script editing, for example. You can also apply to be a "Fiverr Pro," which will give you a nifty little badge and display you as a top tier professional on the website. Personally I think this is a little bit silly, because if you're at a highly professional level, you shouldn't be giving 20% of your earnings away to Fiverr, but the option exists.

  • There are some moderately-sized businesses hiring through Fiverr. I've gotten some really decent portfolio samples through this website. The flip side of this is that these businesses can most DEFINITELY afford to be paying you more than Fiverr rates, so sometimes it comes down to deciding if you'd like to be paid less but get a cool digital commercial out of it.

  • It’s a great way to figure out the business without risking too much. You’re new, so your rates are low. But that’s okay, because let’s be honest, you don’t exactly know what you’re doing yet. So nobody really gets hurt. You’ll do a lot of work at first for small businesses (Powerpoints, website landing page videos, local radio commercials, etc.). They’re not willing to pay much, and you’re still figuring things out – so it can be a perfect match. This is, in my opinion, the best thing about Fiverr – it’s basically free training for the business as it operates online. You will encounter every type of client, from the very kind, very responsive; to the ones who try to slide into your DMs; to the ones who ask you to redo an entire job for free and sound “happier.” But more on that in a moment.

 

CONS:

  • Fiverr takes a 20% cut of every job. This is the BIG downside of this service for me. I’ve had to turn down some bigger jobs (2-hour film narrations, 20,000 word audiobooks) because I’m just not comfortable with giving up that much of my time and work for free. 20% isn’t a lot for smaller jobs, of course. For a $5 job, you’ll still walk away with $4. But for a $4000 job, Fiverr will take $800 and leave you with $3200. I’m at the point now where I can charge upwards of $200 for a straight hour of recording work. That means that in this case, I just gave the client 4 hours of work for free. And all of this doesn’t even figure in the amount you’ll owe the government at the end of the year as an independent contractor!

  • Fiverr even takes 20% of your TIPS. I know this is done to prevent people potentially subverting Fiverr's 20% cut by earning tip money, but it still sucks. 

  • When you first start out, you won't get paid until 30 days after the job is marked as complete. Lots of freelance services work this way, unfortunately –  but I guess you can kind of think of it as getting your monthly paycheck. And once you start to get consistent work, you'll also start to get paid almost every day. As you move up the ladder, your money will clear faster (14 days for Level Two sellers, 7 days for Top Sellers).

  • Time is not on your side. The timer starts the second an order is placed and all the required instructions are received. The clock stops once you submit a delivery. But if the buyer requests a revision, the clock starts again, from where it left off. It doesn’t start over. That means that if the buyer requested a total redo of the job and it takes you several hours to do, you will have to do it all again in a fraction of the project time limit. To avoid running into problems, for complicated projects, I like to send a quick sample to the client to make sure it’s what they want before I record the whole nine yards. Also, get in the habit of recording and delivering an order as soon as humanly possible, to save yourself time on the backend for revisions.

  • Your reputation is greatly based on the 5-star rating system. When you complete a job, the client has the chance to rate you in three different categories: service as described, communication with seller, would recommend to a friend. The average of these three, 5-star scores is your score for that order. The average of ALL your ratings is your total rating. This number is very important because it determines your visibility in search results. If people can’t find you, they won’t hire you. So you are essentially beholden to the clients’ opinions. Most of the time, people are really kind, and they will appreciate your hard work as long as you do your best. But sometimes not…

  • Fiverr will ALWAYS side with the buyer, not the seller. They take “the customer’s always right” very seriously. Let’s say for example that a client gives you an unprovoked 1-star rating. You did everything “right” and followed their instructions to a tee. But for some reason, the client was subjectively unhappy with the delivery and gave you a poor rating. If you try to contest this with Fiverr, they will not help you. They will maintain the standpoint that the customer has the right to rate you as they see fair, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Another way this comes into play is when you deliver a project, no matter what the agreed-upon delivery time was (1 day, 3 days, etc.), the client has up to 3 full days AFTER THE DELIVERY IS RECEIVED to approve or reject your work. So even if you only had 1 day to complete the job, they will always get 3 days to request unlimited revisions from you. Which brings me to my biggest annoyance with Fiverr..

  • The revision policy. Fiverr is making an effort to improve this, but it’s still very subjective and hard to control. When you set up your gig, you can decide how many revisions you would like clients to automatically have with their order. It can be none; it can be 15. Clients will more than likely ask for revisions, so I usually include one revision with everyone’s order, just to avoid a kerfuffle. Now, most voiceover artists (and companies) would agree that if the artist makes a mistake, they should correct it for free. The tricky part comes down to figuring out what counts as a mistake, and what counts as an entirely different take. If the client gives you a set of instructions to sound “super energetic and youthful,” and you do the entire thing, but they are unhappy and want you to do it again but sound “EVEN MORE energetic and youthful,” that could be considered a free revision. But if the client comes back with “do it again, but this time make it sound depressed and slovenly,” that would almost certainly be considered a second version. In either case, you will have to redo the entire job. So what do you do? Recently, Fiverr has caught wind that artists are being taken advantage of by clients saying “you didn’t follow my instructions,” and hitting the “reject” button on your delivery. They are trying to make buyers aware of how many revisions, if any, they have paid for. But one person’s idea of “energetic” can be totally different from another’s. In my experience, this is the worst thing about Fiverr and they will always take the customer’s side. If the customer isn’t happy with your delivery, even if they completely changed their mind about what they want, Fiverr will not come to your rescue. They are not an agent; they will not protect you. And even if the buyer didn't pay for any revisions, that "reject" button is right there, and they can hit it as many times as they want.

  • Response time also affects your overall score. This means that if there is a client abusing the messaging system (i.e. sending you 15 “???” messages in a row or simply saying “hi” “u there?”) and you don’t respond, this will affect your response time. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. There are some weirdos on Fiverr who seem to think it’s a social network. You can mark these messages as spam and block the users from contacting you, and in fact, some messages will automatically be sent to your spam folder. But I've had peers on Fiverr report a dip in their response rate when they forgot to check their spam folder and acknowledge those messages as spam within 24 hours. And of course Fiverr won't come to your rescue when you report this error to them.

  • You can’t turn down a job without taking a penalty. This means if you’re dealing with a difficult client, or the client requests specifications that are outside the scope of what they paid you, or you get an order for a huge project that you don’t have time to complete, you can’t say no without affecting your cancellation rate. Having a high cancellation rate prevents you from ascending the level ranking system (which goes Seller, Level One, Level Two, Top Seller).

  • You are prohibited from taking your business off-platform. So if you get one of those big jobs and you balk at the thought of Fiverr taking an $800 cut, you can’t ask the client to go off the platform and pay you directly. That’s a violation of Fiverr’s Terms of Service.

  • Big companies use Fiverr to cut themselves a good deal by paying artists unfairly. I once got an offer to voice a character in a smartphone app sponsored by a major global brand. They were going to pay me my Fiverr rates, which I’ve set based on my clientele (small business owners, mostly). But after seeing the trailer for the app, I knew these guys had money. So I told them I would only complete the job if they would pay me industry standard, because this was an industry gig. They were happy to oblige, but many companies aren’t. They know they can get decent quality work on Fiverr for a VERY SMALL fraction of what it would cost them on Voices or Voice123. So know your client and defend your work. 

  • It takes a LONG time to ascend the ranks. As I mentioned, there are four tiers of the Fiverr ranking system: Seller, Level One, Level Two, and Top Seller. Reaching each of these thresholds means meeting certain requirements, and the higher you go, theoretically the more business you should get. Becoming a Top Seller means you get to see the most Buyer Requests (casting calls), you show up higher in search results, and you get a nifty little badge on your profile saying you're the cream of the crop. All this can be yours if you earn a cumulative $20,000 from Fiverr gigs! The benefits for the other three levels are, imaginably, less exciting. You can check out the specifics here.

  • Fiverr has released some questionable ad campaigns. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but here’s a link to the receipts.  This company seems to perpetuate the ideology that working yourself to the bone is the only way to succeed. This might help explain why they never take the sellers’ side when something gets out of hand. I just find it helpful to know the worldview of the people I’m working for. But if this mission statement doesn’t bother you, then it probably won’t bother you when Fiverr doesn’t come to your defense either.

 

OVERALL:

Fiverr is the place to start out when you have little to no experience as A. a voiceover artist (AND low-key audio engineer) and B. a small business owner. Essentially you will be both. This is, for the most part, a low-risk, low-reward database, but it can be a great training ground. It can help you get a bevy of jobs under your belt that you can use later as reference samples when you want to sign up for...

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————

 

VOICE123

 

Voice123 is one of the two big “pay-to-play” websites for voiceover artists (the other being Voices.com). This is not an environment for true beginners. They charge a fee of $395 annually for membership. They also offer a (ridiculous) $5000/year option for "platinum support" and first priority on audition invites. (You have to apply to be considered for a Platinum Membership.) Though you can have a free membership, it’s basically useless. You cannot see available auditions or submit your work for jobs unless you are personally invited. You can only create a profile and hope someone finds it, listens to your samples, and books you directly. That said, let’s take a look at what you do get with a paid membership on V123.

Note: Working on Voice123 has changed significantly since December 2018, when the platform announced that they would no longer penalize actors for auditioning too much. Now, the amount of times you audition has no bearing on the amount of jobs you are invited to apply for. Voice123 also did away with its controversial star-rating system. Your rating is now solely determined by the amount of times your auditions have been liked by clients in the last year. Let's dive in.

 

PROS:

  • Gigs are generally high paying. If that $395 membership fee turns you off, don’t worry – you’ll easily make it back in one or two gigs. Very rarely will you see a project listed as “Student/Not-for-profit”, which would pay $0-100. Most projects are between $100-500, and some (for bigger brands) are for a few thousand dollars. After you’ve gotten some experience in the industry, having a membership that connects you with those kinds of opportunities is definitely worth it.

  • Voice123 doesn’t take commission of any projects. As well they shouldn’t, because you paid for access to their platform. But this is a major upside, which some say distinguishes them from other sites like VoiceBunny and Voices.com, who make a huge profit off your work by adding markup fees to your rates.

  • Union and non-union projects are available, and you can choose which ones you’d like to see auditions for. I will say that there is a TON of non-union work on Voice123, aka buyout jobs. If you're not a union actor, you're not eligible to be collecting royalties on these jobs. And it's a big headache for companies to keep track of too. So many would prefer to hire a non-union actor with no agency fees and no ability to collect royalties. For this reason, a lot of the audition breakdowns will include the language "buyout for use in perpetuity." So in this case, you'll probably net a few hundred bucks for a one-off gig, with the understanding that the client can use your voice forever and ever amen without paying you residuals. And to be honest, there aren't a TON of HUGE gigs on here, so a buyout situation is usually a pretty fair arrangement for everyone invovled.

  • Most of the time, communication is done outside of the platform. This could also be considered a con, but we’ll get into that later. One reason this could be considered a pro is that you don’t have a system ragging on you to respond quickly and affecting your response rate. You hold yourself accountable for every step of the process, from first contact to delivering the project to processing the invoice. Usually, my clients and I communicate through email. Rarely do they ask for a phone call consultation or a live patch into my recording session. Another reason this is a pro is that you get exactly the amount of money you agreed upon (minus processing fees). The payment isn’t going through a shady platform first, being sucked dry by the database, and then trickling down to you. You get to reap the entire project fee.

  • You do have the chance of landing a job for a REALLY big client. I’ve auditioned for many major global brands on 123. Disney, Ford, Lonely Planet, Dannon, and Mattel are just a few examples of the big wigs you’ll see on this platform. Most of the time though, what you'll find are kind of middle-tier jobs for large (but not HUGE) companies – a few that I've landed gigs with include Wowwee Toys, HoneyDew Donuts, and WSS Shoe Store.

  • You can set yourself as “away” for a period of time, so as to stop receiving those pesky SmartCast invitation emails while you’re reclining on the beach.

  • One job can lead to another. Like with Fiverr, 123 can be a great way to find repeat business. I recently completed a job and got an email the same day from the client asking if I would be okay with being pitched as the voice of the brand for a new product.

  • You should have plenty of time to record and submit your proposal once you hit “audition.” Clients can set a deadline for when they want to stop receiving submissions, and you have up until that time to get your proposal in. This will usually range from a few hours to a few days, which is a generous amount of time, as we’ll see when we explore VoiceBunny later. Once you get comfortable with your settings and your work flow, it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes to record a short audition anyway. Then you just need a few more minutes to select a generic related demo and write a quick cover letter.

 

CONS:

  • Payment is basically dependent on the honor system. I once did a commercial through 123 for which I didn’t get paid for three months. I had to keep emailing the client every couple of days until he finally processed the payment. I have had this happen more than once. So this is one of the downsides of not doing everything through a system – there’s essentially no “agent” making sure that the payment has gone through. Some companies will ask you to process a W-9, and you should always send an official invoice – but you still just kind of have to trust that they’ll actually pay you. 123 isn’t involved in the chain of communication, as most clients don’t make use of the internal messaging system (and it’s kind of a pain anyway), so it’s up to you. You can add a PayPal button to your profile to make this as easy as possible. So you could get paid the same day you finish a job, or not until three months later (both have happened to me). In the event that you're not getting paid, you can reach out to support and they'll basically just send an email to the client reminding them to pay you, and they will raise an internal "red flag" on future projects from that client within the platform. But they can't technically ensure that you'll ever get paid.

  • The rating system is arbitrary and most clients don’t understand how to use it.  Like Voices, 123 uses a "like" system to rank auditions. The biggest annoyance is that they are rating your AUDITION, not your final product (unlike on Fiverr). The other problem with this is that many clients don’t know that this rating system affects the talent’s reputation on the platform. It’s unclear how much it affects one’s reputation, but it is the only way for the client to provide feedback into the system. Many clients use this rating system as a personal way to organize their auditions, as they often have 50 or so to choose from. They don’t see it as an objective way of qualifying someone’s work; it’s just based on their personal opinion. Also, you have no way of keeping track of how many of your auditions have been liked. All you get is a label on your profile page that indicates what percentile of voice actors you rank into, based on how many of your auditions have been liked in the past 365 days.

  • Custom demos are almost always required. This means that you’ll spend a lot of time recording auditions that in all likelihood won’t result in a job. Kind of annoying, but honestly, even if you only do 1-2 auditions a day, that should take you no more than 20 minutes to complete – and one audition could be the difference between you making $800 and making nothing.

  • You’ll need a library of “generic related demos” before you can begin applying to jobs. This is one reason why I say 123 is not for true beginners. With every job you audition for, you’ll be required to submit [probably a custom demo and] a generic related demo that shows your voice in a similar way. So for example, if you’re auditioning for a Kia Optima commercial that’s looking for a “luxurious, deep, elegant” voice, you might submit a demo from a perfume commercial you did that makes use of those same qualities. But it’s hard to do that when you don’t have several jobs under your belt already.

  • You don’t (exactly) get to set your own rates. Every proposal displays the client's budget, and you also have a chance to input your asking price for the job, and indicate whether or not you are negotiable. Once you start communicating with the client, you may be able to negotiate a bit, but within reason. For example, I did a jingle that required not only that I sing, but also that I write and record three-part harmony. I was able to negotiate for slightly better pay because of that extra work. But most of the time, if the client says their budget is $300, you’ll get $300 – even if that means you need to do 12 revisions first.

 

OVERALL:

Voice123 is not for rookies, but once you have a little experience in your wheelhouse, it can be well worth the initial membership fee. Most of the best opportunities I’ve had in my voiceover career have come out of Voice123. It takes big players to contend on this database, but that’s because there’s a big game to be played.

 

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————

VOICES.COM

Voices.com is one of the other two big pay-to-play sites, the other being Voice123. I consider VDC to be the "work hard, play hard" database because in order to see results, you have to audition a LOT. Like V123, they do have a free membership option, but again, it's basically useless. With a free account on Voices, you can create a profile and post demos, and then wait hopefully to be invited to audition. You cannot view or submit yourself for any auditions on your own, though - so just like Voice123, what you're paying for with a premium membership is access to hundreds of auditions per week. With Voices, this will run you $499 annually ($100 more than Voice123). (If you do some digging though, you might be able to find a promo code to get 20% knocked off - try VOICEACTING or COACHVO101.) Let's take a look at what a premium membership means with Voices.com, and how it differs from Voice123.

PROS:

  • There's never any shortage of auditions. My first day on the platform, I had more than 80 invites to jobs waiting for me. On a typical day, I'll get around 25 new auditions that match my profile. I do find that invitations slow down on weekends, but that's probably because most people operate on a Monday-Friday schedule.

  • The platform saves you time by pre-screening auditions for you and sorting them by how much of a match they are for your profile. For example, when you go to the list of available jobs, you can choose to view them by "VoiceMatch," which compares the specs of the project with the details you entered in your profile, and analyzes how closely they compare. Ideally, sites like Voice123 should also only be sending you jobs that you're right for, but that's not always the case. For example, I'll usually waste about 10 minutes a day filtering through audition invites on V123, having to reject them once I find out they were meant for someone of a different race, nationality, or age. Not so with Voices.com. So far, almost every job at the top of my VoiceMatch list has been something I could feasibly perform. This really saves you time, which is good, because you need to audition a LOT to get results with Voices.com. But more on that in a bit.

  • You can give custom quotes for every job. Each listing has a corresponding budget, and you can set your own rate (even if it exceeds that budget - and clients are willing to do this if they really want you). 

  • You are encouraged to audition as much as you want, rather than being penalized for auditioning too much, like on the old version of Voice123.

  • Every job has at least a $100 budget, so no need to worry about wasting time with $0 budget projects. This also means that you should make that membership fee back in 4 jobs or fewer. I'll aslso add that most jobs are in the $200-400 budget range, and that I've also had jobs worth upwards of $1400.

  • You usually don't need to include related samples of past work. A custom audition (around 15 seconds) is usually all that's required.

  • A premium membership comes with access to a Talent Success Specialist whose entire job it is to make sure you're doing everything you can to book jobs. My Specialist spent 45 minutes on the phone with me when I first signed up, walking me through how to set up my profile effectively in order to attract potential clients. This comes back to the idea that you are truly a business owner when you get into voiceover. My Specialist has been extremely helpful in periodically evaluating the quality of my auditions and providing specific feedback to help me improve. And every time I implement his suggestions, I see an increase in "likes" on my auditions. So this benefit definitely helps soften the bow of that $499 platform fee.

  • The platform's 20% markup fees are separate from your rate in the client's budget. So the "budget" you see is solely for you - you will get all of what you quote the buyer on, and they expect to pay 20% on top of that for the platform fee. You don't have to be afraid of quoting your full rate for a project, because most of the time, if a client thinks you're the absolute perfect voice for their project, they're happy to pay their full budget (or even exceed it) in order to fulfill their vision.

  • There's payment protection because every step of the job is handled within the platform. When a client hires you for a job, they are required to put down a deposit ahead of time, and their payment information is kept on file. This way, if there is any issue with the client neglecting to release your payment, it can be manually released by Support. (We'll look at the flip side of this process below.) Once the client releases the payment to you, the money will show up in your PayPal account within a week.

  • Like Voice123, there are some big companies using this website. I've done auditions for Subway, Taco Bell, McDonald's, Pampers, and Target. Also, I've seen very little overlap between Voices and Voice123 (i.e. the same auditions being posted on both databases). So if you can swing it, it may be worth it to invest in a membership for both.

CONS:

  • You book on average 2-7 jobs per 100 auditions, according to the account managers of Voices.com. Therefore, they recommend that you audition between 10-20 times PER DAY. The top earners on the website are responding to between 85-100% of the auditions they are sent. I know this sounds daunting, but I was actually surprised that I've been able to knock out 10 auditions in under an hour. The way that Voices streamlines the auditions you see actually saves a lot of time sifting through jobs that aren't right for you.

  • It takes a while to gain traction on this database. After completing my first 300 auditions, I had only booked two jobs. Your hire-ability is in part influenced by your number and quality of reviews, so the more 5-star reviews you have, the more likely you are to be chosen for a job. Also, the more likes your auditions get, the more likely it is that you'll be hired for jobs. But of course, to be "liked," you first need to be listened to, which brings me to...

  • Being one of the first to audition for a job will make or break your chances of being heard. Clients won't sit through all 200 submissions they get for a job. And of the ones they listen to, they'll "like" (bookmark for a second listen) about 7% of them. You should expect to be in your studio for a few hours a day, jumping on those jobs as soon as they come in so that you can maximize your visibility - especially when you're new to the platform. It can be helpful to complete rush auditions first, and then audition for the jobs most recently posted, or the ones with the closest approaching deadlines.

  • Even though your payment is protected, funds can take AGES to be released. Here's my issue with this. You sign an agreement every time you accept a job, and that agreement states that if you deliver your work by the deadline and the client fails to respond to your delivery, funds will be automatically released to you within 14 days. In my experience, this has not always been the case. I've had a handful of clients drag their feet on releasing payment, and Voices has not intervened. It seems that in actuality, that 14 day countdown doesn't start until YOU reach out to Support and ask where your money is. For example, I completed a job on April 25 and the client failed to approve the files. Per our agreement, I should have been automatically paid by May 9. As I write this, it is May 20 and I am still waiting. I contacted Support about this on May 2 and they informed me that the funds would finally reach my account on May 24 - one month after the date of completion. So in a sense, I've had to be as much of a nag about getting paid for my work on this platform as I have on other platforms where there is no payment protection at all (Voice123). It irks me that Voices seems to be perfectly content to hold onto your money (as if hoping you won't notice), until you pester them to release it.

  • You definitely need significant experience to succeed on this platform. You'll need to know what a client means when they ask for "authentic and conversational" versus "quirky and upbeat," and how to reproduce that with your specific instrument. It also helps to be an excellent cold reader and a quick editor. Ideally, you should be able to submit an audition in 5 minutes or less. Most importantly, you need to know your strengths. You need to be able to look at a breakdown and know whether or not it's going to be a waste of your time and the client's to send in an audition. Most clients will only listen to the first few seconds of an audition, so you really need to know how to cut to the chase. And that's something you can really only learn about yourself through trial and error.

OVERALL:

Like I said, this database's M.O. is "work hard, play hard." In my first three months on Voices, I booked almost twice as many jobs than I did in a year on Voice123. But I also submitted LOT more auditions on Voices than I did on Voice123, because their system also makes it SIGNIFICANTLY easier and faster to do so. It takes me 3-5 minutes to submit an audition on Voices, as opposed to maybe 7-10 minutes on Voice123, solely because of extra hoops you have to jump through on Voice123 (annoying file formatting, having to copy and paste a cover letter rather than loading in a template with one click, uploading related samples to your profile page before you can add them to the proposal itself).

 

VDC is not without its problems and frustrations, but if you can afford to set aside an hour of time each day to audition, it can be well worth it. Because of the higher-paying jobs, user-friendliness, and payment protection, it's quickly becoming my favorite platform to work with.

 

VOICEBUNNY

 

VoiceBunny is a newer faction of Bunny Inc., the company that runs Voice123. No pun intended, but this database is a different animal than anything we’ve encountered so far. VoiceBunny doesn’t accept all voiceover artists, like Fiverr and Voice123 do. Instead, you need to clear a strict vetting process that only 2% of applicants manage to pass. VoiceBunny is VERY particular about the technical specs of your work, so again, this database is not for newcomers. You’ll need to know how to export files in a very specific format, make sure your space is treated acoustically, and normalize your files to -3db. If you’re unsure of what all that means, the VoiceBunny forums are a great place to help you get started.

 

VoiceBunny offers three different methods for landing a job. The first and most straightforward is a Booking. Bookings happen when a client finds your profile through search results and books you directly, based on a sample of yours that they liked. 90% of projects on VB happen this way, so it’s to your advantage to list as many samples as possible on your profile (VB has no limit to the amount of samples you can showcase, and most Pros have at least 50 samples). The second method is a Contest. In this instance, a client asks to receive 3-5 auditions to choose from for the final project. Invitations are sent out to several pros, and the first 3-5 to accept and record their auditions get passed on to the client. The client then chooses a winning audition, and that Pro gets picked to work on the rest of the project. The third way is a Speedy. In this case, only one Pro gets to accept and work on a project, and they have to complete it within 30 minutes or so. 

 

In all these cases, your auditions and jobs will be reviewed by VoiceBunny’s QC team to make sure that there is no distortion, background noise, clipping, or file errors, before it gets sent to the client. If a sample gets rejected for QC reasons, you will have to redo it quickly or risk losing the job.

 

Let’s take a look at what happens once you pass that screening process.

 

PROS:

  • There's no membership fee! You do have to pass that screening process, but you DON'T have to pay several hundred dollars a year to work for VoiceBunny.

  • You get paid to audition! This is for sure the most unique draw that VoiceBunny provides. You never feel like your time is being wasted while recording those pesky auditions, because you’ll always make a few bucks for it. Depending on what your rates are, you can make between $2-20 just for auditioning, and then if you’re chosen to complete the job you’ll get a project fee on top of that.

  • You get paid for revisions! You get to determine what you think you should be paid if a client asks for a redo. This is an honor system. VB assumes that you will NOT charge for revisions on mistakes you made, like mispronouncing a word or accidentally omitting a line of the script. But you can decide what you think is fair if the client asks for multiple takes to choose from, or makes major changes to the script on the second go-around.

  • You get paid even if the client rejects your work! Because you have to be specifically matched by age, gender, and dialect specifications for all of your prospective jobs, and because all of your auditions and jobs have to be vetted by VoiceBunny's QC team before they reach the client, there's ideally no reason why your work shouldn't be exactly what the client is looking for. The QC team essentially runs interference for you, a feature which is unique to this platform. Therefore, if QC has approved your work, but the client rejects the final product for any reason, you still get paid because VoiceBunny takes responsibility. (However, client rejections will count towards your stats, unless you ask to have them appealed.)

  • VoiceBunny doesn't take a cut of your earnings! You set your own rates, and VoiceBunny makes money by adding markups on top of that. You get to choose exactly how much you want to be paid, and then you'll only be invited to projects that are willing to pay you your rates. Now, whether you're always paid the rate that you asked for is up for debate; some artists have claimed to have caught VoiceBunny paying them less than their rates and preferences indicate. So proceed at your own risk.

  • The longer a job goes unaccepted, the higher its rate becomes. So if you're in a gambling mood, you can let a Speedy or a Contest sit there for a few hours, and VoiceBunny will gradually raise the rate of that project to try to entice someone to accept it. Remember, their defining characteristic is "speed." I never do this intentionally (I like to hit "accept" as soon as I can rather than risking losing the job to someone else). But there are times when a job has come in while I've been asleep, it's still available when I wake up in the morning, and by then it's tripled in value! (Note: This does NOT apply to Bookings, where your rates are fixed.)

  • There are some bigger brands on this platform. I've done several Spotify promos advertising various artists – Panic! at the Disco, Maroon 5, George Ezra, Avril Lavigne; and also a spot for Head & Shoulders.

  • The community is very helpful in offering feedback and helping you get adjusted, and staff respond to forum posts frequently. I had a sample that was removed from search results for technical reasons, but I couldn’t figure out why. Other voiceover artists and staff were very quick and helpful in assessing the problems with the sample, which allowed me to fix the problems and re-upload it. The staff are also very responsive and reasonable. Just the other day, I got a Booking wherein the client had misquoted the length of the script, therefore paying me less than my full rate. I brought the issue to the mangers, and they immediately agreed to pay me the difference. Much more reasonable than Fiverr!

  • There’s the opportunity to build repeat business. One of my most lucrative gigs on VB has been a series of 8 video narrations. Since they wanted the same actor for all 8, that meant a steady stream of money for me!

  • You can work as much or as little as you want. If you get invited to a Contest or a Speedy and you're away from home and can't do it, you just don't do it. No hard feelings. Somebody else will gladly take it. You can also reject Bookings if you're really unable to get to them within the next few hours.

  • You get every sample checked, therefore providing you with constant feedback. It’s good to have your work checked regularly, especially if you’ve moved recently or are trying out new equipment. Every sample and audition you submit is subject to quality control checks, and staff will usually provide specific reasoning if something gets rejected. This means you’ll always be improving!

 

CONS: 

  • Even though there are big brands, your rates AND your stats determine your pay. I did a Head & Shoulders blurb on VoiceBunny and only got paid $14 because I was new and had no credibility, no leverage. 

  • Like with Fiverr, you won't get paid until 30 days after the job is marked as complete. I'll repeat what I said before: Lots of freelance services work this way, unfortunately –  but I guess you can kind of think of it as getting your monthly paycheck. And once you start to get consistent work, you'll also start to get paid almost every day.

  • In order to work consistently, you need to keep your rates low. Although Bookings are the most common way for clients to hire artists, every Booking is directed at an individual, and you'll rarely be that individual. Many clients are happy to throw caution to the wind and allow their job to be completed by any artist in VoiceBunny's pool. So most of my jobs on VB are short Speedies, which average about $25 a job. And most of those are Spotify ads, which by industry standard are worth $100-200 a pop. So when you're starting out, it's a toss-up between working consistently for a low rate, or working seldom for a fair price.

  • Time is your enemy. For contests, most of the time, clients only want 3-5 auditions to choose from (because they’re paying for those auditions). That means that when you get an invitation, you need to hustle to hit “accept project” before the other pros in your category. THEN, you have 25 minutes to record and submit your audition before it automatically gets passed onto someone else. Speedies work the same way: you are one of several Pros invited to complete the entire job, and you need to be the first one to accept it, or someone else will. Then you have usually about 30 minutes to complete the job. Bookings give you slightly more flexibility, in that once you hit "accept," you'll usually have 4-6 hours to complete the job. But it's to your advantage to hit "accept" as soon as possible, because the faster you do, the better your response rate (and stats) will be. And the better your stats are, the more projects you'll be invited to.

  • Though you're expected to hurry to get jobs done, VoiceBunny is in no hurry to pay you. You'll see your money 30 days after a job is marked as complete. Unlike with Fiverr, there are no tiers in VoiceBunny that can expedite the release of payment. Everybody waits 30 days, no matter how good your stats are. The flip side of this is that once you're working consistently, you'll see funds hitting your account every day or so, and you won't even notice how long it's been since you completed those projects.

  • You lose money on PayPal or bank wire transfers. These are your only two options for transferring your money out of VoiceBunny and into your pocket. PayPal takes a 3% processing fee, and bank wires take a flat $25 fee. It's worth noting that in December 2018, Fiverr revised their agreement with PayPal so that PayPal no longer took a service fee on Fiverr transfers. I'm hoping that VoiceBunny will follow suit eventually. Until then, I've made it my practice to transfer every time I hit about $100 or so.

  • There’s no direct communication with the client. People have been asking for an in-platform chat widget for years, but VoiceBunny has tabled it because of "user experience issues." Even Fiverr has an in-platform messaging system, which is monitored by staff to ensure that personal information isn't exchanged. It can be really frustrating not being able to speak with a client, especially when you have questions about the instructions you were given. It's also prohibited by VoiceBunny's Terms of Service to contact the client off-platform - even after a job is complete! VoiceBunny threatens to terminate your working relationship if you are found communicating with a client outside of their database. Meanwhile, there is no way for the client to provide you with a link or a file of your final project once it's complete. So it can be nearly impossible to find your work out in the real world after you've delivered your voiceover. And in terms of getting clarification on what a client wants...

  • Staff don’t always respond to your flagged projects before the project is due, so you often just have to guess on the meaning of client instructions. If you wait for the staff’s response, you might miss your deadline and lose the job. But if you guess on what the client wants and you end up being wrong, your stats are affected. (Pros with fewer requests for revisions have better stats and are invited to more projects.)

  • The platform is very pushy on speediness and will relentlessly remind you to turn in revisions and accept bookings. Because speed is the identifying factor of VB, if you don’t hit accept within a couple of hours, you’ll get pestered by staff until you do. This is because if you dilly-dally, the system automatically triggers a “backup” project which invites other pros to audition for your job – and as we’ve learned, they get paid for those auditions. So why not just press “accept” as soon as you receive a booking, you might ask? Well, the clock starts ticking as soon as you accept. The time limit is different for every project, usually based on the amount of words you’ll need to record. So if you get a project and the time limit will be 6 hours, but you know you won’t be back from your day job for 8 more hours, you’ll have missed your deadline. But if you don’t hit accept, you can expect to be nagged by the system and the staff until you do. After all, if you’re not going to do it, somebody else will.

  • You can’t set working hours. People have been complaining about this for years, but VB has not prioritized finding a solution to this. As a result of not being able to indicate which time zone you live in or when you’re available to record, you might get 6-8 jobs while you’re asleep that, by the time you wake up, have been passed on to someone else. Then, all day long, you might not get any jobs. It’s a frustrating problem, because the invites you get come in at different times every day, if at all. Some days you might not get any. I've started keeping track of all my invitations and what time they come in, and I've found that most of my Speedies come in between the hours of 9pm-4am CST. Bookings I might get in the late morning or early afternoon (business hours in North America), but those are quite rare.

  • You can’t apply for projects on your own; you must be invited. So unlike the other two platforms we’ve discussed, the only way to audition for and complete jobs on VB is to receive an invitation from the system or directly from the client. And as I mentioned, these don’t happen super often.

  • Clients can request unlimited revisions from you, up to 60 days after the project is marked as complete. Of course, you can charge for all of these revisions, but you also then run the risk of getting a poor rating from an annoyed client. This rating won't affect your invitation rate to Speedies and Contests, but it will affect the star-rating displayed to potential clients on your profile page.

  • Your revision fees sometimes need managerial approval. A lot of times, clients will put in their notes that they want 2-3 takes from you in the deliverable. But then you'll look at the word count and see that in fact, they only paid you for one take. In this case, I'll do the job once and wait to see if they still want revisions after hearing the first version. And if they do want a completely different second version, I am going to charge them the full project fee again. When you do this, or even when you charge more than half the project fee, you need to wait for managerial approval before submitting your revision. What you charge is totally up to you, but VB does forebodingly remind you that it's an "honor system" and that they will be "forced to stop working with you if your rates are consistently higher than other Bunny Pros'".

  • VoiceBunny's markup fees mean they make more on a project than you do. One time, the VoiceBunny website was experiencing technical difficulties, and due to this, Pros were momentarily able to see the client's side of the project instead of their own. It was through this malfunction that I learned that VoiceBunny was charging the client 42% more than what I was making on a project. They advertise themselves as being the quickest, cheapest voiceover database on the market – but the gag is, the ones who really feel the quickness and the cheapness are the artists, more so than the clients.

  • Starting out is tough and takes time. The good news is that when you're new to VB, you get a temporary boost in visibility to be able to "prove yourself," as the website puts it. Take advantage of this time, because you won't get a power-up like this again! That's why I say you shouldn't apply to VB until you are a little more tech-savvy with your studio setup. VB also recommends that you set your rates lower than usual in order to gain experience within their platform. You can set specific dollar amounts in correspondence to specific word counts, and then you can also choose to only be sent invitations for projects that pay 60/70/80/90/100% of your rates. (And it's my personal suspicion that your "custom rate" that you're quoted for Speedies and Contests, as VB calls it, will always be the lowest amount that you indicated that you're willing to work for.) Obviously, this won’t pay very well right off the bat, but some talents prefer to keep their rates high as normal, even though this means they won’t get many offers. It depends what’s more important to you – finding new clients and working consistently, or only working selectively once you’ve reached an expert level.

 

OVERALL: 

I would say VoiceBunny is a good middle ground between Fiverr and Voices/Voice123. On the one hand, you don’t lose anything by becoming a member, because it’s free – you just have to pass that selection process. On the other hand, it is a strict audition, and you do need to know the ropes in order to pass. It takes a while to build up notoriety on VB, so your rates will probably be lower than they would be on Voice123, but it’s still nice to make a few quick bucks if you can drop everything and audition once a day or so.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

Alaina Wis is an actor, singer, and voiceover artist. She’s learning the ropes and sharing her thoughts as she continues to grow.

© 2019 Alaina Wis