Today’s question from the land of Meta comes from the VO Preneur FB Group run by Voice Talent, Voice Coach, Podcast Host and all around good guy Marc Scott.
Someone asked, and I’m paraphrasing, Voice Over work tends to be full of ups and downs, what do you do as a side hustle in order to stay afloat?
Anyone in the entertainment industry has probably had this battle with themselves. How can I work on my side hustle when my full time job is so demanding? How can I make more money in my side hustle? How can my side hustle, become my full time hustle? What even is a side hustle? Also how many times can I use the word “hustle” in one post? I may have added that one. Drinking game anyone?
Some of us, have become full time voice actors, only to find that it really is a rollercoaster and we’ve had to earn income in other ways just to pay the bills. Is that a Side, Side hustle?
I have approached this 2 ways.
- I started VO very much as a side hustle. For those wondering, here is what Wikipedia says about that definition. 7 years, ago I was working at an online university. It paid well, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. So, I investigated voice over, fell back on my 20 year old training that lead to a B.S. in Broadcasting and did a lot of training. I worked my butt off in all my free time until 3 years ago, “voice work” became my full time gig. I’ll explain the quotations in a moment.
- Once I became full time I DID find that it was really tough to make a living by strictly recording my voice to a DAW and collecting a fee. It was a constant chase, and in many respects still is.
So, what did I do? Well, let me take you back a little to provide some reference.
As I mentioned my training started over 20 years ago. If you count my time on the Springfield High School morning announcements, my experience goes back to 1990. Even at that time I knew I wanted to do something with my voice. I had NO idea what that meant, but I knew I had a pretty good sounding voice, and I could do voices. I also liked the tech. So, I went to college for that! I did some talent stuff like Deejay on the campus radio stations, and fill in host on the campus TV shows. I also, however, learned a lot about media tech. Old tech, but tech nonetheless. Video and Audio editing, camera operation, lighting, stage craft, video and audio production. I left college thinking I’d work in television or radio, probably news. I sent out tapes (yes I’m old) to every station in the country I could find and got…nothing.
I moved on. I found a couple of related jobs working for The Cable Guide, then Primestar Satellite TV (where I once met Mike Rowe!) but quickly decided this media thing was a bust. I worked dozens of jobs over the years, but always felt like I had missed my calling. I worked for EZ Pass, as a financial advisor, an editor then director of quality assurance for a website, the Baltimore Orioles, and finally for the University. All along the way, I learned many different skills and gained a lot of knowledge.
I also, would constantly get these cues from the universe. At EZ Pass, they asked me to record the first IVR system for the company because I had a nice voice. Of course they didn’t pay me for it. While working with the Orioles, I met with someone from my Alma Mater, Towson University who did public address for athletics. He asked me if I wanted to try and I did, for about 6 years. Then, at the University they asked for volunteers to record some e-learning content. I said yes, and found that the company had a full production studio in the otherwise faceless business park office. That was when the bug came back. I said to the director, “You mean to tell me you record and produce all the content right here?”
That set me off. I started learning everything I could about voice recording from home. Booth setup, mics, DAWs, acting, marketing. Before long, I was doing it! I’ve been at it full time now for nearly 3 years and I couldn’t be happier.
So, why did I take you on that trip down memory lane? Because, ALL those skills I learned on my “hiatus” from voice work, have allowed me to branch out in my voice over career when times are tough. In business we call them vertical markets. Other business lines you can leverage to increase your bottom line. Since going full time I have done and been paid for all of the following:
- Recorded other talent as a live engineer
- Created recording spaces both in person and over video
- Edited and mastered audio files for other talent
- Written Copy
- Created fully produced advertisements with music and effects
- Edited Copy
- Created and produced a podcast
- Presented at conferences, both in person and virtual
- Worked as a grip
- Announce for 2 Division 1 Athletics Programs
All of this is what I would call “VO related” which is why I’ve taken to calling myself a full time voice professional. In most cases the skills are complimentary. They help me with my “main job” of voice talent. Plus they help pay the bills, which is always nice.
So, if you are struggling with the high and lows of being a full time voice over artist, look back in your past. I bet you have a bunch of skills you can lean on in order to either supplement your income, or maybe even create a new side, side hustle!