The State of Voiceover Fortunes in Pajamas: 2021
So many people were jealous of remote workers – working from home – in PJs no less!! That’s the silly concept anyway. Maybe that’s true for some people. For me, I do like to get dressed for my day. Comfy clothes – that’s a story for another blog!
Pajamas aside… Can you make a fortune as a voice actor?
Back in 2017, there was public information about the global voiceover market, touting it to be $4.4 billion USD with $800 million of that in North America. This was based on 2015 data and includes the full scope of money put into voiceover spending, not all of which lands in the voice actor’s bank due to production companies, managers, talent agents, etc.
What’s some real workforce data about being a voice actor?
Voice actors independently choose their path and, even if we know our own statistics, how do we compare to a larger swath of voice actors? We already know that the big money is in animated TV and film and that some of us may get there. We also know that corporate videos, advertising, audiobooks and eLearning are where most of the work is, overall.
Voice actors do chatter about not having data, in social media groups and amongst ourselves at conferences. But it’s all anecdotal. And as we turn the corner into the 2020s, technology is growing up and disrupting some of the human work of voiceover. So probably there have been lots of changes since 2015 data. Personally I can buy current voiceover market data as it was presented in 2017, but I would have to pay at least $3000 for research data access. Not gonna happen.
A group of voice actors conducted a survey to get real, present-day overall statistics of the voiceover acting workforce.
It’s a beginning, and it’s exciting. The data was gathered Jan-Feb 2021 regarding activity in 2020. Mid-2021, their first free, public report about “the state of voiceover” was released. I want to give a roaring shout-out to the folks at Voice Actors of NYC and their associates who showed excellent initiative and created this framework as an extraordinary view into our individually stitched-together world.
Being the first assessment of its nature that I’m aware of, I think they started with the correct fundamental approach and topics about the voice actor profession. Additionally, the data collected seems good. Here’s what they said about the data collection process: “The most encouraging trend we saw in the data collection process was that the results stayed roughly the same after we reached 250 responses. From the 250th response to the 1244th response, the data was nearly unchanged. This tells us we have a fairly representative sample of voice actors.”
I’ve highlighted these key results here: Annual Income, Expertise Level, Genre of work, Union impact, Covid19 impact, Locations, Auditions, Talent Agent impact.
Gross Income of All in 2020
The majority of respondents, 48%, earn $8K or less, with less than 2% earning over $350K. (K=thousand)
- 37% earn between $8-40K
- 10.3% earn between $40-75K
- 9% earn between $75-150K
- 5.6% earn over $150K with 1.9% earning over $350K
Gross 2020 Income by Experience Level
You have to be a professional level to earn at least living wage, overall.
- $8K or less per year: 94% Beginner, 72% Intermediate, 20% Pro
- $75K+ per year: 0 Beginners, 0.8% Intermediate, 27.4% Pro
Experience Level & Union Status
The majority of respondents are non-union.
- 52% Pro. Of these, 49% non-union
- 32% Intermediate. Of these, 81% non-union
- 16% Beginner. Of these, 89% non-union
Type of genres voiced most often
- 75% full union earned $75K or less
- 15% tried to convert work to union, more than half of these found it challenging and confusing
- 41% of voice actors had increased income in 2020 vs 2019, regardless of Union status. By experience level, Intermediate and Pro also saw the majority of income growth.
- 74% already had a home studio.
Voice actor locations
- Los Angeles area (17%)
- New York City area (30%)
- 53% live outside either area
How many auditions typically submitted per day?
- 70% do zero to four auditions
- Only 3% do 15+
Note: By experience level, Pros generally do more auditions on a daily basis.
Percent Income from Talent Agents
- 41% respondents receive 0% income from Agents
- 18% receive 1-10%
- 7% receive 100%
Note: 64% have Talent Agency representation; of these, 56% have more than one agent. A majority of Pros have agents, whereas only a quarter of Beginners have agents.
So, can you make a fortune in your pajamas by being a voice actor?
Pajamas? Easy. Fortune? Define that. Can you earn “a very large sum of money”? Can you be rich? According to this survey, less than 2% earned $350K+ in 2020. The majority earned $8-40K. The median household income in the USA for 2020 was $67.5K (statista).
Of course, you can make a fortune – somebody is! But can you make a fortune too? The odds are: no!
According to TheRichest and CelebrityNetWorth websites, the top 10 voice actors, who are uber-talented Hollywood level actors from top TV animated shows, have a net worth between $6 million going up to $500 million. Only if you’re in the top percent, maybe top 0.001%, can you earn a ‘fortune’.
A better question: Can you earn a decent living as a voice actor?
Yes. And, not so many people are even doing this. The majority of respondents in this 2020 data earned from $8K-40K, which is less than the median household income for the USA in 2020.
What is a decent living? That depends where you live, if you are also sharing a life with others, have dependents…. Again, define that and then look at the data. Yes, working from home is lovely and has it’s perks and drawbacks.
I think the most important thing is to look at the priorities of life, and how you want to live it. Can you run your own business by putting in the time and energy to develop your skills while you do what you can to build a clientele?
Feel free to contact me with specific questions or thoughts. I look forward to it.
You can find all the data from the survey here: https://www.voiceoversurvey.com/. Many thanks for the graphical images courtesy of this survey.