How to earn some extra money as a voice-over artiste

Have people told you that you have a nice voice? That you’re a good speaker in meetings, presentations, etc.?

If your answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘sort of’ and you could do with a few extra pennies, how about doing some voice-over (VO) work, reading audiobooks and other content for recording? (I’ve learned a lot about VO narration work as I wrote scripts for video and live marketing  events for many years. In fact I’ve even done some VO work myself…) 

recording a voice over

Setting yourself up as a VO artiste can be inexpensive and lead to some very useful extra income

True, there is a fashion today for authors to voice their own books for the audiobooks versions and to voice their own podcasts, but not everyone has the voice to match the writing talent or the time to do it well.

So voice over artistes are brought in by recording facilities to do this, and here in the south of England can earn anything up to £200 per hour. An average short paperback book will take at least five hours to record, so do the math.

VO reading and recording is not a walk in the park, but…

Reading text for several hours in a row is not only tough, it’s almost impossible for anyone other than the true veterans of VO work who have the constitution of camels and gold-laminated vocal chords toughened by years of practice (and often, cigarettes.)

They charge mega-fortunes and they earn them, because they can crack through a 40,000 word script mistake-free in the time it used to take Concorde to fly from London to New York.

Happily for the rest of us, though, audio producers and clients often are happy to use newer VO artistes who may take longer to record a script, but whose fees would not make a billionaire blush.

How I advised my friend Emma to make a start as a VO recording artiste

Emma (not her real name) messaged me recently to ask what I thought of her idea to do some VO work, and the following is what I messaged back.

Great idea! You have a lovely voice. I think you need to do a little research first of all.

1. WHO… the people most likely to want to hire a VO artiste are audio book producers, right up to and including Audible themselves who I think pair self-publishers off with VOs when asked to recommend. Google ‘audiobook producers’. That would be the largest gateway although you could well pick up more through the networking you do. From your Google research put an email list together. Don’t forget that provided you have a good quality landline, recording some VOs (not all) can be done ‘down the line’ – so don’t hesistate to include producers who aren’t local.

2. WHAT… think about the sort of books that suit a mature woman’s VO (I know you’re only 25, but your voice sounds mature 😉 ). In your shoes I would go for nonfiction to start with: business books (softer skills) and self-help books. There are loads around in print and Kindle – several of my coaching authors have been and still are in those categories. Many of these books are ‘expensive business cards,’ and as such are used as promotional tools in an overall marketing mix. I find there are more women than men who want to do books like these but there ARE some guys, so consider this in mixed networking.

recoding audiobooks

A modern voice over booth in a recording studio

3. HOW… do yourself a ‘showreel.’ Take a selection of books popular with your target end-user audience, and read out / record a couple of pages of each. Try to provide a good mix of styles and genres. Not too many though: total length of ‘showreel’ should be no longer than 10 minutes max. Either buy the books as Kindles or I can let you borrow a few examples from my own and my authors’ works. Your own phone / recording setup probably will do as long as you make sure you record the stuff in a room deadened with curtains, carpets and other soft furnishings and you shut the dog/kids away in the kitchen! Then transfer that on to an MP3 platform (I’m useless at the techie terms for all this but I’m sure your son or mine could tell us and show us how to do it.)

4. NEXT… send a brief email to your target audiobook producers. Ideally you should ask their permission to send an audiotrack through as some of these things can carry viruses, but you’d probably get away with saying something like “I have attached my samples in a (MP3 or whatever it’s called!) file but of course understand that you may not want to open it. If you do want to have a swift listen, however, please let me know.”

Then, as they say, follow up, follow up, follow up. Hope that helps!


Provided that you know the basics of recording using your smartphone or if, like Emma and me, you have a clever offspring who can do all these mysterious technical tricks with their eyes shut, setting yourself up as a VO artiste can be inexpensive and lead to some very useful extra income. Just remember to breathe properly and drink plenty of water!