Starting Your At-Home Voice-Over Business
by Peter Drew
Thinking of getting into the voiceover business full time, specifically, opening your own in-house voice-over studio? Good for you! It’s a really great way to make a living!
OK. You’ve got the dream. Now let’s see what it takes to make it a reality. First question for you: What do you think is the most important thing you need to launch your business? A great voice? Surprisingly, a great voice isn’t all that important for success. Talent? Well, yeah, you’re gonna need some talent, but talent (in most cases) can always be developed through study and practice. Determination? Sure, but simple determination won’t make you a success.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
So, what’s the most important thing? Get ready. It’s called…a plan. Yup. A plan. Not very “show bizzy,” huh? No, it isn’t, but it’s the most important piece of the business start up puzzle, and it applies to every type of start-up, not just voiceovers. Now, before we talk plans, let’s talk about the second most important thing you’ll need for success—money.
IT TAKES MONEY TO MAKE MONEY
A lack of capital, seed money, whatever you call it, is the overwhelming reason most business start-ups fail, including those with a plan. You’ll need enough money to pay for equipment, marketing materials, office expenses, insurance, utilities, etc., etc., while you’re waiting for the checks to come rolling in. Oh, and just to remind you, you’ll need money to live on, too. How much money will you need for the business and living expenses? We’ll get to that shortly, but first, let’s talk about your plan.
A PLAN BY ANY OTHER NAME
Call it a business plan if you like, but that tends to sound a little intimidating and, frankly, overwhelming. Call it your “plan for success,” or “my freedom from oppressive employers plan,” you know, something more self-affirming and inspiring. Whatever you call it, your plan should include the following points…
- The voice-over services you will sell and to whom you will sell them. You probably have, or will have, a particular strength, e.g. characters, promo/imaging for radio and TV, corporate narration, animation characters, hard sell, etc. Accentuating your strength and marketing it to the appropriate clients can lead to more gigs than just a general scattershot approach to all possible clients.
- The revenue needed to stay in business for six months, one year, and beyond. What do you earn now each month? What will you need to maintain your current lifestyle? Whatever the figure, it’s the amount you’ll need in the bank or coming in from a second full or part-time job for at least the first six months in business, if not a full year. Reason? There’s always a delay between the starting date of your voiceover business and when money actually starts coming in.
- The amount of capital (seed money) needed to start up and keep the business afloat. This is operating capital you’ll use exclusively to fund the business for the first six to twelve months. You’ll need enough to keep the business afloat until you break even then start earning money, instead of just paying it out in expenses.
- Short-term goals to get your voice-over business up and running. Typical short term goals include: getting your demo(s) done; selecting, ordering, and installing your studio equipment; deciding where in you home to put your studio; deciding how to make your studio decent acoustically and installing the acoustical treatment; designing a logo and stationery, and ordering them; locating contacts to whom you can send your demo(s); setting up your bookkeeping system (QuickBooks is excellent. www.quickbooks.com); getting health coverage and property insurance to insure your equipment; deciding if you’re going to buy an ISDN unit and installing an ISDN line; ordering marketing materials, like postcards to send to clients.
- Long-term goals, including future revenue goals and funding your retirement. How big is your dream? How well do you want to live in retirement? Determining your long-term goals will guide you to the actions needed to attain them. Consult your accountant. If you don’t have one, be sure to get one.
That’s enough to get you started. There are plenty of books on voice-overs to help you complete your plan. Visit your local bookstore or go on-line.
As you can see, you can start your voice-over business part-time or full-time. With a little planning—and seed money—you’ll be on your way. Have fun!
© Peter Drew, 2005