How to become a voice-over artist in India

‘How to become a voice-over artist in India’ is the first of a series of comprehensive articles I plan to publish around various side hustles anyone aspiring to develop themselves skills-wise and money-wise could pursue. (This is a continuation of my previous post on side hustles; please read that here: https://sampathmk.com/best-side-hustle-ideas)

These guides will be specifically for Indians who want to start a side hustle based on their interests and talent. But the concepts would be helpful for anyone around the globe. 

Side Hustle Series – #1: How to become a voice-over artist in India

I started getting involved deeply in this voice-over field about a decade ago when I ran my creative studio. Back then, we used to do different content for various purposes, including developing learning games and creating marketing videos for large companies.

That is when I started interacting with voice artists and voice actors. I understood the possibilities in the field, the kind of money leading voice artists could make, and the freedom it provides. Working as a voice-over artist is one of the best side hustle ideas from home for students, homemakers, or professionals in India.

Before we dive into how to become a voice-over artist in India, let us understand some key concepts.

Voice artist, Voice-over artist, Voice actor, Dubbing artist!

You may have heard various terms like voice actor, voice artist, dubbing artist, and voice-over artist used in multiple contexts. So what is the difference between all these?

With the advent of media and digital content, recorded voices are now omnipresent.

We hear voices everywhere: in public places where announcements use recorded messages, in commercials, while listening to our favourite podcasts and ebooks, when we play digital games, when we do an e-learning course, in schools and classrooms, in movies,  while using digital assistants like Alexa and Siri.

Recorded voices are just about everywhere. These are all voices provided by voice artists – people like you and me.

So when we refer to the term voice-over, we mean a person’s voice recorded using a good microphone.

A voice-over artist is a person who provides the voice.

When an artist uses their voice effectively (modulating, changing pitch, accent or any other qualities of their voice) to breathe life into the character or content using the voice, they are called a voice actor.

If you want to draw a distinction, it could be that a voice actor varies their voice to a large degree and kind of emotes with their voice.

But in general, voice actors and voice-over artists are used interchangeably to refer to people who make a living by selling their voices. They are also called dubbing artists, though the term is more closely associated with people who work in the movie field.

Can anyone be a voice actor – What skills do you need to be a voice-over artist?

The fact is that anyone can become a voice-over artist. Of course, having a ‘good’ voice (by the socially defined concept of what a good voice means) is a bonus but not a necessity.

The very successful Richa Nigam (who is also listed among the highest paid voice-over artist in India as per sources online), whose voice is anything but ‘good’ in the traditional sense, is a case in point. Please watch this video to get inspired:

What is necessary is your ability to modulate your voice to create impactful content. And the good news is that this can be learned and perfected through practice.

So if you have the will to put in hard work and use feedback to improve, you CAN become a famous voice-over artist.

I know of many people who have great voices, but when I ask them why they don’t pursue a career in voice acting, they either say that they don’t think they have a ‘good’ voice or don’t have the confidence/interest/energy to pursue opportunities in this field. And that is a pity.

So my answer to your question ‘Can I be a voice-over artist?‘ is:

Yes – I am 110% confident that you can become one, irrespective of how you think your voice sounds, provided you put in the work and are willing to persevere despite possible ridiculing from others during your early attempts and rejections that you will face.

Voice acting is just as easy or difficult a field to succeed in as any other creative field. What is needed is the mindset to prevail over initial setbacks.

So go on, my friend – you can do it.

Is there a massive demand for voice-over artists in India?

Just look around you. Look at your phone and the apps you use. From apps that help you relax to apps that narrate books to you, to apps that teach. Every single one of them uses voice-overs to deliver their content.

Look at how the companies are advertising nowadays, or at the visuals and videos (a.k.a corporate AVs) you see marketing a product or service – they all use voice-overs.

Radio and podcasts have become hugely popular now.

Voice assistants, Metaverse – newer technologies that use voice in ways we never imagined.

Media and content have exploded, and the need for various kinds of voices is on the upswing. Gone are the days when only a small set of voice actors used to do TV or movie commercials.

Look at any freelance jobs websites – you will see hundreds of voice jobs listed.

The demand for voice-over artists is exploding with the content revolution and the explosion of tech-driven channels delivering content in various forms.

The number of people providing such services has also exponentially increased.

There is no better time than now to become a voice-over artist in India. With the number of languages and diversity in India, the potential is indeed multifold. The field is still developing here; the earlier you get on board, the larger your returns will be.

What are the Benefits of becoming a voice-over artist?

The next question we need to tackle is: Is voice-over a good career in India? The answer is ‘Yes’ if the considerations listed below sound good to you:

  • Work from anywhere: If you look at the statistics, you will see that many of those who work in the industry are freelancers who offer their skills on a per-word/per-hour/per-project basis. It means that if you have the right equipment, you can work from the comforts of your home.
  • Be your own boss: Well, when you provide a service, your client is your boss. But then, you don’t have anyone else between your client and you. No nagging boss to irritate you!
  • Flexible working hours: You decide your hours. If you feel like working at 4 in the morning, well, you can.
  • Network: You come in touch with different types of people while providing your voice services. Your network expands, and you will meet interesting people and get exposed to exciting opportunities.
  • Personal growth and fulfilment: Seeing the impact of your work will do wonders for your confidence. It will also go a long way in providing fulfilment and purpose in your life
  • Money, money, money!: You can become popular in this field with hard work and luck. And once you are famous, you can command your price. The pay for a beginner isn’t bad either. Some of the senior, talented voice-over artists I have worked with include Mr Harish Bhimani and Mr Garth Collins – both have terrific voices and are highly sought after. So that brings us to the million dollar question:

How much can I charge for my voice?

To calculate that, let us look at some of the prevailing rates for voice-over artists.

If we look for voice-over artist salary in India, Ambition box lists the typical salary of voice-over artists to be around 7.5lacs per year (https://www.ambitionbox.com/profile/voice-over-artist-salary), but this, I think, is based on people employed as voice-over artists (as opposed to freelancers/ consultants who can make much more).

How much a freelancer voice-over artist can make will depend on various factors; the primary ones being a voice artist’s experience, the kind of project and the volume of work.

Voice-over rates for beginners could be lower initially and then pick up as they gain knowledge and skills. I can provide you with referral links to material to help you decide your rates. So, here goes:

  • Voices.com has put up a rate card for various kinds of voice jobs. This will help you understand the global rates for the industry and could be used as a starting point while deciding your rates. Here’s the link to the rate card: https://www.voices.com/rates

Based on the references above, a sample calculation you could do would be as follows:

  • For audiobook narration and e-learning jobs, you could do a per-word or per-hour rate. For example, assuming a)you are a beginner and b) you are recording from your home studio setup,
    • You can consider Re. 1 per word. Assuming you will deliver 120 words per minute, your hourly rate would be Re. 1 times 120 words/min times 60 minutes = Rs 7200/ hr (~ $91/hr).
  • If you are booking a studio for your recording, include those charges too.
  • If you get a committed high volume of work upfront, you could give a volume discount
  • Now, for Corporate videos, explainer videos, public announcements or movie-related work, you will need to set a minimum charge for getting engaged and decide on a per-minute-of-delivered-content or per-project kind of rate (Arrive at that based on the dynamics of the work involved).

Note that even when you are a beginner, you don’t need to work for free. Put a price on your voice and then increase as the demand for your voice increases.

Alright, all this sounds so rosy and great. Is there a catch here – any challenges to be aware of? Well, let’s jump to the next section.

Become a voice-over artist in India: The Challenges

  • Competition is high and always on the rise: As more and more people are becoming aware of the kind of freedom and returns that being a voice-over artist can give, the number of people trying to break into the field is increasing. Look at the freelancing websites, and you will see what I mean. The key is to figure out how to get discovered.
  • The slightly high initial setup cost: If you plan to start as a freelancer from home, at a bare minimum, you will need to have a decent microphone and a computer to record and edit your voice before shipping.
  • Unsteady work: During your initial days, until you establish yourself, you will need to hunt for a job until you prove yourself. You will need to put in the effort to put yourself out there, make yourself discoverable, chase leads, and face rejections and setbacks. Work may trickle in initially, and how and whether the workflow will become steady depends on how well you deliver and work on the feedback.

Can voice-overs be done from home?

Yes, and that is the beauty of this field. So how to become a voice-artist online? What you will need, at a minimum, to start are the following:

  • A good condenser microphone. Listed below are three options you could check out – I have listed them in increasing order of price. (Please note that these links include my referral link – which means that if you click through and purchase this from Amazon, I will earn a small commission)
  • A computer: You can use any computer primarily to store, edit and send your voice-overs.
  • Software to edit your voice-over: You may have to edit your voice file to remove unwanted spaces, remove ambient noise, crop your file or change the file format. To do these operations on your voice file, you will need software. Audacity is a great, free, easy-to-use software you can start with to edit your voice files. Link to Audacity: https://www.audacityteam.org/download/. Other popular tools you could check out are: Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, Sound Forge and GarageBand (which comes standard on Macs)

That’s it! This is all the setup you need to get started as a voice-over artist. The only other considerations would be a) to find the best place in your home where you can record in peace and, more importantly, silence and b) to learn how to transfer your voice-over files (which could be huge depending on the volume of work) to your client. https://wetransfer.com/ is an excellent site to upload and share large files.

How to get into voice acting with no experience

Let us try to answer some of your questions like ‘How do I start a career in voice-over?’ and ‘How do I start as voice-over artist in India?’ in this section. Here are some steps you could follow:

  • Set up your home studio. Start with a cheaper mic in the beginning.
  • Record a few samples covering the different kinds of voice-over work you can handle.
  • Create your profile on various freelancer sites that list voice-over jobs. Some of them are:
    • Fiverr, Vozyapp.com, Voices.com, Voquent.com, Upwork.com etc.
    • These are the online marketplaces where you will find voice-over artist jobs listed. You will also find dubbing artist jobs for freshers and dubbing artist jobs work from home listed on these sites. These websites can provide you with an entry into the world of voice acting.
  • You can also upload your demos to Soundcloud and share the link with anyone.
  • How do you find voice-over gigs – Check out the various jobs and respond to them
  • Parallelly, identify anyone you know working in EdTech, Game development, Advertising, Content development, E-Learning or TV studios from your network. Tell them about your interest in breaking into the field and send them samples. This probably would be the easiest way to start.
  • Look for startups in the Elearning and EdTech space – send them cold mailers with your demo samples
  • Once you get an initial work, ensure you give it your best. Work tirelessly to incorporate the feedback they give and give it your best shot. This will get you repeat orders
  • Get a testimonial from your client. Tell them that you would like to use the testimonial on your social pages (to ensure they don’t have a problem with it).
  • Now update your profile to include the recent work and testimonial(s). Maybe write a post on LinkedIn and Medium.com about your experience. People will discover such stories at some point, which could translate into more work.
    • Try to network with established voice-over artists-  tell them that you would like some guidance from them. See if you can help them in any way as well. They will refer you to their clients if they find you professional, eager to work and to deliver well

So there. I hope this detailed guide will be helpful for anyone who is aspiring to become a voice-over artist in India. I wish you the best.

I will update this post with the following material soon:

  • How can I get trained to become a voice artist
  • What are some great learning resources for voice-over artists
  • What are the best books for voice-over artists
  • Who are some of the most famous and established voice-over artists?

If you want more details about any aspect, please comment here. If you have successfully kick-started your side hustle as a voice-over artist, I would love to hear from you.

Please feel free to share your experience in the comments here – it will benefit people who stop by here.

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