Start a voice-over service by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your voice-over service. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a voice-over service?
One of the best ways to keep your costs down when starting this business is to create a home studio. If you have space in your own home, you can create such a studio for $5,000 or less. This cost assumes you already have a computer and merely have to purchase things like professional recording and editing software, a pop filter, a microphone, and an audio interface. If you purchase a separate computer for the office, you should budget $2,000 for this purchase. You may want to professionally soundproof your studio, but this is not necessary to record voice-overs. Beyond the costs of the studio, you may want to budget $2,000 or less for advertising. This includes creating a professional webpage and social media presence as well as some modest local advertising via radio and newspaper. If you wish to lease a separate building to create your office, these opening and ongoing costs can go up dramatically: even a small studio can easily cost $30,000 a year to rent, and for the money, will likely not provide a significant improvement in quality over a home studio.
What are the ongoing expenses for a voice-over service?
One of the best features of a voice-over business is that there are almost no ongoing expenses. Once you have your equipment in place and are working in a home studio, you should not have to upgrade for years, nor will you be paying a monthly lease and utilities. You may choose to spend $500-$1000 a month on traditional advertisements, but once you have demos in place on your website, most of your pitching to potential clients will occur online, and will cost nothing except $250 a year or less on website hosting charges.
Who is the target market?
Despite the possible diversity of your work, your best clients will likely be mid- to large-size businesses. This is because such organizations will typically be in need of training videos for their many employees, and such businesses are likely to become a steady source of revenue for you.
How does a voice-over service make money?
On the most basic level, a voice-over business makes money by charging clients to record voice-over material. It is up to you and your business whether you wish to charge by words read, hours recording, or simply charge for entire projects based on their size.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you can charge is typically based on the exact services offered. For instance, you may charge between $250-500 to record an hour of a lecture or other educational presentation in which you are doing simple narration. That price may jump to between $1000 and $2000 per hour of recorded presentations, training videos, and so on. You will typically bill clients by the hour, but different projects will be divvied up differently: one hour may cover a single lengthy lecture, but it could cover dozens of short instructional videos. In some cases, you may be re-recording what someone else has already recorded, meaning you will be doing some transcribing as well. Remember to anticipate the non-recording time (such as reading, transcribing, editing, and so on) that goes into each recording session and price your services accordingly.
How much profit can a voice-over service make?
The exact profit you can make with this business is up to how much you charge and how much work you get. For instance, there are instances of extreme profit such as a woman who makes a minimum of $9,000 month doing voice-over gigs she finds on the website Fiverr. While you will ideally have steadier clientele and higher-paying gigs, the overall idea is the same: to do as much work as possible for as many clients as you can find. The ability to do this work from home means that you can easily record day and night if you need to, which may just be the key to you turning this into a six-figure job.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Don't be afraid to actively inquire about voice-over needs at companies that you already do business with, allowing you to leverage a pre-existing relationship. You may also seek businesses putting videos on Youtube that do not have an announcer or narrator—if they have many subscribers and videos, then they have a built-in audience and a built-in need for your services. Finally, don't underestimate the power of social media—aggressively advertising yourself and networking with others via services like Facebook and Twitter can easily lead to your next big break.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Voice-Over Service Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your voice-over service is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a voice-over service. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Voice over businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your voice over business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Certificate of Occupancy
A voice-over service is run out of either a commercial or home recording studio. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a space:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a voice-over service.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a space:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your voice-over service will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market a voice-over service
As mentioned before, you should advertise via traditional venues such as radio and newspaper as well as your own website and social media accounts. Another great way to market yourself is to record a variety of demos that you can feature on your website. This allows potential clients to know what they are getting and helps showcase your diverse skills.
How to keep customers coming back
One way to attract customers is competitive pricing. Find out what the going rate is in your region and price yourself in such a way that companies may be enticed into trying the new person. You may also consider advertising yourself via Youtube—this is a newer way of attracting clients and building your brand via videos that may go “viral” and help establish you. As for retention, just make sure you are giving 110% percent to each job—the industry has a lot of repeat business, so getting it right the first time with a client can often lead to many more opportunities.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Voice-Over Service In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
It's no surprise that a voice-over business is ideal for those who are naturally good speakers. This may include people who have experience giving prepared lectures (such as teachers) as well as people who often have leadership roles in their work environment. This is because confidence is one of the most important parts of your voice-over delivery, no matter what the assignment.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a voice-over service?
Part of any given day for a voice-over business is for you and/or your employees to be providing the voices required based on scripts you have received. Other daily activities include receiving the scripts and interpreting the client's needs based on that script. Communication with the client before, during, and after the assignment is also crucial to making sure you get it right the first time. Skilled voice-over artists may also spend part of their days practicing different deliveries, intonations, and even accents to ensure that they can provide the whatever voice a client needs.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful voice-over service?
Any previous voice-acting experience can be helpful when it comes to this job. This may include producing advertisements for TV or radio, or even making your own recordings for Youtube. On top of the voice-acting itself, any experience you may have had in a recording studio can help you know which equipment you need and what kind of setup you will need for your own equipment.
What is the growth potential for a voice-over service?
The growth potential for a voice-over business is good. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics groups voice actors in with the field of acting, which itself should experience a ten percent boost between 2014 and 2024. And, things like the aforementioned training videos will only become more important as more jobs are either outsourced to oversea workers or part-timers as part of the “gig economy,” necessitating clear training videos for new workers who may be unfamiliar with a company.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a voice-over service?
Start networking with local and regional businesses right away in order to start a working relationship with them. Take the time to develop a catchy logo to help you build your brand as you get started. Finally, go for as many kinds of work as you can—you may develop a specialty later, but when starting out, it's important to explore all of your options.
How and when to build a team
Many voice-over businesses are one-person teams. This is because it helps keep the overhead low and ensures that the business does not have to split any profits that come in. Plus, the ability to work from home means that you can get a lot of work done for many clients on any given day. If, however, you are regularly having to turn down work because of too many existing commitments, you should consider building a team. However, unless they will use your studio or they have their own, keep in mind that building a team will necessitate the extra investment and overhead of leasing a separate business space.