What if you could make money using the voice you were born with? Do you have a sexy, sultry voice? Are you good at all kinds of accents? Voiceover work could be your vehicle. Redd Horrocks transitioned into voiceover work a few years ago and wait till you hear how well she’s doing at it.
I’ve just introduced you as a voiceover artist, but first you ran away with the circus right?
I am a former circus-production pro, a Stage manager and technician for the circus. What caused you to drop the circus act and pursue voice work?
I had capped out at the top of my career, so I started doing voice overs. I’d always done them – more as favors for friends. It was the first thing I ever did in college. A friend was doing video game creation for his final project. He asked me to come in and do narration on the main character. He had me do this action role —what it sounded like when someone fell off of a building and did all this action. It was so much fun.
You also needed the extra income, right? Necessity is the mother of invention —or reinvention in this case!
In my 20s I was in a huge amount of debt. I needed extra income and I started narrating audiobooks. I worked in theater and had a friend who was an actress and she had been approached by a company that needed someone with a British accent. I am from the southeast of England and am British. So I did two audio books. Back then I spoke exclusively in a British accent.
You can now speak in either a British OR American accent. Please tell me —in an AMERICAN accent— how you learned to do that and how it has helped your voiceover career! I generally work in an American or British accent so that’s double the clients I can attract.
So you moved into voiceover work full-time in 2014. How many projects have you done and what are they like?
I have done a total of 35,000 projects. I do 300 a week. My range is six words to 10,000 and $5 to $500. Generally just narration. I do a lot of corporate work. I record voice mails, explainer videos, educational and instructional messages, app games, elevator messages. Everything you can think of I have done. It’s very
You mentioned $5. That’s because you do most of your voiceover work over Fiverr, the freelance marketplace where many services start at $5.
How can you make a living charging so little?
The reason why this system works for me is volume. I can do a lot of work in a short period of time. Something for $5 will take me less than a minute because I’ve really figured out how to do it. I am a really good cold reader. I can read anything accurately the first time. If I can do one of those a minute and 30 in an hour. That’s a significant amount of money. My stuff is all about volume and repeat clients. A client may pay $5 for this job and that may lead to a $200 project.
So if volume is the key, how much do you work?
I am usually in studio for 4-5 hours a day. And an hour to hour and a half of administrative work. But clients are global so have to be available around the clock. I am connected. I don’t take days off. Christmas was my last day since August. Important to me to be accessible to my clients. How I make income I have. Being constantly available means I make more money. I don’t have sick days or paid time off. So I work a lot. It’s a terribly rude question, but I ask it every time: how much money are you making as a voiceover artist?
I make over six figures. It is a very good income. I have had growth every year. First year I didn’t make six figures but maintained growth rate of 20-30% per year. How meaningful has this nice living been for you?
We bought a home. Paid for our wedding in cash. My husband is able to now be a full time student – he wanted to go back to college to be an engineer. The opportunities have been massive. We have the kind of life we never thought we could have and are pursuing what we want to do. You’ve also been able to take some nice vacations. Tell us how you funded your trip to Napa.
I paid for an entire trip to Napa for a weekend once on 78 different public service announcements on herpes. Maybe not super glamorous but lucrative.
I want to share some of your advice for people interested in getting into voiceover work. First, you say client care is crucial. Explain.
The most important thing I tell people is client care, customer care is key. You have to look after your clients. They are your number one priority. If you look at it like that and strive to do better, there’s no reason someone can’t take their skill all the way. It’s about tenacity. What sort of equipment and software do people need to get started?
You don’t have to spend big money on products to get started. I had a really barebones studio when I started. I was recording in my closet. Clothes were my dampening sound! My microphone was used from Ebay. Really good mics aren’t expensive.
Don’t use massively expensive software. You can edit on Audacity. It’s free, easy and fabulous and all I need. With voiceovers it’s all about the enclosure and the mic. There can’t be any ambient noise. And finally, what about being savvy about your fees and earnings? Put the correct value on yourself and ask for more money. You want to make everyone happy but you can’t overwork yourself for a low amount. If you accept that you have value and pursue people recognizing that value you can do so much better than settling.
I think anyone these days has to be money savvy. One of the hardest things about freelancing is budgeting but if you live within your means you are fine.
Q1: RYAN, DESCRIBE YOUR JOB BACK IN 2012.
I went to Berkley College of Music and studied the music business. After graduating, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. So I was teaching music in a preschool full time and giving music lessons here or there to supplement my income.
Q: AND, FORGIVE ME FOR ASKING, BUT WHAT WAS YOUR ANNUAL INCOME BACK THEN?
I was making about $30,000 as a preschool music teacher back in 2012.
Q: AND THEN ONE DAY —AND WHAT AN IMPORTANT DAY IT WOULD TURN OUT TO BE— YOUR BROTHER TOLD YOU ABOUT AN ONLINE MARKETPLACE CALLED FIVERR.COM. HOW DOES FIVERR WORK AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST ATTEMPT AT MAKING MONEY ON FIVERR?
FIVERR.COM is a marketplace where freelancers advertise services they will do for as little as 5 dollars. Things like voiceovers, editing resumes, graphic design and, in my case, music.
When I first joined, Fiverr was a $5 platform. It had a low initial price but other things could be built in for extra money. I started trying to do drum loops, which is a drum sound that you can play over and over. They’re popular with hip hop and song writers so you don’t have to hire a drummer. This was 2012. I still haven’t sold even one! But I signed up with that handle so I still have it.
Q: SO THE DRUM LOOPS WERE A TOTAL FAIL, BUT WHAT IMPRESSES ME, AND WHAT OTHER PEOPLE, INCLUDING NON-MUSICIANS CAN LEARN FROM, IS THAT YOU KEPT REINVENTING YOURSELF UNTIL YOU DID SUCCEED. AND, BOY DID YOU! WAIT TIL YOU HEAR HOW WELL RYAN IS DOING NOW. WHAT WAS YOUR BREAKOUT SERVICE THAT FINALLY WORKED?
There were a lot of businesses asking can you write a jingle for our business. I had studied that in college. My first jingle took an hour and I got $5. But now because I have pushed through, I have a system. To write a jingle doesn’t take me long. To write it and record it – usually takes 4 to 6 minutes. That comes from lots of practice and a tight system. Each one is customized. I don’t use templates but I do reuse elements. If something is dot com I know the last two lines will be a phone number or website. There is a structure that is followed which is more efficient than if I was going to write a new artistic song from scratch each time.
Q: I KNOW YOU’VE HAD HUGE CORPORATIONS AND ODDBALL START-UPS AS JINGLE CLIENTS… CAN YOU GIVE US A FEW EXAMPLES TO INSPIRE OTHER PEOPLE WHO MIGHT WANT TO FREELANCE AS CREATIVES.
•I did a jingle for the Freakanomics podcast. They were doing an episode on products you think are good for environment that are not.
•I was in Time Magazine with Zoey Deschanel! I lead off with that so it sounds way better. Joel Stein who does the Awesome column, he got in touch with me and I thought it was a joke. He said I am doing a story about outsourcing your life. Could you make me a jingle? So I did write one for him. Line was” I sit listening to vinyl and conjuring up images of Zoey Deschanel.” Was a ukulele reference.
•Most inappropriate and funniest project was for a company called Stick a Dick. They made gigantic pink penis stickers for people who parked like a dick. You stick it on their windshield and they peeled off in tiny fragments. I wrote a jingle for that!
Q: SO YOU WERE ALREADY DOING WELL WITH JINGLES —I CAN’T WAIT TO REVEAL WHAT A NICE LIVING YOU MAKE FOR YOURSELF NOW— BUT THEN YOU PIVOTED AGAIN. AND I THINK PIVOTING TO GIVE CUSTOMERS WHAT THEY WANT IS AN IMPORTANT LESSON FOR OUR LISTENERS. WHAT CAME NEXT?
Next people said “can you put my jingle on YouTube?” So I learned animation and video editing platforms. Then the same buyers said “if we sent you a voice over with script could you turn it into a video?” They wanted to diversify their marketing.
I realized I could bundle music, marketing and video and built it up to doing animated jingles or white board videos with characters or visuals and also explainer videos. It’s the same idea but instead of music it’s talking.
Q: OK, SO I KEEP HINTING THAT YOU MAKE GOOD MONEY NOW. DON’T TELL US HOW MUCH YET. BUT DO TELL US HOW YOU MAKE MORE THAN 5 DOLLARS ON FIVERR. PEOPLE WHO WANT TO FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS NEED TO KNOW. IS IT THE VOLUME? IS IT THE FACT THAT MANY GIGS GO FOR MORE THAN $5 EVEN THOUGH THE SITE’S CALLED FIVERR? OR WHAT?
Last month I did 62 explainer videos and 49 jingles and one instrumental. Cost depends on how intricate they want to go. Sometimes I sell the full band or extras where you can build a package. One today is 30 seconds and $270. That is the whole shebang. And that will probably take me 15 minutes to do.
Q: OK, SO REMEMBER, 5 YEARS AGO, RYAN WAS MAKING $30K A YEAR AS A PRESCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER. RYAN, HOW MUCH ARE YOU MAKING NOW WRITING AND PRODUCING JINGLES AND MARKETING VIDEOS?
Now on Fiverr alone I do $30,000 a month. Within the last year it has really picked up – year 4 was over 5 figures per month consistently. I also work outside of Fiverr with local businesses in my community now. Doing all those Fiverr projects gave me the portfolio I needed to land that outside work.
Q: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO CREATIVE PEOPLE WHO THINK IT’S NOT POSSIBLE TO MAKE A LIVING DOING WHAT THEY’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT?
I have turned my passion into a business and it doesn’t feel like work. I have the freedom to travel, set my own schedule and open a business with my wife. Look for ways to take what you love doing and make it into a practical product that businesses will buy. At first I thought I would be selling Happy Birthday songs to individuals, but things took off when I created something businesses needed and wanted.
Q: OF COURSE, NOT EVERYONE LISTENING IS A MUSICIAN, BUT YOUR EXPERIENCE APPLIES TO ANYBODY WITH CREATIVE TALENTS. YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WOULD LIKE TO USE THOSE CREATIVE SKILLS TO MAKE A LIVING ONLINE. YOU SAY:
Be time-efficient. Create systems to make the work easier/faster, like I did.
Create a “gateway” service. This is the one that gets people in the door. Do a good job and you can then sell them bigger projects.
Follow the 10,000 rule. To become an expert you have to devote 10,000 hours – make mistakes, learn, and then you have more clear vision.
Be patient. Tortoise and the hare. So many people get excited and go out and do it and have drum loop failure like I did. Don’t quit! Keep reinventing yourself.
You can do what others do, but do it differently. Lots of people offer jingles on Fiverr. But I would say to clients – I will have this back to you in 24 hours. That was faster than other people. That made it possible for me to get orders from clients who needed it immediately and that was different.