Audiobook Vs Voice-Over Narration: Which One Is More Profitable

Audiobooks, podcasts, audio magazines, video courses, and audio courses are becoming more and more popular since 2010. Nowadays almost every person on the planet owns a smartphone, tablet, computer, or MP3 player device, and can take his/her own audio product collections everywhere.

This boom in the audio publishing industry has created a big need for more talented and qualified narrators to keep up with the current needs of the market. The question for beginner narrators is: Which one is more profitable?

Whereas audiobook narrators get paid from $139 to $230 per finished hour, freelance voice-over narrators make from $10 to $150 per 150 words ($0.2 – $0.67 per word). Experienced audiobook narrators working through labor unions tend to have frequent and fair-paid projects, rather than freelance voice-over narrators, who can have a more flexible schedule but depend much more on marketing their work.

In this article, I present the latest update on fees and criteria to become an expert narrator for audiobooks and voice-over audio products:

  • What’s the Difference Between Audiobook Narration and Voice-Over Narration
  • Current Audiobook Narration Fees
  • How to Become an Expert Audiobook Narrator
  • Current Voice-Over Narration Fees
  • How to Become an Expert Voice-Over Narrator
  • Hacks for Bringing Organic Traffic to Your Voice-Over Gigs

What’s the Difference Between Audiobook Narration and Voice-Over Narration

The voice-over world has two main paths that I classify as long format and short format voice-over projects. A professional narrator can work comfortably on any of those formats, as there are some standard skills required for both types of projects.

Thus, those little differences between them are the ones that make narrators work on one path or the other, according to their personal preference and time availability:

Let’s take a look at some more details about each type of format.

Current Audiobook Narration Fees

  • Audiobook narration is a long format voice-over project for people who enjoy reading for long periods of time (4 – 8 hours per day, five days per week)
  • It requires commitment and persistence from the beginner narrator to become an expert
  • All narrators can choose to work per finished hour (PFH) or by receiving shared royalties with the author. That’s rather common among beginner narrators when being cast by new talented authors
  • Talented beginners or experienced narrators are directly offered a 13-weeks contract to record several projects (from $17,000 to $33,000 15 finished hours per week expected, which is 30 acting hours on average)

These are the current fees for audiobook narrators who join a labor union:

Rate PFHRequirement
$155After having performed more than 4 audiobooks
$210After having performed more than 14 audiobooks
$225After having performed more than 60 audiobooks
13-week contract
$17000 – $33000K
(depending on experience)
* 15 finished hours per week expected (30 acting hours on average)
* This contract is also available at 2/3 of the weekly ours at 2/3 of the base rate
12% on top of the narrator’s compensation, paid by Audible
  • SAF-AFTRA’s requirements for ACX:
    • $225 PFH for a Pay for Production project or
    • $100 PFH stipend or advance on a royalty share project

How to Become an Expert Audiobook Narrator

  • A beginner audiobook narrator is someone who has recorded at least 4 audiobooks
  • An intermediate experienced audiobook narrator has recorded 14 or more audiobooks
  • An expert audiobook narrator has recorded over 60 audiobooks
  • Beginner narrators need to create a portfolio as fast as possible. One way is to volunteer to record audiobook material for the blind, as well as create demos of all types of fiction and non-fiction

Source: SAG-AFTRA Foundation

See more details in this post

Radio (Audio) Drama Voice Acting

Radio drama has always been a great example of voice acting. In many cases, drama voice actors are professional film and TV actors. This type of production features sound effects and a soundtrack, which is called sound design. It makes the story much more appealing and fuller of details that stimulate the listeners’ imagination.

A great example of voice acting drama is The Sandman (Produced by DC Comics and Audible).

  • The fees for radio drama voice actors are similar to the ones offered by the labor unions ($155 for beginners, $210 for intermediate experienced narrators, $225 for experienced actors)
  • Higher narration fees can be achieved by actors who are already film and TV series stars
  • Voice acting projects also require long recording sessions: 6 -12 hours per day or until the production team is satisfied with the necessary takes for every character and chapter

Current Voice-Over Narration Fees

The average gig for freelance narrators goes from $10 for beginners to $150 for experienced narrators. The level of expertise, talent, the number of works recorded, and the status of being a freelance or union voice-over narrator, determine how much a voice-over narrator makes.

Voice-over narrators work mainly on short formats such as radio and TV commercials, corporative recordings (instruction manuals, company videos), and video game characters.

  • The most common project is 50 – 150 words, where beginners charge $10 – $15 and experts charge up to $150
  • Freelance voice-over narrators like offering their services on platforms like Fiverr and Upwork
  • Being a beginner voice-over narrator in Fiverr and Upwork can be highly discouraging if there isn’t a social media marketing campaign

How to Become an Expert Voice-Over Narrator

Long or short voice-over formats have many things in common. Just as with audiobook narration, as a beginner voice-over narrator you need:

  • Commitment and persistence to gain experience and grow your portfolio
  • Create demos on a wide range of styles
  • Keep an organic traffic campaign on social media until you get frequent orders and returning customers
  • Respond to any messages and welcome your customers as soon as you receive every order

This is what you need to go from beginner to expert in Fiverr:

LevelNumber of OrdersEarningsAccumulated Time as a SellerMinimum Rating
Level 1 Seller10$40060 days14.7
Level 2 Seller50$2,000120 days4.7
Top Seller100$20,000180 days4.7

This is what you need to go from beginner to expert in Upwork:

LevelNumber of OrdersEarningsAccumulated Time as a SellerJob Success Score (Minimum Rating)
Rising TalentAs many as possibleBelow $1,000Have been active in the past 90 days100%
Top Rated2 or more different clients

4 or more different contracts
$1,000Your first hire must be more than 90 days ago

Rising Talent status at least 13 of the past 16 weeks
Top Rated Plus1 or more large contracts$10,000 or moreHave been active in the past 12 months90%
Expert-VettedAvailable by invitation onlyOver $10,000Over 12 months90%

HACKS for Bringing Organic Traffic to Your Voice-Over Gigs

  • Create an account on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Make sure the link in the bio is the URL of your gig(s)
  • Post at least twice per day including an audio clip of your demos
  • Focus on what days and times of day bring the most traffic. After two months, you will have the tendency of your target audience
  • Keep posting until you get 50 – 100 likes per post
  • You will see your first orders in the first three months
  • After 10 sales, the platforms will start moving your gig ads to the first pages
  • Don’t expect to jump to the first page with only 10 sales
  • Make sure you reply to any messages and welcome your customers as soon as you get the order
  • Keep your customer informed of the process

Click Here to Learn More About Requirements, Labor Unions Fees and…

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