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Get Rich Doing Voiceovers!

...then again, maybe not.

"But Dave", you say, "don't those voice actors on animated shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy make six figures or more?" Some of them, certainly. The voices of principal characters like Homer and Bart, or Lois and Peter, do make serious money.

On the other hand, you've got actors like Maggie Roswell. Unless you're among the twelve people on Earth who have never seen a Simpsons episode, you've probably seen Maggie's name in the end credits several times. She's provided many voices on the show, including Maude Flanders (wife of Ned) and Helen Lovejoy. Surely having even a supporting role on TV's longest-running sitcom is enough to ensure a superbly comfortable living, right? Think again:

 

Prior to the 11th season, actress Maggie Roswell left the show after a contract dispute. She had reportedly been making only $1500 an episode, even after 10 years on the show. To add insult to injury, Roswell lived in Colorado and was being forced to commute to Los Angeles out of her own pocket.

The network offered her a measly $150 extra per episode, which wasn't even enough to cover the cost of air-fares. Roswell balked. "I wasn't asking for what the other cast members make," she said. "I just wanted to recoup all the costs I had in travel. If they'd flown me in, I'd still be working."

 

$1500 may sound like a lot, but not when your minor character(s) can easily be absent from any given episode. (It's worth noting that her initial departure prompted the writers to kill off the character of Maude.) Also, it's not as if Maggie was a rookie; she'd been appearing in TV shows and movies for over twenty years before getting the Simpsons gig. 

She did eventually return to the show in 2002, so she presumably was able to work out a more equitable contract. Still, it's safe to assume that her salary didn't approach the seven-figure sums of her more famous costars.

It's been estimated by longtime voiceover pros that only 5% of voiceover artists (everyone from animation actors to narrators to radio-imaging folks) will ever make "serious" money in this business. To some degree, this mirrors the SAG statistics which state that about 10% of actors make about 90% of the money. That's not to say that this business doesn't provide a comfortable living for many; there are people who are doing quite well voicing commercials, promos, narrations et al. in relative anonymity and are quite happy. For each of those, however, there are many more who are struggling, fighting for gigs, maintaining a day job while trying to get to the "next level" of their VO career.

There's money to be made, or not made, in this business. Either way, you'd better be in it for the love of the work. Me? Still head over heels with no plans to stop. 

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Very good stuff.

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