In today’s fast-paced world, where leisure time is scarce, there is an increasing demand for audiobook narrators capable of conveying not only the words but also the author’s intentions behind those words in a hearable format. This is part and parcel of why audiobook narrators are some of the highest-paid in the voice-acting industry today.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how a narrator’s wage is calculated and just how profitable it is to pursue a career in narration. Stick around as we offer some insights on the subject.
Independent or Employed Narrator?
The amount you’ll earn in your narration endeavors will hinge upon various factors and whether you decide to take the independent (freelance) or employed route. To illustrate further, let’s break down each category separately:
As an independent narrator, you won’t be included in payroll, and you ultimately set your own rates as you see fit. Naturally, you’d have to compete with a host of other colleagues who may surpass you in skills and experience.
Starters usually charge lower prices of up to $50 per hour minimum, though you could push towards the $100/hour mark if your client is particularly generous. As you acquire experience and a bulkier portfolio, you can start levying higher prices.
Seasoned narrators tend to charge from $200 to $300 per hour, though, depending on your reputation within the narrator community, you can set your expectations even higher.
If you manage to land weekly 40-hour gigs, your annual earnings may hover around the $100k to $200k area if you’re a beginner and $400k to $600k (or higher) if you’re years ahead in the trade.
Alas, these turnovers are only attainable in an ideal scenario. Independent narrators, especially amateur ones, hardly earn those yearly figures unless they’re a household name. Moreover, audiobook narration is still uncommon, so the odds of working 8-hour shifts as a narrator are next to none (let alone as a freelance one).
|Platform||Pay per hour*||Pay per finished hour (PFH)*||Pay per 1000 words*||Fee|
|Fiverr.com||$9-$375||$72-$3000||$12-$500||5.5% from customer|
|Upwork.com||$25-$500||$200-$4,000||$33-$670||10% from freelancer|
|Voices.com||$26-$490||$210-$3,900||$35-$650||$499 annual subscription|
|Voice123.com||$22-$615||$180-$4,900||$30-$820||$199, $395 or $600 annual subscription|
|ACX.com||$6-$125||$50-$1,000||$8-$170||Receive 20% of royalty shares or a fixed amount|
|Backstage.com||$20-$120||$160-$960||$27-$160||$30 per year, $20 per 6 months or $15 per month|
Employed narrators could expect to earn fixed rates for their work, and annual wages normally sit around the $40k to $60k range or above.
The amount that employed narrators might earn per finished hour of work could be as low as $10 and as high as $400 – $500. It rarely stretches beyond that threshold, save for a few exceptions.
What’s more, these rates are decided almost unilaterally by the agency or platform, which in turn gets a substantial portion of the royalty share in most cases. Audible’s payment structure serves as an accurate example of this, whereby they get 60% of the gross income while the remaining 40% is equally distributed between the narrator and the author.
At times, these companies allow narrators to get a larger percentage while they charge what amounts to a “fee.” In some instances, the income is distributed equally between the agent and service provider (as is the case with ACX narrators). These models blur the line between an employee narrator and a professional contractor.
Several factors can affect your net earnings, to wit:
- Finished Audio vs. Finished Hour vs. Worked Hour: Freelancers and employees who charge per finished audio or finished hour tend to be paid less than those on a “per worked hour” basis. They also must make the most efficient use of their recording and editing times.
- Equipment: Freelance narrators, for the most part, are instructed to provide their services using their own equipment, though with the advent of remote work, employee narrators are now also prompted to furnish their own home studio. This equipment will need to be of the highest possible quality if they wish to remain competitive. This could significantly affect their return on investment, especially when considering the pricing of some flagship equipment pieces.
- Recording Space: Adding to what we just outlined concerning the equipment, your ability to produce flawless high-quality audio will also hinge on the way you deal with background noise. If you record in a crowded area and can’t avail yourself of soundproofing material or insulators, chances are you’ll be required to record more takes to produce a minute of finished audio.
- Revisions: Some clients and platforms/agents won’t pay for audio revisions. Likewise, freelance narrators are also forced to offer free revisions in order to get a small percentage of the market share. This could impact your yield, for some revisions can take hours and even days to complete.
- Your Voice: Not everyone can narrate like Morgan Freeman or Patrick Stewart. People with generic vocal qualities are, sadly, treated like replaceable widgets. Also, since they don’t stand out, they will likely receive less for their narration work or be invited to fewer gigs. Conversely, if you have a voice suitable for a specific genre, the company or client may want to pay you more so that you remain with them.
Tips to Earn More as an Audiobook Narrator
If you want to have a successful audiobook narration career (and, in consequence, earn more), consider the following:
- Practice your vocal delivery: While you may not totally change your voice, you can still shape it and stretch its capabilities. This will grant you more versatility when attempting to portray several characters within one audiobook or across a plethora of projects.
- Learn to articulate better: When recording a narration track, you ought to ensure that the words you’re uttering are read accurately but without exaggerating your delivery. Lisping, whistling, and sibilance (especially when pronouncing the letters S and soft C) should be avoided as much as possible, and mouth noises must be toned down.
- Pay attention to your breathing: Master your breathing techniques alongside your articulation as they go hand in hand. This’ll help reduce any unwanted gasps and fades, as well as throat-clearing, gulping, and swallowing sounds. A professional microphone tends to pick these sounds up more diligently than the human ear can, leading to extensive post-production work and diminishing the quality of your vocal work.
- Exercise eye-brain-mouth control: When you read a text aloud, various simultaneous operations occur at the same time. Your brain processes the information captured through your eyes and sends it to your mouth, which then relays that information to an audience or receptor. This system doesn’t always work in a synchronized manner, especially if you have not developed the required muscle memory. It’s your duty as an audiobook narrator to practice your eye-brain-mouth coordination so as to lower any instances of glitching or stuttering during your narration.
- Build a compelling portfolio: Record high-quality demo reels that you can use to showcase your narration skills to clients and agencies. Then, upload them on Google Drive or a streaming platform such as YouTube or Soundcloud for easier access. The higher the quality of the reels, the loftier your rates may be.
- Boost your online presence: There are various ways to promote your services online, such as creating a channel or social media account by which you can consistently engage with audiobook enthusiasts, potential clients, and peers. Also, don’t hesitate to offer discounted prices if you land a top-level project capable of improving your reputation in the long run.