Getting Started in Voiceovers- The legalities

Jan 04, 2014

So you wanna get into voiceovers?
  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have the greatest voice in the world to work in voiceovers, sure it helps; but it's not necessary. In fact, some of the best known voices, out there, have some kind of speech affliction (lisp, stutter..etc). To be a successful voice talent all you need to do is make the story believable; make it sound like you're an expert in what you’re talking about, even if you haven’t the slightest idea in what it is you're saying: Just tell the story.
  There’s an array of categories available in the voiceover realm; narrations, audiobooks, commercials, on-hold messages, childrens material, medical material and so on. Can you do characters? What about production, do you have any interest in that? Production is the addition of music and/or sound effects to your voice recording for a finished project

First the legalities: 

  • Do you have a name for your business?  After all, you’re looking to start a voiceover business and you’ll need a name for that business.  Write down a few ideas then research your choices and make sure that no one else is using the same name, even if it’s just 1 or 2 letters off (especially if you plan on using your name). Having a similar sounding name, with someone else, could easily prevent you from getting voice work.  Once you’ve got a name picked:
  • Apply for a federal tax ID number (  Probably the most important part of the process.  Your tax ID number is just like your SSN (Social Security Number) only it’s for your business.  When dealing with clients they’ll ask for your tax ID, if you don’t have one they’ll ask for your SSN; and with the way things are these days, people are leery about giving out their SSN (for fear of identity theft). If you choose not to supply your SSN…your chances of working won’t be successful.
  • Register with the state.  Getting your business registered is important, it tells the state that this is the name you’ll be operating under and would prevent anyone else from trying to register that name for themselves.  How will you register?  ‘Sole-Proprietor’ might be good to get you started; then there’s ‘Doing Business As’ (DBA)?  Maybe incorporation is a way to go.  Check with your accountant to see what’s best for you:  Yeah…lol.  You’ll need one of those, too (an accountant).
  • Check with your financial institution (bank, credit union…etc). While not a necessity, at first, check with your bank about opening up a business account (checking/savings/business loans).  Find out what their requirements are; if they have fees or require minimum balances.  Sure, you can use your personal bank account but when the hundreds of millions of dollars start rolling in you might want to consider a business account.  Paypal is a good idea, too or any other form of electronic payent; open up a Paypal account under your business name; you can link it to your bank account so you can transfer money from Paypal to your bank account- electronically.  There’s no minimum balance required, on Paypal, but they do charge a percentage for most transactions- which is tax deductible.  Down the road- you may want to look into accepting a credit card as a form of payment.  And finally:
  • KEEP A RECORD OF EVERYTHING.  I can’t emphasize this enough- COPY EVERYTHING. Applications, bills, receipts, certificates, agreements…EVERYTHING; and not just electronic copies...physical copies, as well. PRINT IT!

  It’s important to get the ‘legalities’ taken care of because it establishes your intent on operating as a business and it creates a footprint that can be easily defended should the need arise.  Any money that you spend to accumulate equipment and any other ‘business related’ expenses can be listed as a deduction on your taxes (including any classes or seminars you attend).  Do you plan to work out of your house?  Your mortgage/rent, internet; telephone bills and a portion of your utilities can also be deducted.  Let your insurance company know that you’ll be operating a business out of your house; this way, if there’s a unfortunate circumstance- you’ll be covered.  If you’re going to rent space- then all of those expenses are tax deductible, as well.

by Rich Brennan