Do Voice Actors Get Residuals?

Want to know whether you can count on receiving residuals from your voice acting projects?  Here’s what I discovered in my research about voice acting residuals.

Only SAG-AFTRA union members receive royalties for their voice acting work.  However, the majority of voice actors are non-union actors who are paid a full buyout. 

A full buyout is a one-time payment that allows for the right to use the recording forever.  However, there are some steps you can take to negotiate a fair buyout amount.

Negotiating Your Full Buyout Payment – How Much Do Voice Actors Make?

Since non-union actors will not receive residuals for their voiceover work, they should be sure to receive as much as possible for their work.  There are at least four key factors to consider when setting your fees and negotiating your pay.

  1. Is the work a broadcast or non-broadcast project?  A non-broadcast project, such as a corporate educational video, will garner you less income than a broadcast one.  In general, the larger the viewing audience for the project, the more money you can expect to earn.
  2. What type of voice over work is being done?  You can expect to earn more with commercial works as opposed to narration jobs.
  3. How experienced are you as a voice actor?  As you gain experience in a particular genre of voice acting, you will be able to demand higher pay.
  4. Is it a union or non-union job?  Union jobs will obviously pay more than non-union jobs.

In most cases, voice actors are paid on a per-job basis.  The simplest way to establish your fee is to set minimum fees for each type of job you will be performing. Your rate should be spelled out on a rate sheet so that it’s clear what your rates are. (Sample rate sheet)

Another way to determine your fee for each job is to base it on the script’s word count.  Using a simple formula, you can quote your fee based on the current word count and show what the fee would increase to if additional words are added.  The formula most commonly used to calculate your job rate is as follows:  

First, calculate the total number of minutes you will be recording. [# of words ÷ spoken words per minute = total number of minutes]

Next, you will convert the total number of minutes to the total number of hours you will be recording to get your hourly rate. [total number of minutes ÷ 60 minutes = total number of recording hours]

The final step is to multiply your minimum rate (which you establish for yourself) times the total number of recording hours and you will have the rate to charge for the job. [$100 x total recording hours = job rate].

For example, let’s assume you’re narrating a book with 100,000 words; you speak at a speed of 130 words per minute, and you charge an hourly rate of $100, this is the calculation for that job:

100,000 words ÷ 130 words per minute = 769 minutes

769 minutes ÷ 60 minutes = 12.82 recording hours

12.82 recording hours x $100/hour = $1,282.00. If this amount exceeds your minimum fee, this is the rate you would charge for the job. If the minimum fee is higher, you will charge the client the minimum fee.

Another way to calculate fees is found on Kim Handy’s site. This fee calculation method is a bit more complicated than the first method described above.

Handy looks at five pricing factors to determine pay rate: (1) voice over experience; (2) your perceived value as a voice-over actor; (3) your actual value as a voice-over actor; (4) your geographical location; and (5) your hunger for voice overwork.

For each of these factors, you will give yourself a score; low = 1; medium = 2; and high = 3. Keep track of your score for each factor.

Let’s look at each of these factors a little more closely:

  • Voice over experience: when rating this factor consider the number of years you’ve worked as a voice actor; whether these years were as a full-time voice actor; and whether you’ve received any awards during your tenure. According to Handy, less than 3 years experience should rate a 1; while “making 6 figures for more than 10 years” earns you a 3.
  • Perceived value: This is how other people see you in the market. Consider your social media presence, number of followers, and reputation to make an honest assessment of your perceived value.
  • Actual value: With this factor you’re assessing how good you really are. What feedback have you received from your clients? Are you sought out by top-rated clients or small start-ups? Have you won awards for your work? Based on this assessment, rate yourself.
  • Geographical location: How expensive i the city/state/country where you live? The more expensive the location, the higher score you should give yourself for this factor.
  • Hunger for VO work: If you’re steadily booked or even overbooked, you are probably not hungry for more work. If this is the case, you will give yourself a 1 for this factor. However, if you have not booked any work for the immediate future, you are surely hungry enough to score this factor at a 3.

Now that you’ve scored each factor, you can calculate your job rate. Add the 5 numbers together and multiply by .1. A new artist may be looking at a .5, whereas a veteran VO actor will have a score closer to 1.5. Go to a guide that shows suggested rates (such as the Global Voice Acting Academy Rate Guide) and multiply that suggested rate by your calculated job rate. For example, if your job rate is .5 and the suggested rate is $500, you could easily justify charging a job rate of $250.

Advice On What To Charge For Voice Over Jobs From A Professional VO Actor [Video]

Joe Zieja explains how fees work in the voice-over industry. Voice actors charge session fees and usage fees. The session fee is what you charge just for stepping into the recording booth. The fee is charged to the client regardless of whether they use your work or not.

Usage fees take into account where and how your work will be used. The usage fee should be set in proportion to the amount of money the client could make from your voice work.

For television and radio commercials, usage fees are paid in 13-week cycles. After each cycle, the client has to pay another usage fee to continue using your voice.

Zeija discourages entering into full buyout contracts because of the potential usage fees you will be foregoing.

Zieja encourages non-union actors to mimic the fee setting methods used by union actors. The fees set by SAG-AFTRA are considered by industry standard fees.

Do Audiobook Narrators Earn Royalties?

Audiobook narrators do not usually earn royalties. The accepted practice in audiobook narration is for the voice-over artist to receive a full buyout payment. However, if a narrator is experienced and highly sought after, he/she may be able to negotiate for royalties on future book sales.

Do Video Game Voiceover Actors Get Residuals?

Actors do not receive residuals for video game voice-over work. However, in 2017, some video game developers agreed to pay voice actors “additional compensation” based on the number of recording sessions they participated in. The companies that are parties to this Interactive Media Agreement include:

  • Activision Productions, Inc.
  • Blindlight, LLC
  • Disney Character Voices, Inc.
  • Electronic Arts Productions Inc.
  • Formosa Interactive, LLC
  • Insomniac Games, Inc.
  • Take 2 Productions, Inc.
  • VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
  • WB Games Inc.

To be entitled to additional compensation, actors must be (1) a principal performer; and (2) in an interactive program. The additional compensation is paid incrementally with each recording session and maxes out at $2100 after the 10th recording session.

Related Questions:

Who are the highest-paid voice actors?

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the co-creators of South Park, are estimated to have a net worth of $500 million each. Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, earns an estimated $50,000 per episode for his voice-over work on that show.

Can you make a living off voice acting?

It is possible for actors to make a living voice acting. According to, the average monthly income for voice artists in the United States is $5,625.