In 2017, I used to be 29 years old and making $30,000 a yr as a church music director and personal music teacher. My husband was a middle school music teacher, and made $48,000 a yr.
With two children — each under 4 years old on the time — and $80,000 in combined student debt, we struggled to maintain up with our funds.
But I’m in a much different place today. Switching careers to change into an audiobook narrator has modified my life immensely. I now herald six figures a yr, and we’ve got only $10,000 left on our student loans, thanks partially to the coed loan forgiveness plan.
I get to do my dream job from home and spend more time with family in our cozy home, perched on a mountaintop in Northern Virginia. Here’s how I did it:
I graduated with a master’s degree in vocal performance in 2014, with hopes of becoming an opera singer. But between the low wages and unpaid artist programs, I began to feel discouraged.
I considered going back to high school to check dental hygiene or medical sonography — anything with a good salary that will higher help me support my family.
As I commuted to my church music jobs, opera rehearsals and personal lessons, I’d hearken to audiobooks to pass the time, often for 3 or more hours a day. I’ve all the time been an avid reader, and particularly enjoyed audiobooks. I loved the comfort of a well-recognized voice keeping me company, telling me a story.
Sooner or later, it occurred to me that recording audiobooks may very well be an actual job for me. So on a whim, I Googled “The right way to change into an audiobook narrator.” I learned that audiobooks were considered one of the fastest-growing mediums in publishing, and that almost all were recorded by voice actors in professional-grade home studios.
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Audiobook narrator Natalie Naudus in her home recording studio.
Photo: Natalie Naudus
I used to be thrilled at the concept all of the things I loved about opera — the stories, the acting, the gorgeous words — could still be a component of this recent profession.
Once I brought the thought as much as my husband, I used to be nervous about investing money right into a brand recent business. But he was supportive instantly.
So I purchased about $300 of kit and, in only a number of weeks, we arrange my first home studio within the hallway closet.
I landed my first few book jobs through ACX, a platform that connects narrators with authors, agents and publishers. I began working with independently published authors, then began traveling to industry events to get my name and voice on the market.
In 2020, with the cancellation of all in-person events within the wake of the pandemic, I put my energy into constructing my Tiktok and Instagram accounts, giving audiobook fans glimpses into my life as a narrator.
I had this vision of showing people how sexy and silly this job might be — and so they loved it. As my content went viral, my audience grew. Book gigs from publishers began pouring in like never before.
I used to need to send quarterly emails to producers in search of work. Now producers I didn’t even know were emailing me, mentioning that their friends had sent them my videos. Creating a web-based presence has been among the many best things I’ve done for my profession.
Today, I work about 40 hours per week, divided between recording, paperwork, and pre-reading and researching upcoming books. But that won’t all of sudden, or necessarily in a 9-to-5 schedule. I’ll often record and answer emails throughout the day, then prep-read a book in bed at night.
The pliability is useful, since the physical rigors of recording an audiobook might be intense. Often, for five hours a day or more, I’m sitting sitting completely still in a tiny room, dividing my attention between reading accurately, performing passionately and listening for noises, from outside or contained in the booth.
Luckily, my classical singing background trained me to make use of my voice for long stretches without strain, while still delivering emotion and nuance.
Being within the performing arts taught me the way to network, and it also gave me a thick skin, which helped me move on quickly from auditions that did not go well, and rejection on the whole, especially at first.
Audiobook narrator Natalie Naudus and her husband Don, in front of the house they in-built Northern Virginia.
Photo: Natalie Naudus
In my third yr as a voice actor, my business began bringing in six figures, which felt so significant to me. It was an unimaginable number in my days as a contract musician.
Typical rates from major publishers start around $225 per finished hour of audio. Included in that hour is pre-reading the book, researching, recording the book, after which recording corrections once the book has been proofed for accuracy.
Over five years, I’ve recorded nearly 400 books. The expansion in our income from my profession change allowed us to buy land and construct our mountaintop house, in addition to my upgraded recording booth.
It was a difficult decision to present up my opera dreams. But when I hadn’t left it behind and brought this likelihood, I would not be where I’m today.
Now I even have a profession that I like. I’ve met and change into best friends with so a lot of my fellow narrators. I’ve financed and built a wonderful home with my husband. And I even have the pliability to spend time with my amazing kids.
I feel like I’m finally writing my very own story, and it feels really, really good.