When Alice Everdeen started freelancing as a voiceover artist in March 2020, she worked under a laundry basket lined with a mattress topper.
The contraption, meant to block out sound, worked well enough: In her first full month on freelance services platform Fiverr, her side hustle made $3,500, Everdeen says. That's what she made monthly in her full-time job as a content manager at a dietary supplement company in Austin, Texas, she adds.
"I'd get home from work and maybe work four hours every night," Everdeen, 31, tells CNBC Make It. "I was able to work less and make the same amount."
Everdeen says advertising agencies gravitated to her voice, which she describes as "warm" and "inviting." Her next four months of freelance work continued to match her full-time job's income — so she decided to quit and pursue voiceover work more fully in July 2020.
In her first month of full-time voiceover work, Everdeen booked 41 projects. In July 2022, she completed 181, and now makes up to $15,000 per month on the platform, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.
She records for companies like Amazon, Southwest Airlines and OnlyFans — and only works three to five hours per day, she says. Last year, she earned more than $102,000 in total income.
Her earnings have largely gone toward renovating a new office: a refurbished school bus that Everdeen and her boyfriend bought for $7,500 at a local auction to fulfill their dream of traveling the country.
Everdeen's first voiceover gig wasn't planned. In 2018, she was working for an advertising agency that wrote an ad script for a local Austin car dealership. She read the ad aloud to the owners, who decided they didn't want to hire an actor for the official recording: They liked Everdeen's voice.
She recorded 10 voiceovers for the ad agency, and leaned on that experience when she joined Fiverr. The freelance side gig was only meant to help Everdeen earn extra cash while renovating the bus.
"I didn't expect to make more than a couple hundred dollars per month," she says. "But in April , I had a 'holy s---' moment. I was matching my take-home income."
It took Everdeen a couple of months to become comfortable recording voiceovers full-time, she says. She was competing directly against seasoned actors who voiced popular cartoon characters, and as impostor syndrome set in, she sought out voice coaches who charged roughly $150 per hour to teach her voiceover basics.
Their advice actually lost Everdeen business: After she started taking lessons, she booked fewer projects and was told she sounded "too robotic," she says.
She reverted to her natural conversational style and business came roaring back. With practice came confidence and efficiency: She says she can now record a 30-second spot in three minutes, down from 20 minutes.
"I can take on a lot more work in the same amount of time," Everdeen says.
Everdeen and her boyfriend have spent the last two and a half years renovating their 156-square-foot school bus — an $80,000 project largely funded by her voiceover income. Her boyfriend, a tradesman with expertise in water irrigation, has been primarily responsible for building out the inside of the bus.
She says they didn't want to spend the rest of their lives behind desks, and bought the bus because it was larger than a van and easier to customize than an RV. "We feel like we've made it as adults by our standards," Everdeen says. "We want to follow our dreams rather than we're told we should do."
The renovations will be complete on September 5, Everdeen says — meaning she'll soon be able to work inside the bus in her pajamas from anywhere in the country. Fiverr does all her advertising for her, so she doesn't have to spending time sourcing clients or auditioning for gigs.
The trade-off: The platform takes 20% from every order. Competing platforms like Upwork charge a smaller percentage for projects priced over $500. Everdeen says she doesn't mind the fee, which is one example of many unexpected lessons she's had to learn since taking on her new gig.
"I went into this so blind — I didn't realize I was becoming a business owner," she says. "I wasn't only the CEO, I was the head of marketing, I'm the head of HR."
For now, Everdeen says business is good — at least enough to cut down her workload by an hour per day or more once the bus is ready, to enjoy traveling. Her advice for anyone hoping to jump into similar work is, ironically, to do exactly what she did: chart their own path.
"There's a very specific path in voiceover you're supposed to follow, but I didn't do that," she says. "I bought a used USB mic on eBay and my first recording set up was $30. I was able to make it work because I was good and passionate about my job. People will tell you, 'You have to spend thousands to [be successful]' but that's not the case anymore. The internet has totally transformed so many career paths."