Navy veteran runs voice-over business from home
By RAMON RIOS | The Northwest Florida Daily News | Published: May 11, 2019
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — What does a retired naval flight officer and former Navy Choir director do after serving his country? Join a barbershop singing group? Check. Sit in his patio and enjoy a nice Irish whiskey in the evening? Check. How about voice-over recordings from a walk-in closet in his bedroom? Still doing that.
John Harnish, owner of Harnish Voice Overs LLC, has spent the past nine years recording his voice in his Pace home's closet studio.
He admits that his recording space — among his shirts, slacks and shoes -- is a bit unusual.
"I like it in here," Harnish admits of his closet/recording studio. "It has great acoustics and the clothes and pillows in here help with the sound quality."
Harnish said his first experience making money with his voice was at the University of West Florida in the early 1970s. He would record radio announcements for WCOA-AM while he finished his degree in communication arts. After graduation Harnish began his military career.
After retiring from the Navy, Harnish returned to Milton with his wife Jan and settled down. One day after a church service, a member of the congregation asked him if he had ever done voice-over recordings. The parishioner who had asked also owned a casting service, paving the way to Harnish's next career.
"I don't know if it's a career or more of a hobby," Harnish says.
His first love is singing. He is a member of the Pensacola Bay Harmonizers, a barbershop harmony-singing group as described on their Facebook page.
Harnish has many voice-over credits. Most of them are "short-form jobs," which are 16- to 30-second commercials or political ads that can pay anywhere from $200 to $400 an hour. Short-form jobs typically take Harnish about 30 minutes to complete but it depends on the project. The pay also depends on whether the project is a Screen Actor Guild (SAG) union job or a non-union job. A SAG job has standard rates for each type of job and pays more than non-union projects.
Long-form jobs can last for hours and pay less. Harnish has a one-hour documentary to his credit that he did for Iraqi television through a United Kingdom company called Whisper Audio. For this job, they wanted an English voice-over for the entire documentary so viewers could have their choice of languages. It took 12 hours of work to complete one hour of finished documentary work. That job paid $900 for the entire project.
The third market that Harnish concentrates on is audio books. He has six to his credit so far.
"It takes anywhere from four to eight hours for one hour of completed audio book recording," Harnish said. "Then you have to figure out how you want to charge it."
Harnish said he can take a lump sum hourly wage of a few hundred dollars or receive royalties that pay in perpetuity, meaning he receives a check as long as the recording continues to sell. Up to 50 percent of the purchase price is paid back in royalties, Harnish said.
Harnish says he could make a very good living from voice-overs if he put all his time into the work.
"I still love singing. When I give that up I may devote more time to the voice-overs," Harnish says with a grin.
Then he leans over and whispers in a different voice, "He will never stop singing," and chuckles.
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