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The 'Turning Point' In Your Voice
Over Career Will Be When You ...
December 21, 2017

By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor, Coach & Author

Almost every week I get emails from readers of my blogs, asking me to reveal the big secret to my so-called success. 

Why "so-called success"? Well, everything is perception, and perception is everything. We all define success in different ways. 

Before I tell you about this secret, you should probably know a bit more about me. 

As a freelancer, I work in a highly competitive and increasingly crowded field: I'm a voice-over. I talk for a living. The other day I recorded an audio tour of a gorgeous area in the North of France. The next day I was pretending to be a medical doctor, telling physicians about the side effects of a new cancer drug.

It's a fun job with many pros and cons. 


As a player in the new gig economy I have a lot of freedom, no benefits, and very little protection.

Weeks of underemployment are usually followed by a crazy busy period where I'm scrambling to finish every project I was hired to do on schedule. It's feast or famine. 

A voice actor's income can vary tremendously. Some 20-second commercials bring in thousands of dollars, particularly if you're an A-list celebrity, which I'm not. An hour of e-Learning or audiobook narration may generate a few hundred bucks (before expenses and taxes).

Most clients come and go. Very few stick around.

Although my work is not physically demanding, sitting still in a small, dark studio behind a microphone for hours and hours, isn't exactly healthy. It's also easy to feel socially isolated because my colleagues are all sitting in small, dark studios in different parts of the world.


And I'll be honest: at times the stress of being out of a job as soon as a project ends, can get to you. Work fluctuates, but bills keep coming. 

Even though I think I'm experienced and highly qualified, most of my days are dominated by the search for new clients, and by auditions. Every audition is a crapshoot. Like most of my colleagues, I try to read between the lines of vague specs and scripts, attempting to second-guess what the invisible client is hoping to hear. And most days I'm wrong, and someone else ends up getting the gig. 


Now, in spite of this sad story, I love what I do for a living, and I don't think there's anything else I'd rather do, career-wise.

I'm not a good candidate for a 9 to 5 job. I can't stand bosses who have risen to the level of their incompetence. I've had too many of them. I wouldn't want to waste hours a day being stuck in rush hour traffic, just to make some corporation happy.

I rejoice in the fact that I don't have to go to endless staff meetings or mandated office parties. Been there. Done that. 

My accountant is also pleased because every year I make more money than the year before. There's still no Lamborghini parked in my driveway, but I can live with that. And every time I book a new job, I realize that there are probably hundreds of hopefuls who are trying to figure out why the client picked that silly Dutch American with the European accent over them. 

I know… It baffles me too!


Taking all of that into account, how did I get from doing okay to doing quite alright?

Do I use a special microphone that turns my vocal folds into the Voice of G-d? Are eager talent agents fighting to add me to their roster? Am I friends with the movers and shakers of the voice over industry?

I have to disappoint you. It has very little to do with all of the above. 

Sure, I use first-rate recording equipment. I have a number of great agents and a nice network of connections. But the thing that has made a real difference in my career is not something you can buy, and it has nothing to do with other people.

So, what is it? It is a strong belief in the Law of Cause and Effect.


"Cause and effect" is the mechanism of action and reaction. Specifically, my preference to rather be at the cause-side of the equation, than at the effect.

It boils down to this: I see myself as the prime instigator of change in my life. Change through choice.

I choose to be proactive (at cause) instead of reactive (at the effect). It's the difference between sitting in the driver's seat, and being a passenger. I like to hold the wheel and set the course. 

People who share this belief are go-getters. They take the initiative. They take responsibility. 

People who prefer to be passengers are usually more passive. They tend to be finger pointers and complainers, who often see themselves as victims. They'll sue McDonald's for making them fat, or for serving coffee that's too hot.

Here's a question you can ask to determine where someone stands: 
"Do you like to let things happen, or make them happen?"

Of course I know we're not omnipotent, and that certain things are beyond our grasp and control.

My attitude only applies to the things I feel I can actually influence, and the person I can influence the easiest is … me. 

I control what I put in my body, I control the size of my portions, and I decide how much I exercise. I don't blame the fast food industry for my expanding waistline.

To bring it back to my profession: I don't blame online casting sites when my voice over career isn't where I want it to be. Instead, I ask myself what I can do to increase my skill level, to promote my services, and to attract more clients. 

Being "at cause" means being accountable for taking or not taking the necessary steps to achieve a specific goal. That's why as a voice over coach I never guarantee results. I tell my students: "As your mentor I don't have magical powers that will result in you booking jobs. I will give you tools, but it is up to you to use those tools effectively and appropriately. You are responsible for your own results."


On a superficial level my proactive philosophy may seem a no-brainer, but it's not. It is a lot easier to blame and complain, than to take fate into your own hands. 

Being "at cause" means sticking your neck out. Taking risks. Doing the hard work. Making tough decisions. Going against the grain. 

It's not an easy way out. Quite often, it's an uneasy way in.

But the moment I decided to take charge of my career and be "at cause" was a turning point in my life.

The effects of that decision have brought me to where I am today. From being a spectator, to being an instigator. From doing okay, to doing quite alright.

And you know what? You can apply this principle in any area, whether personal or professional. 
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He is also a voice over coach, author of the book, Making MONEY In Your PJs: Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs, and writes an informative and entertaining blog.


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Comments (11)
1/12/2018 at 12:46 AM
Thank you, Paul.
Tom Parker
12/30/2017 at 9:44 AM
Paul, I have so appreciated your comments over the years. John...I think you know
what is and going to happen. AI will shake this business to its core. It's already here and
sometimes hiding.
Heather Gold
12/28/2017 at 6:12 AM
I loved the article, Paul! It is sooooo spot on in every way, it's almost like you read my mind! Have a great 2018!
Naphtali Jimi Bruce
12/27/2017 at 1:50 PM
I love this because I just reached this turning point that has been slapping me upside the head for the last seven years or so, "I'm not a good candidate for a 9 to 5 job. I can't stand bosses who have risen to the level of their incompetence. I've had too many of them. I wouldn't want to waste hours a day being stuck in rush hour traffic, just to make some corporation happy." Amen
Shelly Somerset
12/27/2017 at 10:11 AM
Hi Paul,

What a perfectly written synopsis of our industry. I couldn’t have said this better myself. What you wrote actually made me feel comforted that I was not alone behind my mic, in a darkened studio. Kudos to you Paul, and best wishes to you in 2018.
jay beacham
12/25/2017 at 12:23 PM
Well said.
I'd add what a friend told me last week after I'd done a small narration part at a church Christmas program:
"You be you, cause you is good."
Be yourself.
Rick Lance
12/24/2017 at 2:14 PM
Yes, again, Paul... tell it like it is!

I read something online that I wrote into a note I keep on my desk that reads, "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door!" I love that!

Now, to be political for just a quick bit! With an even larger picture. We live in a country/democracy where the focus is on "individual" freedoms. Those freedoms can be striped away from us If WE allow them to be by way of apathy or laziness. Take part in YOUR America or we will lose it!

Ok, there... I said it. That's my soapbox statement... one I usually keep contained. But since it's the end of the year... a year of absurdity across America and the world. I needed to say it!

Thanks. Paul, for your personal relativity and for giving me some latitude!
12/23/2017 at 1:54 AM
On the mark!
Leon Trice
12/22/2017 at 4:22 PM
Thank you for putting into words what minds wrestle with. I love this crazy #Voiceover industry and will continue finding my way. You are very encouraging to me, Paul, and I thank you!
Linda Joy
12/21/2017 at 11:14 AM
An inspiring blog - as always.
"Be proactive and be on the cause-side of the equation" is a simple and powerful truth.
Thanks, Paul!
Ken Budka
12/21/2017 at 11:08 AM
Thank you, Paul. I appreciate your insights and respect your opinions. Happy holidays.

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