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Voice Actor: Why Do You Love
This Roller Coaster Business?
 
By Mahmoud Taji
Voice Actor
 
Notice I didnít ask why you "like" or "admire" or even ďare fond of" voice overs. 
 
I said "love" because it seems to me that most of the people I have dealt with in the voice over industry ďloveĒ the business they are in.
 
Why is this so?
 
SOMETIMES, RESPECT!
 
Recently a client had made amendments on an IVR I had recorded for him.
 
They had added a company to their IVR system (a second company), so they wanted to add the new company to the system.
 
But the way the gentleman was talking to me Ö it was like I was a rock star. He treated me like Talent, with respect, appreciation and regard.
 
It was odd, to tell you the truth, as usually I have to deal with casting agencies that will peddle the job to the lowest quoting VO out there. That makes me feel anything but talented, and miles from appreciated.
 
WHY THE LOVE?
 
So do I love this business? 
 
The truth is, I donít, not all the time. There are times when itís 4 a.m. and I have a delivery the next day and Iím so tired I canít see straight.
 
Iím not in love with being a VO then.
 
There are times when the script is so bad that I hate myself for accepting the job in the first place.
 
There are times when I have dealt with casting people who have made me want to take a shower from how slimy and gross they are to deal with.
 
So no, I donít love being a voiceoverist then.
 
BUT OTHER TIMES ...
 
Of course, there are the other times when things just work, things just happen.
 
You land a big client and you know things are going to change.
 
I am not the typical kind of human. I canít go to a 9 to 5 job every day knowing that I will be doing exactly the same thing as yesterday.
 
That is why I gravitated toward the creative side of advertising. New challenges. New ideas. New ways of looking at something.
 
Iím good at that. It is a chore sometimes, but in the long term I love being different.
 
I'M VERY LAZY
 
Itís true. I would rather work on a 30 or 60 second TV commercial than on a 1,000-word narration for the same price.
 
Itís just human. And Iím very human. I like getting paid more for doing less.
 
KEEP YOU COOL
 
Is it weird that Iím being this honest?
 
Actually, weíre all more or less a very straight-forward bunch. I have more of a temper than most, but overall I can keep my cool when my client is being an ass.
 
Itís even worse, of course, when your clientís client is being the ass, because you know it isnít the middle manís fault and you might not be able to communicate what the problem is to the end receiver.
 
WATCH THE HOURS
 
How many hours do you work per day?
 
See, thatís exactly the point. Sometimes it seems you can work less and make more.
 
Or instead of doing a 9 to 5, you work two hours in a day and make the exact same amount of money.
 
THE REALITY ...
 
But itís never really like that, is it. 
 
You might get a long narration job, which takes two hours to record and then another two to edit and then you send it Ö and then corrections come back and you go back into your studio, and so on and so forth.
 
You can easily pull off 10 to 12 hours a day if you donít pace yourself.
 
Some get so excited about being so in demand they could easily burn themselves out., and end up voiceless for a week.
 
THE ROLLER COASTER
 
Take everything in moderation.
 
You will experience ups and you will experience downs.
 
You will deal with the good and the scum, even amongst your peers in the industry.
 
We arenít all philanthropic angels. But the thing about this roller coaster is the simplicity of the thrill. Get in the car and hold on for dear life. Thatís how I see it.
 
Why do you love this business?
 
ABOUT MAHMOUD ...
 
Mahmoud Taji is a voice actor based in Cairo, Egypt, specializing in Classical Arabic, New Standard Arabic, many forms of Colloquial Arabic (Egyptian, Shami and a little Khaleeji), bilingual Arabic / English text, and translation services. His voice is heard worldwide, from web promos to eLearning modules about Islamic banking and finance, travel documentaries for cities in Italy, promo videos for Brazilian oil conglomerates, and more. He has a degree in journalism and mass communication, is creative director at a Cairo advertising agency, and publishes the lively and informative blog, Tajiís Voice Emporium, which includes a VO Directory and Scam Alert; and the Voiceover Pavilion, a "Directory For Everything Voiceover."
 
Taji's Voice Emporium: www.voiceemporium.com
Voiceover Pavilion: www.vopavilion.com
 
 
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Comments (5)
BP Smyth, Narrator
8/3/2010 at 9:16 AM
Mahmoud,

You hit the nail on the head. Voice over is a fickle business along with being extremely competitive. It seems that every Tom, Dick, Harry, Sally and Sue are in the business and that we are all going for the same gigs. Who really knows what the deciding factor is in selecting the winner for the project? Like you say, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

We are all artists painting portraits with our voices, and like most artists, starving for more commissions with the dream of hitting the "big time" some day.
Mahmoud Taji
8/3/2010 at 6:07 AM
Nicely Put, Paul,

I do see that trend with clients asking for more and offering less ... and unfortunately, I have experienced situations where the clients picks the lowest bidder for the job.

It's very much like that scene in the movie Armageddon where one of the crew has gone mental and starts saying that they are in a rocket powered by 35,000 tons of explosive fuel built by the lowest bidder.

On another note, I too get a rush from the amount of information I absorb from some of the more technical jobs. For a geek like me, that is pretty sweet.

Taji
Dana Abram
8/3/2010 at 2:38 AM
Beautiful article. I think we can all personlaize it!

Bravo Taj!!
Daniel Wallace
8/3/2010 at 2:20 AM
Excellent article, Mahmoud. It felt like you were describing my thought on VO.
paulstrikwerda@rcn.com
8/2/2010 at 9:34 AM
You took the words right out of my mouth, Taji! This isn't really a profession. It's a passionate pursuit; a magnificent obsession.

I totally subscribe to the "do more with less" attitude. I do see one area where the "less is more" philosophy can seriously backfire. Is it just me, or are clients increasingly asking us to do more for less?

We might value our time and our talent, but is it reciprocated? And are we - as professional colleagues - willing to support one another by upholding certain minimum standards and fair rates? Or are we giving in and selling out to the lowest common denominator on sites like fiverr.com?

I'll give you a penny for your thoughts!

Why do I absolutely love what I do? Right now, I am working on an audio book that takes me through 20th European history, philosophy, politics, culture and economy.

Even though the bulk of the book is in English, I get to read German, French, Dutch, Polish and Italian quotes. And as I am immersing myself in the lives and times of the main characters, I have a feeling that it will enrich my listeners as much as it is enriching me.

This project fills me with a tremendous sense of pride, and I feel truly privileged that I am able to use my voice to reach out to people and touch their lives, even in the most modest of ways.

What we do for a living is just a means to an end. That end that might be a new beginning for someone else. Spread the word!
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