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'I'm Not Making The Voice Over Progress
I've Hoped For. What SHOULD I Be Doing?'

December 1, 2015

Want help from one of the top voice actors in this business? Star VO Joe Cipriano has seen and experienced it all in a career that he's propelled from teenage DJ to one of the most sought-after voices for network promos, commercials, live announcing and more. Based in L.A., and with a sincere desire to lift us all, Joe debuts ASK JOE, a periodic exclusive column on VoiceOverXtra, in which he answers your questions. To 'Ask Joe,' write:

By Joe Cipriano
Voice Actor and Voice Over Consultant

Dear Joe,  

I’ve been pursuing voice over for 5 years. I’ve taken classes and worked with coaches and I take their input seriously. I try to do everything they have taught me, but I’m still not making the progress I’ve hoped for. What SHOULD I be doing? - Desire Progress


Let me answer this with a recent experience I had.

I’ve lived in sunny Los Angeles since before my kids were born and I realized about 10 years ago that I hardly EVER went to the beach. It’s only 15 minutes away from our home but I wasn’t getting there to enjoy it.

So, I started a new tradition. 

I started to go for breakfast every Sunday (usually at Shutters Hotel) and often I end up spending the entire day there, reading a book and renting a bike to cruise around. I found that I really loved the time to read and just observe.  

One thing I noticed over and over again sitting on that beach chair on the sand, looking past the bike path towards the ocean, were the different types of people out and about exercising. Some were riding bikes, like myself, other people were on skateboards, Segways (although I can’t put that under the "exercise” heading), those three-wheel recumbent bikes, or roller blades.   

The people on rollerblades were particularly interesting to me, and there were two distinct types that stuck out. First were the ones who struggled and tried so hard. You could see how tense they were and how they were locked into watching their feet, concentrating on each stroke - but they were barely getting any speed whatsoever.

They were working so hard and seriously, they weren’t getting anywhere fast. 


Then all of a sudden, I noticed what could only be described as a study in perpetual motion.

Other rollerbladers were laying down some serious mph! They were moving so fast, and were able to seamlessly weave in and out of the slower traffic. 

But the most amazing thing was that they didn’t seem to be putting any effort into it whatsoever. They were loose and fluid, so relaxed and tranquil, yet they were constant in their motion. 

These people move effortlessly, obtaining great speeds and have such control of their bodies, yet it’s all so beautifully smooth and efficient.

They seemed as if they could go on for hours like that, barely touching the ground, while the others who were working so hard at every stroke, hyper focused on each movement, were completely exhausted and had barely gone a half mile.   


The people who made it look so easy, who seemingly put out very little effort, obtained the greatest success at their task. 

What a lesson it was, and you could relate that to almost anything in life, but especially to our profession.

As I sat there on my beach chair, I thought of the many voice over artists I’ve learned from in the past, just by watching them work. They were so unbelievably good, without displaying effort. 

They were able to glide through a script with ease and with purpose. Their confidence was addictive, the simplicity of their art was impressive.   

Sure, you could say it’s a matter of "talent” in those examples, both on the bike path and in the recording booth. I could agree with that to a certain extent.

But let’s assume something else. Let’s assume that the individuals are equally talented, those who are working so hard, trying so desperately and the ones who barely break a sweat. They have both taken the classes, done the workshops, and invested in the gear - but one seems to relax into the task and exceed at the highest level while the other one falters.  


Let’s be the voice over artist who rises above the effort.

Stop yourself from ruminating on the training bouncing around in your head, and stop focusing on the step-by-step instructions. Slow down, take a deep breath, and instead, start to trust yourself.

Feel the confidence of all of your years of workshops, seminars and conventions. Believe you’ve got this. 

Relax into the knowledge that your unique perspective on this piece of copy will bring out something from the written page that no one else can do quite the same as you.  

When we can achieve that kind of ease and confidence, we become the voice over artist who reaches new heights, weaving in and out of the mental roadblocks. That’s when we do our best work.   
Joe Cipriano, awarding-winning voice talent and author, draws upon over 25 years in voice over to offer Career Consulting services to help voice actors sift through the advice to find what works best for them - to set obtainable goals and develop a well-organized plan of success. "One of the most rewarding things I do is to help people move their careers forward," he says. "I get energized when I’m able to guide someone toward a successful plan of action and offer personalized advice on building a successful career in voice over.” His services include "Ask Joe Career Forums" and private consultations.

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Comments (8)
Scott Chapin
12/14/2015 at 7:32 PM
Great advice Joe, to sum up as Keith Richards said: "When you think, you stink"
Lynn Benson
12/7/2015 at 12:42 AM
It is a great thing to have you here sharing. Insight. One of the other great things we experience when something like your column is presented is the comments that also give insight and inspiration.

Reach for the sublime.
Amy LaDeroute
12/3/2015 at 7:25 PM
Thanks for this, Joe. I try very hard to get it right...... and sometimes you can just overthink everything.

Joe Cipriano
12/2/2015 at 6:52 PM
I love these comments...thank you so much Bobbin, Susan, Kurt and Debbie. Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season. Big thanks to you John Florian for the opportunity to pen this column on a continuing basis.
Bobbin Beam
12/1/2015 at 9:01 PM
Hey Joe,
I've enjoyed the positive message here. Bottom line: Perfect practice, perfectly.

I just heard an excellent quote this evening from football announcer Larry McCarren; "Potential is interesting. Performance is everything."

Even after 25+ years in the business with greater and lesser successes in my wake, I'm still working at it all the time. Working to get better. Happy Holidays!
Bobbin Beam
Susan DeMay
12/1/2015 at 12:21 PM
Excellent advice Joe!!! I sure hope you'll be coming to speak to our new class soon. You were such an inspiration the last time your were here. P.S. I have two CSB mugs stashed in my office for you and Ann!
Kurt Feldner
12/1/2015 at 9:48 AM
Thanks, Joe for your thoughts this great question. I'm in a similar situation & have noticed exactly what you've said:
1) I feel & sound so much better after having returned to the mic after a vacation - I'm relaxed;
2) When I purposely tell myself "I've got this" and "be confident," the read sounds much better - noticeably different. I think if we tackle the confidence issue, the relaxed attitude will no doubt follow.
Debbie Grattan
12/1/2015 at 9:42 AM
I love the advice here. Relaxing in the knowledge, skill and talent one possesses can feel effortless. However, when we observe anyone doing anything "effortlessly"- whether gymnastics, ballet, playing pro sports, water skiing, acting or roller blading, we forget about the amount of practice and determination it took to get to that point. The failure, and the will to do better next time. For some, it takes less time, if there is a natural gift. For others, no matter how much practice, success can be elusive - especially in the competitive world of acting and voiceover.

And being "good" isn't even all you need for success (aka booking work, or making it a career). Sometimes, the best talent can be passed over because it isn't represented properly, there is no website presence, there is no marketing plan or follow through with current clients.

There are so many facets to making a successful career out of VO. While the talent part is important, it is often just the tip of the iceberg in creating a viable daily living.
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