Bettye Zoller Reflects On How VO Careers
Have Many Seasons - And Reasons To Renew
July 19, 2016
By Bettye Zoller Seitz
Voice Actor and Coach
After a voice over career spanning all genres for more than 40 years now, and having started many other's voice over and acting careers through coaching, I've come to realize that this job (yes, it's a job!) - just as all careers do - has seasons, changes, periods of activity, some rich, some poorer, but the continuum continues if one wishes it to.
Instead of dreading these changes or career ebbs and flows (or worse, trying to ignore them), it's much better to roll along make the most of them. Grow through what comes your way!
So here are the periods as I see them, reflecting on my experiences. Your career path won't be identical to mine, naturally, but I'll bet there are correspondences. Here we go:
1. Newcomer just beginning: Get trained.
Don't skimp on your education, and never try to "wing it." Good classes and teachers are everywhere. Investigate. Don't settle for sub-standard.
And don't make a demo that's sub-standard because, believe me, first impressions never go away! People form an impression of a newcomer immediately.
Watch your demeanor and social media presence too. The whole package counts.
2. Do not cast yourself in "one lane, one light" at the beginning.
To illustrate: Do not say, "I am primarily a character actor," or "I excel at comedy," or "I only want to voice videogames."
Don't limit yourself. A producer who takes you at your word may only consider you for work in a comedic vein or only in videogames.
Those who insist on only comedy, cartoon or videogame work lose lots of jobs!
When I was starting out, a very wonderful agent told me I was concentrating too much on character voices and celebrity impressions, and said that I was cutting myself out of straight announce, tags, serious narration work, other bookings if I didn't do a new broader approach demo.
Note: The author was also a popular vocalist! (pictured)I followed her advice. So glad I did!
3. Mid-career doldrums: Re-create yourself whenever possible.
Perhaps do a stage role or TV roles to let people see you in a new light. Maybe you're a singer. Show that skill.
Keep making new demos - and the niche demo, especially, is so vital.
A very wise and very successful colleague told me, "When you're new, producers and agents covet you because you're a breath of fresh air. Everybody seeks "newness."
But then the new wears off and you're dumped with others in the larger talent pool. That's the vital period in which you must appear somehow apart from the rank and file.
This may be accomplished with a new voice approach that you can demonstrate, or a new character imitation or a different type of demo - you decide.
A producer in New Orleans, a powerful agency creative, once told me, "I'm so weary of the male talents in this town. I've used them all and I need new blood."
If you're tried and true, romance those who have used you and convince them they haven't, 'used you up.'
Oh - and always remember that, "Out of sight is out of mind." Network in person and on social media and every other way you can think of! Just as those who are selling products, you must stay before the public to have people buy you!
4. Familiarity breeds contempt ... or so the old saying goes. But this need not be the case.
When you've 'been around awhile,' friendship counts. People love to do business with people they LIKE. Make sure people speak nicely of you and do likewise.
As you age, enthusiasm may wane unless you're careful to keep involved and enthusiastic.
Some people respond to having younger people around them. Try it. Stay engaged. Do some pro-bono charitable work for free. It gets you "out there" and does good at the same time.
6. Engage in new activities, not necessarily not in the acting field.
Cut out people and activities that are time wasters. Stay positive and think young.
We all age differently. If you feel tired, incorporate a short nap in your day. Perhaps traveling to events is too hard on you. Travel might not be wise at this stage of your life. Staying close to home can have its advantages. Cultivate producers and clients in your home base area.
7. Cultivate your digital world and your home studio.
Do not be discouraged if you find that audio engineering is not really your strong suit. But everyone in today's business must have at least a rudimentary knowledge of recording at home.
That's the beauty of a voice career. It need not slow down with the years. We hope, of course, you've tended to your audio engineering skills because those are a must in today's world.
8. Get busy learning more about home recording! Get that studio at home built if you've not done so yet.
It need not be expensive. Small will do. Seek advice and use it.
All towns today have some sort of courses in recording/engineering. Enroll in a couple of them. At least, the folks you meet will be interesting and you'll make new friends!
Get active in local organizations where you can learn from others. Take advantage of the resources online in this area. Search VoiceOverXtra's archive, a goldmine of information on just about every VO subject under the sun!
The time may come when retirement is the answer. Say "good bye" gracefully and choose something new and move on. But perhaps, like some, you need not ever retire. As long as your voice is still good, go for it.
Take care of your instrument. It's delicate!
So, that's my summation of periods and seasons, in my voice career so far. Hope it helps you adjust to new changes.
Everything old is new again!
Bettye Zoller Seitz is a multi-award winning international voice talent, audiobook narrator and trainer. Winner of Clio, Addy, Golden Radio and many other awards, she coaches individuals and conducts workshops and seminars at her Dallas studio.
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