IS Your Voice Over Career 'Stuck'?
Here's How To PUSH Yourself Forward
April 27, 2016
By J. Christopher Dunn
Do you know that YOU are your best investment?
If you feel "stuck" in your voice over career, perhaps you don't know how to make an investment in yourself pay off. All it takes is a push.
Are any of these scenarios too familiar?
SCENARIO 1: NO MORE BOOKINGS
You wake up each morning with a feeling of dread. Itís been several weeks since your last booking and youíre starting to question your decision to be a voice actor.
A part of you loves the idea of working with clients who value your talent and trust that youíll bring their script alive with believable feeling and emotion. The other part of you is nagging about bills, groceries, gas for your car and family responsibilities.
Sitting in your studio, you ask yourself, "What am I doing wrong? I donít know what to do. What should I do?Ē
Yet you do nothing. You are stuck.
SCENARIO 2: COMFORTABLY COMFORTABLE
For the past two years, youíve had a steady income from clients who give you repeat business and referrals. Your day is predictable with scheduled times when you walk into your studio and when you leave for the evening.
You are comfortable, since any job that comes your way is easily handled. The type of work you do is normally the same every day. Youíve found a niche and are performing well within its boundaries.
You often fret about what would happen if your repeat clients took their business elsewhere. Yet, marketing or doing anything besides walking into a booth and recording, then handing off finished audio, is considered by you unnecessary.
Youíd like to reach out to new prospects. But you do nothing. You are stuck.
SCENARIO 3: NO WORK LEFT UNDONE
At night, you find yourself exhausted from working a 12-hour day that included four sessions, one almost 2-hours long. Following that were five auditions and four hours of editing and preparing invoices for completed bookings.
Finally, you sent quote request responses and marketed to prospective clients.
This is a typical day and you work hard to maintain this performance level. You are a success. But it means working nonstop with very little of yourself left to give to anything else.
Friends and family invite you to take a break and have some fun. Your son reminds you about his basketball game. Your daughter personally invites you to her choir concert. Youíd like to attend all that youíve been invited to.
But you do nothing. You are stuck.
WHAT'S YOUR STICKING POINT?
The feeling of being stuck in your career can be intense or barely noticeable. The need to push forward takes on many faces, and each one may be perfectly obvious to an outsider and totally obscure or ignored by you.
As a business owner, pushing forward to Ďwhatís nextí is important to the growth and success of your business.
The three instances above of being stuck are probably the most common, and the scenarios for each are on the extreme side, I admit. And each scenario requires us to push forward in a different way.
TIME TO PUSH YOURSELF
Getting past the sticking point is the beginning of the push.
What follows is a look at ways to get unstuck and the positive benefits of moving forward. Itís time to push yourself.
1. Send an S.O.S.
Starting your day bewildered and not knowing how to improve your business is stressful.
So donít waste time processing your feelings of failure. Doing so will not get you where you want to be - a busy, productive, well-paid professional.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Many professionals have been at the same exact place you are right now. But what do you do to get past the morning dreads?
Be ready to work. When asking for help, you are looking for somebody to provide assistance, suggestions and guidance.
Donít expect somebody to do the work for you. Nobody can. You need to take the responsibility and ownership of this process to benefit from the positive outcomes.
A mentor is a good start - someone you can talk with about what youíre currently doing. They may be able to identify problem areas that youíre too close to, to sort out yourself.
Your skills as a talent, business acumen, marketing approaches and more are all worth examining.
2. Push Out of Neutral.
Becoming complacent in your career as a voice talent is more dangerous than it seems on the surface.
You have consistency with clients youíve worked with for several years. Bills are being paid. Your income is at a level you can easily maintain.
Work is effortless and the process is automatic. Script in. Audio out. Itís been this way for several years. Congratulations. But ...
3. Be Limitless.
Regardless of what others say about professional limitations, your opportunities to push your comfort envelope are limitless.
Continuing to listen to what others are calling fixed boundaries keeps you from discovering the stuff youíre made of, and prevents you from taking risks.
Playing it safe is easy and preferable to many. But risk is less about being an adrenaline junkie and more about discovering yourself.
For instance, maybe you're focusing on a single genre of voice over. If commercials are your specialty and youíre doing well, why consider doing anything else?
Well, what if you push yourself to audition for documentaries or character voices and find that you like them as well? Thereís even the possibility your performance is more human and closer to who you really are.
Sticking with one genre or style of work could create that stuck feeling. Always thinking about the other possibilities but never taking them on leaves many opportunities untried.
If trying something new requires you to learn, all the better. Continuing education is one sure way to make you more marketable. The increase in what youíre able to handle makes you more valuable.
Push yourself out of your cushy performance comfort zone!
4. Take Care Of YOU.
Taking care of your primary asset has to be at the top of your needs list. Without you, there is no business. And without the business, there is no income. Without income, there is no survival.
Working 10+ hours a day and most of your weekends to meet client needs satisfies exactly one side of the talent and client relationship. Spending vacation time working is great for your clients, but probably not exciting for the people youíre with.
Ideally, you want to work with better-paying clients and clock fewer hours.
Being stuck in a mode thatís counter to this will shorten your career as a voice talent or at the very least, make it less enjoyable. Managing clients so you get time to rest your voice and mind is so important. Vocal health should be a primary consideration.
Take care of yourself. Set hours during the day when youíre available to clients. Let them know what your availability is.
Push yourself to stick to a healthy schedule. There are people in your life who genuinely want to spend time with you. Restful nights of sleep and eating a healthy diet are important for keeping the talent machine that you are, running in A-1 form.
5. Earn What You're Worth.
The rate card youíre currently using may be keeping you from making the kind of money you set out to make.
This push begins by evaluating your client load. Are you at full capacity and turning work away? Or does your schedule have room to fill with work?
The goal is to work less while earning more. Itís not a bad thing, and if most people had the choice, theyíd work less for more money and not more for less money.
If your skills are top-notch and your business practices are sound, but youíre not attracting clients, try adjusting your rates down incrementally or find ways to add value. Youíre looking for a noticeable improvement.
Or perhaps a new marketing approach is whatís needed. If you keep doing the same thing, youíre going to get the same results. Change it up!
On the other end of the spectrum is working a full schedule and turning work away from existing clients or refusing to take on new clients. What a great Ďproblemí you have. You are set for a rate increase.
This is scary territory for some who fear losing clients. But thatís OK because you are looking for clients whoíll pay what youíre worth. Those who donít see your value will find someone else. New prospects who understand what you have to offer and like your talent will pay your rate.
6. Build Your Confidence.
After youíve made a change that moves you outside your bubble of comfort, a couple of positive things happen.
First, you realize that taking a leap into the murky unknown was not as bad an experience as you'd thought.
You learned something along the way, maybe picked up a new skill. Most importantly, you discovered something about yourself.
Second, youíre now better prepared to deal with feeling apprehensive. Remind yourself that you made it through the change and are better for it.
Even results that didnít turn out the way you wanted, or expected, can have value.
The key is not to give up on yourself when things get crazy. There will be bumps along the way. Youíre making a change or trying something new, and it feels awkward and unfamiliar.
If you ditch your efforts early, youíll never learn to navigate. Understanding the navigation of change is what brings about success.
7. Set Your Own Standards.
Why follow the pack when you can set your own standards?
Youíve seen and heard many times things like,
When you hear, "Thatís the way itís done,Ē youíve received a signal, loud and clear, for you to challenge what others are accepting as the norm.
Do not be afraid to push forward with your radical ideas. The success or failure of those ideas will never be known if you donít push forward with them!
Pushing forward is constant. Like the hands on a clock, each is always in motion but at different speeds. The rate of push is less important than the act of moving forward. Sometimes it takes baby steps to get to Ďwhatís next.í Other times, youíll find a smooth, paved superhighway with clear signs to follow.
Keep moving forward.
WHAT TO REMEMBER ...
The moment you are comfortable is the precise time to find ways to push yourself.
Moving out of your comfort zone can take many shapes. A small change can have huge results.
Boost your confidence with every push. That feeling you get when change has a positive outcome can be repeated and become easier to repeat with every new push.
The negative results of pushing boundaries are valuable, too. You will learn along the way. Discard what didnít work. Keep what did. Persevere.
ABOUT J. CHRISTOPER
J. Christopher Dunn is a professional voice actor who lives in the Pacific Northwest close to Seattle. He voices commercials, web demos, podcasts, product demonstrations, telephony projects and documentaries. His voice is described as friendly, warm and trustworthy - the guy next door or the voice of high profile corporate presentations. He also spends time with the Penn Cove Players, a Whidbey Island, WA troupe that performs original audio dramas, as we all as recreates old time radio shows in front of a live studio audience.
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