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Rethink Rejections: What Are You Doing Wrong?
And What Voice-Overs Should YOU Be Rejecting?
November 6, 2018

By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor

There are many scary words in our language, the scariest being the word "NO."

A close second is the word "rejection," which basically means the same thing. Today, I'm going to zoom in on that word, because I believe the voice-over community needs more of it.

What?

Yes, you've heard me. We need more rejection. And before you reject that idea, please hear me out.

NEWCOMERS: NO GUARANTEES

For newcomers trying to make a name for themselves in this competitive business, rejection is the worst that can happen. They've (hopefully) invested a lot of time and money in training and equipment, and feel ready to start playing the game.

Subconsciously, many are convinced the world owes them.

Why? Well, when you make a serious investment, you should expect a decent return, right? That's only fair.

Unfortunately, there is no fair in voice-over casting. There's talent, training, experience, luck, who you know in the business, and subjective selection. None of them will guarantee any work.

So, when a novice starts auditioning for everything under the sun, and lands exactly zero jobs in three months, it feels like a slap in the face. Over time, they may start suffering from a gloomy condition I call rejection dejection, a feeling of failure caused by perceived incompetence. 

WHY WE NEED MORE REJECTIONS ...

Now, if that's the result of rejection, why do I believe we need more of it? I'll tell you.

1. People set themselves up for failure, and they deserve to be rejected

If you were ever in a position to cast a project, you know what I mean. You can throw at least half of the submissions out because the audio quality is appalling. Snowball microphones, egg crates, and leaf blowing neighbors can't compete with pristine professional audio from someone who knows what s/he's doing.

A quarter of auditionees don't read the specs, and can't be bothered to follow instructions.

A quarter sounds fake and inauthentic, and many don't know how to price their services. They're either too cheap to be taken seriously, or too expensive to be competitive.

How do I know this? Because I've made all these mistakes! I simply didn't know what I didn't know without knowing it.

The other day I was listening to some of my old auditions, and I was embarrassed. No wonder I didn't book anything.

But did I go on Facebook to moan and groan? No way! The only thing I could do was up my game, and rejection was the kick in the pants I desperately needed. In short, rejection separates the wheat from the chaff, and can give people a strong incentive to learn and grow up.

2. It's OK to reject auditions and projects

The discussion about rejection almost always focuses on the poor, powerless voice-over, being a victim of the whims of a demanding, mysterious client.

I'm not falling into that trap of misery and self-pity.

Over the years I have turned the tables, and have come to see myself as the one doing the rejecting.

It's quite simple: On any given day, I receive invitations to audition, and projects to record. Most of them I reject.

I believe that quality, not quantity, is the secret to winning auditions. The client does not pay me to learn on the job, so I will only accept projects I know I can handle in terms of my skills and the time I have available.

I also reject projects that advocate unethical practices or promote products I cannot stand behind. For instance, I don't want to be associated with the weapons trade, climate destruction, human rights abuses, the meat processing industry, and political parties whose ideas I cannot support. I know this has cost me work, but having principles comes at a price.

Lastly, I reject working with clients, corporations, or businesses that have been shown to act unethically. A particular Canadian Pay-to-Play comes to mind.

What's the result of all this rejection? It's the fact that I do work that I can be proud of; work that makes me happy.

If that's something you want, I advise you to warmly embrace rejection!

3. We need to reject low rates, cheap clients, greedy Pay-toPlays, and lowballing "colleagues"

Audiobooks are booming, video games are making billions, streaming services are producing more and more original content, eLearning is in high demand. I'd say the opportunities for voice-overs have never been better.

That's why so many want to give it a try.

But in spite of these opportunities, many colleagues I talk to are finding it harder to get decent work for decent pay. Some of them end up doing more for less because the cost of living is going up and bills need to be paid.

Agents dealing with clients tell me that it's harder to negotiate a good rate, and that almost every client wants an unlimited buyout without paying for it.

Meanwhile, new voice casting services are opening their virtual doors, hoping to do good business with low rates and high commissions.

It seems the gradual commoditization of our industry is in full swing.

The big questions is: how should we respond to that? I think the answer lies in - you've guessed it - rejection.
  • Be proud of your pricing, and reject rates that are insultingly low.
  • Reject companies that triple dip, and leave you with less.
  • Reject undercutting "colleagues." Educate them, just as you educate your clients about fair fees.
  • Reject the lowballers that say: "One bird in the hand is better than two in the bush." That's based on shortsighted, egotistical thinking. It's not a way to carve out a sustainable career that can feed a family.
  • Reject the notion that your decisions do not make a difference. Every time you quote a project or you accept a fee, you send a signal to the market: "This is what I believe my work is worth."
The only reason clients are getting away with paying pennies, is because people agree to work for pennies. No one is forcing them at gunpoint.

Now, you may have all kinds of reasons why you feel you have the right to work for a low rate, but I'm not interested in reasons. I'm interested in results. And the result is that for many it's become harder and harder to make a living as a full-time voice-over.

Do all of us a favor and stop competing on price. It's a game you will lose, because there's always an idiot willing to do more for less, and go bankrupt in the process.

Show some self-respect, and show some respect for your craft and your community. Start competing on added value.

Prove to the client that you're worth what you're asking. Because if you do things right, your added value will always be higher than your rate!

Now, if that's an idea you reject, I'm afraid can't help you.
----------------
ABOUT PAUL
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.

Web: www.nethervoice.com
Blog: www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice

Making MONEY In Your PJs: http://makingmoneyinyourpjs.com

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Comments (2)
JD
11/6/2018 at 7:33 PM
Always controversial. Always actionable. Always excellent.
Thank you, Paul.
James Conlan
11/6/2018 at 10:41 AM
Well, Paul, that about sums it up shortly and concisely. Thanks for this timely reminder to all of us. One question remains: who is going to come out and definitively describe what the "particular Canadian Pay-to-Play" is up to. Many of us are going strictly on hearsay.
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