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How To Make Lemonade 
When Life 
Throws You A Bunch of Lemons

By Maxine Dunn
Voice Actor & Solopreneur

We're all going to go through challenging times in our voice over business: times when customers leave, cash flow slows, we have to move and try to conduct business during the upheaval, equipment breaks down at a crucial moment, or some other stressful event takes over. 

If you're running a voice over business (and are a human being), there will be times when keeping your business going seems all but impossible. 

You can sometimes feel almost incapable of keeping your thoughts focused on day-to-day business activities and client relationships when you're feeling frightened, depressed, overwhelmed, or totally frayed at the edges. 

And you ARE your voice over business. You can't just call in sick and hand your responsibilities off to someone else.

This is especially true for you if you're a voice actor and creative entrepreneur because your business, quite literally, IS you.   


I'd like to give you four pillars of strength that you can use when life throws you a bunch of lemons. These are ideas that you can use before, during, and after a particularly stressful event - whether business or personal. 

And these pillars are: 
  • Before it happens. 
  • While it's happening. 
  • Right after it's happened. 
  • Moving forward after adversity with power and focus.  

Acknowledge that there WILL be times when things don't go your way, you'll make mistakes, or have to deal with circumstances beyond your control. Trust that you will have the strength and wherewithal to deal with these inevitable occurrences. 

Start paying attention NOW to your systems, your organization, your communications and your business practices.

If you work day to day to make your business run as smoothly and efficiently as possible, you'll reduce the amount of dilemmas that are bound to appear. 


Make every effort to keep this event in perspective. Don't blow it out of proportion and think of it as the end of the world. 

Force yourself to slow down. Stop rushing. Breathe. Don't panic. 

Reframe the stressful event to reduce its emotional impact. For example, instead of seeing it as a huge mountain to overcome, visualize it as a pile of gravel that you'll be able to sweep away and handle easily.   

Allow yourself a meltdown or two. A really good cry is like a pressure-release valve and can make you feel much better. And calmer.

Put a time limit on your meltdown, though. Cry for a while if you need to, but then shake it off and get back to thinking in a productive and constructive way. 

Don't let the negative emotions take over so you become completely helpless. Don't be afraid or hesitant to ask for help and support from your friends and loved ones.

And accept help when it's offered. Don't think you have to "go it alone." 


As quickly as possible, focus on the very next thing you can do to improve the situation - no matter how small. It might even just be a phone call. Breathe, and focus on "the next indicated thing."  

Take a moment to dissociate and objectively analyze the situation.

Step "outside yourself" and look at the situation as if you were an observer, looking in from the outside, almost as if you're watching a movie. This helps you get a different view of what's happening. 

You may notice as you watch yourself that you've been impatient, unprepared, disorganized, had unrealistic expectations or been procrastinating, and perhaps one of these has contributed to the situation.

Or you may also discover that you've unnecessarily taken on someone else's issue as your own. 


Try to look at the situation objectively and think what you could have done differently. 

Find a creative diversion for a while. Dance, sing, read, write, color in a Mandala or a coloring book. Go for a walk or spend time in nature. Watch the bird feeder or the aquarium. Delve into the right side of your brain for a little while. 

Write a list of your accomplishments to remind yourself that you are capable, accomplished, and strong. Remind yourself that this situation is temporary. 


Immediately look for "the seed of equivalent benefit." (A Napoleon Hill term.)

In any adversity there is always something you can learn, something positive that can result, a lesson to be learned or a better way of doing things. Look hard to see the positive (it's there!) that can come from this situation.  

Take an honest look to see if this was a one-time event or if it's a recurring problem.

If this stressful situation is something that occurs over and over, it's an indication that there's a flaw in your systems, approach, or communication that needs to be addressed. Determine if there's a habit you need to change, a way you could communicate better, or if you need to be more organized or learn new technology. 


Decide to let go of the pain of what didn't work out or the mistakes you made or the stressful exchange you had with someone else. Forgive those who've hurt you and forgive yourself for not being perfect.

Release the past and turn towards the future with renewed optimism.  

Take time to do something helpful or kind for someone else while you're recovering from a bad time yourself. Get out of your head and walk away from the immersion in your problem by giving your time, your love, and your wisdom to someone who needs it. 

We're all going to experience bad times. Stressful times. Times where we just want to cry.

But if you take these experiences step by step and walk yourself through the difficulties with your eye on creating a positive outcome, you'll feel so much better, much faster than you expected.  
Maxine Dunn is a full-time voice over artist, author and award-winning motivational business writer. Her voice has been heard in commercials, documentaries, corporate narrations and voice-mail systems, and she maintains an extensive clientele locally, nationally and internationally. Maxine is a British native, and her ability to also deliver a perfect American accent gives her business a wide range. She is the author of the eBook, The Voice Actor’s Tool Box – Beginner’s Edition. Get started in your voice-over career with these step-by-step, low cost strategies, a comprehensive manual for launching a business in voice overs. She also offers a free weekly newsletter The Creative Business Advisor, where she provides business success advice, motivation and resources to voice actors and creative entrepreneurs.

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Comments (7)
Philip Banks
6/11/2013 at 12:21 PM
I myself personally am offering seminars to VOs in both New York City and Los Angeles - "How to double your income from VO in 2 years." No takers so far as there is NO MIC time and when the learning finishes the doing starts ... We're VOs, we DON'T do!!!
Edge Studio
6/10/2013 at 2:43 PM
Maxine, really great blogs. There have been so many articles as of late dealing with your sort of issue, the decline in the VO marketplace, and the constant “low-balling” of pricing. Since Edge Studio is a company that places an extremely high emphasis on education, we find that sometimes diversification or broadening one’s horizons to another genre of expertise sometimes is the panacea ailing VO actors need. Click here for our listings:
Maxine Dunn
6/9/2013 at 7:31 PM
Hi everyone, I’m so pleased that you’ve found this helpful! And Philip it’s funny that you should mention a weekend conference. I’m in the process of putting together a teleseminar series and this will definitely be one of the topics discussed.

And BP, I just wanted to respond to your comment directly. Keep your chin up my friend. Things WILL get better. There will be slow times in business, but I believe there are always steps right in front of you that you can take to improve your situation. In fact, when work slows down it can be a great time to reassess what you can do to create fresh energy in your voice-over business.

I’ve looked at your website and listened to your demos and you have such an amazing voice and wonderful delivery! The feeling I get is that you just need to do a few tweaks of your marketing materials and do an organized marketing push to get the work flowing in again.

For example, contacting past clients for testimonials and placing them on your website is a very good idea. Prospective clients always like to see that others have worked with you and have experienced great results.

You could also create separate demos for commercials, narration, etc. and have a variety of spots on each demo. And updating your demos is always a great excuse to get in touch with everyone you’ve ever worked with and to reach out to brand new clients.

Even if you’re feeling stuck, rest assured that it’s temporary and that things WILL improve. And I’ve found that massive action is always the best antidote for a slow period. Here’s an article I wrote that I think will also be helpful for your voice-over business:

Wishing you the best!

Philip Banks
6/9/2013 at 8:06 AM
I think there's a valuable weekend conference topic in the above. The information was wonderful food for thought, but the real value is in how Maxine did it, has done it and continues to do it.

VO people waste countless dollars on going away to study things which they may never be asked to do. Going through a rough patch and coming out of the other side will be asked of all of us.

So, drag Maxine off to a hotel room somewhere and learn something ... No, there's probably a better way of putting that!
Amy Weis
6/7/2013 at 10:22 AM
Wonderful, inspiring words, Maxine! What a great sense of perspective; before, during AND after those moments of,! that can often knock the wind out of us if we let them! This article is a "keeper'....because I KNOW I'm gonna need it!
BP Smyth
6/7/2013 at 8:02 AM
Excellent advice, Maxine, and quite timely for me, I might add. It's hard for me to admit, but business is extremely slow for me right now compared to this time last year. It's like I'm starting all over again in VO. I have many repeat clients, but they just don't have the work coming in like they used to. So I guess it's just the rotten economy. I keep telling myself this anyway.

Anyway, thanks Maxine for all the good advice you have written here. It is well taken and quite helpful.

BP Smyth

6/7/2013 at 2:36 AM
What a beautifully written article. Thanks!
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