Giving In To Economic Reality -
But Not Giving Up! Here's How ...
By Mahmoud Taji
International Voice Actor
Dec. 23, 2009
One of the biggest misconceptions about the voice-over industry is that it is easy to be a full-time voice-over artist.
Personally, I would love to have enough clients to sustain me and my family, month in and month out, on the income that a lucrative voice-over business can generate.
Alas, my connections are not yet that vast, and my income from VO is not yet sufficient to do so.
FULL-TIME HARD TIMES
For those who are lucky enough to have established themselves in the voice-over industry and are making a full-time living out of it, things are increasingly looking hard.
Economically, the world is in a downward spiral that doesn’t seem to be stabilizing.
Whether this is because the world’s governments are still spending with no regard for the fast approaching cliff’s edge - at this stage the U.S. government’s reckless spending and loaning policies are the most vivid - or because of the collective belt tightening that almost all the mega corporations are starting to practice, being a full-time voice-over artist is just not bringing in enough to maintain some artist’s previous lifestyle.
WHAT TO DO?
As a blogger, I generally try to keep myself informed about how others in the industry are faring.
For some of the bigger names who have been doing well in this business for decades, it seems like the time has come to give up the reins of their professional life and seek employment in the “mundane” 9-to-5 world of corporate America - or, the "world" for us international types.
This transition not only scares the bajeezuz out of them, but seems to them like a step backward.
They see it as giving up their accomplishments and announcing to their peers that they are losers or failures.
DON'T GIVE UP!
I’m going to be quite blunt and tell these people to stop being stupid.
Yes, it's great having your own business and being appreciated for the talent that you have honed and invested in for years … and which has given back and supported you over the years.
The truth is that it is far better to go out and get yourself a part-time job - or even a full-time job - than to give up on the industry and sell your equipment.
If you sell your equipment, then friend, that is when you become the loser.
BE SMART ABOUT IT
The smart thing to do at this stage is to forecast how you need to supplement your income, and decide on what the best possible solution is for you to be able to maintain your lifestyle and not get rid of your hard-earned collection of audio recording hardware.
This means that before things get desperate, you start looking for work.
You can start with temp work.
There is nothing shameful about supporting your family and being a provider. This is the noblest of positions, and although sometimes it is the one most taken for granted, it is the one that makes you the most proud of yourself.
CONSIDER CHOICES ...
So before you decide to go and sell your audio equipment - way, way before then - go out and start doing temp work. Get yourself back in the working-for-someone mindset.
This does not mean that you give up on your VO work! Keep auditioning and keep up your contacts.
Our business is peppered with fluctuations and sine wave-like peaks and valleys. That means that you:
The fact is, the voice-over industry has probably taught you a plethora of skills that give you an edge over normal folk.
Here is a quick list:
MY STORY ...
Ten years ago, I immigrated to Canada.
I cut all my professional ties in Egypt, where I had lived for 10 years prior to immigrating, and up and moved to a country where I only knew two people.
I got swindled, I got played and I got wise.
But one of the hardest lessons I learned had nothing to do with my skills and everything to do with my cultural upbringing.
In the Middle East it is shameful to work at something outside your specialty. I mean, it's a major faux pas to go work as say, a waiter, when you have a university degree in communications.
THE BREAKING POINT
After six months of looking for work in my field, Graphics Design and Advertising, I reached the breaking point. I could forecast that if I kept living the way I was, there was no way I could survive the year.
So I had to conserve my savings and start generating some income.
The Canadians have a stupid work rule. They don’t hire anyone without Canadian work experience.
This is so beyond idiotic that I could not believe a country would push for immigration and bring in an international workforce - then leave them stuck in a limbo.
My favorite saying back then was: “How am I supposed to have Canadian work experience if I just got off the plane?!”
The employer didn't care. That is the rule. If you’ve worked with someone before, then I can hire you. Otherwise, go away.
MOVED TO TEMP WORK
So I went to Apple, a temp agency in Toronto (or was it the People Bank in Mississauga) and I got hired as a mover.
I worked as a mover for three months - 16 hours a day, and I lost around 40 lbs … gained a crap load of muscle … got paid below minimum wage, and paid my rent using money I generated on Canadian soil.
I felt like crap in the beginning, but once I realized that work is work and that I have to survive, then my cultural obstacles didn’t matter.
BIDE YOUR TIME
Everything is temporary. The financial crisis is temporary. Your panic is temporary.
And how people view us is actually not important as long as we do what we have to to survive (I’m saying lawful good stuff, not chaotic evil).
You can be smart like voice actor Peter O’Connell and have your own casting agency (www.audioconnell.com) - you stay in the business and when you don’t have work for yourself, you take a commission on the work that you supply other VO artists.
Everyone makes a buck. Everyone is happy.
Ultimately, you have to realize that this, too, shall pass and that life will go on.
Be proud of what you have accomplished and never give up on your dream - whether it is to establish yourself in the VO industry or to get back on top of it.
ABOUT MAHMOUD ...
Mahmoud Taji is a voice actor based in Cairo, Egypt, specializing in Classical Arabic, New Standard Arabic, many forms of Colloquial Arabic (Egyptian, Shami and a little Khaleeji), bilingual Arabic / English text, and translation services. His voice is heard worldwide, from web promos to eLearning modules about Islamic banking and finance, travel documentaries for cities in Italy, promo videos for Brazilian oil conglomerates, and more. He has a degree in journalism and mass communication, is creative director at a Cairo advertising agency, and publishes the lively and informative blog, Taji’s Voice Emporium, and a directory of voice-over job and casting sites.
VO Directory: http://voiceover-casting.com/emporium/directory
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