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Be Patient And Persist, To Harvest
Success In Your Voice-Over Career
By Bob Souer
Voice Actor
I received a very nice email recently from someone who has been reading my Boblog (voice-over blog) for a little while. Someone who wanted to offer a word of thanks. It was truly a blessing to read.
The writer also mentioned being pretty early in the process of becoming a voice actor and commented that it was hard being patient, because of a strong desire to move forward quickly.
I wrote back with the following thoughts about patience. For good measure, I'm adding my perspective on the need to persist in following your dream.
I grew up on a farm in Minnesota.
I think there’s a strong parallel between farming and voice-over work. You begin with preparation.
You can’t just dash out into the fields in the spring and throw a bunch of seed around and expect to get a decent harvest. The soil has to be prepared, broken up and smoothed out.
After that, you plant the seeds. You wait a while.
Then you cultivate. Fertilize. Cultivate some more. And then there’s more waiting.
The seeds don’t germinate, sprout, grow and yield a harvest in a day, or even several days. It takes months of careful attention and cultivation, and only then do you get to reap the harvest.
I don’t know where you are on your voice-over journey. You may be just starting to explore this field. You may be a working professional. Or somewhere in-between.
Whatever the case, I’m sure you have to deal with this matter of patience. I certainly do.
If you’re new, what you might not realize yet is that most of the time, even after you’re well established and working, you’ll continue preparing, marketing and looking for work.
Harlan Hogan, the veteran voice actor, said in his presentation at Dan O’Day’s International Creative & Radio Production Summit a couple of years ago that 98% of a voice actor’s time is spent looking for work, and only 2% is actually spent in the studio doing it.
If you’re already a working voice-over professional - at whatever level - you must be patient, too.
Maybe you want to break through to a new level of the business. Maybe you desire a different type of voice-over work - animation, trailers, audiobooks, network promos, ADR. The list is nearly endless.
In every case, there’s a whole lot of tilling, planting, and cultivating involved.
None of it is fun - at least not in the traditional sense of the word. But it’s all necessary to get you where you want to go. And the harvest makes it worth the wait and the effort.
There are two differences between farming and voice-over work, though.
The first is that you can prepare, sow, cultivate and harvest at any time of year. You don’t have to wait for spring to plant or fall or harvest!
The second is that, even at its hardest, voice-over work is a whole lot easier than working for a living.
Another important character trait for the voice-over professional is persistence.
President Calvin Coolidge’s famous quote about this subject is a good place to start:
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Being patient is vital. But you must also endure – and that takes persistence.
I was asked during a recent interview: “What’s the secret to being successful in voice-over work?”
My two-word answer: “Don’t quit.”
You must persist in your efforts at preparing, planting, cultivating and harvesting if you’re going to make a long-run go of your voice-over career.
However, I need to sound a note of caution: There is a significant difference between patient persistence and selfish stupidity.
If your children are going hungry, or your marriage is starting to fall apart because you continue to persistently pursue a dream of being a successful voice actor – well, it’s time to make some changes.
Do not destroy the lives of people around you while you pursue your dream. Do what’s necessary to care for your family.
This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dream. Rather, that you should weigh the costs and pursue that dream prudently, not foolishly.
The cost to your soul isn’t worth whatever fleeting wealth or fame you might achieve.
As President Coolidge said:
'Press on' to your goals and dreams. Don’t quit. Patiently, carefully, generously prepare, sow, cultivate and then see what a remarkable harvest you’ll gather.
Bob Souer has been a voice actor for over 25 years, helping an array of faithful clients tell their “stories” through commercials, narrations, podcasts, e-learning, promos, imaging - you name it. He also posts a highly informative daily blog about voice acting, The VoiceOver Boblog.
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