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Anxiety & Progress: My Personal
Journey To Full-Time Voice Acting
By Bob Souer
Voice Actor
Fear can be a good thing. It can help you avoid situations that are truly harmful, keeping you away from the edge of the cliff.
But anxiety - groundless fears about what ďmightĒ happen - is never good.

Is it always right to jump at an opportunity with both feet? Obviously not. Sometimes the risks really arenít worth the potential rewards.  
The way the economy has been the last couple of years has frightened a lot of people.
Some of my very good friends have been kicked to the curb by companies for which they productively worked for years.
But this can be a great time to start something new, especially if you have nothing left to lose.

Looking back at the 26 years it took me to go from my first professional voice-over job to full-time voice-over talent, I can clearly see there were four wide-open doors of opportunity that I didnít take.
Thereís no way for me to wind back the clock and take the other path, so I canít know for certain how things would have turned out if Iíd gone the other way.
But I can, with 20-20 hindsight, see those doors even though at the time they werenít always clear.

The first was in 1988.
I had actually been working solo as a voice-over for a year while caring for my first wife, Kathy, as she was losing her battle with cancer.
But when I was offered a job a few months after her death I took it, rather than continuing to just do the voice-over thing.
I had a daughter to raise and provide for, and my mindset at the time was that I needed something more stable and predictable.

The second door appeared at the end of 1993 - but I didnít see it at the time.
The network for which I was working had just been sold to a new corporate owner. This new corporation was about to offer me a very nice option to freelance for them, continuing to host two weekly music programs.
Within two months I would have replaced virtually all of my full-time network income.
And there were many opportunities on the horizon that would have allowed me to grow my business.
One of my very best friends, Charlie Glaize, strongly encouraged me to take the voice-over path.
But even with all that, I didnít see the door of opportunity for what it was, and instead took the first job offer that came my way.

However, hereís where it gets a little complicated.
Having taken that job offer in Pittsburgh, I ended up meeting some of my very best friends, working with The Talent Group, and working for the best boss I ever had (make that second best boss, now that Iím working for myself).
So, had I taken the voice-over path back then, I would have missed all of those wonderful relationships.

The third was in 1999. Things had really taken off with my part-time voice-over business, and I was making quite a bit more money doing voice-overs than I was at the radio station where I was working.
This time I could see the door clearly.
But, as noted above, I had a great boss.
He and I talked at length about things, and he suggested caution.
ďTake another year,Ē he said, ďand see how things go. If they continue to grow, you can always make this move then. If they donít, youíll be glad you stayed with something more stable.Ē
It was prudent advice, as the strike of 2000 put a big dent in my voice-over business.

The fourth and final missed opportunity was in 2003.
I had gone to work for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2001 - in part because my wife Cinda and I had been looking for years for an opportunity to live close to family, and pretty much everyone in my family lived in Minnesota where the association was headquartered.
But two weeks after I started work there, the association announced it would be relocating to Charlotte, NC in 2003.
I had an option to take a severance package and stay in Minnesota, or to move to North Carolina and continue to work for the association.
Here again, I could see the opportunity clearly, but I was also very cautious.
My time in Minnesota hadnít yielded new voice-over clients there. And my business was still recovering from the double hits of the strike in 2000 and the move to a new city the following year.
Here again, there were a number of wonderful learning and relationship opportunities I would have missed if I hadnít moved with the association to Charlotte.

I started this long screed talking about fear and anxiety.
Looking back, I can see clearly that more than once I allowed my anxieties overwhelm me about what might happen, and push me along a path away from my dreams.
Of course, sometimes my caution turned out to be well founded. And in every case, there were significant benefits to taking the path I did.

No doubt, your journey is unfolding with a few bumps and turns you didnít anticipate. But itís your journey.
Each path is unique. Mine certainly was.
If your dream isnít worth pursuing, change direction. Find one that is.
And once you find the dream that is worthwhile, keep moving toward it. Youíll get there.
It might take you 26 years like mine did, but I hope itís a lot less.
Bob Souer has been a voice actor for over 26 years, helping an array of faithful clients tell their ďstoriesĒ 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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Comments (10)
Ernie Douglas
7/29/2010 at 1:40 PM
Thanks Bob, for showing us all your personal journey and how you dealt with each turn along the way. The years are par for "your course" and I stress your course!. But your reward is not so much the job but the path you took to accomplish it.

Thanks for sharing....
Joseph Andrade
6/28/2010 at 6:34 PM
Hi Bob,

Thanks for sharing! What a fantastic journey you have taken. As the saying goes, and you mentioned it, "hindsight is 20/20." Does that ever apply to the business we are in. I have often wondered about the decisions I have made, and what the circumstances would have been, had I made different choices. Certainly no regrets, but just to wonder about them once in a while con be interesting. Great story Bob. Keep up the great work!

Bettye Zoller
6/25/2010 at 12:15 AM
I tell my students, "you can free yourself. Yes you can." Just as the poor young man found a way to go to and finish medical school, just as the girl went to NYC to become a model and accomplished her goals, just as I started in voiceovers with a four-month old baby moving to a new town and forging my new career as a studio singer and vo talent, you can do it too."

You need not quit your job. Get flex hours. Work four days a week instead of six, get that computer outfitted inexpensively as a studio and audition and do VO jobs on it.

Sell clients yourself. You are a salesperson, not just a voice. Be resourceful. One of my students won a client, a car dealer, who pays $1400 each month allowing him to work less as a telephone rep.

It can be done. Figure out how and do it. Otherwise, you'll look back with regret. Doors open. Do you see them or close them? Steady pay? Nothing is steady. You can be let go in a flash. When you're self-employed, that's Security because you can''t quit. See?

Great story, Bob, and inspiring as always. Thank you. I'll share with my students starting this weekend at my New Orleans seminar.
Mark Stewart
6/25/2010 at 12:10 AM
Bob, Thanks for sharing !!! Your story spoke volume about the natural anxieties that some of us feel. This is a story I can refer to when feeling in doubt !

Mike Carta
6/24/2010 at 5:07 PM
Good stuff Bob. Enjoyed reading about your "Journey." I can identify with it.
Nelson Jewell
6/24/2010 at 4:13 PM
Brother Bob,

Thanks so much for sharing your personal journey. There have been many times I've been ready to toss in the towel. Your story has strengthened me and reminded me that I should lean on the Author of my life a lot more.

Be Blessed,
DC Goode
6/24/2010 at 2:32 PM
Thanks for sharing your story Bob. It reminds me of my own path the last several years and the journey to being "Anxious for nothing."

"Fear" in it's many forms (other than the ones that preserve life and limb) are killers to progress, purpose, creativity and on and on.
Alan Sklar
6/24/2010 at 8:43 AM
Bob's article reminds me of the advice I was offered by an elderly Quaker man when I chatted with him over 20 years ago about my new VO career hopes. He told me that there is an old Quaker saying: "Proceed As The Way Opens"
Trish Basanyi
6/24/2010 at 1:39 AM
Wonderful story, Bob! It's amazing how the small choices we make can impact our lives so much in the long run ... thank you for sharing!
J. Christopher Dunn
6/23/2010 at 3:40 PM
What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I had a similar path of events that, unfortunately, while profitable, took me away from using my voice for a living. It took several years for me to get back on track and I haven't looked back since.
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