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Afraid To Learn New Skills?
Terrify Yourself To New Income

By Jane Ingalls  
Voice Actor

Unless your voice over career is standing still, you will soon be called on to be uncomfortable. 

It's one of the things I love about our business. It also secretly terrifies me! 

Voice over requires a shifting blend of creative and technical skills. 

We have to be ready every day to try on new characters, approach new clients, and increase our technical range. 

The only way to grow and improve is to take the next risk. In the process, we become more versatile and flexible and, ultimately, more valuable to our clients.    


Meeting new expectations is never easy. 

Recently, a new client wanted something I did not yet know how to do. The deadline for the project was tight and I had several overlapping issues to solve.  

Ultimately, success or failure rested on whether I was "willing to be willing" to be uncomfortable. I had much to learn to get the job done. 


Fortunately, our industry is generous, and help is often a phone call or email away. 

I got advice from trusted voice over friends and sent out an SOS for help to a local technical group with an email listserve. 

I researched and bought new software and hired a local audio engineer to help integrate the new process in my studio. 

In spite of a few hectic days, the files were delivered on time and another script arrived soon after. 

The relationship with the client was off to a good start, and I had several new skills to offer to the next person who might need them.


How do you prepare for the unexpected?  Before the next learning curve I plan to: 
  • Update my list of friends I can go to for advice.
  • Pinpoint the next skills and/or equipment I might need. 
  • Catch up on trends in the industry as well as new equipment and software options.  (My favorite blogs for this are, Bob Souer and Dave Courvoisier.)
  • Sign up for a webinar to gain a specific ability.
  • Increase participation in online forums such as VU, VO-BB and LinkedIn groups.
  • Get in touch with experts who solve technical issues long distance, like George WhittamDan Lenard and Dan Friedman
  • Be ready to outsource, hiring a virtual assistant or an editor to do parts of the job at hand.
  • Offer help as well as receive it.

When your next challenge looks like a good fit, don't be afraid to say "yes" even when you don't have all the pieces in place. 

It could be just what your career needs to take you to the next level. 

Although moving forward will always involve learning something new, the skills you lack can soon be yours. 

Remember, help is at hand. 


Lean into the learning curve and accept the discomfort that comes with it. 

Before you know it, the road will straighten out in front of you again; the discomfort will be replaced with a fresh sense of accomplishment, and you'll have new options to offer every past, present, and future client. 


Jane Ingalls lives near Washington, DC where she works as a bilingual voice actor (English and Spanish). She specializes in commercials, eLearning, and video narration. Among others, her clients include the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Museum, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Lowe's Home Improvement.  


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Comments (14)
Jane Ingalls
3/12/2012 at 6:38 PM
Thanks, everyone - Rick, Jay and Lynn, your words ring true...Bettye, you are an encouragement and proof that we can never let down...Bobbin, I will memorize your quote so I never "end up with less"...Dan, see you soon! Chuck, thanks again for offering me a ride to Faffcon next week:) I appreciate it!

3/10/2012 at 4:33 PM
Isn't it so true. New things to learn. There are also times when the learning comes into what I thought I knew. It never stops - only takes a short pause.

Bettye Zoller
3/9/2012 at 8:26 PM
Yes, Jane, right on! When I got my second masters degree in adult education, one thing about adults was stressed. Adults have a very fragile ego as learners and if made to feel rather "clueless," the learner often tunes or drops out. The instructor has to make that learner feel safe and non-threatened. Not an easy task! I too have felt that way despite my 34 years in this biz. Recently, I had to turn to colleagues to finish a telephony job for a huge national firm. They used a nationwide computer telephone system and I was hired to announce and produce messages with music backgrounds. Their computer system used file types unknown to me at that time. We did it! With a little help from my friends, to quote the Beatles. Hope to meet you sometime and stay in touch, Jane. I would also love to hear from you about Washington DC markets.
3/9/2012 at 3:43 PM
Every budding actor gets this sage advice from his agent:
"When they ask you, 'Can you ride a horse?' your answer is 'Yes!' because you can then go take horse-riding lessons!"
So...when a client asks the VO artist, "Can you imitate the sound of a mouse farting?" your answer is....?
Bobbin Beam
3/9/2012 at 3:30 PM
Hi Jane,
I am a firm believer that if you always do what you've always'll not get what you've always'll end up with LESS! Fantastic article. Thanks for sharing!
All The Best,
Bobbin Beam
Rick Lance
3/9/2012 at 2:07 PM
Nicely put, Jane!

We do need to kick ourselves in the butt and step out of our comfort zone.... and learn something new. Getting stale in this business is not healthy. Sometimes I have more fun than I ever imagined!

And "getting a little help from our friends" is a comfort, too. Knowing "I got 'cher back" is always valuable and works both ways!
Dan Friedman
3/9/2012 at 1:22 PM
Great article Jane! Keep it positive. Don't panic. Have fun. Make it happen.

And... thank you for the mention!

Dan Friedman
Chuck Davis
3/9/2012 at 1:06 PM

I love pushing myself, or being pushed out of my comfort zone. It's become a habit for enriching one at that.

Your next terrifying experience...riding with Kate and I to Ventura. :)

See ya in a few weeks!

Chuck D
Jane Ingalls
3/9/2012 at 11:39 AM
Thanks to each of you for your stories and feedback! It's so easy to forget we're not the only ones who are struggling. We all need encouragement, and I am grateful for yours!

Ken Budka
3/9/2012 at 10:47 AM
Great article Jane - thanks for your inspiring words and reminder that we all face the unknown and situations that are new and unfamiliar. Being willing to do whatever it takes is the key as you point out. It seems easy enough to say, but put to the test, it's a challenge moving forward in any business or situation. Even if you fall on your face, at least you're moving forward...

Judy Fossum
3/9/2012 at 9:08 AM

Thank you for writing this article. It is all so true. The first VO gig I got using my home studio was for a message on hold for a cat clinic. I thought, "Cool, I can do this." It turns out they wanted someone not just to voice the project, but also to write the copy and to add background music. Talk about being thrown into the fire, but like you mentioned the VO community is so generous. Through asking questions and working with my equipment I was able to get the job done, and a few months later they had another project for me as well. It was a bit "scary" at first, but I am so grateful for the experience as my skill set has improved because of it.

I have always known that I need some sort of a phone patch set up. Before doing so, however, I was hired for a project where the director/producer wanted to listen in on the recording session. With little time to work before the session (and I must admit some jitters), I found a way to make the phone patch work. Due to this experience, I am now making improvements to my studio and upgrading my equipment to improve my phone patch set up.

There is always so much to learn, and this will always be the case. Sometimes the learning curve is bigger than others and sometimes the challenges are "scarier" than others, but in the long run it is certainly worth it. Not only do we learn new skills, but like you mentioned we are able to help our clients in more ways too.

Judy Fossum
Judy Fossum VoiceOvers
Cheyenne, WY
Roy Wells
3/9/2012 at 8:49 AM
Really worthwhile advice, Jane. I recently went thru similar circumstances with audiobook narration. Had to learn how to deal with the new problem, institute the recommended fix, and deliver the required files successfully. As you say, the main thing is to find a way to deal with new problems.
Kent Ingram
3/9/2012 at 1:26 AM
Hi, Jane! Great advice here. I have always taken the attitude that I'm at least going to try a voice-over audition I haven't done before. There are times when it just doesn't work, but that's not a constant thing, either. Take care.
Liz de Nesnera-Bilingual English/French VO
3/9/2012 at 12:48 AM
Right ON, Jane!
What a great reminder! :-)


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