The Most Transparent Blog I’ve Ever Written

by | Feb 22, 2012 | Ruminations | 56 comments

Ted Williams was smart.  Where’s my placard and street corner?

Forget inviting the avalanche…I’m still waiting for the snow to fall.

In 2012 so far, I’ve had a total of 4 voice over jobs.  No actually,  just 3…one of those was a carry-over from 2011.

Here’s where I trot out the fact that I have a full-time job as a TV news anchor in one of the most high-profile cities in the world…so that’s my default excuse.  Yeah, right.  It’s true I can’t give the full attention to VO that I’d like, but as many of you know, that hasn’t stopped me much.

THE FACTS

In late 2005, I decided VO would be my exit plan from TV.  I threw everything I had into my dream…including tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, coaching, conferences, demos, subscriptions, online memberships, materials, travel, domain names, and the list goes on and on (and on).  That doesn’t take into account the untold hours of late-night auditioning, blogging, and working social media.

You’d think 7 years later, the offers would be pouring in .  They’re not…and I’m not…giving in, that is.

OPPORTUNITY

Here are my thoughts at this juncture:
#1 – Success is close – no question…I’m poised.
#2 –  Helpful friends, willing supporters, and a good reputation are at my disposal.
#3 – I have time to finish my taxes  😉
#4 – AFTRA was happy to take my first year’s membership fees (not that that’s a panacea)
#5 – Freelance work is by nature peaks and valleys (gotta remember that.  After all, I unexpectedly had a kick-butt December)
#6 –  (corny as it may sound) NOW is the time for me to REALLY work hard.

ABOVE ALL: This lucky wake-up call and slap in the face is a gift.  Why?
A)  This is an opportunity to re-examine key parts of my business plan
B)   Now is my chance to revamp my marketing, promotions, client prospecting and follow-up schedule.
C)  What better time to commission a new demo?
D)  Here is the moment to dig deep and be honest about my strengths and weaknesses.
E)  This is the point at which I look at the ROI of what I’m doing.  What doesn’t work, I cut my losses.  What does work, I amplify.

REAL WORLD

Yesterday I got an email from a voice actor I don’t really know.  He was seeking my advice.  He was frustrated.  He only had one steady client, and it was tenuous. He was auditioning without results.  He thought he was doing everything right, but was unsure what the next step was.

Boy Howdy!  I felt flattered, but unqualified to give him answers.

How many of you are there?

I’m telling you I’m there too, and I’m not giving up.

How big is your dream?  How determined is your spirit?  How far are you willing to go?  What tough decisions are you willing to make?

CourVO

 

 

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56 Comments

  1. Glad Faith Klassen

    Good Morning Dave,

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today.
    Thank you.
    It’s amazing to me how similar our journeys are.

    Thank you for being vulnerable and transparent.
    …thank you for being you.

    With great respect,
    Glad K.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Glad,

      Your response started off MY day just right, too. Thanks for your support in response to my going-out-on-a-limb blog.

      Write soon, write often!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  2. Peter K. O'Connell

    Dave,

    Remember the late great Jim Valvano’s famous quote: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

    I know you’re not but I just want to remind you. The peaks are there to give you something to enjoy in between the valleys.

    There will be more of both…for all of us.

    Best always,
    – Peter

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Peter,

      Yours was one of the first comments to this blog, and I can’t help but think it opened the floodgate. I know you know of what I blogged, and that’s the relationship-building going on here. We feel a commonality that sorta binds us and identifies us.

      Something else about the valleys…the peaks look so pretty from down here. ‘Makes me wanna go there!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  3. Paul Strikwerda

    Dave, thank you for finally writing about what many colleagues are afraid of to speak about publicly: dry spells.

    The social media seem to be filled with stories of success. We see videos voiced by colleagues who have landed the ultimate job with a high-end client. We hear about narrators hired by the biggest publishers to read the bestsellers of the century. It goes on and on.

    One person’s success can be another person’s depression.

    The voice-over business is unpredictable. It can be a very risky business, especially if narration is your only source of income.

    In the great rate debate people often forget that one of the reasons freelancers should charge more than those with a steady job, is precisely to ensure there’s some money in the bank when there are no projects in the pipeline.

    As you pointed out, dry spells are no time to sit still. It’s a great opportunity to analyze what’s been working and what hasn’t.

    Just as nature needs winter to rest and recover, our careers could benefit from a period of relative quiet and reevaluation.

    I can’t wait to find out to what new ideas will grow out of this time, but I’m sure we’ll hear all about them in this blog!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Paul,

      Your comment makes this day of vulnerability all worth it. I just KNEW I wasn’t alone in this, and now it’s verified.

      No, I’m not one to sit on my hands…gigs or not. I’ve got too many things to get busy with, and with this flood of responses, I think I’ve got plenty of support…yours chief among them.

      Thanks, Paul, for your every-ready presence and help.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  4. David Bucci

    Interesting to hear how you developed an exit strategy, not all that different than I have. Those of us with full time jobs who are trying to get noticed and advance in the VO industry can understand. No, I won’t give up, but I will have realistic expectations as well. The balance may help to keep our sanity during slow times.

    I’ve enjoyed your words and insight and look forward to your blog entries!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      David,

      Part of what makes this all works in VO-land are the people like you who respond to blogs like this. Your comment helps ME know that I’m not the rare case, but more likely the norm that we all deal with once-in-a-while.

      Thanks for coming by and lending your support!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  5. Randye Kaye

    Dave – Thanks for saying it: sometimes the Emperor has no clothes! In my 25+ years in VO, I have always had dry spells, each and every year.

    Yes, this was less of an issue when I also had a full-time morning radio position, but now that I do rely on voice acting to pay the mortgage as well as the rest of the bills, the stakes are indeed higher.

    After a moment of “why the heck am I doing this?” and “Are they accepting applications at Starbucks?”, I wind up where you are: more determined than ever, with also a good hard look at what else I could be doing. More coaching, better demo, new business plan, etc. I always find a hole in the big picture and improving my skills and marketing have always paid off. So far 🙂

    you are the best – thanks for sharing this, seriously.

    Randye

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Randye,

      Thank for supporting my public flailing…I’m just too pig-headed to give up, especially when I know there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t tried yet…and quite a few things I need to STOP trying.

      You made my day with your visit and comment here!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  6. Victoria Feinerman

    Dave,

    Thank you for your honest blog! It was refreshing to read.

    When I’m having a dry spell, I work on my website and marketing, try to think of new ways to reach potential clients, new ways to develop my business, etc. That way I can say, “I am working, it’s just that I’m working for myself.”

    At an audition for an on-camera gig today, another talent told me that my local marketing is “amazing”. I didn’t want to say, “Yeah, I had a dry spell a few months back, and that’s why.” But that is indeed why 🙂

    Dry spells are an opportunity, if taken proper advantage of. And it sounds like you know exactly what to do with this dry spell in order to translate it into future work and income!

    All the best,
    Victoria

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Victoria,

      Your comment is so representative of what all the others are saying, too. Peeks and valleys…ups and downs…dry times…call it what you will, the only thing that offsets the vagaries of freelancing is smart business planning and resourcefulness. You’re right, of course, and I’m taking advantage of THIS dry spell so I can be ready for the flood that follows! Right?

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  7. Ed Thompson

    Dave,

    Thanks for expressing what others are thinking, if not experiencing. I had my exit strategy to retire from 30-plus years of broadcasting at the end of 2012 to concentrate full time on VO. However, with my wife out of work, that “retirement” has been placed on hold. So, like the US Marines, we shall adapt and overcome.

    Again, thanks for this.

    Ed

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Ed,

      It’s good to know we share this challenge as broadcasters. I salute you, too, in your challenges with family. They gotta come first. I woulda probably left TV a long time ago, but I really want my 3 kids to finishe college, ya know?…and man…it’s expensive!!!

      Blessings to you for your support.

      dave courvoisier

      Reply
  8. Natalie Stanfield Thomas

    Dave,
    Thank you for taking the time to articulate so beautifully, and commit to copy once again, the words in my own head. So many times you crystallize thoughts that are hovering just beyond my ability to verbalize, this is another one of them. I’ve often looked at the “What I’m up to now” posts of friends and colleagues and wondered why my dance card was not quite so full. But it has served to make me constantly aware of where I need to re-evaluate and re-tool, causing the “Good, Better, Best, never let it rest, until your Good is Better and your Better is the Best” mantra to run in my head! It’s encouraging to know that someone I admire such as yourself, is often in the same situation.

    One of the things I most admire about you is your ability to rally the troupes and continue to encourage others no matter what your current situation, and here you’ve done it again. Thank you for taking a time that someone else might have spent in sullen retrospection, or withdrawal and using it to be so transparent.

    You are an encourager, and a role model to many. This article is further evidence of why. Thank you for allowing these moments to steel your determination, and to share that with us.
    ~Natalie

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Natalie,

      You’ve got me blushing over here. I’m glad we’re kindred spirits, and that you found something that will help you along the way in my blog.

      I know it’s a bit Pollyanish, but I’m an eternal optimist, and I love helping and mentoring. It saves me. Service to others brings so many unexpected rewards in return. My blog is part of that outreach, and it helps my psyche to share this stuff.

      Thanks for responding in the affirmative…it means a lot.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  9. Andrew Hall

    Great post Dave. Very uplifting, and this insight is helpful to anyone in any field who might be running into similar obstacles. Whether it’s someone seeking employment, freelancers trying to land clients, business owners trying to improve profitability or entrepreneurs seeking investors for a new venture, these insights are helpful and encouraging. Bottom line is, don’t give up… success is just around the corner.

    Best of luck to you in your endeavors my friend. I’ll be cheering you on.

    A

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Thanks, Andrew

      Your encouragements and understanding through this comment is all I needed to blow through this.

      Let me know if you need any cheering along the way, too.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  10. Lisa Rice

    Thanks for a great blog today and everyday, Dave. I’m glad to hear you aren’t giving up. You’re right, slow days are an excellent time to work on business away from our mic.

    When dry spells come my way, I also take time to nurture relationships in my life needing attention because of previous whirlwind days of work. Yes, work is important but it won’t be the one holding our hand in the end.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Lisa,

      Knowing that YOU have lived through this and survived is giving me strength already. And, I love what you’ve said about returning to those important relationships that can be taken for granted in the midst of a big job.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  11. J S Gilbert

    What’s really ironic, is that there are a bunch of v.o. people I know who have been making 6 figures plus for years, who are now looking for the exit strategy from voice over.

    I suppose they may view the current v.o. situation as a lot of folks boarding a sinking ship.

    That said, I’m still hoping I’ve got a few more miles left on my v.o. journey.

    Dave, if you ever want to talk candidly, I’d be happy to try and offer some advice that might help, and no, I won’t tell you to quit. Give me a shout, if you like.
    In the meantime, break a leg.

    –j s

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Thanks, JS….

      Just for readers who may be stopping by…I DID call JS this very day, and we had a wide-ranging talk about the business.

      With JS, there’s no BS…and that’s what I like about you. YOUR candor has inspired me more times than you’ll ever know. Thanks again and stop by anytime!

      CourVO

      Reply
      • Amy Snively

        I was just about to say “Take JS up on this. He’s a straight-shooter and one of the most generous guys in the biz. I heart him!” and was happy to see that you’d already done so before I could post. 🙂

        Reply
        • CourVO

          Amy,

          JS and I had a nice long talk. You’re right he’s a straight shooter, and the real deal.

          Best,

          dave c

          Reply
  12. Laura Branch Mireles

    Thank you for your transparency Dave. I’ve been trying to recoup a major financial hole since last year, when my main client filed for bankruptcy. It’s been rough, but blogs like yours help me stay on track. It’s appreciated more than you know!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Laura,

      ….and your comment is a buoy to my spirits as well. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. I know you can make it, too!

      warm regards,

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  13. Jordan Reynolds

    Great post Dave. Thank you for being so open and honest in this post. It really allows us other VO’s relate and not feel alone in this journey.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Jordan,

      Thanks to you, too, for stopping by with that. Now I don’t feel alone either!

      best,

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  14. Michael J. Schoen

    Thanks for your candor, Dave.
    I don’t think anyone can ever be totally secure in the VO business. It is a daily challenge.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Michael,

      You brightened my day with your visit and comment. You’re right…it IS a daily challenges, and sometimes it gets YOU, instead of you tackling IT.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  15. Penny Abshire

    Writing this kind of blog can be scary, but aren’t we all glad that you are a courageous man, Dave?

    I echo the comments of our fellow colleagues. Dry spells are the worst, but anyone contemplating a career in VO needs to know they are a reality. If we are truly kind, we give those who are seeking, the TRUTH about the industry. We also encourage them and share with them what fun this can actually be.

    You’re THE MAN, Dave – thanks so much for your candor and honesty.

    Penny

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Penny,

      Your comments are so welcome here, and thanks for the encouragements. ‘Not sure about the “courageous” moniker. I think it was more of a shot-in-the-dark. It just turned out to be cathartic.

      C’mon by more often!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  16. Karen Commins

    Greetings, Dave! I have been in your same mindset too many times to count! I still am not at the level of success that I envision, and some days, I feel the same way you felt in responding to that email. The key is to push the doubt away and keep marching toward your dream.

    Although you didn’t ask and probably don’t need my advice, I want to share a few thoughts that you might find helpful.

    First, it’s possible to want something so badly that your desperation to have it can actually push it away from you. I wrote about this phenomenon in the article “Voiceover and the Law of Paradoxical Intent”:

    http://blog.karencommins.com/2009/04/voiceover-and-the-law-of-parad-1.html

    I can tell you honestly that it was only after I truly ACCEPTED my life as it was –day job and all — that things really started to move forward for me.

    Second, the number of jobs booked in a time period is only small one way of measuring success. I wrote about 3 techniques for maintaining a feel-good mentality about your career in the post “The feel-good voiceover blog post of the summer!”. I write my articles for myself as much as for my audience, and this is one post that I often re-read to maintain balance and objectivity during slow times.

    http://blog.karencommins.com/2010/07/the-feel-good-voiceover-blog-o.html

    I cannot overemphasize the need to stop the comparisons to other people! It is the single greatest act of self-negation that keeps us from our good.

    In fact, I recently was listening to Rob Lowe’s most excellent narration of his autobiographical audiobook “Stories I Only Tell My Friends” and heard a compelling reason to keep going forward with your dream. When Lowe talked about meeting an unknown LeVar Burton about a week before ROOTS was aired on TV, he said:

    “It showed me how quickly the rocket fuel of stardom can ignite, how unimaginably GIANT the g-forces can be as you are propelled into fame’s orbit.

    Looking back, I also wonder at the mystery of destiny and fate. I marvel at the mercurial forces of fortune and am reminded that one must be ever vigilant to stay on one’s own path, without envy of others.”

    When I don’t know what the next step is, I just take one. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best thing I could do at the time. It doesn’t matter if other people agree with me, cheer me on, throw spitballs my way, or totally ignore me.

    It’s not about them. It’s about me. It’s about “staying vigilant on my path, without envy of others.”

    All that matters is that I take that step…..because that step gets me one step closer to the life I’m meant to lead.

    You’ve taken a tremendous number of steps, and you’re absolutely right in thinking that the success you seek is coming to you. Just because things don’t happen on our timetable or in the way that we would expect them to show up doesn’t mean they aren’t going to happen. They probably will happen and be even greater than we could imagine!

    Just keep taking those steps!

    Warmly,
    Karen Commins
    http://www.KarenCommins.com

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Karen,

      Where do you get such all-seeing, all-knowing truisms? I love your writing, and your meaty comment here is so full of great stuff that I excerpted you 3 times in Thursday’s blog. I haven’t yet, but I PROMISE you to click on the links you provided and read more.

      Your brain obviously works like mine. I know I sabotage my own progress with the things you mention: trying too hard, and comparisons to others.

      I look to your for wisdom and (now) example as you tackle your new full-time VO job… thanks for always coming through in spades!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  17. David Sigmon

    Well said young man. Keep your eyes on the ball. And know which ball to watch.
    DS

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Hey Dave!

      ‘Trouble is, when you’re juggling several balls, you have to take your eyes off them for a second. I think the trick is to just juggle fewer balls. You’re great for stopping by to comment… write soon, write often!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  18. Dave Fennoy

    As usual Dave you tell it like it is… I’ve been a full time VO guy for more than 20 years, after exiting radio in San Francisco. I’ve had the very great fortune to do promos for TV networks, voice characters for games and cartoons, narrate for Discovery, Nat Geo, and A&E, and voice to many commercials to enumerate… and yet there have been times when business just trickled in. Admittedly, I still made a good living compared to many, but if you’ve been living large and your money gets small… you have problems. I had problems. For a while I blamed the economy and true enough the years when my business floundered were the Bush years when the whole country was in trouble… thank goodness things are much better now. But a word to the wise, not matter what the reason for your biz being off, take responsibility for getting yourself back on track. Work on your skills, improve your marketing, network, redo demos, form a VO workout group, get internet savy… OK enough, you get the idea… but if you do quit, those of us who don’t say thanks… one less audition between us and the next booking.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Dave,

      You honor me with your visit. You’re one of the greats in this biz as far as I’m concerned, and I’d have to go a way to be your competition. But your candor, too, is a great lesson for all of us that without the struggles, and overcoming them, we wouldn’t be hardened to the rigors of this biz. I’m on it…!!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  19. Paul Hernandez

    Dave, thank you for your transparency. I have like you and obviously others been in the same place. I am not where I want to be yet in VO but like you am at a place of “Tweaking” I’m in a small market and still work full time in radio and have focused primarily getting jobs online and outside of my market as our station views my VO work as a potential conflict of interest. Regardless, this is my dream too and I received great advice from my first coaches… “if you want to succeed, you can never give up”

    So I’m with you my friend. Keep at it and don’t give up. Our time will come!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Paul,

      I think in so many ways we’re connected at the hip. Your response means more to me than you know. Actually, the “tweaking” never ends, does it?

      Thanks for commenting.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  20. David Menashe

    Dave, I heard there’s a bunny who can help you 😉

    Seriously though, thanks for your words of support to all struggling actors out here in internetland. We are you and you are us. As we’ve all discovered at various times in our lives, the race is not to the swift, but to he who keeps running. I may be 85 when I get there… but I’ll get there. I suspect you’ll be waiting for me with a towel and plenty of electrolytes.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Dave,

      ‘Love what you wrote. In fact, you and all the others who’ve shared wisdom and a sense of camaraderie on this topic show me I’ve made JUST the right decision. Can’t look back now!!!

      Is Gatorade OK?

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  21. Billy James

    Absolutely brilliant piece, Dave. You’re speaking the Truth with a capital T.

    And as I’m sure you know, “helpful friends, willing supporters, and a good reputation” are a lot harder to find than even the best VO gig. They’re what most of us call Blessings.

    With a capital B.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Billy,

      Coming from you, that means the most…thanks! And thanks for the reminder about the blessings. We DO take them for granted, don’t we?

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  22. Jack de Golia

    I try to remember that way back in the California Gold Rush, it wasn’t the miners who struck it rich, it was those who supplied the miners like Levi Strauss. I’m a “VO miner,” and as long as I remember that, I’ll keep things in perspective amid all the websites and vendors trying to get their fingers into my wallet.

    I do VO because I enjoy the art, it’s fun to learn, and every audition is a way to try new stuff and grow. When a job comes along, that’s extra. I don’t linger on not getting jobs. Each one of those involved someone who had the sound the client was looking for, which wasn’t me. Every so often I have the sound sought. Many are called, few are chosen. That’s art in the USA.

    I once tried stage acting for a living. It was no living, but I’m glad I chased the dream. And I’m glad I had a day job to go to when I was done. Ditto with VO.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Jack,
      That’s a great reminder about the prospectors…I’m with ya, though, I just love doing voice-overs. ‘Smile every time I crawl in my studio. Audition…and move on to the next one!

      Thanks for the support.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  23. Dan Wallace

    Dave
    You are a man I have a great deal of respect for. I now have even greater respect for your honesty and integrity.

    I wanted to let you know that the project that I am working on right now is because you recommended a new site called ACX.

    Thank you CourVO for your blog. Your insights. Your honest.

    Dan Wallace

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Dan,

      If I got no other response to my blog, YOUR comment would’ve sufficed. Thanks for that.

      There is no great compliment I could receive than to know I’ve helped someone along the way.

      Thanks!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  24. Diane Merritt

    Thank you for sharing Dave! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a “dry spell”. Feast or Famine in this biz, some days I’m pulling my hair out and loving it or other days I’m counting creases in my sound proofing! You are one of the hardest working guys in the biz and we are so thankful for all you do!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Diane,

      Your words bring me great encouragement, Diane…thanks for taking the time to jot that down.

      See you at FaffCon?

      CourVO

      Reply
  25. Brian Page

    Thanks Dave for the reality check. Life is all about ups and downs, perseverance is the key, with much greater learning potential in the valleys.

    My best to you my friend!

    Brian.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Brian,

      Great to hear from you…and all those who remind me of the “ups and downs”. I’m gonna be OK, largely ’cause I know people like you.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  26. Bobbin Beam

    Dave I had no idea how troubled you felt about this hiccup in the vo workflow the other night when you mentioned it as we spoke on the phone. You’ve hit a collective nerve. Remember you are in charge of your career, and I know this is a temporary situation. I’ve been there too. But it is temporary. When the mic is off the marketing hat must go on. You will be fine and so will your career.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Bobbin,

      Later that night, after talking to you, I decided to just let it all out in my blog. The conversation I had with you helped in that decision.

      Since that blog (…the way of the universe…), I’ve landed two solid jobs, and the 99% likelihood of two more.

      …and so it goes. Off and running.

      Thanks for your help and friendship, Bobbin.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  27. Tom Leigh Knight

    Excellent blog post! Subscribing now!

    I love the fact that you’re providing the honest truth about how things have been going in VO in a way that encourages us to press on. In fact, Calvin Coolidge’s “Press On” comes to mind…and if I may, I’d like to present it here:

    “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.”

    -Tom

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Tom,

      Thanks for your visit.

      I’ve heard that quote before, and I love it!

      Thanks for reminding us of its wisdom.

      best,

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply

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