The Stupidest Thing I Ever Did as a VO Newbie

by | Oct 1, 2013 | Ruminations | 11 comments

embarrassmentEven now…years later, I’m embarrassed about my misstep.  But I’m big enough to admit it.  I made a tactical mistake.  Maybe you’ll learn from it.

…and the whole thing left me with a question I still have not answered today.  Below.

The Story Begins…

Eager to start racking up successes as a voice-over novice, I over-stepped my bounds one day.  It wasn’t a terribly damaging mistake, but it left me smarting from the realization of my own headstrong stupidity.  I was an apprentice voice actor, but I was also already in my 50’s, and had some world experience under my belt.  Still, it never should’ve happened.

On one of the online VO forums, I joined in a conversation with someone I later found to  be an established big city voice-actor.  Here was someone who probably had little to gain from mixing it up with the likes of a starting voice talent like me.

Over-confident from being able to access such real-life voice-acting professionals on this forum, I started to believe real success was within grasp.  There was nothing to this freelance voiceover thing!   Sure, I was going to have to do some work — eventually — but ripe fruit was within my grasp!

Following the trail on this established voice-actor’s signature, I found myself on his website.  I noticed the phone number given in the contact information, and promptly called it.  I was one of the brethren!  I was assured of peer-contact with a real pro!

Taking Advantage

To my dismay, I got a phone message from the gentleman’s Agent.  Adjusting quickly, I stayed on the line to leave a message.  It went something like this:  “Hi, my name is Dave Courvoisier from Las Vegas.  I’m a friend of XXXXX, and I’m sure it’s OK with him if I ask to maybe send you a demo?  I’d sure like to be a talent in your agency’s roster!”

UGH!

Not only was I ill-prepared to approach a big-city agency in this manner, but I had falsely suggested I had a friendship with a major name in the business.  I was name-dropping a name I had no right to drop!

Word got back.

He could have been livid.  He was merely terse (lucky for me).

Eating Crow

In ensuing conversations, and prolific apologies, this gentleman came to understand that my misstep was not malicious, nor deviously opportunistic…. merely the actions of the uninitiated.  I was someone who didn’t understand how it all worked.  I was also stupidly arrogant and impulsive.  Big lesson.

Every business has unwritten rules of nuance, finesse, understanding, experience, and courtesy.  I had just been schooled in Voice-Over.

The Lingering Issue

In the penitent conversation I had with this talent, the salient comment that sticks in my head is:  “…this is why I no longer find it worth my while to hang out in these online forums…”

He essentially captured in one comment, the quandary that established, knowledgeable, seasoned, mature VO professionals are presented with:  What is the benefit of hanging out online with a bunch of newbs?  What will I learn?  How can it help ME?  Heck, I might even get taken advantage of ! (oooh, that smarts!).

To this day, I don’t have a decent answer for that.  Sure, it behooves us all to pass back a little of what was given to us as apprentices.  Many tenured voice actors offered me sage advice along the way, and I try to mentor or pay it back as much as I can.  In fact, I do it every week.

But — honestly — after the umpteenth post about “how do I choose a microphone”… do you STILL want to chime in with an answer?

What is our responsibility as experienced VO professionals to the newly-minted, eager, and green up-and-comers to the business?  How far do you go to give newbs a leg-up?  If you are online and in the Social Media conversation, doesn’t that bid you to participate?  Why else are you there?  To lurk?  Really?  Is that right?

Or is the answer (as my “victim” concluded) not to be online at all.  At what point do you no longer need that sort of milieu to succeed?  Do you EVER reach that point?

Does being in an online community benefit your business, or just give you a relational context to your VO life?

Different for some than others?

Let me know what you think.

CourVO

Comments

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11 Comments

  1. Paul Strikwerda

    In the past, countless colleagues have helped me on my way without expecting anything in return. Helping others is a way for me to pay it forward. Instead of jumping on every request, I usually pick a topic and write a blog about it. That way, I can address a certain issue more in-depth as opposed to a quick comment on Facebook or LinkedIn.

    What I won’t do is answer general questions. If you want to be a pro, you have to respect other people’s time and do your own homework. But when someone has a specific issue in an area I feel I have some expertise in, I’m happy to give some pointers.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Paul,

      I concur with you right down the line. Be smart in seeking help. It’s your attitude in approaching. People want to help, but they want to know the value of the knowledge they impart will be appreciated and put to good use.

      Thanks for commenting,

      dave courvoisier

      Reply
  2. Joe J Thomas

    Good topic, Dave…

    I agree with Paul’s answer.

    I’d also add that being a voice actor today can be a very isolating experience.
    Online communities do offer a bit of camaraderie that I’d normally get in more of a regular job.

    Like anything, moderation is often best.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Thanks, Joe,

      That “moderation” thing really works, ya know? Yes, as long as you keep your online expectations to relationships and not dogging jobs all the time, I think you’re in a good place.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Dave C

      Reply
  3. Dave Smith

    Just starting out myself and being fortunate to have found an excellent mentor, as well as another that travels to my town for workshops every so often. I look to the online blogs just as this one to learn how not to make the same mistakes.

    I’m a rookie and I’m smart enough to know it, as well as my place. I thank everyone such as yourself Dave, that take the time from their busy schedules and careers, to do the blogs, online webinars, VO shows etc; so I may study my craft, not try to fake it and be something that I’m not.

    My mentor will let me know when it’s time to take the beginner wanna-be training wheels off, do the demo and website, and take the next step. 🙂

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Dave,

      That attitude will serve you well, and has already graduated you past the line of “newb” in my book.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  4. Dan Lenard

    In a conversation I recently had with one of the respected people in our field, (I know how you hate the word “Industry,” CourVo) I was told that the people making the major dollars in the biz mostly say they stay away from all VO socializing. They don’t have time to socialize or give advice as it takes them away from making the major dollars. I guess that could be true, and they had to fight their way to the top. But, THEY ALL HAD HELP. No one did it on their own.

    There isn’t a “VO University.”

    The business of VO is completely different compared to what was even 10 years ago. The only means of success is to navigate what has become a very complex set of knowledge and skills that even some of the guys making the big dollars don’t have. Some get totally weirded out when confronted with having to know them or learn them. There are people who know and understand the skill sets, put them into practice and succeed. I believe that one of those skill sets is learning to separate the wheat from the chaff. Use a little common sense. And yeah, Joe Everything in moderation.

    Ask for help, but ask for help by asking who actually has the knowledge and experience to give you the right answer.

    Also, learn that “This is what I do.” is not the right answer. 5 people giving you the same answer is more accurate. This is why the forums are valuable commodities. Thats why people ask, “how do you choose the right microphone.” The fool hears one answer and figures thats the answer. The wise newbie will ask politely and in a directed manner, gather the answers, analyze the responses for the ring of truth and make the right decision for themselves.

    I have found our online community a blessing. I have the best friends I’ve ever had, I learn, I commune, I have fun. This is a fun business. Fun is much more fun when shared with the ones you love.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Dan,

      You know we’re twin sons of different mothers, so I agree with you right down the line.

      Social Media, email, and the internet in general has greased the wheels of relationship, support, brainstorming, and the pace of community in the VO biz.

      I’m glad you’re part of it…’cause you’re right…it IS fun!

      Dave C

      Reply
  5. Xavier Paul

    Newbies. Speaking from my experience, first they milk you for contacts, then when that doesn’t work they attack your credibility. “You’re not the voice of this or that, you haven’t worked in years… you’re a fraud….” And god help you if you do voice over coaching and don’t offer them your services for free. Then they take this attitude of “Well the only reason you’re talking to me is because you want to sell me your coaching/demo production blah blah blah…” Like I’m obligated to help them at a career they’re going to quit when they experience the reality of. Then there are the nut jobs that think that because we exchange comments on social media that we’re “friends” or “colleagues”. Colleagues? This is the reason why experienced talent refrain from offering “help”. The appreciation of that help is whimsical, conditional and transient. The bottom line is this: If you think I’m a fraud, feel free to believe that I couldn’t care less. I’ve got more important things on my agenda. Things like booking and recording national voice overs on a regular basis. My 25 years of network commercial experience is a reality. My credits are real. My content is solid. My training actually works and puts money in my students pockets. Don’t believe me? Awww I’m truly heartbroken.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      C’mon Paul…. let us know how you REALLY feel willya? 🙂

      I appreciate your POV, but obviously, others’ mileage may vary. I have not been burned by newbies as you describe, but I may not be at your level of accomplishment, either.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  6. Andy Boyns

    DavK! How could you!! What a great confession 😉

    You, Paul, Joe, and Dan have already said it, but we have a truly great community which makes a huge difference as a result of those who constantly support each other.

    You know how important this has been for me especially, otherwise potentially isolated out here in Istanbul, Turkey. In fact as a result of so much generosity of spirit I truly feelat the heart of an international business… and blessed especially for the support you’ve given me over the years?

    I’m grateful to that many of my “pixel” friends I have also become real friends. but just as every journey starts with the first step, every relationship starts with the first tentative connection. I guess the key here is “respect”: both of another’s time and a realistic view of what they can offer back at that moment. Oh, and not going too far on the first date!

    For those who choose not to participate, well ultimately it’s their business, but I think also their loss.

    Keep up the great work and congratulations for learning from a mistake 🙂

    Best, as ever

    andy

    Reply

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