7 Easy-to-Miss Habits of a Successful Voice Actor

by | Jul 15, 2016 | VO Business

forestIsn’t it funny the stuff you pick up from your acting assignments sometimes?

My inspiration for this blog article actually came from an E-Learning module I was reading yesterday.

The script used the old adage “can’t see the forest for the trees” to make a point for the presentation being developed.  As the analogy played-out in the copy, I began to appreciate the wisdom of it, and thought how timely it would be to adapt the theme for the day-to-day life of voice-actors.

So, at the risk of sounding a bit like Stephen Covey’s landmark book:  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (which everyone should read, BTW)… also taking a chance that I might be overstating the obvious… bear with me while I offer a bit of homespun advice gleaned from nothing else but my own experience… overview stuff you forget while you’re toiling in the trenches.  (with examples)

#1 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

Take care of your mind and body and soul.  Health, good eating, sleep, exercise, and equanimity/moderation in all things.  It’s the core.  The center.  Get off-kilter in any of those foundational concepts, and the strain starts to show elsewhere…like your reads!
(example: I get asked at least once-a-week, “…do you ever sleep?”.  Yes.  7-8 hours.  Just not your hours.)

#2 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

Relationships.  Before we knew anything else, we were relational.  Family, friends, acquaintances, work-mates, neighbors, and virtual/distant persons.  Not just people in voice acting, but people from your past, your present, and relations-in-progress.  This is the richness of life.
(see this comment that came in just yesterday to my blog “Embarrasingly True Story”…it’s a great example of relationship, written by a voice actor)

#3 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

Perspective.  …also known as balance.  Spend too much time on any one thing, and you miss the big picture (forest/trees?)  Be a well-read, broadly-influenced, renaissance man/woman.  Inspiration can be drawn from the most unexpected reaches of newly-discoverd corners.
(one of my best long-term clients hired me because I have an extensive education in exercise physiology and know how to pronounce anatomical terms for his physical therapy website)

#4 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

Career vs. Job  I’ve mentioned this before on my blog.  Jobs can be gotten.  Careers are planned.  Jobs pay the bills (sometimes).  Careers set you up for life and retirement.  Jobs can run your life and your schedule.  When you have a career, you can more often choose time and place.  A job will keep you in the trenches, with a career, you can at least choose which trench.
(Pat Fraley is an excellent voice talent.  He can get jobs doing that.  He chose a career as a mentor, teacher, and coach.  He gets to voice, but also exalt in his student’s success.   That’s a career.)

#5 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

See the broad/high/long view.  Details are important.  You can diligently build a beautiful house, but if you did so with the wrong plans, then your detail work is for naught.  Keep the value of hard work, but look up from the plans long enough, and often enough, to make sure you’re following the right blueprints.  In Driver’s Ed (remember Driver’s Ed?) they used to call that the broad view — keeping your eyes high and attentive.
(voice coach and ace audio engineer Cliff Zellman can dig into his extreme knowledge of production values and make you a helluva demo.  But if you and he didn’t capture your essence and abilities in the recording…the demo is an empty promise.)

#6 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

Surprise yourself.  Restated:  Stretch yourself.  Sometimes you just have to ask yourself:  “If I don’t do this, will I spend the rest of my life wondering if I should have?”  But the admonition here is beyond challenging yourself.  It’s choosing to place yourself in an uncomfortable position to reap the rewards of discovery.  Did it work?  Maybe not, But you learned something.
(In 2007, I ran into John Pruden at the first VOICE conference.  We could all hear his intelligence in the great voice he had, but a direction escaped him…until he took a chance on AudioBooks.  Now he’s constantly busy narrating.)

#7 Easy-to-Miss Habit of a Successful Voice Actor

Never underestimate practice, persistence, patience.  Now it’s time to get into the trees.  Application of desire and planning.  Can you look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and assure yourself that you did the WORK?  Was there progress?  Do you have the patience to build on today’s incremental success to achieve your goal in the long run?
(luck happens when hard work meets opportunity.  Josh Groban was called up to sit in for Celine Dion’s male singing partner one day when that guy was sick.  He’d done the work.  He was ready.  She was so impressed with Groban, that she sponsored him, made him her opening act, and lifted him to get the start on his big celebrity status today.)




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