The 1 Thing That Will Help You Fail at VoiceOvers

by | Feb 27, 2017 | Ruminations | 8 comments

Last week, I was approached 3 times by eager new hopeful voice actors.  People who were either told they have a great voice, and wanted to know how to get started, or who had already taken some training, and were enthusiastic about their new career.  Here are excerpts from one such email:

I’ve retired from 25 years in ABCD in September and just completed voiceover training from XYZ Coaches.  I am currently developing a business plan, a logo and contacts to begin sharing my demo and acquiring some experience.  I’m writing from my newly minted email account and plan to develop this enterprise, step by step.  Currently, XYZ Coaches is hosting a mini-website to promote my demo. It can be found here: http://www.XYZCoaches/mydemo.  Attached are the mp3 versions of the demo for your review.  I am very excited about the days ahead in the VO world!

I’m excited for this person.  Maybe he’ll hit the ground running, and find financial success right away.  Freelancers are growing by leaps and bounds.  The “gig economy” has lots of appeal.  See this article entitled:  THE EXTINCTION OF THE TRADITIONAL WORKFORCE.

The reality for most freelancers, though — and especially for voice actors — is: this career is  built on consistency, patience, and steady growth.  I know of only a handful of voice actors who entered this profession, found incredible success, and began feeding their family, as well as paying all their bills within two years.  A handful. 

I’d never discourage my emailing friend above.  He could be in that handful.  But going by statistical principles, he’ll most likely land in the realm the rest of us are toiling in; training/practicing/improving in the long haul.  Will his enthusiasm survive the inevitable disappointment or long-term reality of hard-fought success?
 
Voice acting especially requires a deep immersion in the culture of acting, delving into sound freelance business practices, and then a entering a thorough study in the genre to which you’re aspiring. 
Are there shortcuts?  A few…but you find them through due diligence, asking questions, finding a mentor, networking, becoming part of the community and keeping your eyes & ears open. 
Much has been written of late about the brief attention span, and lack of patience in the millenial generation, but I see it across age groups.  What are you told about your demo?  Keep it to a minute, and make sure the best stuff is in the first 10 secs.  No one has time for ANYTHING any more.  ‘Certainly no time for patience.
 
I’d love to see the stats on failure rate after two years in voiceover. Someone please do a longitudinal study on a group of 100 hopefuls, and follow them for two years?
 
Here’s my somewhat educated guess of the results of such an imaginary study:  half drop out within the first year, when they realize big sacks of money never arrived at their door.   Another 30 or so may last into the second year, then bow out.  Of the twenty-or-so remaining, 10 will be doing voiceover from opportunities part-time from listings they find on ODesk, ThumbTack, or UpWork, and can’t be considered career candidates.  In my make-believe scenario, that leaves 10 people.  10% of the original 100 who are willing to see it through and be professional voice actors.  (leaving up to you the definition of “professional” — I plan a blog article this week about that).
 
So what’s the one thing that will help you fail at voiceovers?  Impatience.
 
I’ve been at this seriously almost 10 years.  Granted, much of my attention is pulled away to TV News 8 hours/day, but I would argue that I’m a working VO professional nonetheless.  Am I in that handful I mentioned above?  Not in the least.  Am I giving up?  Nope.  I’m doubling down on patience and determination.
 
You?
 
CourVO
 

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8 Comments

  1. John Burr

    Dave,

    Kudos all over for that article. You have hit the nail on the head. No one could have said it better.

    I preach this all the time to my students, often with little long-term result. I especially appreciated what you had to say about millennials, but followed up by saying that impatience goes way beyond the millennial generation. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s cultural.

    I am enjoying reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

    All the best,

    John

    Reply
    • CourVO

      John,

      Thanks! The line between enthusiasm/passion and reality is a fine one. I’m not one to discourage anybody for trying… just want to remind folks that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  2. Rolland Lopez

    Great point…I meet so many people who ask me about my experience and because of how easy it is to get started now, it seems like something where you can hang your awning and be making bank tomorrow. I took my first vo class at Voicetrax in Sausalito in December 1997. I’ve been at this almost 20 years and have seen my career go through good and bad, ups and down. I’m still at it and hoping to keep pushing my career ever forward!

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Rolland,

      Thanks for chiming in! I’m glad you’re sticking with it. But I hear ya about the peaks and valleys. Persistence pays!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  3. Jim Sartor

    I agree. I have been doing vo and audiobooks for about 18 months with limited success. I have done 14 audiobooks and am working on 15 and 16. However, with ACX the royalties are limited, but that is to be expected. Your comments gives me encouragement. When I started, my vision was that it would take at least three years to turn the corner and probably five before I could say my work was paying the bills.

    Luckily, I have a small annuity and social security plus a loving wife who still works and encouages me to stay the course. My advice to others, don’t quit before the miracle. Despite what the sales people from XYZ company say, there is not a rainbow to chase for the pot of gold. Only hard work, study and acceptance of rejection.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Jim,

      Thanks for adding your perspective. After narrating 40+ audiobook titles, I decided the ROI was too slim and too labor-intensive. I have since moved on, but there are not many “gimme’s” ANYWHERE in this biz. I appreciate that you’re staying the course. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply
  4. Bryan Kopta

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for writing another great blog post. My first year in VO, I actually made more money than any prior year in my life, which is to say, it was more than enough to pay all the bills. And I did it 100% the much-maligned P2P way.

    I worked at it 10, hours a day, three days a week. The other 2 days I spent at my day job. (My day job was in television, where 13 hours days were the norm, so a 10-hour day seemed like a vacation.) I never did less than 100 auditions a week, and often a good deal more. And I spent weekends adding demos to those sites, either from jobs that I’d booked, or creating them from scratch from auditions that I didn’t book, but liked. After 4 months, when the show I was working on finished its season; I became a full time VO; and I never looked back.

    So the good news is, if you really want it, and are willing and able to work at it every day, you can succeed. And quicker than is often suggested.

    Reply
    • CourVO

      Thanks, Bryan….so you’re one of the “handful” I mentioned…but you obviously worked hard. Real hard. Good onya!

      Once I’m able to leave this broadcast job, I plan to go “whole hog” (as they say on the farm) into VO like you did!

      Dave Courvoisier

      Reply

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