Whether they’re written by fellow voice-over actors, life coaches, artists or folks in any other industry, I read a lot of blogs. Reading blogs is a great way to gather information, gain a fresh perspective, enjoy a lot of interesting takeaways and, in many cases, relate an intriguing topic back to the professional voice-over industry. That’s what happened when I ran across James Clear’s article about The 3 Stages of Failure in Life and Work (And How to Fix Them). Clear introduces a framework that gives a solid rundown on three main areas where individuals can fail at basically anything they do, along with helpful hints for avoiding those failures.
His article definitely struck a chord with me, particularly when I started thinking about his points in relation to the voice-over industry.
Stage 1: Failure of Tactics
A failure of tactics occurs when the “how” of a situation fails. Let’s say I’m just starting out with the goal of becoming a professional voice-over talent, and I’ve had a couple of bookings with a few clients, and made a little bit of money. I decide to go after more business by posting a few voice-over demos on a well-known voice-over website, and then wait for the new clients and jobs to roll in.
But they’re not rolling in. So let’s say I decide to cut my prices really, really low to be super-competitive on the website. And the jobs start to come. I take them as quickly as they’re offered, of course, since I’m achieving my goal of getting more work. Perfect, right?
Well, maybe not. If I kept up the pace of taking every single job that came my way, even if I felt the rate was too low or the work out my scope of experience or talent, I could soon find myself overwhelmed. I may be doing five jobs for the price of one, while ending up with unhappy clients, edits I can’t fit into my schedule, and frustration at every turn. And because I’m selling my valuable time at much less than market rates, I’m setting a precedent with these and future clients that they can get my services for under market value, while also losing out on higher paying jobs, because my schedule is too full with nickel and dime gigs.
My dream of being a successful voice-over talent may tank right here due to failure of tactics, or the failure to build effective systems, to weigh my options carefully and otherwise pay keen attention to the details.
I could fix this failure by honestly assessing my rates, adjusting them to match what I feel my time is worth, and then figuring out how much time I’ll need to complete each job given. Paying attention to such details, and then planning my time and schedule accordingly, would help my dream survive.
Stage 2: Failure of Strategy
This second failure stage involves mistakes pertaining to “what” I decide to do to further my goal. In the case of a professional voice-over career, I could fail to get the results I wanted in any number of ways. Perhaps my pricing was too high to compete with other new talent. Maybe I tried and failed to find a trustworthy talent agent. Perhaps my marketing tactics were way off base, or I relied too heavily on people finding my personal website instead of networking through an industry site with higher amounts of traffic.
Maybe I didn’t even launch a personal website and instead figured I’d try to get business by calling up big-name animation firms and asking for work. Maybe I figured the compliments I received from my friends and neighbors were enough to prove I really didn’t have to enroll in any voice-over workshops, education or training.
Building a successful professional voice-over career takes more than just a single strategy. It instead involves a combination of strategies that all work toward achieving the overall goal. Some of the many strategies I’ve used over the years include social media marketing, email newsletters, postcard mailings, industry networking, researching the market and targeting my most likely prospects, creating and maintaining a thriving website, employing SEO on my website, and continuing to work with coaches to stay at the top of my game. And it certainly doesn’t end there.
Marketing, auditions, communication, networking, writing, reading, researching, recording, delivering, editing, rewarding loyal customers, upgrading skills and equipment – are all strategies I’ve found absolutely necessary to achieve and maintain a successful voice-over career. As with any career, there are a lot of effective strategies you can use to help you succeed, and the formula isn’t always the same for everyone.
And given that success in the voice-over field is a highly competitive endeavor, sometimes it takes years to find and hone the strategies that will lead to that success. So, you have to employ patience and tenacity as well.
Stage 3: Failure of Vision
This third stage of failure is perhaps one of the most common across the board, in professional voice-over or otherwise. Failure of vision happens when we don’t set a clear direction to achieve the goal that is in our heart. We instead follow a vision that may have been offhandedly introduced when people like our friends or family members mentioned we had a great voice and should take up a voice-over career.
Failure of vision, or choosing to follow a vision that wasn’t even in our sights until someone mentioned it, can happen for several different reasons. We could be so unhappy with our current job that we see any other career as an alluring out. We’d take a career in voice-over, or perhaps even a career in just about anything, just to get out of the unsatisfying career we’re currently in.
We could also be looking only at the successful end result of a voice-over career, such as the ability to work from home, record high-profile radio and tv commercial spots, have a flexible schedule, make good money – all while wearing our pajamas if we so please.
Two things are happening at this point. One is the desire to enter a voice-over career as way to flee our current situation. Here we would basically be running away from our current jobs, not running toward a career we’ve been dreaming about for eons.
The second problem is our focus on the potentially fun aspects of a professional voice-over career, without realizing the 20-plus years of sweat, rejections and extremely hard work that goes into getting there, and then maintaining that stature. I know this aspect really well, since I’ve been there, done that. And although I do get to record fun spots in my pajamas from time to time, there is a big lineup of other tasks that are also part of the job.
Things like marketing, client database collection and updating, blogging, key word tracking, auditions, networking, researching, audio editing, bookkeeping, collections and other not-so-fun stuff are part of the usual array of tasks that keep the business going.
Building a Professional Voice-Over Career Takes Years, Not Months
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and many rush in without truly understanding the dedication, daily grind and motivation required to keep the business flowing. Each week, it’s a blank slate that you have to create, and there’s no steady paycheck or company benefits. The rewards can be great, but it doesn’t come easy or overnight. I find I repeat this mantra over and over for the many inquiries I receive all the time about how to start a career in voiceover. The odds are really stacked against you, so you have to have a clear vision, a strong drive, some talent and tenacity to survive and thrive.
If your dream is to be a successful voice-over talent, by all means go for it! Just be on the lookout for stages of failure that can trip up anyone in their chosen career. Make sure you have effective tactics in place to balance your workload and your budget. Research and implement useful strategies that can help you advance in your career. And, most importantly, make sure your dream came from deep within your heart. The sense of fulfillment you receive from a job you love is one of the true hallmarks of long-term success.