So, you want to be a voiceover actor. Cool.
Often people may (mistakenly) regard voiceover work as a career that delivers fast and easy money, and maybe even with a bit of glamour too. Who doesn’t want to hear their voice on TV and radio, or even a video game, or wow – an animated movie!?
Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s a competitive and challenging industry. Folks who may think it is just about creating silly character voices come to a very rude awakening when they realize the long and arduous road that lies ahead for any real measure of success.
Even if the unemployment stats of actors at around 90% don’t scare you off, other aspects of a voice acting business most certainly can.
We discussed several of those aspects in Part One of this blog series, where we also talked about ways to determine if a VO career path may be the right path for you. Here in Part Two of the series, we’re going to dive even deeper with another big question:
Will a VO career give you what you really want out of a job?
Put the ideas of fast money and glamour aside, especially since they may not even be possible until much farther down the road of your career. Let your pride and ego move out of the picture.
Open your heart and check out four points to ponder to help you determine if voiceover could be a meaningful career choice for you.
Legacy refers to what you leave behind once you’re gone. It can be thought of as what you did, and what you’re remembered for.
Why Legacy Matters
Your legacy is what you leave behind as a contribution for future generations. When people think of you, what will come to mind?
It’s easy to see what great artists and writers left behind as their legacy. Others still learn from their work today. Notable architects and scientists also leave an obvious legacy. I realize that even this collection of blogs is a bit of a legacy for me. But you don’t need to leave behind remarkable buildings, literature or works of art to pass something on to future generations, or to feel that your life mattered.
Does a voiceover career align with the way you want to be remembered?
When it comes to the legacy of a voiceover career, it goes much deeper than just a library of recording projects on YouTube or your website.
For me personally, the bulk of the recordings I do for my voiceover work consists of content that is pretty boring. True. Some clients even apologize to me in advance about how boring their script content is. In fact, from an artistic perspective, there are a very few projects out of the thousands I’ve done that would be terribly impressive to anyone.
Most of the time, I’m using my vocal skills to sell a product, explain how to do something and/or enhance someone’s service or brand. It’s rare that I actually get the chance to play a real character in a situation with any true depth of emotion.
It’s not that acting skills don’t come in handy. It’s just that there are much fewer opportunities to lend a voice to something with a real story, as in a feature film, animated series, or even a video game. That kind of work is coveted, rare, and often relegated first to the A-list actor pool, with any remaining scraps being highly contested through agency auditions.
That said, my personal legacy has more to do with pursuing and achieving a dream than showcasing a catalog of exciting work. From a young age, my dream was to be a working actor – to make my living in the industry. After decades of dedication, concentrated effort, good luck and the grace of God, I’ve ultimately found that success. I’m able to pass down the notion to my children: With focus, clear vision, and tenacity, dreams can come true.
Would that be a legacy worthy of your efforts in a voiceover career? Ask yourself what matters to you.
Mastery involves using strengths you want to improve, and employing those strengths in a way you find rewarding.
Why Mastery Matters
Finding something you’re good at – and that you love to do – is one of the keys for creating a career that is more pleasure than work. While there will still be specific tasks within a career that are mundane or tiresome, selecting a career that allows you continuous use and improvement of your strengths is poised to bring ongoing rewards.
Does a voiceover career provide a rewarding way to use your strengths?
With a history and degree in acting, along with a love of language, voiceover seemed a good match for me. It allowed me to use my skills and talent to bring scripts to life for my clients. I love the continuous improvement of my acting abilities through ongoing education, dialect work, and keeping up with the latest industry news, knowledge and trends.
I also enjoy the chase of the work – fielding auditions, inquiries and client requests – which is typically the day-to-day grind for most working actors. I like the organization of it all. I take pleasure in the challenge of starting each week, and each new day, with nearly a clean slate I am tasked to fill. Most of all, I absolutely love the work.
Realizing that the vast portion of your workday will NOT be filled with creating goofy character voices behind the microphone is something would-be voice actors need to accept. Your average day is instead apt to be filled with much more mundane and repetitive yet important tasks that bring you paying voiceover jobs (that are likely to fall into the “unglamorous” category).
Will that be a good use of your personal strengths? More on what those specific tasks are in Part Three of this series.
Freedom can mean different things for different people. Some may view freedom as having all the money they need to travel the world or buy extravagant luxurious. Others may define freedom as flexible hours and the ability to work from home, wherever that home may be.
One of my agents has a great way of defining my home studio: it’s my own personal ATM which can generate as much income as I choose. How many jobs or careers can say that?
Why Freedom Matters
When related to a job, freedom can be thought of as the benefits, flexibility and salary you need to live the life you desire. It matters a lot for your overall life satisfaction levels. You can keep freedom front and center by thinking of the lifestyle you want, and then choosing a career that will help you lead that lifestyle.
Does a voiceover career deliver the freedom you want?
Freedom for me is the ability to spend lots of time with those most important to me, live in a gorgeous state with changing seasons, and have the opportunity to do what I love while making a living. Voiceover fits the bill on all of the above.
Unlike working as a stage or screen actor where geography matters, voiceover work can be done from anywhere in the world with the right equipment. In my early days, it was beneficial for me to start in the LA market, which afforded me the chance to build a business. Once established, I was able to move out of that market to a Midwest haven, where we had room to breathe and grow as a family.
Especially as a woman in the modern acting world, it’s not easy to find a career that is as accommodating to motherhood as being a VO-preneur – especially when your husband is handling a lot of the business end of things.
I love being my own boss, making up my own rules, setting my own schedule, and creating something from nothing, every day! But I must add that building any business to this level, and keeping it there, is a huge task, and not without enormous ongoing effort, tenacity, and continuous navigation in a ever-evolving market.
Alignment relates to feeling like you belong. It refers to the values, culture and priorities of the place you work or the field you’re in.
Why Alignment Matters
Anyone who has tried to work in an environment where they don’t feel comfortable with the overriding beliefs or treatment they get knows the major importance of alignment. When you’re aligned, walking into your workplace feels like walking into a place where you’re welcomed, needed and respected. It also feels like a place where you’re being challenged, growing and becoming the person you were meant to be.
Do you feel like you belong in a voiceover career?
Alignment with a career in voiceover is particularly important, since you’re mostly working alone in a highly competitive environment. You need to ask yourself if you’ll be comfortable working alone in a small booth most of the time – or will the solitude drive you crazy? Are you the type that can get things done on your own, or do you need consistent outside motivation, feedback and encouragement?
A voiceover career can be a lonely one. Unless you’re part of a live or in-person acting hub in a major city, your interaction with others is typically limited to emails or occasional phone calls. (Even the acting hub interactions have diminished during COVID-19.)
No one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you get things done. You have no bantering colleagues or built-in support system. Most of the time, no one is directing you in your auditions or recording work. And as with any artistic career, rejection rates are high and competition is fierce.
The alignment works for me, provided I balance out the solitude (which I enjoy) by spending quality time with family and friends. I also seek out other outlets when I’m not working.
Over the years, I’ve also learned to grow a thick skin when it comes to rejections. I don’t take them personally, and literally forget most auditions the moment I submit. If I do get the booking, it’s a nice surprise. (And secretly, most of my work doesn’t come from auditioning anyway…but that’s another blog!)
I also view my work as something more than just a job. As mentioned in Part One of this series, voiceover to me is about serving others. My role is one cog of a collaborating effort of the team, pulling together the final project. Our efforts ultimately help support the business we’re working for, our own livelihoods and, in the broader sense, the entire happiness of the world.
Maybe that sounds cliché, but these connections in our lives do have a way of branching out in ways that can be very meaningful.
My enjoyment of my career and track record of success over the past 20+ years helps me recognize that I belong in this field. It’s a good fit for me.
If you believe a voiceover career would bring you happiness in the way of legacy, mastery, freedom and alignment, perhaps it’s time to move forward. But there’s still one more aspect of the business to explore. Stay tuned for Part Three of this series where we’ll look at the practical side of the equation to see if voiceover work is truly something you want to pursue.