Friday, April 13, 2012

Give It Time MEANS Give It Time

Ok newbie vo talent, especially those asking me what it takes to break into this business, I’m sensing impatience.

I’ve recently walked away from two encounters (neither of which were paid coachings or consultations) where the person hitting me up for advice got frustrated with me. Both seemed to check out of our conversation at about the same time, right around the time that I mentioned that breaking into VO requires an investment in time.

Initially there’s a skeptical acceptance:

“Oh sure, I’m GOING to give it time...” [Subtext: “ until next Wednesday...”]

This stage is an open belittling of my painfully obvious advice.
This must be me blowing them off. Everybody knows that!

Then we follow up this dismissal with a more aggressive re-direct. Sometimes this stage gets openly hostile. Essentially it boils down to frustration that I am not giving them “The TRICK©”.

See, “The TRICK®” is that magical unicorn piece of advice which, upon receiving it, allows the listener to prosper financially without having to invest in all that time, effort, expense, relationship building, and learning. These actors would be able to circumvent all that drudgery if ONLY *I* were cool, and delivered unto them “The TRICK™”.

You want “The TRICK” (patent pending)?

The trick IS time.

If you’re new to this craft you are trying to accomplish two goals:
1 - You are trying to determine what your style of performance will be.
2 - You are creating a small business built around the idea of selling that performance style.

In what other market or business sector are small businesses immediately successful when the owners of that business aren’t entirely sure what their product even is?
Successful brands are not built overnight. It takes time to establish a brand’s message or vibe. THEN, once that’s been nailed down, it takes a significant amount of energy to introduce that brand into a competitive market place.
Not only will you have to outlast all the other upstarts that jump in around the same time as you, you ALSO need to position yourself against the established brands.

Time. Money. Effort.

But most of all, Time.


  1. Hear hear! We live in an age of instant gratification, with fast food, instant messaging, movies-on-demand & iTunes. Some people can't comprehend that building a successful career or business takes time and effort (and yes, money too.) "But I can do cartoon voices & I have a USB microphone...why isn't Funimation knocking down my door?" Because there are *thousands* of others, many of whom have better recording setups & can do a better impression of (insert your favorite character) than you.

    1. LOL!
      And honestly, I don't need someone who can do an impression. I'll just hire the actor that actually did the role...

  2. Damn sound advice that i will take to heart! I would think, NOT talking from Any experience mind you, that it takes an almost military discipline to achieve your goals in this field. At least an A-type personality? I mean the term "Paying your dues" still is in effect these days is it not?

    1. I don't want to resort to cliches, but you have to be single-minded about this business. You have to need to do it. If anything else can make you happy, I would recommend doing that instead.
      I think where a lot of people are led astray, those who are passionate about this business, it's in the realities of what working in entertainment actually means. It's not all make believe and fun. A lot of work and investment needs to happen before, during, and after the satisfying "fun" times.

      I considered writing something about "dues" in this piece, and I might elaborate on that in another article, but long story short people have done some pretty awful things to new comers under the guise of making them "pay their dues", and that phrase has been used to justify terrible and selfish behavior. To some "dues paying" is becoming akin to hazing, and it can become a self-replicating cycle. I think those who get hazed are more likely to haze new comers when they get the chance.

      I think the new comer who has an understanding of how media is produced, how work gets done, and understands that they need to "invest" in their own skills, education, resources, and network will be FAR less likely to be taken advantage of than the person who thinks they need to "pay their dues".

  3. I think Time is a foreign concept to too many people these days.

    I wonder if it can be taught.

    1. "I want you to sit in this chair until I come and get you."
      [Time Passes]
      "There. That's what a half hour feels like."

  4. From the gear sales side of things, it's so hard to convince customers that owning really decent recording rig isn't going to make you sound like "that guy from Law and Order."
    I asked him, "well, how often do you read out loud?"
    His answer, "what do you mean?"
    "You know practicing your craft by reading OUT LOUD."
    "Oh I don't need to do that I'm very clear speaker. So how do I get that really good sounding voice?"
    --If I could have just walked away I would have after that.

    Why do people need to be TOLD that they have to practice to become skilled at something. 'Oh well I bought a $3000 recording rig I should be fantastic at everything that could ever be recorded.' ...sigh.
    I blame microwave ovens for people wanting everything immediately. (of course, I couldn't live without my microwave oven though.....ironic don't ya think? )

    1. Oh MAN!
      And how GREAT is it when AFTER they disregard your advice, AND buy really nice gear, THEN they blame you when the gear hasn't made them sound awesome.

      It's because of ONE client that now I wont blindly recommend gear. I was warning him NOT to buy a ton of stuff since he said he wasn't tech savvy, but he eventually pinned me on what my ideal set up would be. He bought THAT, then got mad at me when it was "too complicated to ever work right".

      I mean, what I do is EASY right? The general perception at the time was that I was just PART of the gear. I was necessary to push record, but the euipment was doing all the actual work...

  5. Well put! I have only been asked "I want to get into voiceovers, what microphone* should I get?" eleventy hundred times. There is that tiny moment where you have to decide what the person is really asking and how willing/able they might be to hear a thoughtful answer. Pretty amazing what miniscule percentage actually want to hear the thoughtful answer... (*commonly believed to be the magical unicorn piece of equipment™)

    1. Ugh. Yeah.
      I get that a lot too.
      Even giving them the benefit of the doubt, they almost NEVER want to hear about actual gear recommendations, they're really just hoping I'll say "Buy a Snowball"...

  6. That restless feeling can get going, I must admit, when I consider that it's not even a matter of months but of years - especially when I'm already feeling jazzed from class or coaching. But acting is a tough business whether its on stage, in front of a camera, on a mic or a combination of all possibilities, which is something I heard repeatedly from acting teachers waybackwhen.

    The advice (that I've modified a little bit, and still stray from sometimes when I take my eye off the ball) is that my work IS the hussle; it IS the practice, work, classes, getting in touch with people, schlepping around with the gas tank veering toward empty and five dollars until next month, swallowing envy of other people's talent and/or luck and learning everything I can from them and anyone else I encounter along the way.

    Success isn't what I'm trying to achieve today (I tell myself) but getting better than I was yesterday. Sounds awfully pat, written down like that, so let me stress it's tough. But when I get it right I know I've had a very satisfying day in my new career.

  7. Right on!
    Well said with honesty and experience!
    I especially liked your last paragraph... " In what other market or business sector are small businesses immediately successful when the owners of that business aren’t entirely sure what their product even is...etc."

  8. Been cruising through your blog, and am really enjoying your viewpoints and advice. It saddens me that we live in a world where people still believe that they can become instantly famous on little or no practice. Sure, everyone has talent- but those who become great at what they do PRACTICE it diligently. Be it cooking, writing, music, speaking, or voice-acting, a real talent is the distillation of hundreds of hours of practice. That includes study and listening, too.

    I have no desire to act myself- but I do want to get into audio engineering, or maybe even sound design. It's a hobby right now- I'm starting small, and studying (and practicing!) hard. My 'raw' talent is knowing what sounds 'right'. I hope to hone it into a set of skills that- like my computer chops- are easy as breathing.

    Thanks for this blog- it's another facet of what I am learning is a fascinating- and ultimately gratifying- world.