Okay, so the following is a true voice over story. Pretend you are this person as you read it.
You’re an aspiring voice over actor.
(By the way, if you actually are an aspiring voice actor, GO HERE to figure how to build a successful career in VO from scratch.)
You practice the craft, research how to break through, figure out how much work it is, and buy the right equipment to become a successful voice over pro.
You setup a great recording space. Your mic is ready to go, plugged into your interface and connected to your recording software on your computer. You’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s. You’re all ready to say goodbye to your full-time career and say hello to your dream of becoming a professional voice actor.
You hit the record button. But something is off. It sounds like you’re speaking in a deep well or tin can. You check the connection, the equipment, read the forums online, ask the experts at the store but no one can figure out the problem. You continue to record auditions for voice over gigs, have a recording go live on the radio, but you are constantly tinkering with the recordings and amplifying them because you can’t seem to make them sound right – they just sound OFF.
You start to seriously doubt you will ever figure this out – you are not an idiot, you used to be the IT person at your previous job, but you are NOT an audio engineer and you are not sure if it is your equipment, your settings, your space…you are at your wit’s end.
Maybe this is a sign that this career isn’t for you. You start to shut down and not believe in yourself because you can’t seem to make it work and you feel like you never will.
But you were laid off from your full time job, so you are forced to try to make a living doing this. You MUST face your fears and figure this out.
You decide to reach out to someone on twitter to help you with your problem remotely. He can’t figure it out either. WHY WON’T THIS WORK?! WHY DO YOU SOUND SO FAR AWAY??? He decides to look up the microphone online to make sure he isn’t missing anything. He tells you to describe what you see when you are looking at the microphone and you tell him.
He starts laughing. Why is he laughing? This has cost you time filled with immense stress and self-doubt and now he’s laughing?!
He then tells you the news – Your microphone is backwards – it is facing away from your voice.
You start laughing too in a mixture of embarrassment and hope…could that REALLY be the problem????
This whole time… you have been recording with the microphone turned BACKWARDS. AHHHHHH!!!
You can’t believe it. You feel SO dumb, but you are also so relieved and grateful that this twitter stranger (now friend) took the time to really try to figure this out. It only took a year of frustration to realize that the simplest answer is often the correct answer.
The Person Behind This True Story
This actually happened to a very talented voice actor, commercial actor, and writer named Michelle Falanga. I loved this story when I heard it and had to share it. She is an incredibly good sport for allowing me to tell this story. She now has her mic turned the right way and has done some really great work. Listen to her do her thing here: http://www.michellefalanga.com/.
Not all voice actors starting out make this same mistake, but many wish they would have done something differently or followed certain advice when they first started out.
If Michelle had the chance, she would have told her noobie voice over self this:
27 Other Voice Actors Get Honest With Their Former Noobie Voice Over Selves
It’s okay to make a mistake. It builds character. But in some situations, if you had the chance, you would have rather not made the mistake in the first place. So, I asked some seasoned voice actors to share 1 piece of advice they would like to tell their former noobie voice actor selves. There were 27 responses, many with more than 1 thing to say. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or brand new to the field, you’ve gotta read their “Honest Abe”-like advice.
p.s. ARE YOU INTERESTED IN GROWING A SUCCESSFUL VO CAREER FROM SCRATCH? GO HERE.
1. Beau Stephenson – “Bid high. Under promise.” (Click here to tweet Beau’s quote.)
2. Jordan Reynolds – “Stop trying so hard.” (Click here to tweet Jordan’s quote.)
3. Christian Lanz – “Trust your own instincts more than the advice of others.” (Click here to tweet Christian’s quote.)
4. Jewel Elizabeth – “It’s gonna be worth it, just trust it.” (Click here to tweet Jewel’s quote.)
5. Jan Anderson – “Patience, Grasshopper.” (Click to tweet Jan’s quote.)
6. Garnet Williams – “Move to L.A.” <- Garnet is referring to wanting to do TV and film animation and how L.A. is the best spot for him to do that.
7. September Day Carter – “If your coach is still going on about their 2002 Emmy and has nothing current, move on.”
8. Dan Hurst – “Give yourself 10 years to support yourself full-time. If FT is not within your plan, enjoy the opportunities and options that come along! And most importantly, build relationships with your clients based on integrity and professionalism. I took that advice.”
9. Jay Shields – “Get a quality coach. And work on really listening to your work and remember all you can do is your best and never get down if you don’t get booked.”
10. Laurel Thomas – “Take the time to read, absorb and learn as much as you can now… because there will still be more to learn later and you’ll be that much more ahead of the game.”
11. Bob Bergen – “You know that passion and drive you have?? You know how you want this more than anything else on earth? You know how you work on your craft every waking moment? You know all the hours put in with that little portable cassette recorder? You know the time you devote to your vo, acting, and improv classes throughout the week?? You know the miles of day and night jobs you have to pay your expenses and bills?? It’s all gonna pay off!!! But the hard work and drive will continue, so don’t think you can ever slow down!”
12. Terry Daniel –
“Slow down and enjoy life a little more. Don’t be consumed in voiceover land 24/7. Take time to breathe, reflect and recharge.”
“Don’t let rejection from a talent agent stop you from pursuing your dream.” (Click here to tweet Terry’s second quote.)
13. Jeannie Stith – “Don’t try to sound like anyone else. The more you sound like YOU, the more perfect gigs come along.”
14. Kirsty Gillmore – “Take those acting classes you always wanted to do. Don’t worry that you might not be the most amazing actor or that other people think you’re wasting time and money when you don’t want to be a “proper actor” and could be advancing your “real” career. The skills and techniques you will learn will give you confidence in your abilities on the dark days and will encourage you to take risks.”
15. Mike Pongracz – “As with anything in life, don’t take what other’s say or do at face value ESPECIALLY on social media. In this fairly anonymous platform, it doesn’t take much to look like you’re a player. But with a little research, you can pretty easily (and quickly) discover who the real goods are and who’s just full of shit. Sadly, I fall into that latter category. *wink*”
16. Chuck Davis – “There’s no such thing as “aiming too high”.” (Click here to tweet Chuck’s quote.)
17. Melissa Reizian Frank – “Don’t spend hundreds (thousands) on every piece of equipment “someone” tells you you need, or need to upgrade. Those quick-advice-givers a) may not be as knowledgeable as you (they) think they are…and b) it ain’t THEIR Visa card!”
18. John Melley – “No experience is ever wasted. Even so-called “Non VO” jobs and experiences will all provide value to what you bring to your VO performances.”
19. Marie Kopan – “One step always leads to the next, but it is up to you to Take the first step….take risks and enjoy!”
20. Doug Turkel – “Don’t worry about being discovered. Just be discoverable.” (Click here to tweet Doug’s quote.)
21. Dave Wallace – “Dude (and yes, I would use the word “dude,” as I was in college when I began VO), not to undervalue acting ability, but learn about marketing! This is a business, and you’ll experience success a lot quicker if you learn how to market rather than taking acting classes and hoping something magically happens. Also, quick side note, cut your hair.”
22. Mike Cooper –
“#1: Don’t automatically say yes to everyone. Some clients/projects are way too much like hard work, suck your soul or go against your morals. Learning to spot which ones is what takes time though.
If I could have one more? #2: Work out what your time is worth, and don’t let anyone talk you into going below that figure.
And if I could be really naughty and do a third? #3: Get into the habit early on of asking for 50% (or 100%) before you deliver the files. It’s not how the industry works, but it would have saved me countless hours in chasing up payments over the years if I’d made it my model to begin with.”
23. Lee Gordon – “It’s not just about your voice.” (Click here to tweet Lee’s quote.)
24. Maxine Dunn –
“1. Pay close attention to your GUT. Your intuition. Don’t do something that your intuition is telling you NOT to.
2. Don’t do something “just for the money.” (Click here to tweet Maxine’s quote.)
3. Be fully prepared, both mentally and physically, to WORK YOUR ASS OFF, even during all those times when you don’t feel like it, when your career seems to be going down the toilet, or when you feel overwhelmed. If you want to succeed in voice-overs, you have to be in it for the long haul. Accept that there is no “overnight success” or “quick fix.” You’ll have to “Do The Work.” (A Steven Pressfield book title.)
4. Don’t let your voice-over career take over your whole life. Stay closely connected to your family, your friends, your hobbies, your spiritual life, your health, and NEW interests. Don’t become a hermit or one-track-minded. Your voice-over career is just ONE aspect of your life. What Terry Daniel very astutely said: “Don’t be consumed in voiceover land, 24/7….”
25. Rebecca Michaels Haugh – “Remember that vision you had of that microphone in the window? Go for it! (Glad I did!)”
26. Marc Scott – “Start reading books about business, sales, marketing, etc… from day one!” (Click to tweet Marc’s quote.)
27. John Lano (I had to put my own in here.) – “When it comes to a voice over audition, send it and forget it.” (Click to tweet John’s quote.)
Thanks for reading all these quotes and thank you, contributors, for giving me your permission to share your words of wisdom.
p.s. If you enjoyed this post, you should subscribe to receive all of my new blog posts delivered right to your email inbox. Simply scroll up and look on the sidebar to the right where you’ll see a box that says “Don’t Miss Out.” Just fill in your name and email address.
Abraham Lincoln photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagoartdepartment/.
What an amazing collection of advice all in one place. It’s like being a fly on the wall of the ultimate Voice Over Mastermind Group! Thanks for compiling these John. A lot of people are going to be blessed!
Wow. That is very kind and a great way to put it, Marc. Everyone (including you) was incredibly generous in sharing their wisdom and honesty with their former selves. 🙂
I’m sharing with ALLL of my VO students. This is great!
That’s wonderful, Leah! Will you let me know what they think of it?
And what is one thing YOU would tell your noobie VO self?
Several years ago, I ran across an interview with Harrison Ford (soon after his success of the Raiders series, I believe). He said, “I realized early on that success was tied to not giving up. Most people
in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply
didn’t give up, you would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you.” I spent a lot of my early years second-guessing myself, my abilities, and my talent. PERSISTENCE – particularly when faced with doubt (whether your own or others) – is an element I am constantly cultivating. By no means is it the ONLY brick required in the foundation of a solid VO career, but it’s an important one. I realize that now and remind myself of it daily.
Leah – That quote from Harrison Ford and your own personal journey are very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.
And what you’re saying basically is this:
You don’t have to be the most talented voice actor to be the most persistent. The one who sticks with it will get opportunities.
Hey John, there is some excellent advice in this (except for #8). Thanks for taking the time to compile it and share it!
Dan, I forgot to add that caveat. #8 is not worth anyone’s time, especially for those looking to make any headway in this business. I’ll make sure to pass that along to future readers. 😉
HA! Exactly! Integrity shmintegrity!
On second thought, I think you’re wrong, Dan. The advice you give in #8 is something any aspiring voice actor could use to build a career from. You did it yourself. I’m taking this to the social media streets to see what others have to say. 🙂
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Want another, John? Don’t ignore where you came from: your prior career or experience could be a GREAT source of clients! You have an edge in marketing to people if you already speak their language and know their needs and issues, and if you can offer a bundled service — for example, script review as well as voiceover in a specific elearning field — you could do very well!
Mary, that is a hugely valuable piece of advice. It’s all about giving your client the highest ROI and value. Just make sure you empty your sleeves with all your tricks so you leave them in shock and awe. 🙂
Mine: 3-6 months of intense training and practice before you even think about cutting a demo. Otherwise you’re just wasting your money.
Scott, I’m loving that straightforward advice. While it always varies depending on how quickly someone “gets it,” it is always dangerous to jump in too quickly. Getting a demo produced is a big investment, but it’s an investment that can pay off 100 times over if done at the right moment with the right mix of skills, talent, scripts, and production.
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John, Two thumbs waaay up! Thanks for getting these great folks to share their words of wisdom. This is truly advice to live by. Jason Culver
Thank you for reading this, Jason.
And no problem! I was overwhelmed by how awesome their advice was, so I just had to share it “officially” on a blog post.
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