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OTM Essay 9: You’ve Got to Stay in It – to Win It!

Whether you’ve been in the business 17 days or 17 years – you’ve got to stay in it to win it. Voice-over is a challenging field, but it’s also very rewarding. Don’t you want to find out your potential? See how far your voice can take you?

On The Mic has been open for over 5 years and in that time we’ve had over 500 students. The most successful people are the ones who stick with it. They take a lot of classes, hire a pro to produce their demo, learn how to create relationships in the business that turn into work, and create a marketing campaign to help sell themselves to agents, studios, and casting. They’re the ones who figured out how to find work, which is an art all by itself.

I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years. I’ve got opportunities that never would’ve happened if I had quit a year ago. My whole career has been like that. Every milestone I’ve reached may not have occurred if I had given up. This is about building a career and that’s where voice-over gets interesting. You need to have multiple relationships with variou studios, casting directors, and production companies who know and trust you. You want to plant seeds that will “pop up” and turn into work. Like I’ve said many times you can enter the business and get a great job, but that’s not a career. A career is a successful, consistent, and sustainable position in the market that continues to grow.

You have a reason you’re attracted to voice-over. People tell you that you have a great/quirky/friendly/cartoon/distinct voice. You feel comfortable using your voice, or maybe you’re a great mimic. You could just be curious about the business or the mystery and competition behind it. Why is that? Why is voice-over so hard to get into? It requires perseverance, talent, self-awareness, humility, a love for your voice, and the confidence to express yourself with your voice

No matter how good you are, there will be roadblocks. Picture yourself at an electronics store buying a TV. You get to the cashier and see a huge line of people buying the same TV. You think “Great, this will take a while.” That’s what it’s like in voice-over. There’s people ahead of you that have the same skills as you. They’ve taken classes, produced their demo, and gotten an agent. That’s part of the business, but the good news is that there’s more way than ever to get work in the industry. With TV and movie rentals making a shift to the internet, the amount of voice-over work is going to double. The pay structure may take some time to figure itself out, but it’s always like that – it’s part of the evolution of the business. Like I said in Essay 7; the voice-over business is still in its infancy.

It’s not easy to get into this business, but remember that performing for a living isn’t like any other job on the planet. When you perform for a living you need to put it on the line every time, because that’s what’s expected. You’re paid the amount you are because you’re willing to dig deep and share yourself in a vulnerable way, most people aren’t capable or willing to do that. 

There’s no rules or agreements in society about show business; you don’t graduate with a degree in voice-over with a guaranteed job and income. It can feel more like the lawless wild west. Look at it this way: voice-actors work about 1/10th the time as most people working full time, yet voice-actors make way more. On top of all this; voice-acting is fun, creative, and engaging. If you go after your dreams and achieve even a modest amount of success, it can be worth way more than a successful “safe” job.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Chasing your dreams isn’t always easy, but at the end of the day you can sleep easier knowing you went after it with everything you had. It takes guts to go after your dream, just like it takes guts for some people to take a voice-over class. I see people in my class give everything they get in front of the mic, and every single one loves it and has a total blast. The next time they take a class it’s even easier. It’s all about taking steps forward, big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are moving in the right direction.

We’re both on the same path, I might just be a bit further ahead. I still come up against roadblocks, get intimidated by challenges, and have to keep pushing myself to be better. I look at it like a game which keeps the emotion out of it. As you continue on your voice-over journey, keep adding allies to your side, it’s great to have people to bounce ideas off of, or check in with about work. You don’t need to go through the journey alone. A great place to network and meet these allies are in classes. The other students are people just like you, with an interest in voice-over and a desire to work in it – be it part-time or full-time. When you’re in class the next time share your info with the other students and keep in touch. It’s easier to make it in a group than as an individual.

Stay On The Mic, I’ll see you in class.

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