Wrong Choice, Voice Actor!

Did you ever make a really big mistake?

I had some daddy issues when I was 16, joined a religion, got married too young and took rather a long time to realise that the way he was treating me was Not Normal. I got out of there after 15 years, and it was the best move I’ve made for myself and my kids.

Some mistakes take 15 years to figure out, and often even longer to fix.

Some, you can fix instantly with the delete key. Some mistakes could cost you a client or a job, or even your career.

Ooh, bit dramatic, Sumara!

Well, let’s talk about some voiceover career mistakes.

Giving up too soon.

This one is definitely going to cost you a career. If you’re dreaming of being a voiceover artist, you simply cannot give up as soon as you have your first oh-god-I’m-hopeless-nobody-wants-to-hire-me moment. Because, uh, don’t know if anyone’s told you yet, but this is a creative freelancing job and I will bet some shiny colourful Aussie money that EVERY working freelancer has those moments. Repeatedly.

Like anything worth pursuing, voiceover takes time. It’s a business. It can be spectacularly hard. There will be amazing times, there will be crappy times. DON’T GIVE UP.

Trying to do everything.

Audiobooks are great work. Corporate video is comfortable. eLearning is lucrative. Commercials are fun. Animation is VERY FUN. Gaming is so interesting! IVR is cosy. Promos are exciting. Movie trailers are so cool! Explainers are a-plenty.

Maybe you CAN do them all, but you probably shouldn’t. It’s called spreading yourself thin and baby, you ain’t vegemite. And I don’t think there’s enough butter under you. And where’s the sliced cheese? Wait, what are you doing?

Most successful voice actors I know are very good at a few of those genres and they concentrate their marketing, auditions, promotion and training in those areas. It’s so much better to be EXCELLENT at 2 or 3 things than passable at 10. Especially if you’re excellent at commercial voiceover and you are American, because American commercials pay up the big bucks… she says sadly, from a country with the same population (ie audience!) of 2 or 3 US cities.

Anyway, let’s ignore the irony of me getting distracted and going off on tangents twice in the section about trying to do too much at once, and get back to the point: discover which genres of voiceover you love and can excel at, and focus your energy and time on those. This year I am focusing on animation and eLearning, what about you?

Comparing yourself to others.

I already wrote about this one here and made it into a game. There are rules and everything. But don’t play it!

Nothing will ruin your plans or successes or progress quite like comparing them to someone else’s. The only thing it will achieve is you feeling either depressed or smug, and neither of those are nice. I confess I sometimes succumb to the temptation and compare. It never feels good. What I prefer to do is keep up with my voiceover colleague’s careers with a supportive eye – cheer on their successes, tell people how fabulous they are, and offer advice or support when someone needs it. Much better!

Working too much.

Obviously, this is not just voice actor advice. Who wants to practically forget what your partner and children look like because you’re constantly working? Ugh. There are countless plots in movies about exactly that. Of course, those movies are so heteronormative and patriarchal and it’s usually a husband working at the office too much and neglecting his wife, but it can happen to queer voiceover chicks too, I guarantee it.

But not only will your family or social life suffer, your work will, too. You might get tired, you might get bored, your voice might start to sound weary and crackly and then what? Oh, I know! You’ll book all those weary, crackly exhausted person jobs! But unless weary crackly exhausted person voiceover is on your list of priorities from point 2, um, you’ve got a problem.

Neglecting your marketing.

Everyone has their preferred ways of marketing their voiceover services; email campaigns, social media, websites with fabulous SEO, writing blogs, podcasting… as long as you’re actually doing something, regularly… she’ll be right, mate.

Like I said in my first point – it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen! (If you’re Australian, you just said that to yourself in a New Zealand accent, didn’t you?)  For some it’ll take months, for others it’ll take years, depending on a lot of things, but just keep putting yourself out there, a little bit every day.

Maybe, some days, all you can manage is a selfie on Instagram with the caption I love voiceover #voiceactor – but that’s something! Other days, you’ll send a heap of marketing emails and make a bunch of new connections all over the place.

Gosh, sometimes I’m so negative, telling you what NOT to do all day long. Boooo. But hopefully it’s helpful negativity! Is that a thing? It’s not a thing, is it?

Please, my lovelies, go very positively about your days, very positively doing the positive opposite of all these negative things!

And enjoy your fabulously successful days!

Images by @fltall ,@wanaktek, @kayp and @mizzdalina via Twenty20.

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12 comments… add one
  • Daniel Garlick Jan 20, 2021 @ 16:42

    Absolutely ! Great advice Sumara.
    Given you are a relative newbie to the VO Game (and it is a game) I often read your articles to gain an updated perspective on things I have forgotten over a 30+ year voiceover career. Yes. Really I am that old…
    And I like to be reminded. So thanks !
    And by the way, you are FABULOUS !!!

    • Sumara Meers Jan 20, 2021 @ 16:56

      Thank you Dan. It’s so nice, and such a relief, to hear that someone who’s been around for a long time and already knows all this, is still getting some value from my attempts at encouragement and advice.

      You’re very kind, as always, thank you!

  • Dani Jan 20, 2021 @ 17:01

    Words of wisdom! I am guilty of all of the above.

    • Sumara Meers Jan 20, 2021 @ 17:18

      Thanks so much, Dani! I’m so excited to see you here on my little blog. Thank you for commenting!

  • Joshua Alexander Jan 20, 2021 @ 17:17

    But…but… I actually AM vegemite. I think I just need to unsubscribe because that comment was very butterist.

    Valuable and FABO stuff as usual, Sumara. Keep it up! PS, I’ll need your help in remembering what my partner and children look like. Whenever you have time. I know you’re busy.

    • Sumara Meers Jan 20, 2021 @ 17:20

      Um, well, your wife is a woman, oh, I know, she’s probably the one in your house helping look after the children – oh, and your children are probably the ones she’s looking after! There you go!

      Oh, Mr Vegemite, I know you’ll be back, butter or no butter. 😎

  • Reece Jan 21, 2021 @ 12:33

    Your writing is so easy to read.

    • Sumara Meers Jan 21, 2021 @ 12:34

      Why, thank you. I like being easy! 😉

  • Jon Gardner Jan 21, 2021 @ 13:03

    Another great read Saumara! Keep crankin’ ’em out!

    • Sumara Meers Jan 21, 2021 @ 14:23

      Thanks very much, Jon!

  • Nina Jan 23, 2021 @ 17:20

    You’re so lovely! Sometimes ANY step in any direction is the best step, because it’s better than nothing. Can always course correct. This post is soooo affirming, and you’re incredible for sharing that energy daily.

    • Sumara Meers Jan 24, 2021 @ 10:50

      You say the nicest things! Thanks so much, Nina. 😁

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