Call Me Materialistic

Broken Piggy Bank“It’s only stuff, and stuff can be replaced.”

That’s what my mother said when I accidentally broke a piece of pottery that had belonged to her mother’s mother. I was five at the time.

It was a sweet thing to say, but I now know that not all things are “just things.” Some objects can never be replaced, and their sentimental value greatly exceeds their monetary value.

In this third installment of my Mind Your Own Business-series, I want to talk about the material aspect of our job. I’ve already addressed the physical and mental aspect. Next week, I’ll talk about the spiritual side of setting up shop.


As much as I’d like to tell people that success is not defined by a number in a bank account, the primary purpose of any for-profit business is to make money and grow the bottom line. If that’s not happening, the IRS will happily inform you that you’re a hobbyist.

There are many hobbyists in my line of work: voice-overs. Many of them are posing as pros. How can you tell? They sound insecure or insincere. Proper enunciation is a problem. They work for bargain basement rates, and the quality of their recordings can be captured in one word: Crap.

My philosophy is simple. If you want a professional career, you need professional gear. You need tools that work with you and not against you.

Contrary to what some may want you to believe, a shoestring budget is not going to get you anywhere in this competitive climate. I’m not saying that top-of-the-line equipment will get you gigs, guaranteed. Combined with talent and experience, it will increase the likelihood of you landing jobs.

The knowledge that you own the right tools increases client confidence (and your confidence too). It makes you more marketable because it shows that you are serious.


Having a dedicated, soundproofed and acoustically treated recording space is almost a must, these days. Not only will it increase the quality of your audio, it will increase your productivity by leaps and bounds.

If I had a choice between buying an expensive microphone, or a recording booth such as a Studiobricks cabin, I’d choose the latter in a heartbeat. Even the best Neumann mic will make you sound like an amateur if you record in an echo chamber or next to a busy highway. A reasonably priced mic such as the sE Electronics X1, is going to sound much better if used in an appropriate space.

Not having a dedicated recording room, can be disastrous for your career.

One of my colleagues has pipes of gold. When his marriage broke down, he not only lost his home. He lost his home studio. Now he’s renting a small apartment in a busy neighborhood. Kids are crying. Cars are honking. People are yelling. Recording in a walk-in closet doesn’t cut it. Clients demand broadcast quality audio, and he can’t give it to them. He is desperate, and hasn’t booked a decent job in months.


You may remember the story of Patrice Devincentis. Patrice owns and operates Sonic Surgery, an audio production studio in Union Beach, N.J. Here she records, edits, mixes, and masters, working with musicians and voice-over talent. On October 29th, 2012, Hurricane Sandy completely destroyed the studio she had built in her garage. Most of her recording gear and musical instruments were lost.

Thanks to generous donations from readers of this blog, Patrice received some equipment to make a fresh start, but there was one big problem. Her entire home and studio needed to be elevated, and very little could be done until the property was deemed safe. This marked the beginning of a long and exhausting battle with authorities over inspections, permissions, and grants. 

Only last month, Patrice was finally taken off the waiting list; all the paperwork was completed and the elevation of her home is one step closer. Two years after the disaster, contractors may eventually come in, and begin their uplifting work. That is, if everything goes according to plan. Somehow, it never does.


Can you imagine being barely able to work for two years, due to some random force of nature, and a whole lot of New Jersey red tape? And don’t think it won’t happen to you. Superstorms don’t care where they hit or whose lives they ruin. 

If you believe that lighting won’t strike twice, read Mike Harrison’s story in VoiceOverXtra. He thought his computer and ISDN were safe, until the loudest crash of thunder he’d ever heard almost stopped his heart and his gear. And then it happened again!

I thought I was pretty well protected in my Pennsylvania basement booth, until water came into my studio. After close inspection, the culprit turned out to be a leaking 18-year-old hot water heater. Thankfully, it happened while I was working. Had I not been at home, I might have had serious damage to the tools I need to make a living.

Stories like these illustrate that a positive mindset and good health can only take you so far. All of us are vulnerable. Trouble happens when you least expect it. Hoping for the best is not enough. You have to prepare for the worst. So, let me ask you this:

Did you?

Is your equipment safe, and sufficiently insured?

Do you have a backup system in case of an emergency?

Have you invested enough to take on the competition?

It may only be “stuff,” but without it, all you have is a pipe dream. 

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet

photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik via photopin cc

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Gear, Studio

9 Responses to Call Me Materialistic

  1. Pingback: My Most Personal Post | Nethervoice

  2. Dannie Alter

    Nicely written Paul. Food for thought indeed! Thank you for the post.


  3. Philip Banks

    Really enjoyed reading this piece.

    Here’s a test for any voice over business.


    On Wednesday 18th June your studio is burned to a crisp by local Witches. Any work that arrives that you would usually do MUST be done and any auditions you would choose to do will be done. You have NO studio so you are going to have to travel to a local facility and hire it to do your work.

    Don’t just read this and think “mmmmmgood point” Actually do it. If you conclude that you can’t afford it then you don’t have a business. Why? You are not charging enough.

    Real pro’s know that a home studio is NOT a free studio.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Marlene and Philip, you’re absolutely right. It’s good to be prepared. It’s like buying insurance. You hope you’ll never need it, but when you do, you’re glad you have it. Unfortunately, Patrice Devincentis had dropped her flood insurance three months before she was hit by Sandy, because she needed to make some cutbacks in her budget. Boy, did she pay for that decision! I admire her strength and tenacity. Her house may have been flooded, but her spirit is unbroken!


  4. Marlene Bertrand

    It helps to be aware. Your newsletter has given me a lot to think about. I have to admit that I don’t have a back-up plan, but now that you mention it, I really need to think about what I would do if some kind of disaster happened. And, then I need to know (ahead of time) what I’m going to do.


  5. Tony Pasquale

    Paul – Good stuff! And so true. I’ve moved 14 times in the last 12 years and each time setting up a new studio. Each room is different and each environment can dictate how the space is treated. I’ve been able to hone in on my work and now a booth is the next investment. But with mics, interfaces, and DAW’s; I always have backups and redundancies, just in case something happens. Oh and when lightening strikes, I run to the studio and unplug everything and run it on a battery backup (if needed).


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I guess, moving that many times has made you an expert in setting up a safe studio, Tony. A VO-studio is like a good friend. It listens to what you have to say, and you’ve got to treat it…. with respect!


  6. Joe Van Riper

    So true, so true! I couldn’t work for over one full year in the late ’90s because chemotherapy dried my voice to a whisper. And just six months ago I lost my ISDN circuits due to a move, and Verizon’s abandonment of service, leaving a substantial list of regular clients in limbo!

    Each time we have to rebuild our business we learn the value of economic inertia. There is no question, it is much easier to maintain something than to build it. That’s why we all have spare tires in out cars. We must do the same for our business.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I like the spare tire-analogy, Joe. Some of us tend to think that we’re invincible. Until our health is compromised or disaster strikes. I don’t wish any harm on anybody, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: