The Secret to Sustained Success

Soybeen sprouts“Seize the day,” “Carpe Diem,” “Maximize each moment.” 

In a society as hectic as ours, that seems to be sound advice. All of us are given a limited time on earth. The best thing is to use it wisely. Don’t worry too much about tomorrow. Get the most out of each day.

Go to any electronics expo, and you’ll find tons of smart gadgets designed to make us more productive. Here’s what I find ironic. They won’t give us any extra time off, but they will allow us to do even more with the time we have saved! Just thinking about that makes me tired. 

While some of these ingenious tools can be helpful, they are part of a trend that worries me:

Life is speeding up, and people are losing their patience. They are more focused on the short term, instead of thinking ahead.

Why? Because we crave certainty, and it’s easier to predict what will happen in the next moment as opposed to years from now. Instant gratification has never been more popular, and has never been more destructive.

A few examples. 

Politics doesn’t think in decades anymore. Voters have short memories, and demand quick results. Policies that lead to temporary gains are often favored over measures that may take years to implement and bear fruit. Let’s drill for energy today, and we’ll worry about the environment later!

We’re not interested in diets or exercise that lead to gradual, lasting weight loss. No, we demand results by the end of the week. And if that scale doesn’t give us a number we’re happy with, we blame it on the method and move on to something else. But everybody knows that losing pounds is the easy part. Keeping them off is much more challenging. That requires long-term commitment.

Makeover shows on television tell us that people can change their lives in a matter of days. It takes us a week to build an Extreme Home, five days to turn a failing restaurant around, and 48 hours to learn what not to wear. After that, we’ll never be the same again! Well, a few weeks later our dream home is leaking, the bistro is going bankrupt, and that fashion-challenged girl dresses like a slob again. 

I’m sorry to break it to you, but quick fixes rarely lead to lasting change

Short-term thinking is a big problem in the “industry” I’m a part of: the wonderful world of freelancing, in particular, the voice-over industry.

THE MYTH OF THE SHORTCUT

Thanks to false advertising, unrealistic expectations, and an attitude of entitlement and impatience, some people still believe they can rise to the top in very little time. Just read this book, take that seminar, and buy some equipment. Before you know it, you’re in business! No experience necessary. 

And when these people finally come to me for coaching because they’re not getting anywhere, they are shocked when I present a long-term plan without guarantees. 

“That can’t be,” they say. “This takes too long, and it’s too expensive. I don’t have the time, and I don’t have the money. I thought this would be easy.”

I tell them: 

“If you’re in this for the long run, a few simple steps won’t get you anywhere. Would you throw some seeds into the soil and expect a few trees to magically pop up the next morning? And would you expect these trees to bear fruit the day after? It may very well be a couple of years before you book your first job.”

One person responded: “If it takes that long, you’re probably not a very good coach.”

I replied: “If that’s what you believe, you probably won’t be a very good student.”

THE CASTING TRAP

Another example of short-term thinking is the way some people perceive the “membership” fee for online casting sites. They tell me: “If I book one nice job, this whole thing pays for itself.”

No, it doesn’t. It wouldn’t even be true if you only booked that one job. If you spend let’s say $395 on membership, and you make $395, what’s your profit? To see if that $395 would be a worthwhile investment, you’d have to look at an entire year of membership, and ask yourself:  “For all the time and money invested, how many dollars did I get in return?”

You’d have to add up all the money made through that Pay to Play in one year, and deduct the membership fee, taxes and other expenses. Then you divide your net profit by the total number of hours needed to generate that income. By hours I mean all the time spent looking at jobs on that site, doing auditions, communicating with clients, and recording/editing the audio.

When you finally look at how much you’ve made per hour in a year, is this still a good investment, or should you spend your time and money elsewhere?

A COMMON MISCONCEPTION

But don’t make the mistake that short-term thinking is just a problem for the newbie. I often encounter it when colleagues discuss the hot topic of pricing. People with a short-term view tend to charge lower rates than those who are in it for the long haul. 

“I’d rather make a hundred bucks now, than lose out on a job,” they say. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” A week later they complain that they can’t seem to make a living as a voice talent. 

No surprise there. 

Your rate is not just about money. It’s a sign of professionalism. It sends a signal to the client: “This is what I believe my time and talent are worth.”

It also sends a signal to the industry: “This is what I believe this job is worth.” 

By the way, it’s much easier to book a low-rate job than to land a well-paid gig. Any fool can undercut the competition (and go broke in the process).

If we devalue the work we do, don’t expect rates to rise. Low rates will become the new normal. 

Realize that short-term actions have long-term consequences. That’s not a popular message, and that’s why many people like to stick their head in the sand. 

If you don’t think about the long-term consequences of your actions, your life becomes inconsequential.

 A NEW FOCUS

If you wish to have sustainable success as a freelancer, you have to start thinking long-term, and big picture. You have to ask yourself:

“Where do I want to be, five years, ten years from now? How much do I need to minimally make in a year to get there? What do I have to invest? How much do I need to charge?” 

Of course you also need to factor in what people around you are charging, and what clients are willing to pay. But don’t let that limit you. Premium products command a premium price.

Even if you were to run a charity, numbers matter. That’s a hard lesson to learn for people with an attitude of “Money doesn’t motivate me. I’m just so happy to be able to do what I do. It’s such a blessing.”

You’ve got to snap out of the thrill of the moment, and plan ahead. 

Thinking big picture also means you have to think about the effect your actions may have on others, and on this planet (sometimes for generations). You don’t live on an island. It’s not just about you. What you do or don’t do may not seem earth-shattering, but it makes a difference. A tidal wave consists of many small drops. 

You can’t just go from job to job, and pick a number out of a hat, hoping for the best. You have to price for profit. You need to develop a pipeline of projects coming from different sources. And you need to save for when times are slow, or when you are sick.

Running a successful freelance business is a game of costs and benefits. It means planning for delayed gratification with all the tools you have at your disposal.

You’ve got to visualize your future.

Find allies and experts.

Dare to say no, and set new standards.

Be patient. Be open. Be humble.

And if you play your cards right,

it will pay off in the long run.

And it will be momentous!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet.

photo credit: Soybean Sprouts During Early Growth via photopin (license)

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." goo.gl/ihVpMc

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters

18 Responses to The Secret to Sustained Success

  1. Pingback: A Controversial Year | Nethervoice

  2. Liz O'Byrne

    Hi Paul, Thanks for sharing these great insights.

    [Reply]

  3. Shane Watkins

    Brilliantly written! One thing I like to experiment with while saying NO is, letting the client know how much I feel the job is worth, then ask them if they would be willing to pay that. Most say “no, it’s not in the budget, but we will keep you in mind for future work.” Surprisingly, I have had a couple of these clients come back a year or so down the road and pay me what I feel their project is worth. By taking this approach, not only does it show the client what they SHOULD be paying for VO talent, it keeps my business focused on the long-term future by turning a NO into a YES down the road. Obviously, this doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s good practice for a successful business.

    Cheers!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Shane, one of the reasons I post my rates on my website is to prequalify clients. It saves tons of time because I don’t have to answer the same rate questions over and over again. Plus, it has become one of the most popular pages of my website, which is good for SEO.

    [Reply]

  4. Kathy Verduin

    Priceless information, Paul! I was “setting up” & trying for about 2-3 yrs. before I saw anything!! I think the quality part of VO goes out the window when people want to get things done quickly. Understanding the 3:1 ratio of editing/mastering to recording, is enough to make the instant gratifier stop & think twice!!!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks, Kathy. If only people would stop and think twice. Delayed gratification is not a popular message these days.

    [Reply]

  5. Michelle

    Thank you for the reality check.

    [Reply]

  6. Jack Muir

    You’re such a legend in your own mind, P

    [Reply]

  7. Taylor Stonely

    Great insights, Paul! Delayed gratification is one of the hardest lessons to learn in life. Believe me, I’m a parent of 4 teenagers and to ask them to wait for anything is torture for them. Teaching them to make goals is a great way to help them succeed, but if they don’t see the successes along the way, they will give up.

    It works the same in the VO industry. Persistent marketing, practicing your craft, and constantly improving oneself will ultimately lead to a rewarding career in this business.

    Thanks for sharing your insights!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Taylor, my daughter asked me to teach her about patience, and I keep on putting it off. I think she finally gets it!

    PS Get a gravatar!

    [Reply]

  8. Sally Blake

    Paul,
    It’s so hard to say “no”. In the interest of the voice over community and knowing my worth I can proudly say I have done it.
    Thank you Paul for another thought provoking blog !
    Sincerely,
    Sally Blake

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Sally, in my book I devote an entire chapter to saying no. Have you read it? If you don’t draw a line in the sand, no one else will do it for you. So, keep on saying YES to saying NO!

    [Reply]

  9. Shane Morris

    I tell all of my students “Your going to have to be yourself today because everyone else is taken”! Yes Paul, I too am still learning! Great blog! Keep em coming!

    Shane

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Reading all your comments is very gratifying! I just couldn’t put it off. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  10. Rick Lance

    Paul.. I was instantly gratified after reading your article!

    Rick

    [Reply]

  11. Conchita Congo

    Amen … Amen .. Amen

    [Reply]

  12. Mike Harrison

    We lust for instant gratification. We are satisfied, even thrilled when we get what we want. But it’s only temporary because, in conditioning ourselves to constantly expect more and better, what we consider “more and better” isn’t at all; they are no more real and lasting than a Hollywood movie set. And this is why relationships (personal and business) – and anything of real value – fail or greatly disappoint.

    Setting the bar higher makes it harder to overcome… but we are better for it.

    Nothing of any real value comes quickly or easily. We get out only as much as we are willing to put in.

    I could tell stories, but how many would just jump to the last page or download the liner notes?

    The experience isn’t being there. It’s getting there.

    Gee… look at the time. 😉

    Thanks, Paul.

    [Reply]

  13. Ruth Weisberg

    Perfect timing for this topic, Paul. But wait, there’s more! (couldn’t resist). I always remind my voiceover students that “good things come to those who wait..provided they’re working really, really, really hard on their craft while they’re waiting.”

    Oh, and if you’ve got spare time, get thee a copy of “Wait: The Art & Science of Delay” by Frank Partnoy. It’s a fascinating, well-written treatise, brimming with practical insights and proven results. Much like what you deftly do and accomplish here, Paul.

    [Reply]

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