Casting Pearls Before Swine

handing out adviceTo an ignorant outsider, the voice-over community I belong to may seem cutthroat.

Yet, if there’s one thing that makes it stand out among other freelance groups it is this:

Voice-overs love to share.

People with no or very little experience can expect a warm welcome, and a helping hand when they join an online VO-community.

Do you need advice on a microphone? You’ve got it!

Are you wondering how to soundproof your booth? We’ve got you covered!

I could easily spend all day answering questions from people I don’t know on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media. However, those days are pretty much over. Why?

Because it is a thankless task that eats up time, and doesn’t build my business.

Perhaps I better explain myself.

LURING LURKERS

Here’s what I know about internet culture. Most online communities consist of lurkers. You know, the people who observe, and very rarely participate. These folks like to take, but never give. They want to play the game, but they never show their cards. Have they earned the right to pick my brain? I think not.

It also consists of lazy people who never learn; people who want you to do their homework. Sorry, but I’m not going to enable an attitude of entitlement. 

Can you imagine a teacher spoon-feeding her kids by giving them all the answers on a silver platter? I thought the purpose of education was to make children resourceful and independent. 

I’ve also noticed another trend: many members of online voice-over communities are simply not serious. How do I know? Just look at the basic questions people ask. If they had half a brain and a genuine interest in the subject matter, they would have figured it out for themselves. But no, they apparently need a pro to hold their hand. Poor babies!

“But Paul,” some people respond… “Don’t be so harsh. You were once a newbie. You had to start somewhere, didn’t you?”

Of course I did, but here’s the thing. When I embarked upon a career in radio, I had more questions than answers. I made it my mission to find as many answers on my own, before asking for help. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of a pro. I wanted them to know that I had done my homework.

So VO-newbies, if you want to earn my respect, do your research!

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Thinking back to my start in radio, here’s what comes to mind: I was serious, I was committed, and I was willing to make an investment.

You see, that’s another thing that’s missing these days. This is the age of the free ride. Why pay for a song if you can download it at no cost? Why pay for Netflix if you can watch a pirated movie online? Why pay for expert advice if the experts are giving it away?

If we don’t value what we have to offer, we can’t expect others to find it valuable either. Those who are willing to make an investment, are usually invested in the process. Those who are not, have other priorities. 

“But Paul,” some people commented, “wouldn’t it be good for your business if people got to know you as someone who knows his stuff? You might even get some coaching clients out of it!”

Let me tell you something. In all the years that I have chimed in on Facebook or Google+, no one ever contacted me for coaching because they liked my answer to their question. Nine out of ten times I didn’t even receive a “thank you,” or other sign of acknowledgement. That’s why I call it a thankless task. People simply get what they need, and move on.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Some did ask about coaching, but as soon as I told them my rate ($125 per session), they said they were just “exploring options.” It is the epitome of not committing. 

Now, there’s another reason why I won’t be handing out free advice to every Tom, Dick, or Harry. I’ll explain by quoting a question I recently received from Mandy:

Paul, I read your article about your most embarrassing moment in your voice over career. You said that you used to use voices.com, but were only able to book a handful of jobs before leaving the site. I’m a voice actor as well and have been primarily using voices.com to find work. Now you said that you don’t really like the pay to play model and prefer to get work elsewhere. So my question is: what do you recommend for someone like me who is still new to voice acting? Are pay to play sites the only way for me to go being so new? I don’t have a demo or an agent so I don’t have people contacting me about jobs either. What options do I have? I haven’t really gotten much success with voices.com either, and voice acting is not my main source of income. I would very much like to learn and get better at voice acting too. Any knowledge or insight you can share would be great, thank you.

HERE’S MY ANSWER

Hello Mandy:

First off: thank you so much for reading my blog. I really appreciate that!

There are many ways in which I could respond to your comments and questions, but I have to say this first:

Without demos, industry contacts, experience, or an online presence, it’s virtually impossible to build a voice-over career, especially on the side, and especially in 2016. 

I haven’t heard your work, so I can’t even tell whether or not you’re uniquely talented. This makes it really hard to give you advice. 

Some of my coaching colleagues might even question whether or not you’re serious about voice acting. They’re definitively not going to give you any recommendations on a silver platter. Their time and expertise are worth something.

I will say this, though.

The only way to get better in this field, is by taking trainings, and/or by working with a coach. Very much like driving a car, you can’t pick voice acting up from a book. You can’t teach it to yourself either, because you’re limited by your lack of knowledge. 

Overall I’d say that it is unwise to put yourself out there when you aren’t ready. No one opens a restaurant without knowing how to cook, right? 

The voice-over world has too many home cooks who all believe they’re the next best thing since sliced bread, and they don’t stand a chance against professional chefs. 

So, please don’t put the cart before the horse and expect to get work. Put in your time, make the necessary investments, learn the ropes, and build a solid home studio. Then we can talk about attracting clients.

Does that make sense?

This probably wasn’t what Mandy expected to hear, because she never responded. 

When it comes to a VO-career, there are too many people with their heads in the iCloud, and all of them believe they could be the next Don LaFontaine. Someone’s got to tell them that that’s never going to happen. Otherwise they’ll fall for all the propaganda from demo mills, unscrupulous VO-coaches, and greedy online casting sites.

UNDERSTAND FIRST

I do want to point out one more thing I tried to convey in my answer to Mandy: it’s rather pretentious to give advice to people you know very little about. You wouldn’t want a doctor to write you a prescription without having fully examined you, right? Yet, with the best of intentions, colleagues dish out advice left and right without knowing whom they are talking to. Stephen Covey was correct when he coined the phrase:

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

I see a lot of people trying to be understood, without really understanding what the issue is. Do you know what I mean?

One last thing.

If all of the above is true, -and I believe it is… why am I still blogging? Isn’t that handing out unsolicited advice to people I don’t even know?

I suppose it is, but you know what? I pick the topics. I usually ask the questions, and I come up with answers. And most of the time, I feel very much appreciated.

Before I started blogging, very few people had even heard of this Flying Dutchman and his voice-over business. Now I am one of the go-to people when companies ask for someone with a European accent. Clients come to me when they need a native Dutch speaker. In other words: this blog has helped me build my business.

If people seek me out for my expertise, they have to come to my site, and not to someone else’s online platform. The amount of traffic this blog generates is worth more than any online ad campaign could give me. And the many friends I have made along the way… that’s simply priceless!

The way I see it, everybody wins, and that is why I will keep on sharing on my turf and on my terms. 

And yes: you’re welcome!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be Sweet. Please Retweet!

photo credit: Pondering Bob’s advice 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, Internet, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media

27 Responses to Casting Pearls Before Swine

  1. dc goode

    And again Paul…”Nailed it”.
    Ironically, Linkedin is a shining example of these very things. Many industry people I know, refuse to “Connect” with anyone there…no matter what their status.
    I have always had the opinion…”Why should allow you into my “network”, when I don’t even know you (nor you me) and essentially hand over my contacts, customers and or Associates (or as we used to call it), My Rolodex? For our business, I don’t believe Linkedin (in particular)is of any utility and actually fraught with MANY possible business and reputation disasters.
    And the whole “sharing thing”…not a fan, in general.
    Many of the rules and ways of doing business have NOT changed, despite technology etc.
    And as for your position on the “Entitlement” group. Agreed.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’ve had better luck with LinkedIn than you did, DC. Most people who want to connect with me are in the industry, and they respect my time and expertise. LinkedIn is a good way for me to promote my blog, which in turn increases traffic to my website.

    [Reply]

    dc goode Reply:

    True Paul.
    To be fair, I am not a blogger and may never be. I’m just a cantankerous old man and VO guy, with nothing worth “sharing” to begin with. LOL
    Always appreciate your take on things.

    [Reply]

  2. Shiromi

    Great blog post, as usual! I will say, as a lurker myself- this is only my second comment to your blog- I generally don’t comment unless I feel like I have something new to add to the conversation. If I can supply an answer, absolutely, but if all i’m doing is parroting other more knowledgeable folks who’ve already contributed, then I pass. Conversely, I research my butt off before posing questions, because I don’t want to be that annoying person. It irks me to no end when you have a question that has been talked about ad nauseum, but the poster hasn’t bothered to do their own research.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It seems we’re very much on the same page, Shiromi. Now, if only someone could tell me what book we’re reading…

    [Reply]

  3. Matilda Novak

    Thank you, Paul, for another Excellent blogpost!
    i’m a bit behind in my reading, and i’m so glad not to have entirely missed out on this.
    i greatly appreciate your wisdom, and take what you write to heart.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s great to catch up with you, Matilda!

    [Reply]

  4. Kent Ingram

    Great comments, Paul! I’ve asked for help only when I couldn’t find an answer on my own and, most of the time, I ask “just point me in the right direction, I’ll take it from there”. There have been times I’ve forwarded reading materials and website tutorials to aspiring voice actors, only to be told, “that’s way too much of an investment”. That said, I’ll conclude with, “hold my hand, Paul…do the hard s**t for me, pleeeeease!”…LOL!!!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I wish I could do the “hard sh*t” for people. It would be a lucrative side business. But as a coach, my job is to make myself redundant.

    [Reply]

    Kent Ingram Reply:

    As long as you’d be paid to do the hard s**t, it wouldn’t be too hard a s**t to “take”…okay, bad metaphors…making oneself redundant is a marvelous goal to strive for!

    [Reply]

  5. Dan Friedman

    Great blog Paul! I feel this to my core. I want to help people, I truly do. But, people have to be willing to help themselves first.

    Almost all information that can be written about this business, has been (repeatedly). After someone has done that research, the only thing left is patience, persistence, practice and … paying a good coach to help them succeed.

    That is the formula.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your formula, Dan. I couldn’t agree more. People who don’t want to help themselves first, are probably not cut out to run a freelance business.

    [Reply]

  6. Mike Harrison

    I would just like to add – and not in the defense of newcomers, per se, but as a caution to everyone: when seeking information from the internet *ALWAYS* remember that ANYONE can buy an impressive-looking domain name and put a website online. So, when Googling or Binging, do not immediately accept what you may read as being factual and true. If you wouldn’t ask a complete stranger on the street for crucial advice, why would you trust what you read on the internet unless you know that the source is established, well-known and reliable.

    Forget what the text of links on the search result pages say. Look at the site domain name. If it isn’t recognizable, but you’re still intrigued, visit the site BUT – before reading anything – look for an ‘ABOUT’ page to find out what you can about the author. If there is no ‘ABOUT’ page, there is no credibility. If the ‘ABOUT’ page contains *some* information but doesn’t show a lot of depth, Google the person’s name to see what else you can learn.

    Yes, it can be a lot of work. But too many people who truly have an honest desire to help others may not do a lot of (or any) research before writing, making what they have to say nothing more than opinion. And, if the information is inaccurate or, worse, completely false, that is far worse and more damaging than had they offered nothing.

    Also, those interested only in selling demo packages (because [1] they know you need a demo, and [2] they don’t have enough first-hand knowledge or experience to pass themselves off as a coach) will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to sell you that demo. Run far away as fast as you can from these people. We don’t get a diploma without attending the classes and passing the tests, and we don’t get a demo of any value simply by paying someone and without doing the work.

    Sorry. I many times feel I go on too long. But this is important stuff that cannot be repeated often enough.

    Thank you, Paul!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    No need to apologize, Mike. I think that many people will find your info very useful. I guess it’s time for me to create an “About-page.” I remember having one on my previous website, but it was rarely visited.

    [Reply]

    Mike Harrison Reply:

    I came back here first thing this morning hoping you hadn’t thought I meant to include you in the ‘ABOUT’ page thing. No, Paul, there is no question as to your credibility. I think ‘ABOUT’ pages aren’t often visited because most people’s priority is in finding the answers they’re after, not so much in finding out who is providing them. It was for the benefit of newcomers looking for valid voice-over info that I wrote the previous comment, hoping they’d see the need to be able to discern wheat from chaff. 😉

    [Reply]

  7. Debbie Grattan

    I thought your comments to “Mandy” were VERY diplomatic and polite. It makes what I write to similar inquiries from strangers wanting advice seem downright mean. But my point is usually to discourage. If someone is really serious, they’ll take my discouraging words and say “I’ll prove you wrong!” Those are the few who probably have what it takes to succeed in VO.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Perhaps I’ll try that strategy next time someone asks for my advice. Or I could be like a rabbi who has to turn those who wish to become Jewish away three times, before accepting them.

    [Reply]

  8. Marlene Bertrand

    Man-oh-man, Paul you don’t hold anything back, do you? Well, that’s OK because I happen to agree with everything you said here. Regarding online voice over casting sites, I used them in the beginning. But, my mindset was that these places were testing grounds and a way for me to get my feet wet. The pay was little, but I got a lot of training from doing, doing, and doing. All-in-all, one thing is for sure – professionals in the VO industry are very helpful and friendly. I’m glad to be part of this fine community.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    And we’re glad to have you, Marlene!

    [Reply]

  9. Jim Edgar

    Fine column, Paul.
    Great points and True observations.
    It’s tough to find a balance in being helpful and encouraging vs. spending an inordinate amount of time supplying answers to an inexhaustible demand.
    I was lucky enough to be sneaking onto bbs’s and usenet boards before the advent of Facebook (though more in computer, bicycle and music topics). In many of those forums, you learned quickly what RTFM* meant. There was an assumption that before you logged on and asked, you’d done the groundwork so that (a) you knew a specific question to ask and (b) you’d researched to find the previously posted answers and considered those first.
    The FB (and even LinkedIn) discussions seem to be ephemeral by design – old answers fade away, which makes (b) tough sometimes.
    Remembering how helpful certain people were when I was first fumbling around online keeps me available there, but there’s definitely a vetting process for whether to respond and a trigger point past which it makes sense to formalize the discussion into teaching.
    One other benefit: supplying answers in public venues often forces me to sharpen my understanding of topics, which benefits my students and direct consulting clients. I guess you could say a way of “field testing” my notes.

    *RTFM = Read The “Flipping” Manual

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I will add RTFM to my repertoire, Jim.

    You’re right about giving answers in public venues. When I write a new blog post, I go through the same process. Hopefully, my readers will learn as much as I did while I was researching a certain topic.

    [Reply]

  10. Terry Daniel

    Great blog, Paul! This is exactly why I started charging a consultation fee. I got tired of certain individuals taking me for granted and sucking all of my time with the same questions every six months. Successful voice actors actually get out there and do it! They don’t spin their wheels lollygagging in forums and FB group pages. I call these people voice hobbyists, not voice actors!

    I know money can be a major factor and that is understandable but sometimes you have to give up going to the bars or you need to put that motorcycle purchase on hold. I had a student who gave plasma, just so that he could afford good coaching and a demo and now he’s doing great! When I first got started doing this full time, I had to take out a loan with horrible interest rates. If you’re truly passionate about doing this, you’ll do whatever it takes. This is true in the acting community as well.

    There are no short cuts or magic pills. You have to mentally and financially make the investment. The is a very giving community and being a sponge is a necessity at first but you eventually have to get off the wheel.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Makes perfect sense, Terry.

    These days, I’ve made it a bit easier for myself. If people have any questions, I ask: Have you read my book? If they’re not willing to invest 10 – 20 bucks and read it, why should I spend any time dishing out free advice?

    [Reply]

  11. Rosemary Benson

    There is no reason anyone has to start out completely ignorant in any career these days. The wealth of free information to be found on YouTube, blogs, and higher education websites, as well as industry sites, can keep you busy researching forever. With a realistic, entrepreneurial outlook, you can filter out the scammers readily; but, you can also decide if this business might be for you. Then, you need a coach!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Absolutely, Rosemary. As I like to say: anything can be Googled ad infinitum, and ignorance is no longer an excuse.

    [Reply]

  12. Donald Holbrook

    Paul,

    As usual, you hit the nail on the head. If someone isn’t willing to get training and put in the hours, there is no way to make it. I read your book “Making Money In Your PJs,” and that was helpful and a fun read but I put a lot of time in so I do understand and enjoy your thoughts, opinions and advice. Thank you as always!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    My pleasure, Donald (and thank you for reading my book!).

    [Reply]

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