Calling it Quits

There.

He said it.

And I happen to agree with him.

My agent Erik has a YouTube Channel every voice talent should watch and subscribe to. It’s called The Outspoken. Erik uses this channel to answer questions, and to expose all the BS that’s going on in the voice-over world. Let me tell you: he’s got his job cut out for him!

A week or so ago, Erik posted a video with no-nonsense advice for voice-over newbies and coaches. To coaches he had this to say:

“I feel it’s irresponsible in today’s market to bring in and encourage new talent.”

And for newbies he dropped this bombshell:

“Your chances of making it big are close to… nil.”

That’s not the message most people want to hear, and yet they have to hear it again and again until it sinks into their stubborn skulls. And if you don’t take Erik’s word for it, listen to what one of your colleagues had to say. He just wrote me this email:

“Paul, I know that you’re a good source for the up and up on voiceovers and was just wondering: are voiceover actors getting obsolete? I have been doing this for well over nine years now; had my ups and downs, but lately it’s been on the downside. I was used to making thousands of dollars on the side doing this, but now it’s virtually nothing, so now I’m trying to reignite my IT career once again. It’s not something that I really like, but I do have a degree in it. I like doing voiceovers a lot more, but it is very slim pickens now. Just wondering if you knew anything going on in the voiceover industry that might be happening with voice talent.”

Well, a lot is happening, and it ain’t all good.

So many talented, hard-working people are having a tough time right now. Don’t think we’re the only group of flex workers that has trouble in this fickle gig economy, though. Freelance photographers, graphic designers, copywriters, event planners, fitness trainers, independent music teachers, -even therapists in private practice are struggling to find clients, and make ends meet. Some of them are ready to pull the plug. The question is:

How do you know it is time to hang up your hat?

Different people have different reasons. For some it’s purely financial. Others have trouble keeping up with the changing nature of their business. So, what are some of the reasons for wanting or needing to call it quits?

Here’s a quick checklist:

You’re not booking enough jobs, and you’re running out of money.

You have no bites on Pay-to-Plays, and agents aren’t interested.

You don’t know how to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack.

You can’t afford to invest in quality equipment and/or coaching, and you have no money to outsource the things you hate doing.

You find it tough to market yourself, and to sell your services. 

You have a hard time motivating yourself. You’re bored doing the same thing over and over again. There’s no challenge, and no room to grow, 

You’re stressed out by the uncertainty that comes with so-called freelance freedom.

You can’t organize or prioritize.

You need a lot of hand-holding and spoon-feeding.

You’re feeling isolated and lonely. You miss daily, in-person interaction with colleagues.

You want to leave your work at work, but you can’t keep your personal life separate from your professional life, and your family is suffering.

You’re working too much for too little. 

You want it all, and you want it NOW, but after three years things are not improving. 

You long for a job with regular hours & benefits, and a predictable income.

Here’s my rule of thumb. If you’ve checked off at least five boxes, you have some serious soul-searching to do. No one is forcing you to make this voice-over thing happen. But you’re the boss, and it’s up to you how long you want to keep going at it.

FACE THE FACTS

If I’m totally honest, I believe that some seventy to eighty percent of people calling themselves voice-over talent have no business being in this business. They’re not cut out for it. They have very few skills, and almost no talent. Their chances of making it big are close to nil. All they can do is compete on price, which will be their downfall.

Now, listen. If you’re part of this group, that doesn’t mean you’re a hopeless, horrible human being. You probably have other talents in other areas. As I said in my article 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Become a Voice-Over…

“We have enough people talking into microphones. What this world needs is less talk and more action. We need teachers, doctors, nurses, and scientists. We need experts in conflict resolution, people who know how to fight global warming, and first responders to natural disasters.

If you want to make a real difference on this planet, don’t hide behind soundproof walls selling stuff no one needs. Get out there and start helping the poor, the homeless, and the ones without a voice. They need you more than Disney does.”

UNKIND WORDS

You may think that this sounds harsh, and that it doesn’t apply to you. After all, I don’t know you, and I don’t care about you. Well, that’s not necessarily so. I know too many naive hopefuls like you, who are being ripped off by unscrupulous characters and companies selling them a pipe dream that will never come true. I really don’t want you to fall for those expensive schemes. And get this…

If even pros with years of experience and an impressive portfolio have trouble booking jobs these days, you need to bring something very special to the table if you wish to compete at the highest level. You need to have a comfortable cash cushion to survive the first few years, and you must be strong and determined enough to withstand massive rejection.

If that’s you, then by all means: GO FOR IT! Prove Erik and me wrong!

You’ll become part of a select, supportive community of go-getters, risk takers, fast learners, and people who are sillier than the characters they’re paid to play. All of them have this in common:

At one point in their lives they made one of the most important decisions that propelled them to where they are now.

They decided to quit quitting.

If that’s something you know deep down you can do, you better fasten your seatbelt.

It’s going to be a crazy ride!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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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, Freelancing, Money Matters

19 Responses to Calling it Quits

  1. Viktor Pavel

    Good morning, Paul. Liked and shared. Your article again made my day! Thank you so much. Me, I can´t quit despite what you wrote (and I fully subscribe to it), I just love this work too much 😉

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    There was a time when life coaches said:

    “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”

    It sounded great, and a lucky few have actually experienced it. But doing work you love doesn’t come with any guarantees of financial stability. Society doesn’t necessarily reward love. I wish love for what I do would pay the bills, because I’d be a millionaire!

    [Reply]

  2. J. Christopher Dunn

    Bravo! BRAVO!!! ((Standing, clapping to the point of blisters))

    Just over two years ago, I blogged about this very thing. (shameless blog promotion ==> https://jcdunnvox.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/secure-your-vo-floatation-device-are-you-sponge-worthy/)

    Paul, you’ve hit the head on this nail so hard, you’ve bent the hammer!

    Chris

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    It’s better to be the hammer, than to be hammered!

    [Reply]

  3. Don Moffit

    I respect you very highly, Paul. However, this particular post is especially ironic, where you state: “I believe that some seventy to eighty percent of people calling themselves voice-over talent have no business being in this business”. Then right across from it is a advertisement for your book “Making Money in your PJs”, where the cover picture suggests VO is so simple and easy, you can do it in your jammies. Of course, a book titled “VO is as Hard as Hell” probably would not sell much.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Out of context, the title of my book seems to suggest what you were alluding to. Those who have read the book know that the author was rather sarcastic when he came up with the title. It comes from Chapter three entitled “Fifteen Reasons.” In it I write about fifteen reasons why you should not become a voice-over pro yet.

    “14. You can make money in your PJs. Here’s what you should know about working from home. Your “dream job” will never leave you and distraction is always around the corner. Go tell your kids to stop fighting because Mommy has a Fortune 500 client on the line. Go tell your neighbors to silence their lawn mowers, weed whackers, and snow blowers. Stop all ground and air traffic. Spend thousands of dollars soundproofing the basement. Congratulations! Now you’re ready to audition for that fifty-dollar Craigslist job!”

    [Reply]

  4. Philip Banks

    If a person is selling a voice then it is probably a good idea to give up the idea of a voice over business because far too many are simply selling a voice. Someone more available, cheaper, faster, better, taller, better looking than you. I only sell Philip Banks and his sound, I have that market sewn up tighter than a tight thing. I may not be any good but I do not have to compete with the other 45,000 Philip Banks’ in the market. Now do a search for Voice Over and see YOUR competition. Rejoice in your uniqueness.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You have definitely cornered the Philip Banks market, that’s for sure. In the entire history of mankind, there has been no one like you. That makes you…

    Younique!

    [Reply]

  5. Matt Forrest Esenwine

    Good points, Paul. I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago with a similar sentiment – that quitting is not such a bad option if you aren’t truly invested in the task, whether it’s VO work, writing, or anything!

    [Reply]

  6. Al Dano

    Very honest, true, and a rude awakening for many of us dreamers. However, maybe this article will flush the system to allow the rest of us through to accomplish what we CAN and WILL do.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Here’s the funny thing: the goal of a for-profit business is to turn… a profit. Otherwise the IRS won’t even consider you to be a legitimate business. If that message is a rude awakening, something’s wrong!

    [Reply]

  7. Dan Hurst

    Paul,

    Brutal, brave truth!!!

    I guess it’s a testament to the sheer, unadulterated passionate joy that VO people bring to the table that makes this biz so alluring.

    Thanks for the clarity and transparency from your side of the mic!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    There’s a lot of pride and joy in the voice-over world, and a lot of hot air as well. I do my best to be some sort of a tour guide pointing out areas of interest. Thanks for reading my blog, Dan!

    [Reply]

  8. Debbie Grattan

    Must bookmark this one, to send to all inquiries I get from folks thinking they want to start a career in VO. I particularly relate to: “If even pros with years of experience and an impressive portfolio have trouble booking jobs these days, you need to bring something very special to the table if you wish to compete at the highest level.” Thanks Paul!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Feel free to share it with the world, Debbie. Some readers have said they feel an increased resolve after reading this blog post. Good for them!

    [Reply]

  9. Monique Bagwell

    Straight talk is always appreciated.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    That’s my style!

    [Reply]

  10. Bernard

    Excellent article Paul!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Danke schön, Bernard.

    [Reply]

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