giving up

Calling it Quits

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 19 Comments

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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Giving Up

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Personal, Social Media 46 Comments

Letting GoThis year…

I stopped running after every audition,

Or hoping for that big break.

I gave up my relentless quest for clients,

and allowed clients to come to me.

I quit writing long emails to people asking me for the secret formula to overnight success;

I relinquished my desire to have a constant social media presence;

I said “no” to most requests for interviews, guest posts, and twitter chats;

I even took a few weeks off from blogging, just because I felt like it.

I stayed away from most voice-over gatherings, online and offline;

I did not drool over the latest and greatest gear (well, just a little bit);

I gave myself permission to not be available all the time.

Instead of in the studio, I began most of my days in the gym, gaining strength, and losing weight.

I separated my personal from my professional life,

and decided that who I am, is more than what I do.

This year, I gave up the control

I never had in the first place,

and I replaced most of my “shoulds” and “musts” 

with “I choose to,” and “I’m going for it.”

And you know what?

Things turned out pretty okay.

My business survived.

I survived.

I feel less taxed, and more relaxed.

Here’s what I have learned:

Giving up is not so bad. 

Sometimes the old has to go, in order to make room for the new.

The junk we leave in the attic, and the trinkets we hang on to in the basement,

It can all go. Really.

Life is lighter without it. 

You see…

Many of us walk around with old stuff that isn’t necessarily our stuff.

It’s stuff other people left behind. Baggage. 

Thoughts. Habits. Beliefs. Even objects.

Things that no longer serve a purpose.

It weighs us down.

And when all of it is gone, we can move on.

Because we have reclaimed a space in our lives that is waiting to be filled with excitement and anticipation.

Take it from me:

We sometimes need to lose part of who we were, in order to discover who we are. 

There is much to gain from giving up.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet!

photo credit: ‘Letting Go’, United States, New York, Montauk via photopin (license)

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Giving Up

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 18 Comments

two boys“What did you give up for Lent?” asked the boy in front of me.

He must have been seven or eight years old. His best buddy Paul, who was also waiting in line, answered:

 “Meat.”

Paul sighed and continued:

“Mom said we couldn’t eat meat because of what Jesus did for us. I don’t get it. I asked our priest if Jesus was a vegetarian. He said Jesus probably was more into fish because most of his friends were fishermen before they became the Cipels. I don’t even know what a Cipel is, do you?”

His friend Peter shrugged his shoulders and asked:

“Do you want to know what we gave up for Lent, Paul?”

“Tell me,” said Paul.

Peter looked annoyed and said:

“McDonalds.”

Paul was stunned. “Are you kidding me? McDonalds? For Lent?”

He paused for a moment to let the message sink in, and said:

“Well, I guess it makes sense.”

“How so?” asked Peter.

“I don’t think Jesus was much into fast food anyway,” said Paul. “They didn’t serve burgers and fries at the Last Supper.”

“Maybe not, but giving up Big Macs wasn’t a big deal for me,” said Peter.

“Why not?” Paul wanted to know. “I thought you loved McDonalds. You guys go there all the time.”

“That’s true, but we went to Burger King instead,” answered Peter.

THE UNPOPULAR OPTION

The notion of “giving up” isn’t very popular these days. Living in America, most of us grew up with the idea that you can and should have it all. That’s what the commercials tell us, and it’s the freedom our forefathers fought for, right?

The more things you own, the more successful you are perceived to be, especially in popular culture.

TV series are filled with pretty 20- and 30-somethings who seem to have risen through the ranks at lightning speed, and who drive their fancy cars to their fancy McMansions where a nanny is taking care of angelic twins. Even though we know it’s fake, we’re falling for it anyway.

Semi-documentaries take us inside the lives of celebrities, and show us what they have accumulated by topping the charts or dominating the box office for a number of years. Captains of industry eagerly show off their 30 foot yachts and Caribbean real estate to let us know how much they matter.

Our economy is entirely based on growth; on the more-and-more-and-more model. No politician likes to tell their constituents that it’s time to tighten the belt. Onward and upward we must go! Always.

REALITY CHECK

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like it when my business is growing, and I have nothing against those who are doing well, as long as they use their resources responsibly. I enjoy watching intelligent portraits of successful people, because there’s something to learn from those who accomplish more in a year than some of us will in a lifetime.

Intelligent television digs deeper.

At its best, it’s three-dimensional, and it strives to reveal an uncomfortable truth: the fact that behind every story of significant success, there is a story of silent sacrifice. A story of “giving up.” A story most people don’t want to see or hear.

It’s a distortion of reality that things come easy to those who have reached the top. In most cases, they had to pay a hefty price, and some are still paying it.

MAGICAL FINGERS

An old friend of mine is a professional pianist who specializes in historic keyboards. He teaches in Europe and has recorded groundbreaking albums. Every year, people come to the village in France where he lives to take part in a music festival he organizes.

When Arthur plays, the sounds from his fortepiano turn into musical poetry, and you hear Mozart the way Mozart would have sounded in Vienna around 1787. It’s as close as one can get to time travel.

Arthur’s effortless technique and unique interpretation of the score comes from years and years of studying and hours of practice a day. It is the result of a disciplined lifestyle, dedicated to excellence and artistry. Only those close to him, know how much he had to give up, in order to reach a level of musicianship very few will ever attain.

I see the same level of dedication in my own line of work: voice-overs. There are a few master-storytellers that grab us from the moment they open their mouths. It’s amazing.

Some people believe there’s nothing simpler than reading out loud into a microphone. Anyone can do it, right? 

READING YOUR OWN BOOK

Author Laura Caldwell had written a memoir called “The Long Way Home,” and thought she’d make the perfect narrator. She went to the Audible studios in New Jersey and read for ten hours a day for five full days. I’ll let her tell the story:

“Before, narrating a book sounded so genteel to me, sort of like reading to a room full of rapt, small children. The reality is that you sit in a dark editing booth, the only light in the room shining on the print of the book in front of you. Read one word off — say, “She walked in the store,” as opposed to “She walked into the store,” and the buzzer sounds from the attached booth. “Let’s try it again,” you’ll hear from the engineer in there.

When you have to start over and over because you seem to be mumbling, the engineer sends you down the hallway for some Throat Coat tea. But that’s about all the break you’ll get. Time in the booth is money. Male or female, the engineer’s voice becomes the one you fear. (You hear it in your dreams after. Really).

The process of narrating “Long Way Home” was not just exhausting. It was injurious of throat and the brain. But I was glad for it. It gave me a whole new set of information for actually producing my own books in the future.”

There is no success without sacrifice. Sometimes you even have to give up your health and well-being for the sake of the greater good.

DISTORTED DREAMS

In an impatient world, giving up time to reach a level of mastery makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They take a voice-over class or two, and expect that an agent will sign them on the spot. They open up a business and hope to turn a profit in the first quarter. It’s like planting a seed, thinking it will grow into a fruit-bearing tree overnight. How silly!

So, the next time you see someone you admire, don’t just look at his or her accomplishments. Ask yourself: What did this person have to give up in order to reach the top? Family time? Being there for births and birthdays? Missing out on a baby’s first steps or words? Did this person have to sacrifice sleep, safety, privacy, or a chance to say goodbye to a parent or partner?

To what extent did a commitment to a successful career impact the people around them? Did relationships suffer because of it? Did they end? 

Then ask yourself:

What am I willing to give up to fulfill my dreams, and what am I willing to invest?

What would make it worthwhile?

It is important that you find the answers to these questions.

There is no success without setbacks, and when times are tough, you probably will need to reconnect with what ultimately drives you.

And when you do that, be sure to focus on what you will gain by what you’re willing to forsake.

Two things I can guarantee.

It’s very likely that you’ll have to give up more than meat and McDonalds, and it’s going to take longer than Lent.

I sincerely hope it will bring you all the success you deserve.

And who knows, one day your achievements may inspire two rambunctious boys named Peter and Paul!

Paul Strikwerda © nethervoice

PS Be sweet. Please retweet.

PPS You can read Laura Caldwell’s full story by clicking here.

photo credit: Eiraq via photopin cc

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