Whatever Happened to Critical Thinking?

Next week I’ll publish my annual year in review post, giving you an opportunity to catch up on the stories you’ve missed.

For now I want to take a minute or two, to share some of my worries and concerns, as I mentally prepare myself for 2018.

One of the things I worry about is the general level of willful ignorance among those calling themselves voice-over professionals. Increasingly, people without training, experience, or common sense, are populating Facebook groups for voice-overs, asking basic questions.

They have no idea where to start, where to find jobs, how to set up a simple studio, let alone what to charge. They wish to jump into the ocean, but have no idea how to swim.

These ignoramuses write things like:

“I’ve just completed a six-week voice-over training. I think I’m ready to start auditioning, but I have no idea how to market myself. Please help!”

It turns out that this so-called training consisted of one evening a week, spread out over a six-week period. If that’s enough to get a serious career started, it must be magical! However, no one bothered to even touch upon the idea of marketing, so I doubt this program was as comprehensive as the brochure said it would be.

Now, two things really bother me:

  1. The fact that someone is making money convincing impressionable people they can become a VO in six sessions
  2. The fact that people are still falling for these schemes

Whatever happened to critical thinking? Whatever happened to thoroughly researching something you’re interested in before you fork over a small fortune? Does it really take an extraordinary amount of brain power to imagine that a six-evening introduction might not be enough to break into a very competitive market?

Could this be a sign that the wave of anti-intellectualism has reached our community? I know that for some of you faith and gut feeling play an important role in your decisions. However, our creator has purposely endowed us with grey matter unlike any other species on the planet. Wouldn’t it be sinful to not use it? 

I know this is a huge generalization, but based on what I see in social media, critical thinking has left the building, common sense has gone fishing, while more and more people expect the keys to the kingdom on a silver platter. This year I made a conscious effort to no longer help and support people who aren’t willing to learn how to swim, and I implore you to do the same.

I also want to encourage you to make smart business-related decisions that benefit not only yourself, but our community as a whole. Be more discerning! Stop working with companies that do not have (y)our best interest at heart. You know, the companies that turn your talent into a commodity, where the lowest bidder ends up working for the cheapest client. Do not enable them to increase their influence!

Stop bidding on projects without knowing how much to charge. Don’t settle for a full buyout in perpetuity without proper compensation. Ask an agent to negotiate on your behalf. Support the VO Agent Alliance. Join the World Voices Organization. Sign up for the Freelancers Union (it’s free!) And if you’re a member, push SAG-AFTRA to take voice actors just as seriously as the other actors they represent. 

Above all: stay vigilant!

Don’t hide your head in the sand hoping rates will magically go up, and “the market” will take care of itself. Things get worse when people with good intentions sit still hoping others will lift a finger. 

Question what you read and what you hear, especially on social media. Always take the source of the information into account. 

Be clear on how you want to spend your time. There are too many forces competing for your attention, and most of them are useless distractions. 

And lastly:

The best chance of changing other people’s behavior is to change what they react to, namely your own behavior, so: 

Become the colleague you most want to be.

That’s the person I’d like to meet or hear from in 2018.

Happy Holidays!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet: subscribe & retweet!

Send to Kindle

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, Internet, Journalism & Media, Pay-to-Play, Personal, Social Media

13 Responses to Whatever Happened to Critical Thinking?

  1. Pingback: Thinking about going into VO? It’s a business! | 42nd Street VO Studio Workshops and Coaching

  2. Paul Garner

    Another great one, Paul! It puts me in mind of my first VO coach. He didn’t sugar coat the industry and the work required to make my way in this business. I so appreciate that from him, from you and others. It is a business and work is involved. Lots of it. I love it.
    Thanks again, Paul, for your willingness to share your experience and wisdom with us. Merry Christmas!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Paul, thanks for your kind words. VO coaches tend to get a bad rep when they are portrayed as money-grabbing unscrupulous characters. The ones I know are outstanding, highly qualified people who are with every penny. Yes, there are some rotten apples in the basket, but you’ll find them in any profession. Again, if people would only use some critical thinking to separate the wheat from the chaff, they’d have a much better experience. Happy Holidays to you and yours!


  3. Paul Payton

    Another good one, Paul. At least a couple of times a month, someone says or writes something like, “I’ve been told I have a good voice; can you help me get into VO?” I always refer them to a training situation; if they balk, they aren’t seriously worth the time.

    Just the way I roll; others may differ.

    Happy holidays to all; may we all see some good payback for the dues we’ve paid in the New Year!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Same here. People consistently underestimate what it takes to make it in this business. When I tell them what’s minimally required, they say I’m purposely scaring away newbies to get rid of the competition. Pathetic!


  4. Mike Harrison

    Those same two things really bother me, too, Paul. So, for any novices who are smart enough to be reading your blog… AND the comments, I offer this:
    So many want to become an actor because acting appears to be easy. Those who believe it IS easy have no idea of the WORK and YEARS involved to MAKE IT appear easy. Our society has placed far too much importance on appearances. Appearances are nothing without substance. We do not achieve important heights with a tap or swipe of a finger. Voice-over IS NOT a career that comes tumbling from a gum machine. 😉
    Merry Christmas!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for chiming in, Mike. As they say: “It takes twenty years to become an overnight success!” Merry Christmas to you!


  5. Sherry Abel Chapin

    “However, our creator has purposely endowed us with grey matter unlike any other species on the planet. Wouldn’t it be sinful to not use it?” Amen!

    I have been working to build my business through marketing and networking. At least 2 or 3 times a week someone tells me they’re interested in VO. I ask them if they’ve been trained and they say no, so my spiel is “Ok, you will need training for performance so you don’t sound like you’re just reading, daily practice, a personal studio plus training on how to operate it properly.” I also offer a few reputable resources because when they google they will get VDC or some program that’s not up to standard. Sometimes it’s exhausting. One guy’s eyes opened really big and he told me “Oh, this is a WHOLE THING.”

    Chatting with a local WoVo friend has been encouraging for me.

    Your blog is always helpful and encouraging too.

    Merry Christmas Paul!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Merry Christmas to you, Sherry! I too get those inquiries, and I almost always send them a link to my video: “The Troublesome Truth About a Voice-Over Career.” That usually does the trick.


  6. Ed Helvey

    Right on the nose, Paul. It’s sure not the same world it was 50+ years ago when I got started. I worked my butt off learning the audio recording/production industry and business. I invested MY time & money in myself. I helped and worked for free for other pros who mentioned me, I held other getting started who were working as hard as I did and was. I never expected it to be easy or free. VO entered the picture later on the same terms. There was no instant gratification. Lots of trial and error. Mistakes were a major part of the learning process. Today, it seems like people are always looking for and expecting to take the easy street and instant gratification. I gladly help and share my knowledge and experience with anyone, but they must demonstrate their readiness and commitment to learn, work hard and experience some of the trial and error to establish themselves as professionals. Keep up the good work.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I often compare the situation to the difference between a crockpot and a microwave. You and I are from the slow cooking generation. Today, so many people prefer a microwave.


  7. paulstefano

    I’m glad I’m not the only one noticing this trend. Don’t get me wrong, I have asked my fair share of stupid questions in the Voice Over interwebs, but they usually revolved around technique, possible equipment tweaks, mechanics of production and the like. Now, people seem to be just marching in and saying “Hey, help me start my career!” I just can’t imagine this happening in any other type of business. Can you picture a Law School graduate walking into a big city law firm, diploma in hand and asking the receptionist “Excuse me, I have this piece of paper what do I do now?” What happened to research and personal accountability?

    Maybe we are victims of our own benevolence. The VO community is so giving, people think they will just have their hand held all the way through the process of getting off the ground. I don’t mind helping somebody, and I’ve received a TON of assistance from the great pros in the business, Paul Strikwerda included, but as a neophyte you have to show me some initiative!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You might be right: we could be victims of our own benevolence, but I’m sick and tired of spoon feeding novices who are too lazy to do a simple Google search. Successful freelancers take the initiative. They are proactive. If you expect things to be handed to you, you should be pursuing another career.


Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: