My wife teaches flute and piano, and one of the things she’s really good at, is picking the right music for the right students.
She teaches students of all levels, ages, and experience. The trick is not to make it too easy on them because if it’s too easy they won’t learn anything. But if the music is too challenging, they get frustrated and may even give up.
Most students don’t know what they don’t know, and yet there is always one who thinks s/he knows better. They will tell their teacher what piece of music they want to practice next. It’s usually a popular composition that’s way beyond what they are capable of.
There was even one student who, after having had lessons for ONE year, asked my wife how soon she could start teaching piano herself! Another one wanted to stage a public performance after only a few months of lessons.
THE BIG LEAGUES
As a voice over coach, all of this is no news to me. I’m sure you’ve seen people on social media who want to play in the big leagues but have no money to invest, no professional equipment/studio, and very little training or experience.
They sign up for an online casting site, and after a week of membership they complain that they haven’t booked a single job. How unfair is that?
Talent shows like the X-Factor and The Voice give impressionable people the idea that you need very little training or experience to break into the world of entertainment. And make lots of money!
Here’s what I know.
There is no microwave recipe for success. To be successful you need a slow cooker, lots of practice, and patience. It also doesn’t come cheap.
Once you’ve decided to join the ranks of voice over professionals, don’t think that things will get easier. Amateurs have nothing to prove, but pros do.
NOT BOOKING AFTER TWO YEARS
Here’s a question I found on Facebook:
“I’ve been told that I’m on the right track and I can succeed in the voice over industry, but as many times as I send out emails, make connections on LinkedIn, audition and get feedback, I can’t dig myself out of whatever hole I must be in. I just don’t book. After more than two years, am I just not meant to be doing this?”
One of the responses was this:
“I’ve been trudging along since 2012 and am still trying to crack the code.”
What’s my take on that, you wonder? Well, I’m going to give you my opinion on these comments and by doing so I’ll run the risk of doing what I accuse others of: passing judgment without knowing anything about the people involved.
In a nutshell, the second person has been in business too long, and the first one not long enough.
If you’ve been running your store for ten years and you’re still “trudging,” I think you might be in the wrong business. Listen, if you’re independently wealthy you can do whatever you want, of course, but what’s the point? Why not take a good look in the mirror and say: “What I’ve been doing isn’t working. It may be time to find something else.”
And by the way, there is no secret “code.” Coaches may try to sell it to you, but the Golden Key on the Silver Platter does not exist.
Now, any Chamber of Commerce can tell you that it takes at least three years to see if a business has enough potential to eventually become profitable. THREE years! Ask any voice talent how much they made in their first year. I mean net income, not gross. I can guarantee you that very few people turned a profit. I certainly didn’t.
I know a lot of voice over people, and many of them are still struggling to make ends meet, even after being in business for many years. They won’t tell you because nobody wants to look like a loser.
NUMBERS SPEAK VOLUMES
You don’t have to believe me. Just go to voiceoversurvey.com or watch the short video below. Bottom line: 75% of voice actors earn LESS than 40 thousand dollars per year. About 48% of those surveyed made less than 8 thousand dollars from VO in 2020. Only 5.6% reported earning more than 150 thousand dollars that year. This is not something the Pay-to-Play marketing managers will tell you, is it?
So, if you’re wondering why you’re not booking after only two years, perhaps your expectations aren’t very realistic.
It doesn’t mean that success will never happen. Many of Hollywood’s greatest were ready to give up when they got their big break.
Success may only be one job away, and you don’t even know it!
Lee Colee' says
Thanks for enlightenment from the real world. You are right. Coaches, marketers may not tell you the whole truth but even if they do, it seems you just have to go through the trenches and experience it all yourself. This is my second year working on this career. And I’m not about to quit my day job yet. I’m working with some of the best coaches, agents and marketers in the business and still haven’t nailed down a good paying gig. But I believe in myself although have had to realize, you can’t be in a hurry. Things come when you are prepared for them. I love the auditioning, the coachings and self assessments, etc. so even if this is my expensive hobby for now I’m not going to stress any longer. As I’ve said before, I love your posts! Lee
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you Lee. I really like your perspective. You cannot force a voice over career. You know what they say about how long it takes to become an overnight success…
Jason Leech says
Another great post!
Rowell Gormon says
…i still remember the “superstar” who called me about breaking into voiceovers. He spent a lot of time telling me what he wouldn’t learn and how all the people I asked him to listen to as examples were not all that good, that he didn’t “connect” with any of the sample copy…and that I should just “give him a chance”. ‘Far as I know, he’s still at his job announcing tables at a high-class steakhouse.
Joshua Alexander says
It’s the slow cooker for me! I love this post. I hear these types of comments a lot in the consults that I provide, and I get it…people want to turn a profit and make this be their livelihood. But you’ve got to put in the hours, pay your dues, serve your time, as it were, and you can’t look at this as anything other than a marathon. There is no meteoric rise to success in voiceovers…I don’t care how many times you’ve been told you “have a good voice.” That’s a very marginal part of the equation for success. You must diligently apply your nose to the grindstone and keep at it, over and over, time and time again, for the long haul. See how long it takes for a tree to sprout up and grow and bear fruit? How long did it need to dig its roots down deep in order to take hold so that it was firmly planted and ready to bear fruit? A LONG TIME!! No microwaves here, Paul. Another great post containing truths every spring chicken needs to hear. Love ya buddy.
Diana Dudley says
I love this post, Paul. To thine own self be true! I started my VO journey in 2017 …. unfortunately the universe threw me a few major medical issues that needed to be tended to …. now back on track and hoping for the best …..
Paul Strikwerda says
So glad you are back on track. Wishing you all the best!
Michael Apollo Lira says
Mmmm. Slow cooked and savory. If only tenacity sounded as tasty as your writing!
Paul Strikwerda says
We have to ask Jack Black. I’ve heard he’s pretty tenacious!
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
I’ve been telling my therapist for years that I needed a ‘big win.’ It may have come yesterday – I’m still figuring out how to leverage it.
But I’ve been waiting for it, preparing for it, and thinking how best to proceed from it – for a very long time*. Because when Opportunity knocks, you have to at least have cookies in the freezer and lemonade in the fridge so you can invite her in for a chat.
I remember the little story about having faith: the boy who had faith – when everyone was praying for rain – was the one who brought the umbrella.
Mine is in the umbrella stand by the door. We’ll see if we get a trickle or a monsoon, but the requisite faith-umbrella is waiting.
*Success in writing can take a very long time; don’t know if I’m there yet – and there is a lot of hard work ahead even if I am – but nothing happens unless you write. And keep learning.
Paul Strikwerda says
By doing what you feel you’re meant to do, you are already winning! So many people have meaningless jobs they do just to get a paycheck. You, on the other hand, get to create worlds with your words. How cool is that?