Wise men say that one way to spot the difference between cultures, is by looking at how separate societies approach the concept of work.
As someone who has lived and worked in both Europe and in the United States, I feel comfortable making the following generalization:
In Europe, most people work to live.
In the Unites States, most people live to work.
By “most” I mean more than half.
Here’s the thing: I’ve never had more time off than during the thirty-six years I lived in the Netherlands. I was able to travel the world at a relaxed pace, and recharge my batteries. I had enough time to pursue one or two hobbies, and have a rich and balanced social life.
Once I became a U.S citizen, I learned that most people in America see even a short vacation as a luxury and not as a necessity. The odd American planning a trip outside of the country has one thing on his mind: how can I see and do as many things in as little time as possible? Kids are overscheduled by stressed parents working two jobs, and one of those jobs is to pay for daycare.
I fully realize that I’m brushing with broad strokes, but what’s the end result of these two attitudes?
Countries where people work less like Ireland, Norway and Belgium, are more productive than the United States. In the most productive country on earth, Luxembourg, people work an average of 29 hours a week. On average, Americans put in 33.6 hours a week, only to rank fifth in the OECD list of most productive countries.
These findings support one of the conclusions of a story I wrote this year entitled “Are You Wasting Your Time Going Nowhere Fast?” (click on the title to access the article). It’s a blog post about the difference between being busy and being productive. In it, I offer suggestions to increase your productivity as well as your bottom line, that will actually cost less time!
THE RAT RACE
No matter where you live, running the rat race can be pretty stressful. Some of my voice-over students get stressed out when they have to go into a studio to record. In “Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy,” I describe how you can keep that stress under control.
One of my most popular blog posts this year was “The One Thing That Will Improve Your Voice Acting Immediately.” What do you think it could be? Warm-ups? Tongue twisters? Sufficient hydration? No. No, and No! The other blog post that got a lot of attention was “The Vital Voice-Over Skill We Never Talk About.” It’s something that isn’t taught in voice-over school, and yet it could make or break your career.
Now, I have a question for you. If I were an investor on a show like Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, and you came to me with a pitch to back your business, what would I be looking for? Enthusiasm? A unique product? The answer may surprise you. Read about it in “Would you Survive The Shark Tank?”
MISTAKES AND FAILURES
Eighty percent of new businesses survive past their first year. However, half of all businesses no longer exist after five years. That’s a scary statistic, isn’t it? In “The Secret To Not Getting Hired,” I’ve summed up all the reasons why clients aren’t interested in working with you. Oddly enough, I also invite you to embrace failure as a way to grow personally and professionally. You can read about that in “Why I Want You To Fail.”
In “Being Wrong About Being Right,” I describe one of the biggest mistakes I made in 2017, and what I learned from it.
When you’re just starting out as a voice-over, it is so easy to make simple errors. Many of my VO-students tell me: “If only I had known…” I tell them: “If only you had read my blog!” The story about “The Seven Worst Mistakes Beginner Voice-Overs Make,” is a good start.
If there’s one thing I have learned in this unpredictable business, it is that success is by no means guaranteed. You can work your tail off and record audition after audition, only to face rejection, time after time. It’s frustrating, and that’s why I say: “VO’s Unfair, so, Grow a Pair!”
Sometimes, people are their own worst enemies because they’re unconsciously sabotaging their success. In that case they might need a major attitude adjustment, such as the one I describe in “What Are You Waiting For?” and “Be bold. Be brave. Be you.“
Sometimes, you are not the problem, though. You’re just dealing with a terrible customer. Mine was named Elvis, and he was “My Worst Client Ever.”
Attracting clients has always been a major theme of this blog. In “The Key To Promoting Your Business,” I reveal what’s fundamentally wrong with the way many voice-overs (and other freelancers) market themselves, and what they can do about it.
Social media should play an important role in any marketing strategy, but you have to know how to play the game to get tangible results.
Facebook can be particularly tricky, and so many colleagues are still violating the terms of service. Because of it, they could be kicked off the platform. If that’s something you wish to avoid, please read “Facebook: Why You May Be Doing It All Wrong.” One thing you need to be particularly careful with, is posting pictures online. If you don’t do it right, “The Copyright Trolls Are Coming After You.”
2017 marked the year I finally took Nethervoice to Instagram. In “Help, I’m on Instagram. Now what?” I talk about this experiment, and why I believe you should also give this platform a try. Let me also name a few things you should avoid in the new year.
Number one my list is spending too much money! It’s so easy to write check after check hoping it will benefit your business. Quite often, it’s better to save and make wise investments. In “Becoming A Frugal Freelancer“ I’ll tell you how. This story alone could save you hundreds of dollars, pounds, or euro each year.
Number two of things to avoid is working for low rates. In “Who’s Afraid of Decent Rates,” I urge you to stop blaming one specific group for the ongoing erosion of voice-over rates. You’ll be surprised to learn which group that is.
Number three has to do with the big rotten apple of the voice-over industry, known as Voices dot com (VDC). In their continuous effort to try to dominate the VO-market, VDC bought Voicebank with borrowed money, and it is rapidly turning well-paid union jobs into cheap managed projects. Read all about it in “A Deal With The Devil.” My question to you is:
“Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?”
As long as you keep investing in a company that does not have your best interest at heart, you keep that company in business. That’s why I’m telling you: “It’s Time To Choose.” Are you in or are you out?
The 2017 story that caused quite a stir on social media was “Divided We Stand.” Actually, it was an afterthought about a certain VO Awards show that prompted one commentator to label me a “racist.” Some of my critics thought this person went too far and said so in public. Others kept their mouth tightly shut. To me, that was more hurtful than the ridiculous slander itself. Einstein once said:
“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
In the follow-up article “Paying the Piper,” I take on my critics, and I present ideas to make future award shows better and more relevant.
The last two stories I want to highlight bring us back to the beginning. It’s about our approach to work. A week or so ago, my colleague Paul Stefano posted on Facebook:
“Anybody else finding it hard to just stop during the holidays? Still frantically checking email for auditions, looking at casting sites and generally running at 90 mph. It’s as if all the energy it takes to do this business on a daily basis makes it really hard to hit the brakes!”
“Auditions will keep coming in. Always. But precious moments with friends and family will never come back. If we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy these wonderful times, what are we really working for?”
Working harder and longer doesn’t mean we’ll be more productive. In fact, this blog was born when I dared to step away from my work for a while. I describe what happened in “Feeding Your Soul.” Little did I know that this blog would eventually attract an audience of 39K subscribers and counting!
If you do feel that your voice has earned a rest, and you wish to catch up on some reading, I warmly invite you to look at “The Concise (and incomplete) Voice-Over Book List,” I compiled this year. As an author I will be adding another book to that list in 2018. What are your big plans for the new year?
For now I want to thank you for all your emails, questions, and comments. I hope to meet you in person at VO Atlanta in March where I’ll be doing a presentation, a panel discussion, and a break-out session.
May the new year bring you all the fulfillment and success you so deserve!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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Ray Girard says
When driving, and someone passes me in a hurry, I always feel sad for them, …not anger. I love a relaxed pace, in which everything seems to have its own ‘value’. But then, I’m old.
Re: THE RAT RACE
I’d try to show confidence…..that they could depend on my abilities and devotion to the ‘product’.
Re: MISTAKES AND FAILURES
“work your tail off and record audition after audition, only to face rejection, time after time” I’ve been there and pushed through it …..as I was once told, “If you never quit, then success is already a reality in the future”.
Re: ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT
If trying to be someone you’re not …can be included in this self-defeating issue, then that needs to be gone too!
Re: STAY AWAY
Yes, do not lower the value of the work you do. You’re not getting worse, you’re getting better. Shouldn’t your fee go up instead of down?
Can’t comment on this. Don’t know enough of the facts.
Re: SQUARE ONE
Yes, if you keep the job as something you do in your Life, and not let it BE your Life, you will stay in control of it.
Re: READING LIST
Do yourself a ‘flavour’, and re-read all of Paul’s offerings. There will be something you’ve forgotten in there and something you overlooked. You will only come out more informed.
Make 2018 the year when you stood straighter, taller and took control. It’s in you. Go show them.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thanks for such a detailed and thoughtful response, Ray. I enjoyed every single line. Wishing you a healthy and happy 2018!
Paul Payton says
Paul, thank you for another year of thoughtful, insightful and well-considered articles. I think your contribution to thoughtful discourse outweighs even your voluminous talent and deep and genuine humanity. I am delighted to call you my friend.
Have an joyful New Year’s Eve and an outstanding 2018.
Paul Strikwerda says
It’s been such a joy to pen these articles, Paul. My vocal folds got a chance to rest up as I was writing them. I do hope that I was able to contribute to the ongoing discussions in voiceoverland in a meaningful and positive way. A lot of the conversation seems to happen in short exchanges about immediate problems. I usually go for the longer view. Many thanks for being one of my loyal readers. I too, am so glad I can call you my friend! All the best in the New Year!
David Gilbert says
Wonderful recap of all your insights throughout the year! It just may take me a year to get through it all!! LOL Wishing you a spectacular New Year, and look forward to spending some quality time with you in Atlanta!
Paul Strikwerda says
Well, it took me a year to get through it all, so it only makes sense for my readers to take that long. Like a good meal, I think my stories shouldn’t be rushed. The most important part is often the digestion. We’ll certainly see one another in Atlanta. I’m looking forward to it!
Paula Faye Leinweber says
Thank you once again Paul, for such a great blog. I did read and re-read almost every one you referenced and took a whole page of notes as reminder for myself. It also generated some questions in my mind for you and others, but will save them and ask you at VO Atlanta. So glad you will be presenting!
Happy New Year to you and your family.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you so much for following the trail of breadcrumbs that is the selection of blog posts presented here. I’m glad my stories lead to some questions instead of indisputable certainties. Quite often, there are more ways leading to Rome, and as far as I’m concerned, Rome doesn’t even have to be the destination. I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta, Paula. Wishing you a bright and beautiful 2018!
Lance DeBock says
Is that all you got? Slacker! Just kidding Bud. Keep up the great work and have a Happy (and profitable) New Year, from one Dutchman to another.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thanks for that touch of Dutch, Lance. May this year bring you continued success, and many memorable moments!