Are you ready?
This is going to be one of those harsh critiques you’re not going to like. You’ve been warned!
So, the other day, someone on some voice over Facebook group posted the following question. I literally copied it unedited. Here it goes:
“When your just starting out your VO Business, most ppl will also have full time job, how do you beat post day job fatigue???, Energy levels are very low when I get home, I really have to push through to get something done, what are your Soloutions fir giving your side hustle (fir now), as much energy as your day job?”
Let me tell you in advance that I don’t know who wrote this. I am using this post NOT to single him or her out, but to make a few general points I believe are worthwhile making.
Like pretty much anyone else on social media, I only know (and judge) what I see in front of me. In other words, I know as much as a client, or an agent, or a fellow voice over talent who would read this question on Facebook.
Why is this important? Because before you read what I have to say, I want you to know that my opinion is colored by my perception. It’s subjective, biased, and based on personal experiences and assumptions.
The same can be said about the way you’re about to judge my words. Many psychologists believe that perception is projection. Or, as one of my teachers once said:
“You can’t see anything in the world that is not you.”
SENDING A MESSAGE
As a VO Pro, I believe that ANY communication I send into the world is telling the world something about me. The way I dress is communication, my haircut is communication, and especially the way I hold my body tells you something important.
Whether you like it or not, people will have opinions based on the way you look and the way you conduct yourself. Of course this includes the things you say and the things you write. Everything I write on these pages for instance, comes from the perspective of a very white, very male, very heterosexual, and very privileged Dutch/American human being.
These are things I cannot change about myself. What I CAN change fortunately, are the words I choose to use, as well as my actions.
THE UNFORGIVING INTERNET
The things we say and do online have a shelf life of… forever. As long as we don’t own the platform we’re using, we do not control who gets to see our content and for how long.
My first tip for the person asking the question above is to always write with that in mind. This does not mean you can’t ask beginner questions. It does mean that we should make every effort to come across as professional as possible.
If you deliberately use a professional group, whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other platform, you have to – what I call – “dress for success.” You’d never go into an office meeting dressed like a total slob, would you? EVERYTHING about the way you present and conduct yourself sends a MESSAGE.
Speaking for my subjective self, I want that message to be that I am a person people can TRUST. No matter how good you are, professionally speaking, if for some stupid reason the client believes you cannot be trusted, you’ll never get the job.
And that’s the sad thing. The person asking the question above might be tremendously talented, but after the first “your” instead of “you’re,” followed by the many other grammatical and spelling errors, I don’t see how someone could trust this person with a $$$ voice over project that requires extreme accuracy, a level of literacy, and attention to detail.
I know the question was not a job sollicitation, but please hear me out.
YOU WILL BE JUDGED
I’m not saying that you need an academic education to land every VO job, but whether you like it or not, you will be judged on your level of communication every single day.
I happen to voice a lot of eLearning courses and medical narrations where I have to come across as an educated person. The people who write these courses and who hire the voices are all educated. When I am able to communicate at their level, they feel acknowledged and understood.
Because of my weird last name, every English speaker immediately knows there’s something different about me. Unconsciously people may think:
“His name looks foreign. Strick weirdo… English is probably not his first language. This might be a potential problem.”
This is not something I made up for argument’s sake. It’s something clients have told me. It does mean that I have to be extra mindful and do everything I can to convince them that my English is good enough to handle the job. One slip of the pen or thumb, and their bias is confirmed.
By the way, I think most people don’t discriminate on purpose. They’re just super busy and are making superficial judgments without giving it much thought. That’s not an excuse, but it is part of the problem.
Back to your communication with your clients and your community.
If you come across as unprofessional, that’s what the world will believe, even if you perceive the platform you’re using to be as casual as Facebook. You must realize that some big name voice over agents are members of these Facebook groups too, don’t you? And you also are aware that some of your colleagues on the same platform might one day send you referrals?
As someone for whom English is a second language, I am not the grammar police, but I strongly believe in the link between content and packaging, AND in the power of first impressions. It all has to do with CREDIBILITY.
Credibility comes from the latin word CREDO which means “I believe.” If you wish to be taken seriously, you have to be believable as a professional communicator. Only when you come across as believable, people who don’t know you (like potential clients and agents) will trust you with their work and with their money.
One more thing before I wrap this up. When I wrote about this on Instagram, someone called me “elitist” to “jump on a Facebook question that could have been written by someone suffering from dyslexia.”
Let’s call her Debby (not her real name) She wrote:
“Lots of folks with dyslexia don’t have time to triple check every single post they put on Facebook, especially when it’s in a forum with supposedly helpful peers.”
For starters, I am not the expert on dyslexia, but this FB post does not have the characteristics you would expect from someone suffering from it. I do think it is extremely considerate of Debby to think of people with dyslexia.
I suffer from dyscalculia myself, so I have some idea of what it’s like to function in a world that does not understand the weakness you were born with. I also know that you often have to work twice as hard as other people, to play the game as best as you can. This means using all the tools available to make a professional impression.
Thankfully there are spelling checkers and online tools such as Grammarly to help those who are linguistically challenged. No blog post of mine will ever be published without my American wife proofreading every single word (thank you Pam. You are amazing!).
One word about spell checkers. You do need to double-check them. The public market in my town once sent out a press release calling itself the “Easton Pubic Market.” Nothing wrong with the spelling, right?
Secondly, call me “elitist” but we have no way of knowing if the person asking the FB question is actually dyslexic. It’s an unfounded assumption.
Thirdly, the way I want to help newcomers is to make them aware of the professional standards that have served me well over many, many years. People always ask to pick my brain, and when they hear things they don’t like, they call me “mean” and “inconsiderate.” What can I say?
What Debby didn’t know was that I did try to help this person who felt his full-time job left him with no energy to work on his voice over career. Most of us VO Pros have been there and done that.
One of the best compliments you will ever get as an actor, is that people are buying what you’re saying, even when you use someone else’s words, and you couldn’t care less about what you’re selling.
And that, by the way, is how I would answer the question the person asked on Facebook. What do you do when you come home from your full-time job, feeling depleted and without energy to tackle a whole bunch of auditions?
You start ACTING AS IF you’re full of energy!
The client doesn’t care about your day job. Voice actors are paid pretenders.
Professional performers put on a show no matter what. My wife is a professional flutist/pianist who teaches during the day and who performs at night. She also has multiple sclerosis which makes her tired even before her day has begun.
Do you think the audience cares if she feels exhausted? Of course not. They paid for their concert tickets, and they want their money’s worth!
Successful people are ordinary people driven by extraordinary goals.
They give everything they have, and then some!
If you feel that’s too much for you, perhaps it’s time to pursue another dream.