Seven Signs You’re Not Meant To Be A Voice Over

1. You think you’re good at imitating celebs. 

You may be getting some pity laughs at parties, but your impersonations are quite pathetic, really. If someone would give me a dollar for every aspiring VO telling me he can do “a mean Sean Connery,” or a silly Schwarzenegger, I’d retire early.

And no, I won’t be back!

Pretending to be someone you’re not, is NOT your ticket to voice over fame, UNLESS you’re truly extraordinary. 

If you wish to stand a chance to make it in the overcrowded world of voice talent, take this to heart:

Be An Original.

Agents aren’t looking for folks that sound like the people that are already on their roster. They want new, natural, refreshing, raw, daring, dazzling, and authentic. They want someone who doesn’t try to sound like someone else. 

2. You need job security.

Does your family depend on a stable income? Do you have monthly bills that always need to be paid on time? Do you have enough of a cash cushion to survive for a year on very little money, while you invest in your voice over career?

By invest I mean: hiring a VO coach, building a home studio, buying reliable audio equipment, installing Source Connect (sorry, not the free version), getting a website, having demos produced, creating your brand, and launching a marketing campaign.

If you’re not in a financial position to make these investments, is your partner able to pick up the tab and the slack, even in these economically uncertain times? Oh, and did I tell you that freelancers don’t get a benefits package, vacation time, sick leave, or paid training? It will all come out of your pocket. Good luck with that when you start peddling your services on Fiverr!

Are you psychologically ready to embrace the unpredictability and stress of freelance life? What are you willing to sacrifice to pursue your dream, knowing that it may take years before you finally break even?

3. You’re not disciplined, and self-motivated.

If you’re used to the nine to five routine, you’re in for a rude awakening. Once you are your own boss, no one will tell you to get out of bed in the morning, or get down to your office (which now consists of a small, dark, padded room with a microphone). You don’t have a list of old clients to call, or a sales department to sell your services.

When you’re self-employed, everything is always on you

Your first question is going to be: How on earth am I going to find work? Where are all the auditions everyone is talking about? And when you finally find a few opportunities, you see that hundreds of hopefuls have already sent in their custom demos while you’re still trying to work out how to use this Pro Tools nightmare. 

Let’s assume you’ve finally learned how to record a decent audition, what are you going to do when you realize that your recording is being dumped into a gigantic black hole, never to be heard of again? At that point you’ll finally recognize that…

4. You know nothing about running a voice over business.

That’s right. It seemed such a great idea at the time: you get paid to talk. A dream come true!

Being a successful voice over has everything to do with your ability to run a profitable international freelance business all by yourself, 24/7.

Let that sink in for a moment or two. Then read this line again.

Being a successful voice over has everything to do with your ability to run a profitable international freelance business all by yourself, 24/7.

Don’t think for one moment that you’ll spend most of your time speaking into a microphone. You’ll spend a lot of time doing the boring, unglamorous stuff, like keeping the books, trying to connect with clients, figuring out how to market yourself.

During those moments you discover that…

5. You don’t like tooting your own horn.

You’ve always been taught not to be boastful, and that modesty is still a virtue. You get uncomfortable when people are paying you compliments. You brush it away saying: “Oh, it was nothing, really. No big deal.”

The thing is, clients aren’t going to hire you if they can’t find you, and they won’t be able to find you when you’re playing hard to get. Like it or not, you need to create a presence in the marketplace, and because you happen to personify your product (or service, rather), selling your services means selling yourself!

If that makes you uncomfortable, too bad.

I’m a reluctant extravert who had to learn how to reach out and promote my one-man business. It was a bit weird at first, but it helped me uncover parts of myself I didn’t even know existed. If you’re not comfortable being uncomfortable, perhaps this business is not for you. This world needs plenty of people who are happy to play it safe. 

6. You hate technology. You just want to read.

Technology is not just for geeks. I started my career at a radio station with sound engineers taking care of every aspect of the recording. All I had to do was open my mouth and make intelligible noises.

Now I am my own sound engineer. I am in charge of the equipment and technology needed to send my voice across continents. If it works, it’s amazing. If it doesn’t, God help me! 

Over the years I have learned to ask for advice, but not to rely too much on outside help. I’m an independent contractor, after all. Besides, the people who tell you “Call me when you need me,” never answer the phone when you’re in a pickle. They’re usually too busy helping other people. 

There’s also this: other people’s opinion (emphasis on “opinion”) is no substitute for my own hands-on experience. There are too many gear snobs in this community with a big mouth and limited knowledge (see my final point). 

Take my advice.

If you wish to have a career as a VO Pro (especially in times of Corona) you MUST have a decent home studio and quality equipment that you know how to use. You expect a plumber to have the tools of the trade, before he or she enters your house, don’t you? Your clients expect the same of you. Remember that the number one reason auditions end up in the bin is bad audio quality.

7. You always take things personally.

Is it easy to step on your toes? Does your mood depend on how others treat you? Do you secretly seek affirmation? Do you crave to be included?

If that’s the case, how will you deal with the horrific R-word? 

R  E  J  E  C  T  I  O  N

When an audition doesn’t go well for, let’s say, a trumpet player, he or she can always blame the instrument. But when the instrument is your voice, it’s personal! You can’t go to a store and buy a more expensive voice box. Of course you can train your vocal folds to become more resonant, but what if the client just doesn’t like the way you sound? 

Listen, if I book five percent of all the jobs I audition for, I can keep my boat afloat. That does mean that nintey-five percent of the time the client chooses someone else. What’s even worse, I’ve wasted my time and energy creating the custom audition I thought would win me the job (and would pay the bills for the next few weeks). 

If you’re a sensitive soul, this is not good for your self-esteem.

The way you deal with rejection (or selection, as some like to call it) will determine how happy you will be as a performing artist. Some people become stronger. Others eventually give up.

Now, if you’re still reading, I have to reward you with a bonus sign! Here’s one more thing telling you you’re probably not meant to be a voice over…

8. You think you know best.

There are two things I can’t stand: willfully ignorant people, and people who believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are (see my story “Incompetent and Overly Confident“). 

The first group is hard to help because they stay ignorant on purpose. With all the information in the world only a few mouse clicks away, they are usually too lazy or too recalcitrant to educate themselves.

The second group is unable to recognize their own incompetence, and because of that, they overestimate their own capabilities. In psychology this is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

David Dunning wrote in an article for Pacific Standard

“In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

Bear with me here.

If doing voice overs seems like something fun you’d like to try, I’m happy for you.

And you know what?

It is so much fun, and it’s hands down the best job I’ve ever had. 

But it’s also so much more than that, and if you’re seriously considering making this your career, you need to know about the more. A lot more!

So, please don’t think you know what’s best for you as you’re starting out. I don’t mind a good dose of natural confidence, but it has to be backed up by competence. Competence is not just something you can buy on the virtual shelves of Amazon. Competence requires patience because it is gained over time.

The trouble is: patience isn’t very popular in these “I want it, and I want it now” times. 

By the way, experience itself doesn’t necessarily lead to competence. Some of my coaching students have been in the business for years, and they have acquired bad habits they need to unlearn before they can make any progress.

Experience in one area does not necessarily translate to another area, either. Having had a career in radio for instance, does not automatically lead to a successful career in voice overs. 

It’s the quality of your experience that qualifies you. 

If you think you know best in this business without having anything to back it up, good luck to you. You’ll need it. 

The newcomers who do well in our community recognize their limitations, they respect more seasoned talent, and they are willing to learn from them, instead of giving them an attitude. 

Please don’t be that person David Dunning calls a “Confident Idiot.” 

One last thing, if I may. 

In the past, some of my readers have accused me of writing wild rants telling people what not to do, without advising them on what they actually should do.

To them I say: explore this blog. You’ll find over 350 articles on all aspects of the voice over business. These stories are packed with practical tips that won’t cost you a penny but can make you a ton of money. Don’t take my word for it. Ask around. 

And if that’s not enough, get my book Making Money In Your PJs.

You see, that’s extraverted me, tooting my own horn.

I always practice what I preach!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet, subscribe, share, and 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 Strikwerdain Articles, Career, Freelancing

23 Responses to Seven Signs You’re Not Meant To Be A Voice Over

    Add a Comment