Especially in retrospect.
The idea is that, had we known better, we would have done better. That sounds very reasonable in theory, but in reality, I find most people to be stubbornly unreasonable. Hindsight or no hindsight.
In many major decisions, logic seems to play a minor part: the choice of a life partner (or to stay single); whom to trust in business and in politics; whether to have children or not, to name a few.
If logic and reason would rule the world, no one would be overweight, or smoke cigarettes. There would be no littering, global warming, texting while driving, or unprotected sex.
Instead, we live in a world where people cannot control their most primitive impulses, their most unfounded fears, and their most irrational ideas. History repeats itself as fallible human beings fail to learn from the past. As countless psychologists have observed: previous behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.
Having said that, I really wish I had known a thing or two before I started speaking for a living. Here’s my top 7 of things I did, before I knew better:
1. Putting on a voice
Listening back to old recordings, I noticed that I was trying too hard to sound like a voice-over. I was imitating someone else, instead of being me. There’s too much effort. I spoke louder than I normally do, delivering a speech, instead of having a conversation.
Takeaway: There’s no one like you. Be effortlessly authentic. (click here for some tips)
2. Auditioning for everything under the sun
Once upon a time I believed in the numbers game. You know, the silly idea that the more you audition, the greater the chance you’ll eventually land a job. Forget that. If you don’t sound like John Wayne, Darth Vader, or Helen Mirren, don’t be a pretender. It’s embarrassing. Only take on what you know you can pull off, while developing your range.
Takeaway: Be selective in what you audition for. Play to your strengths.
3. Not delivering pristine audio
What’s the number one reason most auditions end up in the garbage bin? Bad sound quality! In hindsight, I took too long to get a professional recording space, and quality equipment. Once I did, my bookings tripled, because the audio from my home studio was just as good as the audio of my demos.
Takeaway: If you want to play with the best, you need to invest. Having a home studio is a must.
4. Approaching it like a hobby
You may have an amazing voice and great equipment, but that’s no guarantee that you’ll have a successful voice-over career. You must learn how to run a freelance business, how to manage your money, and how to toot your horn without annoying the heck out of everybody.
Takeaway: Being business savvy is often more important than having a unique talent.
5. Being reactive instead of proactive
Being a voice-over is not for those who wait and see, or for those playing the blame game. You’re in the driver’s seat, buddy! If you don’t steer your career, you’ll never know where you’ll end up. Successful solopreneurs are risk-takers, go-getters, and fast learners. They love to lead, and hate to follow.
Takeaway: Don’t let things happen. Make them happen!
6. Trying to reinvent the wheel
You may think you know it all, and can do it all, but you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s better to admit your limitations, than to be willfully ignorant. The self-employed wear many hats. Dare to excel in a few things, instead of being mediocre in many.
Takeaway: Do your homework, and ask for help. Outsource the things you’re not (yet) good at. (click here for more on this)
7. Not charging enough
I thought that low rates would get me work. It turned out that by charging less, I branded myself a desperate beginner. People didn’t take me seriously, and those who paid the least, were the biggest pains in the neck.
Takeaway: Any fool can undercut the competition and go broke in the process. Running a for-profit business starts with valuing yourself and your services properly. (click here for more on low rates)
Well, there you have it.
Now I can tell you “I told you so.” Not that it’s going to make any difference.
Some people don’t like being told what to do, and I understand that.
The most profound life lessons are often the ones coming from experience, and not from books, blogs, or well-meaning mothers.
But it might take you a few years to come to that realization.
Unless you have perfect vision.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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PPS Here’s a quick summary of the main points.