DON'T GIVE UP!
Published November 6, 2009
It’s been a little disconcerting.
Over the past few months I’ve heard from a number of voice talents that are considering getting out of the business (particularly full-time), or at least taking on another job to make ends meet. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. But I just wanted to take a moment and drop a couple of thoughts on you.
I gotta tell you, I don’t blame you. The business is tough right now. Very tough. And while it seems there may be a little light at the end of the tunnel, some folks are really struggling.
The business that we love and enjoy so much has caught the eye of a whole lot of people who think that what we do is so easy they should grab a piece of the pie. Well, that’s your fault. If you weren’t so good at what you do nobody else would want a part of it. That’s just the way it is. When the economy goes south, people start looking for new and innovative ways to make money.
“Voice coaches” and “voice job sites” have made it seem as though anyone can do this job. I don’t totally blame them. They’re just capitalizing on people’s dreams just as some modeling agencies and talent agents do. Now, please understand I don’t believe all coaches and voice job sites should be defined that way. There are some outstanding vocal coaches! And there are some very good voice job sites. I’m a member of some of those sites, and I get work from some of them. I have a couple of agents and I’m listed with a couple of Production Companies, and I get work from them. They’re not all suspect. But let’s face it, any voice job site that has thousands of paying members but much fewer legitimate job opportunities is taking advantage of voice talents (or wanna be voice talents), no matter how they defend their actions, not to mention “agencies” that play slight-of-hand with rates (surely you’ve noticed that some agencies promote the same jobs all at different rates!). And about those “voice coaches” who sell and sell and sell their seminars: Buyer beware. There is a reason they have to promote so much!
But if you think voice talents are the only ones suffering in the industry, think again. The ad agencies, producers, and editors I’ve been talking to are saying the same thing about their industries. It seems anyone with a mic and some editing software fancies themselves a creative genius. And here’s the scary part: businesses are paying them to produce their work (sometimes greed isn’t about making money…it’s about saving money).
In spite of all of that, I say “Hang in there! Don’t give up!” It’s your dream. Don’t let someone steal it from you. And there are three things I would recommend you do.
First, go back to the basics.
Go back to what you are really good at. You don’t have to spread yourself thin to make it.
I used to box when I was in high-school. My coach always told me, a fight is no time to try something new. His point was that I needed to stick to my strengths, where I knew I was good, where my competition had reason to fear me.
The same principle is true now. What are you really good at? Now, go find someone that really needs that.
Secondly, remember who you are.
One of the key things I told each of my boys as they went off to college was “Remember who you are. You are not what someone else wants you to be. You are better than your failures, and your successes are the result of who you really are.”
Quit trying to be the voice talent you are not. I gave up a long time ago trying to be Don LaFontaine. I had to. I have too much hair. Oh, and there’s that other little thing about not having his voice. And I gave up trying to sound like Sam Elliot. And I quit trying to be a cartoon character.
And I must say, it’s worked out better for me that way.
And thirdly, trim your sails.
Sailing isn’t about how much wind there is and how fast you can go. It’s about controlling your boat to take advantage of the wind that is available. And on the sails there are telltales (pieces of cloth that catch the wind) to help you determine how to adjust your sail. The secret to taking advantage of the available wind is to watch the telltales.
The same is true with your business. If there’s not that much business out there right now, you need to adjust to the situation by reading the telltales – those little things that tell you how to take advantage of the available resources.
For example, I have a VO friend who makes most of his living doing car spots. His clients have taken a beating in this economy. He was about to lose one of his biggest clients and I suggested he try a new tact: convince his client that instead of using the media to go out and tell potential customers about his specials, why not have the customers come to him?
My friend looked at me like I was crazy. But I suggested that his client use his current resources – a big marquee sign on the highway and his phone line – and put on the sign that he would have some sort of unique special every day, but that customers would have to call for a recorded message to take advantage of the special. So, every day he ran a ridiculous special, but you had to call to find out what it was. That way he could control his loss leader. He offered oil change specials for $10, free windshield washer fluid, a couple of times he offered to replace trailer hitch balls on trucks, a few times he sold a car at some ridiculously low price, and on and on. Well, guess who got to record those specials for him? And he actually made about the same amount from him during the recession as when the economy was doing ok. And the best part? His client got great publicity and managed to outsell his competitors all because of his outstanding customer contact.
He trimmed his sails. The telltales revealed what customers would be willing to do and how they would be willing to spend their money and my friend and his client found a way to take advantage of the economy. It’s not about how much work is out there – it’s about adjusting your business to take advantage of the situation.
So, before you completely give up, how about going out and taking a walk in the woods. Figure out what your basics are and what you need to do to get back to them. Take some time to remember who you are – not what someone else thinks you should be.
And then…go sailing.