In the spirit of Random Act of Kindness Week, I have made this week’s entry very voice-over business-specific. This will hopefully serve as solid productive advice for anyone getting started, or considering getting started, in the business as well as shine a light on both the perks and the challenges that things like the internet and social media bring to our industry.
As I was going through various levels of corporate training in my early 20’s, one of the most enforced and drilled-down concepts of the curriculum was the act of utilizing one’s available resources first, before asking your coworkers or manager for help and answers.
This means that one would be required to do, and responsible for doing, their own research and seeking the available answers somewhere already within the company’s extensive database. There were already tons of documents, quick reference guides, frequently asked question pages, tutorials, and explainer videos pretty much everywhere and covered pretty much everything.
If you had a question, odds were that the answer could be found. At most, the answer you find would guide you to an ultimately more specific but different question than the one which started you on this path. And that secondary or tertiary question would be the acceptable one to ask.
For anyone who has worked in a corporate function anytime in the past 10 years or so, you already know that it isn’t like that anymore. Documents and materials aren’t quite written that way anymore as much as they used to be. That is mainly because the audience is simply not doing the reading anymore.
My last corporate job started out as the former but evolved into the latter over the years as the average employee age began to drop. The younger crew brought with them, it seems, this new doctrine of instant gratification and immediate return. At least when it comes to seeking info, anyway.
Research, note-taking, asking preliminary and secondary follow-up questions – all gone. Even the emails I was responsible for sending to the end-user as a reply to their inquiry had to be groomed and shortened because there were too many words. Literally, that was the reason I was given. It was “too long, they won’t read it”.
Attention spans plummeted and the desire to seek knowledge went extinct along with it. Seekers want their info delivered right to them, already organized and outlined, so they can skim and move on.
This much is evident online in focused groups and social media communities as well. I am a member of no small amount of said groups. On a near-daily basis, I’ll see an inquiry posted in one of the social media groups from new talent, asking “How does one get started in this business? Where do I begin? Where do I go for work?” etc.
One of the problems is that this question has been asked and answered thoroughly numerous times already. Entire threads filled with lengthy conversation and extensive banter are easily found. Existing pros have spent tremendous amounts of their valuable time laying out these details and their own experiences, for better or worse, all throughout these threads online.
In the time it takes a new member of the group to ask this question in a new active post to the members, they could have entered the same text into the search field and found pages and pages of data, already existing, from which they could mine for information. And this is my suggestion for the new talent out there, as it was also my own method as well (still is, actually, and remains very fruitful).
By finding these existing conversations where long-time and very successful pros have laid out their info, experiences, and resources, I was able to go through each one slowly. All the comments, replies, debating, devil’s advocates, experiences, and takeaways from every established professional was all there in black and white. As I would read through, I would take copious notes.
Some provided details on their daily practices, such as warm-ups, business related tasks, and organizational tips. They would go back and forth about early mistakes they made in the business, where it led them, what they learned, and what they wished they had done instead.
Others would review their coaching teams or demo producers, and I would make lists of who to seek out for more information (and also who to avoid as well, which is often equally valuable knowledge to sponge up). Others still would talk about their equipment, what they started with and why, what they upgraded to and why, and all the pros and cons that came up along the way.
Agents, managers, producers, filmmakers, casting people, content makers, beneficial networking opportunities and methodology, methods of communication, guidance on direct marketing, and so so much more. It’s all in there.
To be successful in voice-over, one must become a student of the material. A LOT of material. It doesn’t begin and end with your performance or your determination. It actually begins with the homework you assign yourself, and the extra credit you choose to undertake as well.
I always recommend to people, when they ask how to get into it, that they google the statement itself. Put in “I want to be a voice-actor” and hit enter. There are more than a few detailed articles written already by established, working, big-name voice-over people. The articles provide some tough-love but also very accurate descriptions of the prerequisites to getting into this business as well as the joys and benefits.
I tell people “read one of those articles two times and take notes, then if you still think you want to try this, send me the new questions you have and we’ll go from there”.
Mining the data from LinkedIn and Facebook groups has been essential on my path into professional voice-over. For one thing, the information is abundant to say the least. Gem after gem of solid gold info, complete with the strong perspective and sincere hindsight of the person providing it.
For another thing, it is free. The only cost is the time it takes to read through it all and take notes (and that’s normally where we lose people). It allows me to educate myself and put myself through the punches that someone else already endured, but without having to take the beating myself. It also enables me to cross off many of my existing questions and come up with pages of new ones that I can now search for as well, all without actually having to ask anyone anything (yet).
Over the years I have made this a hard and fast rule of my own. Before I ask an active question in a group or to an individual, I first enter that exact same question into the search field and see what posts I can find on the subject with comments. Almost 100% of the time I find my answer, plus the answers to the next handful of questions too.
The only questions I will tend to ask in a live forum are the ones I myself was unable to answer for myself in research. The depth of detail found online is considerable, so I view it as my responsibility to use what’s already there and not take someone else’s time until/unless I have something I cannot find on my own first.
We are forever challenged in this industry to stand-out, to differentiate, amidst an ever-growing field of “competitors”. There are many subtle ways to accomplish this, and one of those ways is to be the person who does the work. Don’t be the person who wants it all laid out in front of them to follow blindly, but rather be the person who rolls up their sleeves and starts digging.
I am personally more impressed with the person who doesn’t ask the first question, but rather asks the third or fourth after having found the previous answers themselves. That person is a forward-thinker who shows intelligence, drive, and respect.
Respect for the industry itself.
Respect for the steps necessary to success.
Respect for the people, their time, and their expertise.