Giving in, Not Giving Up


One of the biggest misconceptions about the voice over industry that I have come across is that it is easy to be a full time voice over artist. Personally I would love to have enough clients to sustain me and my family month in and month out on the income that a lucrative voice over business can generate.

Alas my connections are not yet that vast and my income from VO is not yet sufficient to do so.

For those who are lucky enough to establish themselves in the voice over industry and making a full time living out of it things are increasingly looking hard. Economically the world is in a downward spiral that doesn’t seem to be stabilizing. Whether this is because the world’s governments are still spending with no regard for the fast approaching cliff’s edge (at this stage the US government’s reckless spending and loaning policies are the most vivid) or because of the collective belt tightening that almost all the mega corporations are starting to practice, being a full time voice over artist is just not bringing in enough to maintain some artist’s previous lifestyle.

As a blogger I generally try to keep myself informed about how others in the industry are faring. For some of the bigger names who have been doing well in this business for decades it seems like the time has come to give up the reins of their professional  life and seek employment in the “mundane” 9 to 5 world of corporate america (or the world for us international types).

This transition not only scares the bajeezuz out of them… but seems to them like a step backward. They see it as giving up their accomplishments and announcing to their peers that they are losers or failures.

Don’t Give Up

I’m going to be quite blunt and tell these people to stop being stupid. Yes its great having your own business and being appreciated for the talent that you have honed and invested in for years… and which has given back and supported you over the years. The truth is that it is far better to go out and get yourself a part time job … or even a full time job than it is to give up on the industry and sell your equipment.

If you sell your equipment … then friend that is when you become the loser.

Being Smart About It

The smart thing to do at this stage is to forecast how you need to supplement your income and decide on what the best possible solution is for you to be able to maintain your lifestyle and not get rid of your hard earned collection of audio recording hardware. This means that before things get desperate you start looking for work… you can start with temp work. There is nothing shameful about supporting your family and being a provider. This is the noblest of positions and although sometimes it is the one most taken for granted it is the one that makes you the most proud of yourself.

So before you decide to go and sell your audio equipment… way way before then… go out and start doing temp work… get yourself back in the working-for-someone mindset.

This does not mean that you give up on your VO work… keep auditioning and keep up your contacts. Our business is peppered with fluctuations and sine wave like peaks and valleys. That means that you can land a lucrative job at any moment. That also means that you have to pick your projects carefully and not waste too much time on the lesser paying jobs. It means that you look into other means of making money using the skills you picked up as a VO artist. Maybe hold a class and teach them their way around the equipment … hold specialization courses in your studio or be a consultant.

Possible Solutions

The fact is … the voice over industry has probably taught you a plethora of skills that give you an edge over normal folk. Here is a quick list:

1. Public Relations and Marketing: (you market yourself constantly and promote yourself through word of mouth and communications… how different do you think your job is to someone who’s full time job it is to do PR and Marketing?)

2. Accounting & Invoicing: (you constantly have to keep track of different client’s jobs… you constantly have to send quotations, make adjustments in the case of extra work coming at short notice and invoicing your clients and keeping track of all that).

3. Writing articles and blogging or making tutorials or webinars or podcasts: (There are online and print magazines who pay people to write articles for them or hold workshops and seminars … get paid for what you are giving out for free to promote your own business).

4. Web development: (maintaining your website and updating it is a job that some people get paid to do… if you are somewhat savvy at this… that is yet another means of income).

5. Consulting (be a language consultant. teach english to people who want to learn how to speak it. Teach english via Skype video … teach vo techniques over the phone or over VoIP… be creative).

Never Surrender

10 years ago I immigrated to Canada. I cut all my professional ties in Egypt, where I had lived for 10 years prior to immigrating, and up and moved to a country where I only knew 2 people.

I got swindled, I got played and I got wise. But one of the hardest lessons I learned had nothing to do with my skills and everything to do with my cultural upbringing.

In the Middle East it is shameful to work as something outside your specialty. I mean its a major faux pas to go work as say a waiter when you have a university degree in communications. After 6 months of looking for work in my field (Graphics Design and Advertising) I reached the breaking point… I could forecast that if I kept living the way I was there was no way I could survive the year… so I had to conserve my savings and start generating some income.

The canadians have a stupid work rule. They don’t hire anyone without Canadian work experience. This is so beyond idiotic that I could not believe a country would push for immigration and bringing in an international workforce then leave them stuck in a limbo.

My favorite saying back then was: “How am I supposed to have canadian work experience if I just got off the plane?!” The employer didnt care… that is the rule… if you’ve worked with someone before then I can hire you… otherwise… go away. So catch-22.

So I went to Apple… a temp agency in toronto (or was it the people bank in mississauga) and I got hired as a mover. I worked as a mover for 3 months… I worked 16 hours a day and lost around 40 lbs… gained a crap load of muscle… got paid below minimum wage and paid my rent using money I generated on Canadian soil. I felt like crap in the beginning but once I realized that work is work and I have to survive… then my cultural obstacles didn’t matter.

Bide your time

Everything is temporary… the financial crisis is temporary… your panic is temporary and how people view us …is actually not important as long as we do what we have to to survive (I’m saying lawful good stuff not chaotic evil).

You can be smart like Peter O’Connell and have your own casting agency, you stay in the business and when you don’t have work for your self you take a commission on the work you can supply other VO artists. Everyone makes a buck … everyone is happy.

Be Brave

Ultimately you have to realize that this too shall pass and life will go on. Be proud of what you have accomplished and never give up on your dream… whether it is to establish yourself in the VO industry … or to get back on top of it.

If you have something to say… leave a comment.

Mahmoud Taji

1 Comment

  1. There is no better message that can be sent: Don’t Give Up. If one believes so strongly in their potential… if their passion is so intense to drive them into a career where they get to do what they love, giving up is NOT an option. Stress kills or almost kills too many people. Throwing out what one has achieved in their chosen profession only to start from scratch in an occupation they know little about or have little desire to be part of will surely lead to much stress. This would be an example of ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water.’ “Use the force, Luke.” Do what you know best. Work to pursue happiness.

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