Making yourself more marketable and improving your chances for success was covered in my previous post, Freelance VO Survival: Pt 4 – Continuing Education.
- You are your best investment. To be ahead of everybody else, learn what that means.
- Learn as much as you want. The opportunities for learning more can be as long as a structured class or as short as a YouTube video.
- To Group or not to group, it’s your choice. Participation with other freelancers has the benefit of socializing; whereas training on your own grants you a peaceful learning experience.
And So, it Begins
You wake up each morning with a feeling of dread. It’s been several weeks since your last booking and you’re starting to question your decision to be a voice actor.
A part of you loves the idea of working with clients who value your talent and trust that you’ll bring their script alive with believable feeling and emotion. The other part of you is nagging about bills, groceries, gas for your car and family responsibilities.
Sitting in your studio, you ask yourself “What am I doing wrong? I don’t know what to do. What should I do?” But, you do nothing. You are stuck.
For the past two years, you’ve had a steady income from clients who give you repeat business and referrals. Your day is predictable with scheduled times when you walk into your studio and when you leave for the evening.
You are comfortable, since any job that comes your way is easily handled. The type of work you do is normally the same every day. You’ve found a niche and are performing well within its boundaries.
You often think about what would happen if your repeat clients took their business elsewhere. Marketing or doing anything besides walking into a booth and recording, then handing off finished audio is considered by you unnecessary.
You’d like to reach out to new prospects. But, you do nothing. You are stuck.
No Work Left Undone
At night, you find yourself exhausted from working a 12-hour day that included 4 sessions, one almost 2-hours long. Following that were 5-auditions, 4-hours of editing and preparing invoices for completed bookings. Finally, you sent quote request responses and marketed to prospective clients.
This is a typical day and you work hard to maintain this performance level. You are a success. It means working nonstop with very little of yourself left to give to anything else.
Friends and family invite you to take a break and have some fun. Your son reminds you about his basketball game. Your daughter personally invites you to her choir concert.
You’d like to attend all that you’ve been invited to. But you do nothing. You are stuck.
The Art of Being Stuck
The feeling can be intense or barely noticeable. The need to push forward takes on many faces and each one may be perfectly obvious to an outsider and totally obscure or ignored by you.
As a business owner, pushing forward to ‘what’s next’ is important to the growth and success of your business.
The three instances of being stuck I called out above are probably the most common and the scenarios for each one are on the extreme side, I admit. Each of them requires us to push forward in a different way. Getting past the sticking point is the beginning of the push.
What follows is a look at ways to get unstuck and the positive benefits of moving forward. It’s time to push yourself.
Send an S.O.S
Starting your day bewildered and not knowing how to improve your business is stressful. Don’t spend time processing your feelings of failure. Doing so will not get you where you want to be- a busy, productive, well-paid professional.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. There are many professionals who have been at the same exact place you are right now. But, what do you do to get past the morning dreads?
Be ready to work. When asking for help, you are looking for somebody to provide assistance, suggestions, and guidance. Don’t expect somebody to do the work for you. Nobody can. You need to take the responsibility and ownership of this process so you can benefit from the positive outcomes.
A mentor is a good start. Somebody you can talk with about what you’re currently doing. They may be able to identify problem areas that you’re too close to, to sort out yourself. Your skills as a talent, business acumen, marketing approaches and more are all worth examining.
Neutral, the UN-Gear
Becoming complacent in your career as a voice talent is more dangerous than it seems on the surface. You have consistency with clients you’ve worked with for several years. Bills are being paid. Your income is at a level you can easily maintain.
Work is effortless and the process is automatic. Script in. Audio out. It’s been this way for several years. Congratulations.
Are you challenged? Are you doing new, interesting work? Are you talking with new prospects? Do higher paying clients interest you? Have you attended a workshop or sought out a coach? These are the things that will push your career out of neutral and help grow your business.
Limitless. Regardless of what others say about professional limitations, your opportunities to push your comfort envelope are limitless.
Continuing to listen to what others are calling fixed boundaries keeps you from discovering the stuff you’re made of and prevents you from taking risks. Playing it safe is easy and preferable to many.
Risk is less about being an adrenalin junkie and more about discovering yourself.
For instance, focusing on a single genre for voice-over. If commercials are your specialty and you’re doing well, why consider doing anything else?
What if you push yourself to audition for documentaries or character voices and find that you like them as well? There’s even the possibility your performance is more human, closer to who you are.
Sticking with one genre or style of work could create that stuck feeling. Always thinking about the other possibilities but never taking them on leaves many opportunities untried.
If trying something new requires you to learn, all the better. Continuing education is one sure way to make you more marketable. The increase in what you’re able to handle makes you more valuable. Push yourself out of your cushy performance comfort zone.
Looking Out for Number 1
Taking care of your primary asset has to be at the top of your needs list. Without you, there is no business. Without the business, there is no income. Without income, there is no survival.
Working 10+ hours a day and most of your weekends to meet client needs satisfies exactly one side of the talent and client relationship. Spending vacation time working is great for your clients but probably not exciting for the people you’re with.
Ideally, you want to work with better-paying clients and clock fewer hours. Being stuck in a mode that’s counter to this will shorten your career as a voice talent or at the very least, make it less enjoyable.
Managing clients so you get time to rest your voice and mind is so important. Vocal health should be a primary consideration. Take care of yourself.
Set hours during the day that you’re available to clients. Let them know what your availability is. Push yourself to stick to a healthy schedule. There are people in your life who genuinely want to spend time with you. Restful nights of sleep and eating a healthy diet are important for keeping the talent machine that you are, running in A-1 form.
Earn What You’re Worth
The rate card you’re currently using may be keeping you from making the kind of money you set out to make.
The push begins by evaluating your client load. Are you at full capacity and turning work away? Or, does your schedule have room to fill with work?
The goal is to work less while earning more. It’s not a bad thing and if most people had the choice, they’d work less for more money and not more for less money.
If your skills are top-notch and your business practices are sound, but you’re not attracting clients, try adjusting your rates down incrementally or find ways to add value.
You’re looking for a noticeable improvement. Perhaps a new marketing approach is what’s needed. If you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to get the same results. Change it up!
On the other end of the spectrum is working a full schedule and turning work away from existing clients or refusing to take on new clients. What a great ‘problem’ you have. You are set for a rate increase.
This is scary territory for some who fear losing clients. That’s OK because you are looking for clients who’ll pay what you’re worth.
Those who don’t see your value will find someone else. New prospects who understand what you have to offer and like your talent will pay your rate.
After you’ve made a change that moves you outside your bubble of comfort, a couple of positive things happen.
First, you realize that taking a leap into the murky unknown, was not as bad as you thought. You learned something along the way, maybe picked up a new skill. Most importantly, you discovered something about yourself.
Second, you’ll be better prepared to deal with feeling apprehensive. Remind yourself that you made it through the change and are better for it.
Even results that didn’t turn out the way you wanted or expected can have value. The key is not to give up on yourself when things get crazy.
There will be bumps along the way. You’re making a change or trying something new and it feels awkward and unfamiliar. If you ditch your efforts early, you’ll never learn to navigate.
Understanding the navigation of change is what brings about success.
Why follow the pack when you can set your own standards? You’ve seen and heard many times things like, “It’s always been done this way.” Or “That doesn’t apply to what we do.” Or “The clients will never go for that!”
These statements are limiters and allow people to stay comfortable and unchallenged. It only takes one person to pierce through the protective coating of complacency. A different idea or method proves change can happen and is appropriate.
When you hear, “That’s the way it’s done.”, you’ve received a signal, loud and clear, for you to challenge what others are accepting as the norm. Do not be afraid to push forward with your radical ideas. The success or failure of those ideas will never be known if you don’t push forward with them.
Pushing forward is constant. Like the hands on a clock, each is always in motion but at different speeds. The rate of push is less important than the act of moving forward. Sometimes it takes baby steps to get to ‘what’s next.’ Other times, you’ll find a smooth paved superhighway with clear signs to follow. Keep moving forward.
What to Remember
The moment you are comfortable is the precise time to find ways to push yourself.
- Moving out of your comfort zone can take many shapes. A small change can have huge results.
- Boost confidence with every push. That feeling you get when change has a positive outcome can be repeated and become easier to repeat with every new push.
- The negative results of pushing boundaries are valuable. Learn along the way. Discard what didn’t work. Keep what did. Persevere.
There are many examples of professionals who pushed forward with their careers and never looked back. An article written by Renee Jacques, Associate Viral Content Editor for The Huffington Post, calls out 16 individuals who hit obstacles along their journey and found ways of dealing with them. They never settled.
How have the moments you pushed resulted in amazing outcomes? What did you learn along the way for those instances of push that didn’t work out? Leave your comments below.
© 2016 J. Christopher Dunn