Back when I was a full-time CG animator, I often saw people creating their own private projects. For folks looking to break into the field, it was often recommended that they do original work on their own time as a way of building their portfolio and honing their skills.
In the acting field, I see the same advice: create your own work. While many actors sit and wait for audition opportunities to drop in their lap, many others are out there developing their own projects: skits, web series, short films, even feature-length films.
I just watched a great series of YouTube videos by an established illustrator who offered the same tips to up-and-coming folks in that field. He specifically mentioned how so many other creative fields encourage original work, while illustrators have (historically) felt like they have to be hired by someone in order to do anything.
What about voiceover?
Maybe I’ve totally overlooked something, but all that I’ve ever seen in the voiceover field is a collection of people looking to get hired by others. We look for agents to help us get hired. We sign up for services that are supposed to get us in front of potential clients. We learn how to market ourselves to potential clients, hoping that they will hire us. In short, we’ve put much of our power into the hands of others. You might say that a lot of us behave like “vocal illustrators.” That’s good when we’re using our voices to illustrate a client’s message, but maybe not so good if we feel that our only job is to find jobs (and sadly, I think that I’ve heard that specific directive more than once).
If someone doesn’t hire us, what do we do?
Most of the “things to do when the work’s not coming in” recommendations that I’ve read include things like:
- Update your web site
- Update your demos
- Update your studio
- Make some cold calls
- Work on email/newsletter marketing
- Polish your skills by practicing
- Attend a workshop/seminar/class
- Get private coaching
In short, it’s all focused on either trying to find new clients, or preparing ourselves for the time when we have a new client.
Again, I could be completely overlooking something here, but I can’t recall the last time that I heard anyone in the voiceover field say, “Create your own work.” Why is that? Is the voiceover industry really that different from other creative fields? Are there really no opportunities for original voice-driven projects?
Perhaps a better question is this: When was the last time that you tackled a voice project out of pure passion, simply because it was calling to you? I’m not talking about finding an awesome book that you would just love to narrate, and working out an amazing deal with the publisher. I’m talking about something really personal, where there was no other party giving you permission (or the promise of a paycheck) to do it. It could have been big or small, a solo project or a collaborative effort with others, but whatever it was spoke to you so deeply that you just couldn’t stop yourself from diving into it.
For me, it was about a month ago. I had this silly brainstorm of a parody idea that tickled my fancy and just wouldn’t go away. It wasn’t easy to produce, but I had a lot of fun, got to work with a fellow voice talent here in Dallas (albeit remotely), and learned some things about audio production along the way. I also love to sing, and have a four-part a cappella song concept that I let sit on the back burner of my brain for over ten years before I buckled down and started working on it earlier this year. Progress has been slow, but I’m thrilled to hear it actually coming together. And that’s just the beginning. Because ideas like those come to me semi-frequently, and at the oddest moments, I keep a list of them tucked away in Evernote for future reference. As resources and time permit, I slowly chip away at that list.
They may not be earth-shattering, but they’re 100% me, and many of them are stretching me in ways that will make me better able to meet the needs of my current and future clients. In my view, that kind of work is a win-win, which is Habit 4 in Steven Covey’s popular list of seven. Steven also encourages us to “Be proactive” (Habit 1), and to “Live, love, laugh, and leave a legacy.” If you’re a voice talent, your legacy isn’t going to come from the number or type of clients that hired you. Part of that legacy is going to come from what you create proactively and share with the world on your own.
So what are you creating?