Have you ever heard that experience is the best teacher?
While that may be true, experience also happens to take the longest to accumulate, sometimes accompanied by unpleasant situations and hard lessons learned.
If you don’t have time to make mistakes, and I mean, some really big ones, check out this cathartic article by Dan Hurst.
He wants you to learn from his experiences… better than finding out for yourself in addition to be mighty convenient!
Mistakes Voice Talent Make
By Dan Hurst
I guess this blog post is somewhat of a catharsis because I’ve made pretty much all of the mistakes on this list!
The good news is that making the mistakes isn’t career ending (for the most part). The bad news is chances are you didn’t know they were mistakes and you made them…or are making them.
I would imagine you’ve got a few to add to this list, so please feel free to leave a comment and add your own. Hey, we can all learn from your mistakes!
OK. Here goes:
1. Trying to be all things to all people.
I started in the voiceover business years ago when I lost my radio job. I couldn’t find work anywhere. McDonald’s wouldn’t even hire me! My wife suggested that I use my voice for some commercial work. I thought “Well, somebody’s doing that voice work. I might as well try to get a piece of the pie.”
I was so desperate for work that I tried to do everything. I mean everything! I tried typical announcer to character voices. I did screaming car commercials to soft, sensual perfume spots. I tried imaging work; phone work; even church spots.
The problem was I was getting very few returns. People hired me. They just didn’t hire me again. Dick Solowicz, my agent at the time sat me down one day and said “You’re good, but you’re not good enough to be everything. Pick out 3 or 4 styles you love doing and lets make you an expert in those areas.”
That saved my career. Or gave me a career, depending on how you look at it.
I’ve since learned there are some things that I’m just not that good at. I’d like to be, but I’m not. No sense in trying to beat my head against the wall and waste time trying to convince others to give me a try. They just won’t come back.
The truth is I suck at imaging. I’m not a movie trailer guy (as much as I want to be). And I don’t sound like a 25 year old. No sense trying!
But put a deep, warm, whimsical, friendly, caring script in front of me and I’ll nail it just about every time. Give me a screaming car spot and I’ll make your ears bleed. Want a typical announcer? Here I am; English or Spanish.
2. DJ Mentality
Most of the Voice Talents I know have a background in radio. And lately, because of the “brilliant” business acumen of most radio consolidators (I can’t bring myself to call them broadcasters), there are a lot more radio talents getting into the voice business. Welcome to the show, but leave your radio baggage behind.
In the radio business, and I was in it for several years, the production director calls you and tells you he needs you to voice a few spots. You go in and rip ’em off as fast as you can because that’s all that’s expected of you.
Well, you’re not in the radio business anymore. You’re in the advertising/creative/acting business. If you want to make it in this business you have to lose that DJ mentality.
Our clients are looking for someone who can make their copy come alive. Someone who really gets what they’re trying to do and say. Someone who understands that it’s their job to make the client look good. Someone who treats the copy as if they wrote it and as if it was the last spot they’re ever going to do.
Years ago I totally embarrassed myself in a session. It was an ISDN session and the client was patched in for it. After a few minutes into the session I heard the client say to his client, “Wow, this isn’t the same voice I heard on the audition.”
I had failed to follow up and listen to the audition and determine what voice the client was looking for. I wasted his time and increased his costs because he had to take studio time to get me to where he wanted me.
I’ve been on numerous multiple-voice sessions where one of the talents made this very mistake. It’s costly and it just puts everyone else in an awkward and frustrating position.
Don’t do it. Be consistent. Know what it is about you that your client hired you to do.
4. Out Of Your League
This is similar to #3. Sometimes you get hired to do something that you just aren’t capable of doing. Oh, you think you can, but you can’t. Your demo suggested that you could, but the demo was doctored and you are out of your league.
Some time ago I was working on a two-voice Spanish spot for a client that didn’t know Spanish. The other talent knew Spanish but was not a native speaker. The difference was awkwardly obvious to me and no one else. I approached the agency and gave them a heads up but they dropped the ball. The client didn’t know it…until the spot aired.
The agency lost the account.
Listen, when you pretend that you can deliver the goods eventually it’s going to get back to your client that that’s what you were doing: pretending.
A few things are about to happen here. First, you are never going to be hired by that client again…maybe not even that production house. Secondly, you’ve cost the client money, and chances are you won’t get paid – so you wasted their time and yours because you could have been doing a job that you’re good at! Thirdly, you may have damaged the credibility of others that you are working with. And finally, now you’ve got a bad reputation with a few people in the industry. Not good. Not smart.
5. Bad Records
OK, one more. This is, after all, a blog and not a book.
Learn to keep good records and get your invoicing in on time. I’m speaking from experience here. I’m horrible at this. I’ve got great invoicing and bookkeeping software, but I’m pathetic when it comes to keeping up with the invoicing. It’s an area I have to really focus on. My CPA hates me.
Not getting your invoicing done in a timely manner does a number of negative things. It creates a bookkeeping nightmare for your client. It makes you look incompetent. And it just creates more work for you that you are obviously not good at! Oh, the IRS is gonna love you!
We’re business people for crying out loud! We need to act that way.
So… you’ve probably thought of a few more mistakes that need to be added to this list. Let’s see ’em. It can only help make our business better!