A Rough Year
2020 has been a rough year for all of us. Between COVID, the most volatile election this country and, arguably, the world has ever seen, the superfluous number of social issues, and the death of so many celebrities that many of us have known since we were children, it’s no wonder that anxiety and depression are running rampant now more than ever. My life and family are no different. In January, my mother had a mini stroke and then was diagnosed with Kidney Disease in March. Conviently just in time for the country to shut down in the first wave of the pandemic. I ended up having to work my day…well…night job all the way through the shutdown, and, because of her health issues, I have had to be extremely careful with everything I do for risk of bringing COVID home to my mother. Though COVID wasn’t the only reason, it was a large part of the reason that, on July 25 of 2020, I quit my job.
Finding My Voice
I worked the midnight shift for almost half a decade. I’m sure you can imagine how it’s been trying to reset my circadian rhythm. Here we are, the middle of November, and I am still finding myself having to work at it. I found a love of voice over while I was working at this job. It became an escape for a couple of years before I started realizing that it was growing into a passion and the first few inklings that I might want to pursue this as a career began to creep into the back of my mind. I used my job to fund the beginning of my voice over journey while also paying off my debts so I could push into this venture as debt-free as possible. Fast forward a few years, voice over classes, tens of thousands of dollars, and formal coaching with the wonderful J. Michael Collins later, I found myself in a position where I needed to choose between my job and a career in voice over. As I’m sure you can already tell, I chose the latter. Now, I will state that I am not writing this in search of pity. Nor is it to talk myself up, or to downplay anyone else’s misfortunes from this hellspawn of a year. I write all of this out merely for exposition to the main point of this post. If you’ve made it this far, thank you! Please permit me a few more moments of your time to write out my thoughts for both of our benefits.
Building a Career in Voice Over
When I left my job, I dove headlong into voice over. I had a few odd jobs at first but found myself afraid to audition for projects while still working. This being due to my overwhelming and unpredictable work schedule. I had a bit of savings when I left which I was able to use to pad my departure, however, I still had to deal with the fact that I lost all of my income. Slowly and surely my savings has dwindled in these months between necessary purchases for myself and the business, paying bills, paying for my website from the amazing people at voiceactorwebsites.com, and the occasional frivolous purchase to satisfy my hobbies and interests. However, I’ve managed to get very little work since I fully buried myself in voice over in August. I will say that there were several weeks in which I was unable to work due to the construction of a barn on our property and home renovations that had to be rescheduled from pre-Covid until the Covid restrictions had been lifted.. Even so, I held my chin up high for quite a while; that is until the first week of November when I had my first real and true taste of discouragement.
Discouragement in Voice Over
This is what I wanted to talk about in this post. Discouragement is a very real part of voice over. I see it a lot on twitter with the up and coming voice over artists that I follow, and it’s played around the edges of my psyche for a little bit; but this was the first time I had honestly felt discouraged enough to question if I had made the right choice. It’s a very tough pill to swallow that’s even harder for those of us diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I have spent the last week or so between this experience and the time of writing this reflecting, and I think I’ve arrived at some sort of conclusion. I think that there are two ways of dealing with discouragement in voice over. Neither one of them are what I could call unhealthy, but they are distinctly different from one another. I hope that, if you are facing discouragement, you will find something in my insights to help you through it. If you don’t find encouragement in this post, then I hope that you will, at least, find my thoughts relatable.
Fight For Your Dreams
Voice Work Takes Work
The first option I wish to discuss is, in my opinion, the better of the two options in most circumstances. This is simply making the choice and effort to push through the discouragement. There are so many things throughout history that, if people hadn’t pushed through discouragement, we wouldn’t have even though we take them for granted today; lightbulbs, vehicles, and computers all come to mind. I once heard it said that our job as voice over artists isn’t voice over, itself. It’s the time we spend auditioning. That the projects we give our voices to are a happy byproduct of the time we invest into our auditions and the time we invest into networking. That, honestly, couldn’t be truer. Congruously, the people who are the most successful in the industry are the ones who invest the most time and energy into wading into the veritable ocean of auditions and potential spots that are out there.
Give Yourself Your Best Chance
So long as you give yourself your best chance to succeed by putting forth the time, effort, and, let’s be honest here, funds for equipment, demos, recording space, and coaching (even if slowly as I know it’s a lot to afford all at once), the work is out there. Trust me, there is no better cure for discouragement than a paycheck. Well, except maybe the friends we make along the way. At the end of the day, though, payment is the reward for all of your hard work. With a career in a field like this, we don’t get a regular paycheck like a normal 9-5. That should be quite a push, in its own right, to power through the discouragement and into auditioning as much as possible. It’s the only way for us to get regular cash flow. Of course, money isn’t the only rewarding part of this career. Self-expression, creativity, pride in your work, and the satisfaction of seeing everything come together at the end is very rewarding in their own right. I personally get very deep satisfaction from meeting new and amazing people as there are a lot of incredible people within this industry.
Understanding When It’s Over
“Hanging Up” Your Microphone
Of course, there are situations where the second option is the more appropriate. This is, simply, to close the door on your voice over journey and find a different path. I refuse to say “give up” because that is a completely different situation than what I am discussing here. However, to touch on that subject, I think a lot of people preemptively cut their careers short by losing the heart to continue on. We, as a society, have largely developed a complex where we “give up” at the first sign of difficulty. That being said, please know that I’m not here to chastise people for their choices. This paragraph is referring to those who know that they have reached their journey’s end. There are many situations that can lead to this conclusion; far too many to put here in one post, but please believe me when I say that you are not a lesser person if you choose to seek a different path in life. You are only “giving up” if you know you can still fight for what you want but choose not to. Only you know how much you can give; how much you can fight for what you want. I can assure you that the people who love you will stand with you and your decision if they truly care for you. The most obvious of the reasons one might arrive to this conclusion are undermining circumstances; family issues, medical issues, “act of God” occurrences that are outside of your capabilities to control, etc., but there may also be a point in which you know that it’s just not working anymore and your time would be better spent pursuing other career options.
Stand Strong In Failure
Voice over is a tough business to break into, and, even if you give yourself your best chance to succeed, it might not work out for everyone as a full-time career. Such is the sad and cruel way of life at times. If you come to the realization that you’ve given all you can and are getting nothing in return, so be it. The strength of your character is not undercut by choosing to close that door. I have said it once, but I will say it again. Only you know how much fight you have in you, and if you can’t fight anymore then you can’t. The longer you beat the proverbial “dead horse”, the worse your quality of life and mental health will become. I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves happiness. If more people in this world were happier, it would be a much kinder place. I can promise you that there is no shame in trying to find something else that brings you happiness in life. We only have one life to live, so we have no excuse to not live our life to the best of our abilities and to find joy in that life.
A Friend and Ally
If you’re still here and reading this, I’d like to thank you for reading this post. As I said at the beginning of this, writing this out was for my own benefit as well. Dealing with discouragement is hard, and this was a wonderful outlet to give myself a pep talk, too. I hope you were able to get something out of this post. Discouragement can come in many other facets of life than just voice over. I feel that what I’ve talked about here can be applied to most of them. The duty just falls to us to apply them. Now, please understand, I am not a psychiatrist or therapist or anything like that. These are merely my own thoughts. If you feel need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to speak with a therapist or counselor. I hope that you are able to keep fighting. We may not know each other, but I am rooting for you to push through whatever discouragement you are facing. I wish you all the best in life and a 2021 infinitely better than the hellscape that was 2020. Thank you, and God bless.