6 Steps for Reinventing Yourself as a Voice Actor

If you are new to the voiceover field, the idea of reinvention is probably not your immediate concern. After all, starting a new career is already a state of reinvention, so you may feel that you’ve got it covered. However, given the highly competitive nature of voice acting, the quicker you learn to appreciate reinvention as a strategy for staying relevant, the better. And, for those who have been in the voiceover field for more than a few years, you will reap tangible benefits if you begin implementing the promises of reinvention. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been in the business. What matters is staying relevant. Staying relevant is what gives birth to reinvention. Obstacles like ageism, sexism, racism, and a whole bunch of other isms can certainly wreak havoc, but staying relevant means you have to navigate those waters as part of your plan.

The desire to be relevant leads to reinvention. So what does it mean to be relevant as a voice actor? Relevance is a moving target that persistently morphs with the whims of a society and is most easily identified by examining popular culture—the hot button issues, colloquialisms, trends, and fancies of the culture in which you live. Marketers are a good place to start because they live in the world of detecting relevance. They’re always asking what the public wants, how they want it, when they want it, and what they want next. It’s the ultimate public service job; more akin being a butler than a Madison Avenue executive. By answering these same questions, the voice actor will better understand that which will make her a most viable candidate to communicate the marketer’s message. The answers can be found in more marketing trade publications and blogs than you can count. It’s a well that never runs dry. All the voice actor has to do is develop the habit of going to the well and drawing from it. Tapping into TV and radio is an excellent practice, but it’s a small piece of the puzzle. Not everything you see on TV represents the best marketing practices. By reading the marketing trades, you can gradually sensitize yourself to what distinguishes the cutting edge work from the mediocre. Knowing what’s good or relevant is not about what you like personally, it’s about knowing the rules for connecting with audiences. 

One of the most important things to understand about reinvention is that you can manage it in small doses. Don’t try to suddenly revolutionize your way of being. Rushing in will only lead to frustration and discouragement. You are embarking on the development of a sustained, pervasive, and proactive practice of beating to the pulse of the industry that sustains you. Take your time.

Reinvention is not about “fixing” you or anything about you. It’s about innovating from right where you are. It’s about evolving your mindset, tools, and resources to live the career and life you want. That will entail learning new things, being impacted by what you learn, and exploring new perspectives.

One of the first things you can do is find professionals who deeply understand human nature and who have a knack for disrupting stagnation. We found such a person in a psychologist by the name of Artie Egendorf of EnergysWay.com. Egendorf is what we would call a modern day guru of mental health and spiritual wellbeing and he operates as a catalyst for change. Change is the tricky part for all of us because we think we can do it alone. Newton’s first law of motion explains that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force. Egendorf, and the rare few who understand human nature as he does, operates as the outside force. You, of course, are the object that is at rest or moving at one speed in one direction. 

When asked how a therapeutic or spiritual influence might be employed in the quest to reinvent one’s life and career, Egendorf had this to say: “Find someone who channels wise, loving power in such a way as to guide you in channeling your own. The rest is easy.”

Fear stops most people from following their big dreams. Fear often shows up as reasons. That is to say, we come up with reasons as to why we should not take a risk on our dream. Among the reasons are the fear of being ripped off, spending too much money, not having enough talent, making a fool of one’s self, and the biggest one of all: fear of failure. Egendorf pointed to a simple way to take note of your own resistance. “A person will say, ‘I’m fine the way I am.’ We get lazy, complacent, which are covers for being scared.” As a way to get started he says,  “Who do you most admire? Go to them, or someone they recommend. Ask for a hand. Nobody cooks up a new, great life without consulting a master chef. “

Take Stock
Who will tell you the truth? Identify people who will tell you the truth about your current status. Remember, you have to tell them the truth if you want to hear truth. Have you ever watched an entrepreneur get raked over the coals on an episode of “Shark Tank”? We’re not recommending that you subject yourself to abuse. Far from it. Our suggestion is that you open yourself up to hearing the truth as it is the thing that will set you free. Yes, there may be a certain amount of pain in that. There is pain in growth. That’s why children cry as much as they do. They’re growing!

What’s Stopping You?
We have established that fear is the primary culprit that stops most of us. Nothing is easier than coming up with a list of reasons why not to do something. Our minds have a way of transforming reasons into powerful truths. And so it goes until we’re convinced our dream was simply a bad idea.

Commitment to Reinvention
Your own honest commitment to your word can be an extremely powerful way to hold yourself accountable and in the process of reinvention that power will grow. And yet, developing a sense of personal accountability to your dreams is where we often go back on our word. Why? Because it’s you. You think it’s OK to give up on yourself. Remember, you’ve got lots of great reasons. This is where an outside force (or forces) comes into play big time. Sharing your path with others and allowing their input is what helps to create accountability.

Circle of Power
Surround yourself with people who are as committed to reinvention as you are. You get to pick this team, so pick well. Drop anyone who demonstrates an unwillingness to keep up. Learn to accept the ones who hold you to the highest standard, or you’ll be the one being dropped.

Embrace love as a driving force. This will aid you in accepting yourself as you are, and gently move you to go places you have yet to dream of. It will allow you to appreciate and embrace others in a way that allows them to have total ease when working with you and contributing to an overall path of perpetual growth.

Make It Ugly
If the change agent looks nothing like you expected, that’s a good thing. What you expected is exactly what you’re trying to step outside of. Meeting with change is ultimately a shock to the senses. If you hear yourself saying, “Well, this may be find for other people but it’s certainly not the for me,” then you’re in the right place.

Artie Egendorf, PhD is a life guide and accompanist. He can be reached at EnergysWay.com.


Follow them on Twitter: @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large  and Joan Baker Live.

8 Tips for Creating Your Voiceover Flight Plan

The best thing about teaching voice acting is what you learn in the process. Teaching can be downright selfish when you consider the wealth of information that pours in from your students as they pursue knowledge, skills, riches, fame, and infamy. What our students have taught us is that with all the talent, enthusiasm, and training in the world, you can’t take off until you have a flight plan. And the dream career is about surveying the landscape for opportunity, reaching greater heights, and being free to spread your creative wings. Our goal as teachers is to take you higher.

Voiceover Flight Plan™
Planning is something most prefer to avoid. It’s a solitary endeavor requiring introspection, research, and resourcefulness. It means sitting down and thinking hard about what’s in front of you, assessing the skills you’ll need to reach your dream, and determining the tools and people you’ll need along the way. Think of your voiceover career like flying a plane. Each stage of your career is simply a new flight path, a new destination, a new view of the rest of your life. With each new destination may come the need for a different kind of aircraft. You must adjust for fuel, baggage weight (That’s a big one), weather conditions, and air traffic. You need a Voiceover Flight Plan™.

Realistic Planning
Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your “flight plan” as an antiseptic, heavily structured matrix that sets you up for failure. A rigid plan is no plan at all. Weather conditions can be unpredictable, so your plan must leave room to improvise. You are your business and you never want to forget that the “you factor” is the most important part of your plan. You’re the face, the voice, and the brand. We teased about “baggage” earlier because it’s valuable to look inward at what there is about ourselves that can be elevated, enlightened, and inspired. Therapy, self-help books, and spiritual guidance can be a lightning rod to reinvention. You may know a million things about yourself, but it’s the one thing you don’t know that will bring down your plane.

Plan Your Display
This is a huge visual poster of your Voiceover Flight Plan™. Your plan will not work as notes scribbled down in a journal. It will not work as an index card taped to the bathroom mirror where you brush your teeth. We’re talking about a billboard—a display that cannot be ignored. If you wanted to ignore it, it should require an enormous effort to do so. Ideally, your display would be out in the open where your friends and family can see it. Not only will this invite supporters and fans, it will engender accountability and raise the stakes. It’s not that you’ve made a promise to be perfect or never slip up, but to honor your commitment to your dream. Clearly, there are forces more powerful than you are. There will be times when you have to land the plane and let the storm pass.

A good plan begins with a destination. Once you choose your destination you can map out a way to get there. Let’s say your destination is to be the voice of a national TV commercial campaign for Volvo. Great! Let’s get more specific. How much money do you expect to make from this campaign, over what period of time? Sure, it’s all made up at this juncture, but this is how things become real. This is also how you come to terms with the veracity of your plan. The next question will set the tone for your entire plan and every critical lesson you will learn along the way. By when will you arrive at your chosen destination? Let’s say you plan is arrive at this destination in 18 months. Go out and buy some poster boards and colored markers because now the real planning begins.

The Timeline
It’s a simple process from here, except for the fact that our personal baggage tends to get in the way. Otherwise, the timeline, created by answering the next series of questions, enables you to map out the milestones that will track and measure your progress. Measured results are the key to your success.

1. What must you have in place in Month 14 if you are to reach your destination in Month 18?

2. Working backwards, what must you have in place at Month 10 if you are to accomplish what you’ve indicated in Month 14? The same question applies as you move backward through Month 5 and Month 1. You have just mapped out the milestones that will help you to arrive at your final destination.

The Display
So far, everything you’ve done is just in writing. You may want to write down a few more thoughts or milestones to fill in any actions you feel will be needed to ensure success. Now, let’s get on with the arts and crafts. Create your map across one or two sheets of 2×3 poster boards. Everything you write here will also exist in your notebook or journal, but it’s the display that reminds you to stick to it and take action each day. You can find motivating images, quotes, etc., to adorn your display so that you remain inspired.

Committed Co-pilot
Identify a highly responsible, wise, and learned person who is willing to occasionally evaluate your progress. This person does not have to be in the business of voiceover. In fact, it may be better if they are not. The purpose of enlisting a co-pilot is to get an objective opinion on the general status of how you’re fulfilling your plan. Co-pilots must be given full freedom to say and think as they please, to offer their opinion and judgment as they see fit, without any concern for your feelings or rebuttal. Your job is to make it clear to the co-pilot that you want their unfiltered honesty and that you forego any right to challenge their judgment. The co-pilot must know that you are true and honest in this regard. You don’t have to do what they say, but you must listen and seriously consider their input. You must set up a regular monthly meeting with your co-pilot to share your status and hear their response. Remember, you have asked for a considerable commitment from this individual and you must stand by it. That means never missing or being late for the appointments.

Be a person of your word at all costs. Plan your work and work your plan. No matter how good an excuse may be, it is still an excuse. Say what you mean and do what you say. It’s easy to dismiss the power of your word, but when you make a practice of standing by it, you will realize that it is not only the most powerful instrument in your arsenal, but the only one that really matters.

Professional voice actors looking for new horizons are very similar to new actors who are just beginning. That is to say, they want the success yesterday. It seems to be human nature. The plan we’ve outlined for you will enable you to see the big career picture from above. With the Voiceover Flight Plan™, you’ll be able to develop practical steps and truthful expectations. 

Follow them on Twitter: @JoanTheVoice and @RGaskins1, and like them on Facebook: Rudy Gaskins At Large  and Joan Baker Live.