On Stagnation; Another Year, and Moving Forward

Like most any freelancers, tax time is a horrible time for voice actors. At least, it is for me. I don't know enough voice actors to come up with that consensus on my own, but I assume it's true because Rob Paulsen has a joke about it. Especially in these last two years, in which I saw my income double each year, taxes have been an eye opening...nightmare. It got so expensive so fast, and now I'm learning about grown up things like budgeting and I realize how screwed up I am financially. I've also watched the Big Short recently, and combined with the daily deluge of shit in the news, the world makes me want to quit. I have to bust my ass to stay on top of my taxes again, something that rocked me for six months last year, only now all my federal money is going to a goddamn border wall? I just want to say to hell with it.

Something else happened over the last year. The days of auditioning on Voices, the weekly assignments of blogs, the commercial shoots....everything just started feeling like the same crap, over and over and over. I got bored. I stopped really caring about expanding, since the money was coming in from the same few reads from the same few clients. The leg work rarely turns up good clients, and it's dull. Working every day in isolation makes you weird. Altogether, I started losing interest, which I've only just started to recover from.

There's only so many times I can talk about devices and apps that are available anytime, anywhere and on any device in a padded room in my freezing ass basement before I snap. And it turns out, once you have money, you basically need to constantly make more and more or else you'll end up in jail for not paying your taxes. So I've felt lately like I'm just succeeding because I absolutely have to, which has had a deleterious effect on my outlook. Instead of forging my own way and being my own boss, I feel just as trapped as I did at Pemco or any of the other day jobs I used to haunt. 

It's tough bouncing from job to job, where the work load and payout change so dramatically for, frankly, such arbitrary reasons that sometimes that logical thing to do seems to be to stop giving a shit about it for a while. This industry makes no sense. I can go spend 19 hours on set of a major TV production and get paid in bread, or I can go to a studio and say three words for thousands of dollars. Or, more often, there's just nothing to be done but leg work, which often doesn't turn out any results.  

I'm lucky enough to have work come in through a few agencies and companies around town; if those weren't in place by now, I'd probably have just moved on. It's a weird thing to say about the only job I've ever loved, but even that can get worn out, I suppose. Everything is still here, though; all those marketing ideas I put into place that I guess worked at some point or another. That pile of ideas I haven't gotten to yet. Those new demos I haven't made yet, that Christmas card I swear I'll actually make and send out needs to be designed. That blog still needs to be written.

So, something different. 

Wake up with the dawn. Meditate and do some yoga. Take a walk. Throw your phone in the trash where it belongs. Remind yourself that you're human, that people like you, and that you need them. You can't just be your job. And your job can wait a minute.

And don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.




The (Potential) Payoff of Persistence

I turned a job down last week. It didn't meet the rates that I had been honing for the last three years, the turnaround was too quick, the script too long, the subject too boring, so I just...turned it down. It felt really good, as I'm pretty sure I've never done that with a voiceover job before.

I've also taken a vacation recently for the first time in years (that didn't involve a convention in some capacity). Another one's planned for November. Work's been coming in practically on its own all year, mostly from repeat clients I've built up campaigns with for the last year or two. Marketing is more for fishing for new clients rather than an urgent desire to survive; I even rejoined Voices.com, mostly out of boredom (plus they offered a huge discount at the time).

Oh, and I bought a new car when our old one died a couple week ago. I've never even bought a car before. My one steady gig isn't exactly what I'd call stellar work, but hell, I know I'm not going to starve. And after doing it for a year, the benefit of having a baseline has prevented me from ever having to get a side gig to make ends meet. 

Life is good. And all it took was ten years of research, two moves across the country, and becoming increasingly unemployable for years to get me to start on this path. It took my friends in Baltimore building a theater company to get me to consider trying out acting at 27. It took the love and support of my wife and our family and friends, to keep us afloat as we readjusted to living in Baltimore again. It took a credit score I don't know how I earned to buy my first studio setup (which is due to be fully paid off sometime in the 2030's) when I decided I'd rather be homeless than work in an office ever again. 

Well, I guess my home studio is basically an office, but I only have one office mate and he rules.

It was years of risk, and hell, it could still all evaporate next week and I'd have to start over again. Not from the bottom per se, but this isn't exactly a stable industry.

A lot of people ask me how to get into voice over. Giving advice is not one of my fortes, and also I'm pretty insular and shy/an asshole, so if you've tried getting in touch with me and I haven't responded, I apologize. But also, this blog is basically the answer to that question, so...you know, start here.

I'm going to take another swing at hewing down my advice into a logline:

Do your research, buy a mic, get good, find work. Continue ad nauseum until it works. 

And get a good studio cat.