My best friend and his wife visited this weekend to see my band play and see our beautiful new house and of course Aria, and we had an in-depth conversation about reconnecting with our past selves as a way of moving forward in our lives. Highlighting the people we’ve met, the friends we’ve lost touch with along the way, and how everything seems to come down to willpower and our own efforts, be it in work or relationships or eating and brushing your teeth. As daunting and maybe unfair as it is, the truth is that after a certain age, everything really is completely up to you and your ability to put energy forth into the world.
One of my fondest video game memories is the 90 hours or so I plunked into Final Fantasy VII as a kid. The whole first act of the game takes place in Midgar, an oppressive, gloomy city, carved out in claustrophobic corridors. It's dank, trashed out, and the sun literally never shines there. There's a scrappy underdog quality to everything you do there; it's not great, but it's home, and you've got your little niche (it's basically terrorism, but you know, good guy terrorism). About eight hours in, however, you up and leave the city, suddenly thrusting your party into the whole wide world, which up until then I wasn't even sure existed in this game. This blew my mind when I was a kid. Now we were no longer scavengers scraping by in a totalitarian hellhole, barely escaping with our lives. Now, we had to...to..
..wait, what do we do next?
Progress has been made! After mangling the insert frames with some less-than-sharp-and-intact borrowed snips, I managed to break my drill bit on a bit of steel embedded in the window jamb ceiling. Luckily my Father the Carpenter saved the day.
The Climate Seal insert sounds great so far! Can't hear the yard work across the street at all, which is exactly what it was intended for. We left enough to space to be able to remove the cracked single pane behind it and replace it with a two pane slider one day, but this serves its purpose very well as is.
We also have a door! (One of four I bought and wisely stuck in the garage months ago instead of doing anything with them..)
Hardware and such coming soon. But it works! Thank again to my dad, without whom this would have likely taken years and been a complete mess instead of handily done in a matter of three visits. He even helped me speed along the installation (read: stapling of velcro to ceiling) of the four ceiling sound panels, creating a proxy booth in front of my workstation while conveniently killing early frequencies for mixing purposes.
We're getting much closer! Just have to move some electrical boxes, drywall these new walls and old doorways, drywall the back of the wall in the other side of the basement, and we'll have ourselves a little sound fortress! The clarity's definitely starting to show through in new recordings. Here's a sample from today:
The mid-highs are less severe, the track feels more present and forward, the low end isn't all murky and junked out from leaky windows and big corners that lead upstairs. It's sounding like a real booth in a real studio! Imagine that. A little tweaking with my mastering to open it up a bit more, and we should have a very nice sound indeed.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Here it is! Our forever home. We love it a lot.
In the basement, we have the studio! The place where all the magic happens. It is under construction currently.
Back wall gets another wall. Next to it will go another wall. Behind those walls will be this damn water pipe that makes noise every time water runs in the house.
I'm kicking around the idea of adding a second layer of drywall once everything's boxed in, attaching it with green glue. Some plywood may be making its way into some of the new walls. I don't currently need to record drums down here, but who knows what the future holds?
The wall in front of me has shoulder to shoulder 703 OC panels in the walls, and a bass trap that will likely be relegated to the back wall once it's done.
The window is getting a ClimateSeal Acoustic Series insert, just need to find my errant tin snips. They've been missing for, oh, about three months now, so I guess I'm actually gonna have to go buy another pair. After that though, hoo boy, there will be a much quieter window with actual sunlight coming through it in my workspace for the first time. Can't wait to soak up that badly-needed vitamin D.
It's been weird having this space in a pretty much constant state of flux since I moved in. I look forward to finishing all of this up in the next month or so. I'll be back with fresh pics of the newest studio, Mk. I-Totally-Gave-Up-Numbering-Studio-Mks-In-2017, AKA FINAL MK. Stay tuned.
Fiverr. Upwork. Mandy. Guru. I've been revisiting my entire structure lately, figuring out how to make something more sustainable and consistent, and less reliant on commercial work. Which is fantastic, of course, but not the most...well, consistent. Or reliable.
I freaked out earlier this year, worrying that I needed an IVR demo, politics demo, an industrials demo, and an e-Learning demo and finish that demo Singing demo that I'm terrified of so I can enter five more markets at once...which I'm two minds of as well. Should I take a step down five different paths, or try to take five steps down one? Is it that simple? Do I even have a choice?
Evidently you can charge pretty much whatever you want on Fiverr nowadays. I've heard enough hullabaloo around the internet about people making most of their VO income from tons of short, sweet, low-paying gigs from Fiverr, and from looking at some of the profiles on there, it definitely looks to be working for some folk. I've had difficulty developing a consistent income stream, which I blame on my lust for commercial and video game gigs at the cost of other, less competitive types of work. Back when the default rate was $5, I turned my nose up at Fiverr, but you know what? I have a daughter to feed now. I have a mortgage. Maintaining my pride and sticking to my rates has had great effects in my career, but something big's been missing. I think it's time to really re-evaluate what I consider valuable leads and potential streams of work. Hell, what do I have to lose?
In no particular order, here's some stuff that might be good to know:
1. Source-Connect Standard has a map feature that can show you everyone in the world who has or has had an account. These people are mostly all studios, production houses, and fellow VO actors.
2. SearchTempest.com aggregates all of Craig's List to make it searchable in its entirety at once. People occasionally post things other than LOOKING TO BE THE NEXT BEYONCE READY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD?!
3. Don't close your mouth while performing. It makes this little noise every time you open it back up that must be removed. (You'd think after five and half years I'd break this habit, but..)
4. If you're making a decent amount of money as a sole proprietor, look at incorporating so you don't spend all your money on taxes. It's more complicated and can be a pain, but CPA's are inexpensive, so don't be timid about reaching out to one for help.
5. Profile picture of a microphone instead of you or your logo: STOP. I know what a microphone looks like, and it doesn't look like you. It's so lame. Stop it. Stop.
It's just talking, you said. It's the easiest job in the world, you assured yourself. You love talking in goofy voices, and look, you even own a microphone! Easy peasy.
Not so fast there, buddy. There's a lot more to consider.
Do you know how to make an invoice? How about creating an invoicing system that can track client names, pull up anything from any year you've been in business in a couple clicks? Do you like tracking all of your expenses and keeping reports on them? How about marketing and advertising, writing your own blogs, building your own web site (with samples, client list, rate sheet, a call to action, effective layout......), or developing the engineering skills to make demo after demo after demo as needed? Do you have enough liquid cash on hand to be an exhibitor at a convention, or to build a soundproof booth in your house, or to buy the equipment and software you need to be competitive? Does dealing with delinquent clients, renegotiating/auditioning/arguing with longtime clients every time they have a new project, or creating an LLC or corporation complete with accounts, books, payroll, and quarterly taxes sound fun?
This doesn't scratch the surface of what your actual job is as a voice actor. That bit behind the mic is icing on the cake. Hell, I barely mentioned auditioning, which you'll be doing a ton. If you're lucky enough to suss out all the various sources of auditions, convincing them to put you on their rolls, so you can START trying to get actual 'work'.
If you've ever been unemployed, looking on jobs boards, filling out online resumes and writing cover letters ad nauseum, know that looking for voiceover work is basically a cooler version of that, but forever. You get all the freedom and anxiety and night terrors that come with unemployment, but you're actually working the whole time. There are peaks and valleys, and it can really screw with you mentally and emotionally. Plus, you know, you're going to be isolated often.
That said, I'm over five years in, and I keep hearing that I have to starve for ten years before this thing really busts wide open. I guess I'll report back in five years and see if there's validity to that statement. And it's not to say I'm starving, exactly. I wouldn't call this the most stable job I've ever had, but I've never been as invested in anything I've ever done before in my life. And it's the most rewarding job I could ever do. And so far, somehow, my house is still standing and my daughter is still well-fed and happy, so I guess I'm doing my job. My wife pointed out that I am a voice actor. Not someone trying to break into voiceover, not a guy looking to do something...I am a voice actor. That feels really good.
So no, it's not all fun and games, but is it worth it? Only you can answer that for yourself. I say it every few posts, but I'll say it again - this isn't a part time gig you flit in and out of. This is a lifestyle. It's got to be part of who you are, not just one of the things you do. You have to put up with a mountain of BS, then shove it all aside to perform. Otherwise, what good are you to your client?