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?
The anxiety of suddenly having an entire world to play in was exhilarating and more than a little overwhelming. I think I'm at that point with my voiceover career right now. I wake up, try to do normal human things like eat breakfast, brush my teeth, have my coffee, take my daughter for our morning walk, then...stare at the mountain of possibilities. Do I straighten one of those corners I cut getting here? That would mean finding a coach, booking a demo session, or sessions, with a professional, and likely undergoing weeks of training. OR! I could scrounge on VDC (I know, I'm not proud of it) and Upwork and the other places I recently added myself to in the hopes of sussing out some bucks. OR! I could revamp my website and have a good long think about my basically non-existent branding and get that all fixed and in place so I can market properly... as soon as I get these new demos that I think I need with the training I should do and also I need a lawyer and to talk through my new business structure with my CPA and hell! I haven't even thought about, you know, auditioning for jobs or warming up and practicing. Need agents and contacts with production houses for more opportunities, better get on stalking websites and emailing and cold calling people. But is my gear good enough? Could I have more options for delivery? Would that help? Is the studio space I'm building out right now going to cut it? Better start planning phase two.
I guess you could say I'm getting a little bogged down with all the realities of maintaining a voiceover business. Let this be a warning to you newcomers: be careful what you wish for. Maintaining your career is, in my opinion, much more difficult than breaking in. That's the part that will determine whether or not you're wasting your time. After that, the clock starts ticking. There's constant pressure to fix and do and reach out and expand. Should I make a political demo? That's a whole other field of marketing I also know little about. I'm realizing how behind the 8-ball I was with the business-y, boring side of things, that I now need to balance those scales to remain viable, instead of getting increasingly bogged down with weird, one-off gigs from jobs boards and other low ROI activities that have been all too prevalent this year.
I'm probably being too hard on myself. This is a never-ending learning experience, after all, and I can't expect myself to perfect every aspect of running a business with no prior business education, or really, much interest behind being a freelancer who doesn't get screwed at tax time. There's also that 'being a new homeowner and father' thing I need to deal with on a constant basis. Mostly, I just need to get back to a point where I'm doing good work I'm proud of again and making enough money walk through the door doing it. It's a refinement rather than a do-over, and that's something to remember. This career, once you've started, is yours forever to do with what you will. Just remember to breathe (from your diaphragm), appreciate what you do have without lamenting what you don't, and be gentle with yourself. The world, especially in the entertainment business, will do a perfectly good job of beating you up all on its own. Be your own advocate, and be your own biggest fan. And just get through the work, at least that which needs to be done. If you feel like you're going in circles, then find a new path. A new podcast, a new book. Spend a ton of money going to one of those VO conventions. There's eventually going to be an internal struggle to stay interested (if you're anything like me). Persevere. From what I hear, having a real job still really sucks.