Sneaking In Through the Front Door

I'm bad at taking other people's advice. When I first started working toward my beginning my voiceover career, I willfully ignored some pretty major advice that I've seen again and again and again: get training, coaching, and education, until you know you're ready to begin, THEN cut a demo, preferably with someone who specializes in the fields you want to break into. That person will likely cost a good chunk of money, and rightfully so. You want to put your best foot forward to make that great first impression. Makes sense, right? Well, instead of doing the "right" thing, I just sort of dove into working. I hacked a few demos together in my basement, got onto, and started booking enough small jobs to warrant continuing. Granted, I did do my homework (for about ten years on and off, as I was easily put off by a good deal of what I was reading in that time). At least I had several years of audio engineering experience behind me so I had decent equipment and space to work in, so at least I wasn't working with a USB mic on a laptop in a big boomy room.

As I've said before, several prolonged periods of unemployment forced me into changing my approach to finding work altogether, which meant I needed to succeed with a severely limited (read, no) budget. That made securing training and a solid demo producer rather difficult, and I'm a DIY kinda guy, so I charged ahead.

I'm reminded of when I learned how to play guitar. Instead of seeking out a great teacher, I taught myself. It took forever and I had a very tenuous grasp on simple things like a strong rhythmic foundation and improv skills. Eventually I had to tear down my playing style and start all over with an emphasis on the basics. My skill level eventually improved, but it took forever to get where I am. I'm proud of my skills in that area, but I definitely could have taken a more expedient approach had I taken the advice that was given to me.

Luckily, instead of wading around for eight years before deciding to take a critical look at what I'm doing in VO, I'm actively looking to retrace my steps and do it the "right" way. With the proliferation of cheap equipment and pay-to-play sites that are more than happy to take your money in exchange for a seat at the table, it's easier than ever to simply hang your shingle up and say you're a VO professional. Despite this, my warning to anyone who wants to get into this industry is this: there is a "right" way to do this, and it's not easy. It takes time, patience, and money. It requires you to really think critically about your skills, areas of focus, and goals before even getting started. Do your research, reach out to prominent people in the community, get trained before putting yourself out there. You only get to make one first impression, so make sure it's a good one.