I recently had a discussion with my wife about our respective places we find ourselves in our burgeoning new careers. We talked about everything from our fears and hesitations about the future to why we're pursuing what we're pursuing. Yes, there are things like bills and debt and years of schooling that have led to these decisions, but beyond the immediate needs a career (hopefully) provides for, there's a desire inside us that, at least I've, never felt for an occupation before. Since starting my career in voice acting, I've discovered this little feeling in my stomach when I sit down to an audition recording session. I was actually looking forward to what I was about to do. I actually, gulp, liked my job! Yes, it's very part time, it's not really paying the bills, but it is generating income and it is the thing I'm most likely to associate with my name. Even though I'm a wedding DJ, an assistant to an awesome magician, and a IT associate, voice acting is my trade. Instead of rattling off a half mumbled explanation of what I'm doing and what I really want to do, I get to introduce myself as a voice actor. 'Nuff said.
As a freelancer, your motivation will be the difference between flirting with a new concept and making it into your lifestyle. And yes, being a freelancer is a life choice, not just a career. Why do I sit in my basement all day, microphone in front of me, sending audition after audition after audition, then switching to networking and researching new markets while planning out new ways to get my name out in the world? It's a ton of work and the benefits are not immediately felt. There's plenty of room for depression to creep in when the phone doesn't ring and the inbox remains empty for days, weeks, or even heaven forbid months on end. How do I stick through the bad times to get to the good, assuming the good days are out there?
I was playing video games with a good friend and bandmate of mine the other day when he told me how inspirational my decision to become a voiceover talent was to him. It stopped me in my tracks. I get so caught in the day to day grind, the constantly evolving marketing strategies, the hunt for connections and friends of friends and potential clients that I rarely sit back and even listen to what work I have finished and put out into the world. It didn't even really occur that what I do would even be recognized. When my wife told me the same thing later that night, I felt compelled to carry on if not for myself, than to be a positive example in my circle of friends.
Then there's the love of the medium. I've been a huge fan of video games and cartoons since I was old enough to form memories. I was hooked on Atari since I was two years old. The first movie I ever saw in theaters was The Land Before Time. I guess I secretly always wanted to be a part of that world, even if that wasn't obvious to me until fairly recently. And now that I am aware of that desire in myself, I'm hard pressed to think of something I'd feel prouder of than a great character in a great piece of work.
One final thought: during my office days, I used to be fond of saying '40 hours a week is an awful lot of time to waste on something you hate doing'. Just a little matter-of-factly negativity to cement my poor attitude, but it's true. And, at the very least, I don't feel that way about my career anymore. Even when it's more like 80 hours a week than 40. At the end of the day, I still get to call myself a voice actor.