How to Overcome the Sophomore Slump in Voice Acting

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The “sophomore slump” is legendary for all manner of talent and business but as a voice actor, how (and if) you weather the all-too-common phenomenon determines if you will go on to have a career at all.

If you’d been blessed with dumb luck from the onset of your career and scored some profitable results early, it’s likely you’d assume your career could run on autopilot, nothing could be farther from the truth. As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, I generally equate this to unrealistic expectations. It’s been my experience that the definition of unhappiness is when reality does not meet expectation. Therefore, if your expectations are realistic from the start, the likelihood of you being happy is far greater.

That said, regardless of how talented and skillful you might be, you’re likely to happen upon a period where you’re simply not booking or you’re booking far less than when you started.

There’s a reason few recover from a sophomore slump and transition from novice to true ownership of their fate; it’s all too easy for talent to simply give up rather than do all they can to overcome the situation. After all, apathy is a certified career-killer.

Just because you gave it your all once does not mean you’re covered for life. Regardless of whether it was two months, two years, or two decades ago, a basic review of what you accomplished prior is necessary. Start by asking yourself:

  1. What (and when) was the last success you achieved?
  2. What were the circumstances that led to that accomplishment?
  3. Who were the players when things were going well? The client, your agent, manager, producer, director, your coach and/or demo producer?
  4. What training or experience did you have just prior to doing well?
  5. What have you done differently since accomplishing your last great success?

You’ll likely discover your lack of action attributed more to your lull than anything you may have done.

READ: Voiceover Training 101

Much like professional athletes who never stop training because their performance depends on it, the same spirit holds true for actors, voiceover or otherwise. Yet so many actors fool themselves into thinking they can get by without coaching or they can rely solely on online groups when what they need is private sessions from an expert who truly understands them, the industry, and what they’re attempting to accomplish.

Many “intermediate” talent mistakenly fall into the notion that once they’ve had a modicum of experience and training, there’s no need to train further—they can check that box off. However, rationalizing to yourself that there’s no more need to coach, privately or otherwise, is shortsighted and a recipe for a sophomore slump that becomes a full-on crash and burn. It can cost you your career, your integrity, your self-worth, and can become the catalyst for a pattern of undue concentration on failure. This is why I maintain the adage cheap is expensive; invest in yourself!

Clinging to the excuse that you already know how to act assumes there’s nothing left to learn. Frankly, this element can account for a terrific failure rate even after a terrific start.

Here’s the thing: no success has ever come about without failure. All the more reason you have to own it, warts and all. You don’t have to publicly announce your hiccups and snags but you do need to learn from your mistakes if you hope to accomplish anything. Otherwise, you’ll leave a wake of fire behind you. And, not that you won’t have a few doozies there’s truly no rational explanation for, it’s just that the unexamined life, to quote Plato, is simply not worth living.

*This post was originally published on July 6, 2018. It has since been updated.

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Kate McClanaghan
Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business.
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