If you are new to the voiceover field, the idea of reinvention is probably not your immediate concern. After all, starting a new career is already a state of reinvention, so you may feel that you’ve got it covered. However, given the highly competitive nature of voice acting, the quicker you learn to appreciate reinvention as a strategy for staying relevant, the better. And, for those who have been in the voiceover field for more than a few years, you will reap tangible benefits if you begin implementing the promises of reinvention. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been in the business. What matters is staying relevant. Staying relevant is what gives birth to reinvention. Obstacles like ageism, sexism, racism, and a whole bunch of other isms can certainly wreak havoc, but staying relevant means you have to navigate those waters as part of your plan.
The desire to be relevant leads to reinvention. So what does it mean to be relevant as a voice actor? Relevance is a moving target that persistently morphs with the whims of a society and is most easily identified by examining popular culture—the hot button issues, colloquialisms, trends, and fancies of the culture in which you live. Marketers are a good place to start because they live in the world of detecting relevance. They’re always asking what the public wants, how they want it, when they want it, and what they want next. It’s the ultimate public service job; more akin being a butler than a Madison Avenue executive. By answering these same questions, the voice actor will better understand that which will make her a most viable candidate to communicate the marketer’s message. The answers can be found in more marketing trade publications and blogs than you can count. It’s a well that never runs dry. All the voice actor has to do is develop the habit of going to the well and drawing from it. Tapping into TV and radio is an excellent practice, but it’s a small piece of the puzzle. Not everything you see on TV represents the best marketing practices. By reading the marketing trades, you can gradually sensitize yourself to what distinguishes the cutting edge work from the mediocre. Knowing what’s good or relevant is not about what you like personally, it’s about knowing the rules for connecting with audiences.
One of the most important things to understand about reinvention is that you can manage it in small doses. Don’t try to suddenly revolutionize your way of being. Rushing in will only lead to frustration and discouragement. You are embarking on the development of a sustained, pervasive, and proactive practice of beating to the pulse of the industry that sustains you. Take your time.
Reinvention is not about “fixing” you or anything about you. It’s about innovating from right where you are. It’s about evolving your mindset, tools, and resources to live the career and life you want. That will entail learning new things, being impacted by what you learn, and exploring new perspectives.
One of the first things you can do is find professionals who deeply understand human nature and who have a knack for disrupting stagnation. We found such a person in a psychologist by the name of Artie Egendorf of EnergysWay.com. Egendorf is what we would call a modern day guru of mental health and spiritual wellbeing and he operates as a catalyst for change. Change is the tricky part for all of us because we think we can do it alone. Newton’s first law of motion explains that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force. Egendorf, and the rare few who understand human nature as he does, operates as the outside force. You, of course, are the object that is at rest or moving at one speed in one direction.
When asked how a therapeutic or spiritual influence might be employed in the quest to reinvent one’s life and career, Egendorf had this to say: “Find someone who channels wise, loving power in such a way as to guide you in channeling your own. The rest is easy.”
Fear stops most people from following their big dreams. Fear often shows up as reasons. That is to say, we come up with reasons as to why we should not take a risk on our dream. Among the reasons are the fear of being ripped off, spending too much money, not having enough talent, making a fool of one’s self, and the biggest one of all: fear of failure. Egendorf pointed to a simple way to take note of your own resistance. “A person will say, ‘I'm fine the way I am.’ We get lazy, complacent, which are covers for being scared.” As a way to get started he says, “Who do you most admire? Go to them, or someone they recommend. Ask for a hand. Nobody cooks up a new, great life without consulting a master chef. “
Who will tell you the truth? Identify people who will tell you the truth about your current status. Remember, you have to tell them the truth if you want to hear truth. Have you ever watched an entrepreneur get raked over the coals on an episode of “Shark Tank”? We’re not recommending that you subject yourself to abuse. Far from it. Our suggestion is that you open yourself up to hearing the truth as it is the thing that will set you free. Yes, there may be a certain amount of pain in that. There is pain in growth. That’s why children cry as much as they do. They’re growing!
What’s Stopping You?
We have established that fear is the primary culprit that stops most of us. Nothing is easier than coming up with a list of reasons why not to do something. Our minds have a way of transforming reasons into powerful truths. And so it goes until we’re convinced our dream was simply a bad idea.
Commitment to Reinvention
Your own honest commitment to your word can be an extremely powerful way to hold yourself accountable and in the process of reinvention that power will grow. And yet, developing a sense of personal accountability to your dreams is where we often go back on our word. Why? Because it’s you. You think it’s OK to give up on yourself. Remember, you’ve got lots of great reasons. This is where an outside force (or forces) comes into play big time. Sharing your path with others and allowing their input is what helps to create accountability.
Circle of Power
Surround yourself with people who are as committed to reinvention as you are. You get to pick this team, so pick well. Drop anyone who demonstrates an unwillingness to keep up. Learn to accept the ones who hold you to the highest standard, or you’ll be the one being dropped.
Embrace love as a driving force. This will aid you in accepting yourself as you are, and gently move you to go places you have yet to dream of. It will allow you to appreciate and embrace others in a way that allows them to have total ease when working with you and contributing to an overall path of perpetual growth.
Make It Ugly
If the change agent looks nothing like you expected, that’s a good thing. What you expected is exactly what you’re trying to step outside of. Meeting with change is ultimately a shock to the senses. If you hear yourself saying, “Well, this may be find for other people but it’s certainly not the for me,” then you’re in the right place.
Artie Egendorf, PhD is a life guide and accompanist. He can be reached at EnergysWay.com.
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Joan Baker is the author of "Secrets of Voiceover Success," and the winner of multiple Promax and Telly awards for commercial and documentary voiceover performances. She is an actor, voice actor, and teacher. Baker trains individuals and groups in the craft of voice acting and VO career management. She has written trade articles for Backstage, Adweek, Multichannel and Broadcast & Cable.
Rudy Gaskins, is an Emmy Award-winning creative director and branding expert. He launched Push Creative Advertising in 2001, after holding executive roles at Court TV and Food Network. His accounts span American Express, Tribeca Film Festival, Lexus and BET. Rudy has written, produced and directed hundreds of commercials, promos, and marketing campaigns and has directed documentaries for PBS.
Joan Baker and Rudy Gaskins are the co-founders of That’s Voiceover!, an annual career expo, and the creators of the newly formed Society of Voice Arts and Sciences and the Voice Arts Awards.