So here’s a question every one of us who works professionally in voiceover needs to wrestle with: how do I make my business bigger and better? Or another way to put it would be: how do I become more successful?
(What follows was prompted by Seth Godin’s recent blog post Dumb down and scale up and I warmly recommend you spend a few minutes reading that post before you continue here.)
If you’re not thinking about these questions pretty often, you aren’t thinking about your voiceover business as a business. Maybe it’s just a hobby? But if you’re doing voiceovers professionally, whether you count your income totals for the year in 4, 5, 6 or 7 figures and whether you do mostly radio commercials in one local market or audiobooks or promos and trailers for the top studios and networks in the world, moving toward greater success is something you think about.
There are a couple of elements involved here, of course. How do you define success? Is it more money? Or, more money for each session? So that you have more time available to spend with the people you value most. Or, maybe it’s the kind of clients you have; and the amount of money you make isn’t the primary factor?
Another element has to do with the question, is bigger always better? For me the answer to that question is, yes! But your answer may be different from mine.
Here’s what I mean. My voiceover business now employs, at some level of involvement, all four of my children, my wife, my mother and two of my best friends. Some of these, pretty much every week. Others only a few times a month and a few just a time or two each year.
Thirty-one years ago when I started doing voiceovers professionally on a steady basis, it was just me. And my business stayed that way for a bit more than 20 years. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I started adding my wife and then my son Eric and daughter Karen into the mix.
As I look back, I can clearly see that while there was some fluctuation in my voiceover income from year to year, it was all within a pretty narrow range. There was a bump to a new range about 20 years ago when I started working with my agent in Pittsburgh, but it wasn’t a huge jump. Just a nice bump.
But 10 years ago, two key things came together that have made a huge difference for me. First, by adding in help from my wife and my kids, I was able to concentrate more of my time on the thing that only I could do: the actual voicing. As I moved editing, writing, proofing and so forth off my plate, I was able to be both more efficient with my time and more productive with my work.
The second thing that was added in to the mix was to start studying with some top voiceover coaches, thus raising my ability to tell stories more and more effectively and professionally.
I don’t think I’m being too immodest when I say that the fact that I had been working steadily as a voiceover professional meant that I wasn’t a disaster for the first 20 years; but it’s also clear to me now that I had a lot to learn. And like most people, I had no idea how much I didn’t know.
So, my suggestions for growing your business come down to two simple suggestions: find people (like my daughter Karen obviously) to whom you can outsource some of your work. And either start studying with a truly excellent voiceover coach or get back to doing so.
I do something at least several times a year to keep my tools sharp and polished. I don’t ever plan to stop. Because while getting bigger might or might not be right for you, but getting better isn’t an option. It’s a requirement. At least it is if you want to continue to consider yourself a working voiceover professional.