Am I The Big Deal Voiceover Guy or am I hardly working? Here’s the answer. Every shot that Lebron James takes has the potential to be game-changing, and yet, it’s just another day at the office. Every surgery a surgeon does is one of the many surgeries he may do in a day and one of the thousands he may do in his career. Each one is life-changing and still, it’s just another surgery that he has performed. Likewise, every voiceover that I as a voice actor does, is another job that boosts a brand’s exposure but is one of the close to 10,000 that I have done and soon forget. Not every VO job is a big deal.
People often ask me the question “What are you working on nowadays?” Since I have entered the professional realm of VO, it’s always stood out to me as an awkward question. I don’t quite know how to answer. I often answer with “What do you mean?” They usually respond by saying “You know, Are you working on a project right now?”
My response always ends up being an education for the person in how voiceover works. “I work every day and there is no particular project that I can remember. I do my work, send it back to the client and forget it.” I often use the analogy of the surgeon or the basketball player to explain.
Perception vs Reality About Voiceover
I have figured out that there are two kinds of people when it comes to voiceover. The people who think that every day I am doing Disney movie voiceovers that take months to complete and the type who think that I barely work and only make a few dollars to eat scraps for lunch. In reality, the truth is somewhere in between.
The Blue-Collar Voiceover Talent
I consider myself a blue-collar voiceover talent with a voiceover business. I am not the big studio, SAG Aftra Union voice that is on all the stuff you hear everywhere. But I also don’t consider myself a freelancer. Mine is a business that services clients. I remember auditioning in person for the Harlem Globetrotters who were impressed with my talent and long list of big clients on my resume. After the audition, the interviewer excitedly asked, “I see you’ve worked for a lot of big companies?” I said “yes. I have provided them with voiceover for commercials and narrations from my home studio.” At that point he seemed less impressed and said “Oh, you’re a freelancer.”
I should’ve considered this a warning sign. He seemed not to respect my profession, which eventually showed in the way they treated me, but that’s another story. At that moment I corrected him “No! I have a voiceover business. I can take this job as long as it doesn’t interfere with me servicing my clients. I have radio stations who I image for and a list of other independent clients who depend on me.” But his response was again condescending “We have other guys who have side gigs also who get some time to work when they are out on the road.” And that should’ve been my sign to run.
The Voiceover Business Entrepreneur
He is not alone in his misunderstanding of my voiceover business. While he downgraded my profession, others look way up at me as if I am the voiceover version of Tom Cruise. They think I am doing Mission Impossible trailers every day and Pixar films. Frequently I have conversations with these types who, when I let the air out of their balloons that I don’t have these major roles, they actually ask me “Why NOT?”
They generally go on to explain that my 17-year-old career should be taking a path that it hasn’t taken. “Man this is Atlanta. You should be calling Cartoon Network or go up to Tyler Perry Studios and tell them to give you a job. Why haven’t you reached out to CNN?”They basically then think that I have failed myself to which I have to explain that “That’s NOT how things work”
CNN, nor Cartoon Network, nor Tyler (as if I’m on a first-named basis with Mr. Perry) don’t take to anyone walking up to their studios for jobs. Trust me, I’ve tried. I have to explain to people that I instead do steady, everyday work that most people never hear in the general public or don’t pay attention to. Things like narrations and explainer videos along with radio imaging and a lifetimes worth of nightclub and hip hop concert commercials. I assure them though, someone is listening to my voice 24/7 and there is no time of day that I am not being heard. With that explanation, they return to me back the cool factor.
Average Voiceover Guy in a Changing World
Getting people to understand that my job is just a job or that its a job at all has always been difficult. It’s not the traditional pathway that a college-educated dude from Brooklyn takes. It was a path that chose me. As the economy changes, more people are looking for multiple streams of income. And they first look towards their talents for remedy. Many are seeking a greater understanding of what they too can do with their voices. And with that, more people are open to listen and learn what an average voiceover talent does with their day.