I'm a donkey.
A voiceover donkey.
No, I don't have big floppy ears and a stubborn disposition, (despite what you may have heard ;) but rather an unquenchable passion for VO that keeps me working and auditioning from dawn to dusk on most days, tweaking my audio, making small fixes for clients, scouring the interwebs for all manner of industry buzz, teaching, coaching, giving my P2P courses, and otherwise laboring like a pack mule under a heavy load.
It's exhausting. I love it.
Nevertheless, when I talk to people about what it takes to be highly successful in the online marketplace, I sometimes sense that they wonder whether all the hard work is worth it. The hours of perfecting your audio to a competitive standard. The endless stream of auditions that will quickly leave you numb from reading scripts that often seem like the same thing over and over, (My friends get really tired of me introducing them by saying, "Meet Bob, he's an IT professional from Sacramento. Bob's a nice guy, but he has serious network problems.") The hermit-like existence of being in a home studio ten hours per day.
It's not a glamorous lifestyle. The hours are long, and the work is hard. And, in the beginning, you aren't going to book a lot of work. In my first six months online, even as an experienced offline talent, I was thrilled to book a small job or two per week. No one in the P2P marketplace knew who I was. They hadn't heard my audio or delivery, and I had zero name recognition.
What changed? Persistence.
There were times at the very beginning where I seriously considered ditching the whole concept of online voiceovers. I was booking $1,000/month in work putting in 40 hour weeks, on top of my agency-based workload. I wondered if it would ever be worth my time. But...I stuck with it, and over the next year I began building a business. I never let a client walk away unsatisfied, even if I had to do three times the work I should in order to create something they loved. I hustled every little hundred dollar job I could get my hands on, in the hopes that they would become repeat business down the line, or at least good word of mouth. I shilled for 5-star feedback on Voices.com, and asked my Voice123.com clients to spread the word about my services. There's a reason it says on my website that, "...if you need a single word changed at 3AM, just call me...that's what I'm here for." It's actually happened a couple of times.
With this persistence and hard work, there eventually came a snowball effect. Eighteen months in, I was booking a job per day through new auditions or repeat business. Budgets seemed to get bigger. Wallets opened more readily for a talent that had a track record of happy clients in the online marketplace. A trickle became a flow, and eventually, a flood.
In the past couple of weeks, the lesson of business building has really hit home for me. For the first time, I have started to find it difficult to continue auditioning online as a result of the sheer volume of work that is coming in the door, often unsolicited and from past/regular clients. Today, I found myself clicking through the auditions on Voices.com & Voice123.com, and deleting pretty much everything under $500. Don't have the time.
Folks, this didn't happen because I am more talented than the next guy, or because I was blessed with some unnaturally perfect voice. I'm not, and I wasn't. I hear five guys every day that make me wonder what I am doing in this business. Seriously, five demos every day that make me terrified that I will someday be competing against that person. What eases my mind, however, is the knowledge that while that talent possibly has his head in the clouds with visions of quick dollars dancing in front of him, I'll be waking up, strapping on my heavy pack for the day, and making my way up the mountain at a steady pace....like a good donkey.
If you are staring at 50 auditions waiting to be read for, and you are booking 1 or 2% of your reads...don't give up. Keep at it. In this part of the business, perseverance is rewarded. You'll get there.
Take it from an old mule.
J. Michael Collins