You’ve heard this before, right? “You can’t be objective about your own voice”.” You need experienced professionals to guide you to a good performance, to really get the best of what you have inside of you out and into the mic. Is this always the case?
Well, you know what they say about absolutes.
Voice Over Success Is a Lifelong Process
I’ve heard this advice several times in the last few years. Usually by somebody who’s either a vocal coach, a demo producer, an agent, or a combination of the three. I liken my voiceover skills to my guitar playing skills, and I improve on both of them in similar ways. I record myself constantly, I listen to it, I develop an understanding of its technical, emotional, and subjective flaws, and I work to fix them. This is how I’ve done things from reducing mouth noise to how I’ve discovered when I’m being truthful and when I’m not, and how to identify and toss out the latter.
And like guitarists, you can train with a coach, or you can teach yourself. There are so many resources out there for those who want to learn, and a great deal of the end result is out in the wild, prime for analysis. So why can’t you learn to be objective about your own voice?
Well, here’s the rub: for your very, very best work to emerge, I believe some sort of collaboration is needed. This is human communication, after all, and having a professional sign off on your work is affirming and confidence-building. Instead of thinking you’ve hit the target, you’ll know it. And you’ll know more quickly the next time you do something similar. It’s all about confidence, about knowing what you can and can’t do.
This knowledge will feed into your quest for a niche.
Your Niche Isn’t Your Only Genre
Voice over is a hugely varied industry with a bajillion different types of work. The common advice out there is to find your niche; the character type(s) that play to your strengths and the forms of work you naturally excel at. It helps you whittle down your demo into its strongest form and gives your marketing efforts direction. After all, drilling down to specifically what makes you unique is the essence of quality marketing.
However, seeking out and honing in on your niche – or what you think your niche should be – can be limiting, and prevent you from growing as an artist. I make a living as an actor not because I’m great at industrials or I excel at museum tours – I’d starve if I only pursued one niche. While it doesn’t fit nicely on a business card, I work on explainer videos, corporate event openings, video games, cartoons, indie films, documentaries, movie trailers, commercials, podcasts, and on and on, playing stoic narrators, senior Star Fleet commanders, dragons, baby turtles, VOGs, straight men, comic relief, detectives, nerds, drunken demons, French Canadian Hockey players, and so on. I also do on-camera commercial work and print modeling, which I obviously wouldn’t consider to be my VO niche at all, but it’s paid work in the realm of acting.
Am I equally great in all of these fields? Nope! But I don’t need an unrelated day job to make up for my lack of work while waiting patiently for the gigs best suited for me roll around. If you want to only do one type of voice work forever, have another career handy, because you’ll never have enough work to make ends meet.
Mindfulness is the Key to Growth
This gig is all about self-discovery and self-awareness. Being objective about your voice is about being completely honest with yourself, which is best done with professional help, at least in some form. And your niche is your most honest expression of your career’s ideation, not the end all be all of your career.
Tread carefully, and draw a good map.