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The Olympic Voiceover Connection by Bettye Zoller
How do you compare a voiceover performer to an Olympic athlete?
What can voiceover performers, beginners to advanced, learn from Olympic (or any good, for that matter,) athletes?
We both win gold medals. Yes, it’s true. Athletes win medals and rings and trophies. They can be honored in a Hall of Fame. We voiceover talents win respect from our peers and agents and producers and earn good money . And we can win awards too (I am so proud of my ADDY, CLIO, Golden Radio, Audie Awards in my thirty-four years ‘before the mic.’).
Do you have what it takes to win? Do you believe in yourself enough to jump into the pool at the Olympics or walk the balance beam or win a foot race?
Guess what! We voice talents walk the balance beam in life every single day! Every day is a new game.
Do you have producers or advertising agencies who use you time and again because they admire your professionalism and ability? Where did those qualities come from?
I’ll bet you EARNED THEM! Watching TV last night, writing this brief essay for Voice 123 suddenly occurred to me. I heard athletes talking . They said things such as:
“I will never give up.”
“Yes I can do it and I will.”
“I won’t accept second place.”
“This is hard but I get up every morning to practice at 4 a.m. before school.”
"I have been dedicated to being a success at this since I was six years old.”
"I love what I do and it means everything to me.”
The great broadcaster Ron Chapman (KVIL DALLAS, now retired, and a giant in his field) once told me, “sometimes people say, ‘I am thinking about becoming a radio broadcaster or a voiceover talent.’ And I always say, ‘if you’re just THINKING about it, give it up. You have to be dedicated, you have to want it with a burning passion. You have to starve and want food and turn down jobs to be an intern at a radio station and learn your skills. You have to find the money for workshops and voice demos. You have to work part time on a day job so that you have time to audition for voice jobs. You have to be a great voiceover talent and a pro. That takes time.” Michael Phelps, the amazing gold medal swimmer at the 2008 Olympics, said, “when so many people say that it’s‘not possible, it just makes me want to do it more. I never give up. I’m dedicated to success.”
Are you dedicated?
Or do you, like so many students I’ve taught through the years, say, “Oh do you think I really can do this? I’m so unsure about this.” I always reply, “Well, if you have that much self-doubt, maybe you shouldn’t be doing this. All performers and achievers must have self-confidence and dedication. Find yours.” Others say, “I just don’t know if I should spend money on this CD voiceover demo or not. I know I should spend more money and time on my voiceover career but I just am so doubtful it will ever pay me back.” This is extreme self-doubt. This is extreme insecurity and makes me wonder if this person SHOULD do the demo or the workshop. Over the past week watching the Olympics, we’ve seen performer athletes overcome obstacles, illness, doubt, shyness, and they have achieved historical victory.
Can you achieve victory in voiceovers?
Any career takes persistence and self-confidence. It takes growing and developing and always achieving more than you thought you could. Voiceovers are no exception. Being a voice talent takes courage when the cash flow is meager and you could leave the field altogether and concentrate on a day job.
But you don’t leave the field because you love doing it, yes?
Why do voice talents wear themselves out doubting if they are any good at all? Why do they often keep asking people (qualified or not) if their demo “is good or not?” Do the people they ask know ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Are they professionals in the field? And what does it matter in the final analysis if someone ‘likes’ your demo or not unless they can hire you? The purpose of a demo is to win jobs, not to ‘please people as entertainment.’ Your insecurity in your own talent is showing. Did Mark Spitz ask people if he could swim? Did Michael Phelps wonder if he should compete in the Olympics?
While they studied and trained with experts (and so should you!) they were self-confident, and surrounded themselves with people who were enthusiastic about their prowess. Beginner to advanced voice talent, keep up your education. The Olympic athletes would not have kept progressing had they not continued to grow and practice and study and improve and to believe they could improve! When I first entertained thoughts of entering the voiceover field (and studio singing field), some told me it was not a good idea and that I should keep up my successful career as a singer and actor in live venues (I was a headliner including opening act for Tony Bennett and vocalist with the jazz great Lionel Hampton). I had been on the road for over eight years at that time and I wanted so to get off the road, settle down, have a family. The recording studios offered me a chance to get off that road! I did not listen to the naysayers. I persevered. Soon, I went ‘on staff’ at three recording studios as a jingle singer and later, became a voiceover talent too.
It took almost two years to make the transition and make a really great living wage in the recording studios. I had union benefit s too…health coverage, dental, drug coverage, building a retirement pension fund. I had been making a very good salary as a live performer. I also taught college courses. I was doing fine before the “studio bug” bit me. But this was better. I saw the future. Some with whom I worked at the start of my career in the recording studios had been active for many years when I was a newcomer. They already were wealthy. They owned a house. They drove a nice car. On the sessions, they discussed their vacation homes, their stocks and bonds, their real estate investments. Their children were in private schools.
I was renting. My four month old baby son was without a father. I had to succeed. I had no choice. The recording studios made my life what it is today and I am grateful. Some studio professionals viewed me as extreme competition and did not welcome my presence. It was difficult finding friends in my new home town, Dallas. The competition was vicious. I was lonely and felt as an outsider. It took several years for people to realize (I guess) that I wasn’t going to go away and that I was, in fact, a girl with talent whom they could accept into their professional circle.
Are you dedicated to becoming a voice pro or are you a novice who is simply ‘playing around’ with voiceovers?
Dedication...That’s the most important word. Stick with it. Be positive and assured in your talent. Keep growing. Respect your competition and admire your competitors as you try to achieve greatness. Get rid of self-doubt. It only hurts you.
by Bettye Zoller
Voice123 thanks Bettye Zoller for her contribution to this blog, as well as, a Voice123 Coach.
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