Updated: Jul 3
In every profession we are faced with hurdles. Some seem like immovable objects, others seem like minor inconveniences. But in voiceover, there can be an endless amount of hurdles to jump over, climb atop or just run headfirst at and hope you make it over.
Now, I'm not here to talk about learning how to use your voice, finding the right coach, developing your style, picking the perfect DAW, or even learning microphone technique. Those are all the obvious challenges, and very serious things to consider when entering the world of VO. The learning curve is steep, especially if you have no experience whatsoever in audio production or acting in general. But, there are countless blogs and websites dedicated to all those topics.
No, I'm here to be self-indulgent and talk about the unexpected hurdles I faced. The ones that crept up out of nowhere and I didn't even imagine would be an issue.
So let's get down to brass tacks. Number one obstacle - my real, unique, authentic voice. Wait a minute, how can this be an obstacle? Surely this is the thing you want to embrace, develop, and build your business on. Well yeah, but if you're anything like me, then your voice, or rather your accent, might not be that typical. Now I plan on doing a more in-depth blog post about this in the future, but for now, I'll just emphasise why it became such a hurdle for me.
My unique voice is a combination of being born in Norfolk, raised in Vancouver, Canada, moving to Lancashire at aged nine, and then heading south to Surrey and eventually London. Not to mention that like most actors, I have a habit of picking up the speech patterns of those around me. This became such an obstacle at the beginning of my voice career because I was given some poor advice - that my unique voice was too strange, too unidentifiable to work in the voiceover world. This idea, of needing to tame my real voice into something classifiable, lead to 'over monitoring' my work and building up a wall to hide my true vocal qualities.
Now, we all need versatility, and skills that allow us to manipulate our voices - just a few days ago, while in the middle of a live directed session I was asked to pull several different accents out of the bag, none of which I had been warned about. But I can't emphasise enough the importance of using your sound as a base. See why there is a more in-depth blog needed about this?
So, how do you overcome an obstacle like this.....? Nothing but practise and work. Listening to myself, understanding that there was a place for my voice in the VO world, and embracing the qualities that I had been trying to hide.
Obstacle number two. I usually start the day with a cup of green tea and some email checking, then I jump in the booth for some auditions or demo requests. But wait, what's that clicking? Is that just the pesky mouth noise that we all spend our lives trying to master? No, that's something else. Is it something electrical? Nope. Wait....that's coming from my jaw.
Turns out my jaw was slightly offset, meaning an occasional pop or click with certain placements. Now to all those who worry that things like this might take them out of the running of being a full-time VO, fear not, there is always a solution. After a few trips to a specialist, I was fitted with a michigan splint, a nighttime retainer that pushes my jaw back into place. And after consistent use, jaw popping and clicking were all gone.
Alright, we've leapt over our voice issues and bounded beyond our clicking jaw. Now onto hurdle three...which is a little more general.
Now I am not negating the importance of coaching, research and practice, they are all vitally important. Especially that last one, I can't recommend practising enough. But there comes a point when you step into the booth, where you have to take a deep breath, remember that you have done the work, and trust that you can do the job. Learning to trust yourself, to trust your ability and your instincts, is a huge part of becoming a skilled professional. Something that will set you apart when that client asks for something unexpected, or when that last minute job gets thrown your way.
Maybe it's a hurdle that'll keep popping back up, I mean we're all human, we all get knocks to our confidence. But what I have learnt the most about hurdles, is that they aren't brick walls, they're not immovable objects. They can be jumped over, or even knocked down. And even though new ones might present themselves, the ones you've overcome will always be growing smaller behind you.
If you've had any unexpected or strange hurdles to overcome, then I would love to hear them!