If you have yet to figure out how tough it is to start and grow a voiceover business, let me help shed some light.
Building a successful business, any kind of business, is HARD.
It’s daunting to market yourself. Brains melt at the idea of managing finances. Stomachs turn when government letters arrive. It’s intimidating to audition and completely nerve wracking to have a directed session with a client. And the worst - It's totally defeating to be in a slump. Hundreds of auditions and didn’t land one, It sucks.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Well, isn’t she just a ray of sunshine over there. Having a business sounds terrifying!” With all this good news, it’s a wonder any of us chose to get into voiceover.
But there are so many GREAT parts as well. That feeling of elation due to landing the job is unmatched. The relationships built with clients are special. The community is outstandingly kind, supportive, and helpful. To see the growth points in something we work so hard to build is inspiring. And it’s just FUN. Who else do you know in your non-VO life that gets to pay their bills by playing cartoon characters or reading books? It’s a great industry!
But, the fact still remains that having the privilege of building and maintaining a voiceover business is tough. Whether voiceover is a side hustle or a full time career for you, building the business is challenging. It takes consistency, diligence, and TIME. It will not happen overnight.
I’ve heard from several high quality VO resources that building your voiceover business is a “marathon, not a sprint”.
And I fully agree! At the base level, my interpretation of that statement is around the lengthy amount of time it takes to build a sustainable business. Even the fastest of marathon runners run for hours, not seconds.
So as we’re building a business, it’s imperative that we remain patient and diligent with our efforts. Even the best of the best in voiceover grew their businesses over the period of YEARS, not days or months.
But I think that there is a deeper level of interpretation that building a business is a “marathon, not a sprint.” As someone who has run multiple marathons and has attempted to sprint -(hello to the slowest granny sprint ever, I think that statement holds a significantly deeper meaning.
When a person runs a marathon, there are distinct phases one will experience. I’ve broken them down below.
Phases of a marathon
It takes an average person about 9 months of training to prepare for a marathon. Yeah. 9 months of hard work just to get to the starting gates! In that time, you are practicing and learning a LOT. You’re working on building technique, skill, and endurance so that you can complete the race successfully.
A similar point in the voiceover journey is taking classes, practicing scripts, learning tech skills, etc. You’re taking the essential steps to set yourself up for success for the long term.
Welcome to the cattle car. You’ve completed your training and are now among hundreds (or thousands) of folks stuffed into starting gates based on the length of time it should take to complete the marathon. There’s a lot of bustling around and excited energy. You are ready to get started!
This is the point of the voiceover journey where you’ve completed your demo and are ready to go!
And the race has begun. The energy is high, the crowd is thick, and folks all around are jockeying for position, looking for a bit of free space to run amongst the masses. You’ll see people flying past you and you’ll start to wonder if you prepared correctly, because they seem to be moving so much faster than you.
In voiceover, this is the auditioning and marketing process. You’re new, so you’re auditioning for everything you can and the competition is high. You’re fighting to stand out from the crowd. Your peers may book a couple of gigs and you’re hoping you will be able to do the same.
Ok, we’re now getting into a groove that works for us. Our training is coming in strong and we’re feeling good about the progress we’re making. The crowd is starting to thin and there’s a bit more breathing room around you.
In voiceover, this is where we start settling into a workflow and we are making productive strides in our business. Maybe we start focusing on specific genres. Maybe we’ve landed an agent. We’ve really started leaning into our strengths and we are booking some gigs on the semi-regular.
Ahhhhhh. We’ve really settled in and things are feeling good. Our confidence is high and we’re moving at a comfortable pace.
In voiceover, this can translate to successful auditions, paid gigs, and getting into a business groove that feels good.
You’re about halfway to the finish, so progress is definitely happening. You start seeing a familiar face or two - you know all those folks that flew by you at the start of the race? Well, it turns out that they started out a bit too fast and are now slowing significantly as they’re running out of energy.
You’re catching up to them and passing them by. The miles are piling up though and there are some tough moments. You’re reaching into your mental reserves to keep pushing forward. And by this point, you’ll know for sure if you’ve properly prepared during the training phase. If you haven’t, you’ll start to feel some blisters on your feet and you’ll experience some chaffing in undesirable areas.
In voiceover, the “beginner’s luck”...if that’s actually a thing...has worn off. You’re building a solid resume, but things are starting to feel tough. One day you’re struttin’ as it’s been a successful day. The next day, you feel like totally unsuccessful garbage and are using those mental reserves to pick yourself up and push forward with auditions and business admin stuff. If you want to keep building your business, you need to do more, audition more, market strategically, solidify your workflow.
Alright...sh!t just got real. Welcome to the Bite Me Zone. Everything hurts and life sucks. Frustration and pain have fully set in. You’ve got blisters the size of quarters, muscles are cramping, you’re feeling weak and need nutrition. You’re praying for a natural disaster just so you can stop this nonsense.
What kind of crazy were you, thinking you could run a full marathon?!?!?! People on the sidelines are cheering you on and all you think about is punching that chipper person in the face. Easy for them to cheer… they aren’t pushing through a mountain of agony right now. You constantly hear that you’re “almost there” and you want to cry… 10 more miles is NOT “almost there”! You are past using positive thoughts and you are digging DEEP to keep going.
In voiceover, welcome to “The Slump”. You’re submitting auditions and not landing a thing. You’re marketing yourself to receive silence in return. You are trying everything you know to build your business and it feels like nothing is working. You’re wondering why you even bothered starting this voiceover journey in the first place.
You feel like a total failure on most days. Motivational quotes and good thoughts are no where near enough to push you forward. You're working on straight discipline, determination, and pure grit at this point.
Hint: Don’t believe what your mind is telling you at this stage. You’re doing great and just keep moving forward! You may not be seeing immediate results, but progress IS being made.
Did things just get better or is your body so exhausted and numb that you can’t tell? The marathon now seems doable again. You’re tired, sure, but you’ve passed the 20 mile mark. You really don’t have that much farther to go. You start to believe that you’ll make it to the finish line. Just keep shuffling forward…
In voiceover, the slump has started to recede. Maybe you’ve had a breakthrough with auditions. Maybe you reached a personal goal. Your mindset is lifting and you’re seeing hope and progress in your business again. Building the business isn’t easy, but it doesn’t seem so defeating either….
Holy smokes you’re almost there. Like, really almost there. Not the “almost there” from Mile 16 when that phrase was just an insult to your very being. But even as close as you are, you keep thinking: Will this race EVER BE OVER?!?! You’ve come so far and you can see the finish line, it’s so close!!! You’re holding on and clawing your way to the end. But, wait, are you hallucinating? That finish line seems to be the same distance away despite you running as hard as you can. That .2 miles at the end of the race is the longest piece of pavement you’ve ever seen. Why isn’t it getting closer?!?!?
In voiceover, the finish line you see could be a goal you’ve been pursuing. You’ve done the work, you’re seeing the progress. But you’re impatient to reach the end and the fight to get there is intense. You’re almost there, so keep pushing.
Mile 26.2 - Finish line.
You made it! CONGRATULATIONS! Wooooo boy you’re exhausted. You’re muscles quit working long ago, but somehow you stumbled through and made it. Someone just placed a medal around your neck and wrapped a foil blanket around you. Your first priority is to sit down for a loooonnnnggggg while.
The feeling of pride swells deep within you. YOU DID IT. You actually did it. All the work, stress, suffering, and sacrifice… you gave it all you had and you’ve crossed that line to completion. You think, “This might just be my proudest moment.”
In voiceover, this can mean a multitude of things. It all depends on what a “successful” voiceover business looks like to you. Is it earning a certain amount of revenue? Is it landing a certain gig? Is it being able to build a large and loyal customer base? The definition of building a successful business is truly up to you and what your priorities are in the business.
Whether voiceover is a side hustle or a full-time career, “finishing the marathon” is specific to each artist. The feeling of immense pride is there because you know how much effort you put into reaching this goal. You did things others wouldn’t do: working late at night and early in the morning, auditioning more, marketing and follow-up, and the list goes on. And now, you’re feeling the success of it all.
A marathon is a multi-phase endurance race that will challenge you past the point you thought you could go. When you think you can’t go any farther, you have to force yourself to perform at a level you didn’t know you had. And it’s the same with building a business. You will feel elation and confidence just as keenly as you feel frustration and disappointment. But the end result is so very worth all the effort.
Keep in mind that out of the thousands of people running the marathon, each person will move at their own pace, doing the best they can based on their ability and the amount of training and preparation they did ahead of the race. When building your business, as with a marathon, be sure to focus on running you’re own race.
There’s no reason to compare yourself to any other voiceover artist and their level of “success” as each of us have different talents, goals, and drive. What’s important to one person may not be important to another. Keep your focus on your business and build it to the best of your ability. It will take time, lots of it. But through it all, with diligence, discipline, and TIME, you’ll make it to the end of the race.
From the Bite Me Zone,