Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How Do You 'Solve For X' ?

Are you ever curious as to why you have not booked work, even though you did your very best? One of the toughest things to deal with in this industry is simply 'not knowing why you did not book a job'.

This is even more difficult to deal with when the reaction to your work was very positive. In the regular business world, you are occasionally given a courtesy phone call or email to tell you, 'Thanks, but we are going with someone else right now. We will keep your resume on file.'

However, the creative business world does not always offer that consideration, if ever at all. The online world does not even give you a not-so-charming, 'NEXT!'. The very first agent I freelanced with once told me, after I lost out in a commercial in the final callback, was 'Steven! Talent-shhhmalent! Ya' did ya' best! That's all ya' can do!'.

What she referred to in her own NYC-savvy way is, 'Not knowing' is not easy to accept, but the truth is that people lose out on jobs for all sorts of reasons, usually for all the reasons we never expected or just do not sound right to us because we did everything that was asked of us. What was missing? What was the missing X factor? And where do you begin when 'solving for X'?

Understanding the other side of the equation helps. Several factors might play a part:
  • The client was given what they asked for perfectly... and then realized they no longer liked it, or became bored with it.
  • The client wanted someone who sounded like someone they knew, but did not know how to describe it well enough. Therefore, the person was almost hired by accident for sounding like someone else.
  • Something, maybe a new experience, and/or a new epiphany caused this client to change his/her creative direction.
The creative industry is subjective, and therefore, people are booked for all the wrong reasons that we would never expect. This does not mean that the client does not recognize talent. It just meant they were not the right fit for the part. For that reason, you really can never explain to someone 'Why didn't I get the job?', on a case by case basis.

Unless you want to hear strange things like, 'That man sounded more like my sister than you did.', you waste your time worrying about it. There is a creative team and idea behind every project. They come to talents to fill that need, and we are expected to know what they want all the time. That is impossible, but you can increase your odds.
  • Find coaches that help your voice grow as a product, and challenge you to become a better voice over talent. Attend classes to try new things, practice, and research things you may want to try in the future. Classes are a great safety net to try new ideas, fail miserably, and no harm was done.
  • Set goals for yourself, and treat your voice as a 'business' you are looking to sell. Figure out where you are now, and where you want to be in the future with your career. Just what types of voice overs can you do now, and what do you have to work on?
  • Market yourself efficiently. No one will know to come find you, if they do not know you exist. Learn what it means to market yourself online. It is very different from what we all did to get an agent's or casting director's attention.
  • Positive, supportive voice over friends & family, who understand what you do, to get professional and productive, unbiased opinions on your work. Explore the reasons for their feedback, and never take it personally.
  • Always make sure you are doing your best at all times behind the mic, remain flexible, while knowing just how far you will go, and what you will accept.
Let's just say, you have been doing all this already... and even then, you may not sound like the client's friend's brother he met a party that told this funny joke... the whole inspiration behind the voice the client wanted.

Solving for 'X'? It may just be the classic combination of hard work, a 'never say die' attitude towards doing something you love, and learning just how far you should go to achieve your goals.

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Quality Assurance Manager


John Taylor said...

One good way to solve for "X" is to ask the clients who do hire you why they chose you. You will start to see a pattern to the jobs you land. You'll also become more choosey about the jobs you audition for. I have recieved at least a half dozen 5 star ratings this year from clients who never called. I was happy to get the high marks, but praise wont pay the rent. So I don't give it a second thought and move on to the next audition. The great cartoon vo artist and teacher Bob Bergen once told me..."My job is to audition, I ocasionally do a little voiceover on the side" Keep fighting the good fight.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the encouraging email message. It was very interesting and informative, however, the reason I have not booked any work yet is quite simple: I have not yet upgraded to "Premium" because I cannot afford your fee. Someday, maybe, but not now. Thanks again.

Thomas Morin

Anonymous said...

This was a well-written and very helpful article. Thanks.

Susan Bramson

Liz Somerville said...

Hi Steve:

"How Do You 'Solve for X'?" This is very informative. You are right, not knowing why we didn't get a job and accepting the "not knowing" is tough but important. Keep doing our best when asked to submit our auditions is all we can do (and that is what we do for ourselves).

I also enjoyed reading your advise last week about "E-mails", I agreed with everything you said.

Thank you,

Liz Somerville

Bob Wood said...

Recently a voice seeker asked for 200 auditions. To me, that simply means they actually had no idea what they wanted, and it borders on an abusive use of the system. This was for a church, not a network spot.

I propose that the higher the number of auditions requested, the higher the price for the winner.

And I realize this isn't going to happen. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article...one thing I always say is something out of Brady Bunch...since everyone knows the Brady Bunch...
"I didn't Fit the suit" referring to the episode where Greg wanted to become Johnny Bravo and where the funny suit...and they said at the end..."Ah, he never really fit the suit anyway!"

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'd like more encouraging emails like this. I've received several 5 star ratings without booking the jobs, and I'm always wondering why. I know the reasons may be somewhat arbitrary and out of my control, so I'll just keep at it.

The Voice123 Team said...

Thanks all for your comments!!! We look to provide more info in the future that will assist all of you!

Hey Bob!
From my P.O.V., when someone requests 200 auditions, they are usually first time users, and being from a church, I assume the project was low budget, which you can always opt out of. Budgets are not determined by how many you compete against, but by what people will accept as payment, and poor quality is never hired. In fact, budgets have improved as filtering by talented pros show the seeker that 'you get what you pay for'.

There is always the choice not to submit, and you can find out if they are listening by looking at the bottom of the project details page to see voice seeker activity.

As for you all who keep getting 5's, that should always encourage you to keep going as ratings are just a measurement used in an any online community to tell someone what they thought.

Thanks all! Stick to it!!!

D.Brin said...

This was a wonderfully supportive piece and I really appreciated it.In the past when auditioning in another state(California), there was always feedback from at least the engineer at the agency to help with your audition plus I took a full roster of vo classes for several years followed by semimonthly get togethers with other students(we'd direct each other) But now it's a lonely business. Thank goodness though for voice 123. Marketing oneself has become easier!

kara said...

Thanks for that.
I also think that quality comes into it. my set up is just garageband - and I doubt the finished mp3 sounds as good as from a real recording studio that some voiceovers have. And timing. Earlybirds often catch the worm!

mikestrike101 said...

Thank you!!!

I will not give up

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insights!I know that when I did auditions for acting roles,I used to be crushed without a callback.... that is until I stopped taking them personally, and realized that it was one or all of the elements mentioned in your article.Please keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

This is great. Thanks for your article. I've been out of the game for a while, doing other projects. It's great to be reminded that it's never really about you being rejected, there ARE indeed so many other factors in play. I'm new to Voice 123, and reading your article made me realise just how good a decision it was to join.

Anonymous said...


Debbie said...

I'm just beginning and have yet to even find a coach, but with articles like this and reading experienced comments from the voice over talent is so informative. I look forward to more. Good luck everyone.

James Andrews said...

Execllent article. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

very insightful steven. i would guess that many of us just need to remind our egos from time to time that if you dont make the cut its not because you or any one thing, it is the "x" factor.. the unknown element some call chance others luck.. much like your new yarker friend related.. in this business it is what it is.. in 30 years of production work if i had a dollar for each time my work was rejected well, let's just say i would be retired to my litte cabin in the wilderness doing outsource work for free.. in my jammies.. lol thanks for all that you and all
v123 peeps do for all of us.. johnson

ArnoldG said...

Thank you. Having just begun the journey in the voice over industry, this article helps me to set my goals, drives and expectations.

ArnoldG said...

Thank you. Having just begun this journey into the voice over industry, this article has served to help set my goals, drive, and expectations.

Ramesh Mahtani said...

That was a welcoming read...many thanks for that. It sure helps getting a wake up call once in a while. We have the bad habit of resting on our laurels once too often!

Keep up the writing...and keep talkin' !!


sarah said...

I am new to this industry and currently in a master voice over class. This site has been very helpful in preparing me for my future career in voice over. Articles like this help me get into the right mindset, as I know I will experience rejection, at times, that is just part of the business. However, I actually find these articles encouraging and helpful in planning my present and future goals. Thank you for informative articles, as well as all of the experienced VO artists who are helping this newbie by their comments and knowledge. Thanks!!!