To be considered among the best of the best should be the goal of every voiceover and actor. Yet, there’s no real litmus test to determine when, and if, you’re a pro, but there are factors that determine your professional fitness.
Frankly, there are a great many people who consider themselves ‘experienced’, but are far from professional. And, by contrast, there are those that exhibit the most professional performance skills and demeanor that far exceeds their experience.
So, how do you know when you’re a pro? Is it when you swim in a deeper pool of fish? Or you’re paid well? Or the caliber of work you’re landing with some consistency improves? Does someone give you the title? Is it earned? And if so, how?
Becoming a professional in any field is certainly a process, not that that process has to take that long, especially in the entertainment fields. However, it is a process that deals primarily with two factors:
- Performance and behavior
- And perception. Yours, others, or both. But primarily yours.
When it comes to performance, professional voice talent continually working their skills, because if you aren’t working your performance muscle it will atrophy. So, much like an athlete, your performance skills need to remain sharp, especially when they’ll be called upon at a moment’s notice. Your agility, tenacity, and imagination are all key reasons you were hired as a professional talent. And if you’re less than prepared to deliver your very best you’ll only serve in undermining your professional reputation, as well as the reputation of your agent, the producer who hired you, and the client you’re ultimately representing as their vocal brand. Therefore, committing to proper conditioning is an imperative.
Sadly, better than 85% of all self-proclaimed professional talent fool themselves into thinking, “But I’m a trained actor. I did all that in school… 10-15 years ago.” Or, “I took a class… last year. Okay, maybe 2 years ago. But, I know what I’m doing.”
Hope so. Otherwise, all that rationalizing will undermine your professionalism. And, given the number of one-hit wonders in this field, the last thing you want is to fly by the seat of your pants. That’s all too common, but it doesn’t have the legs to produce a viable career. If you instill confidence through your demeanor, your demo and your performance skills, certainly you’ll be seen as such. But, wondering why you’re not booking is simply an excuse, because there’s no way you’d be equipped to present your very best if the last time your mettle was tested was ages ago.
Further, if your experience has solely been in a field that parallels voiceover, but instead has exclusively been in radio and broadcast, then your conditioning has been to hurriedly complete the immediate task at hand due to the continual time restraints of that medium. To add to this, your muscle memory will kick in, which typically evokes over-the-top, irritating, hard sell, infomercials that wake you from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. And probably the least sought-after voiceover quality going.
This is not to say experience means nothing, it’s simply not everything. Unfortunately, fooling yourself that all your hard work after years engulfed in the trenches of radio and broadcast is all you need to consider yourself a professional voiceover tends to prove shortsighted. It proves you’re dedicated to the medium, and certainly radio and broadcast become the devil you know, but without any real training, you’re up against years of conditioning from these forms of media, who notoriously chew up the hardest working individuals you might have ever had the pleasure to know. Nevertheless, most are left with a narrative delivery that tends to resemble old ‘Paul Harvey’ deliveries at best.
Inch-worming your self away from these wooden, ‘Announce-y’ reads usually lacks enough momentum and technique training to prove successful. It requires a seasoned coach who understands your background, how to corral your impulses that skew toward the sell-y and fixed reads you’ve offered in radio, as so many are encouraged to do. You need guidance and dedication to where you intend to transition to, rather than continually falling back on where you’ve been, career-wise.
These are all tough tasks, but they aren’t impossible. And they do require a commitment to coaching, which can feel invalidating to a professional announcer, or actor at first. The toughest part is swallowing one’s pride, and admitting there’s something to be learned here. It’s the only way you’ll break from the tack you’ve been on, toward a career you can achieve that’s likely a dramatic departure from where you’ve been.
No one gets to side-step coaching. No one. Not Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper. ALL professionals train. The whole point is to make your job look easy, but it requires a great deal of hard work and attention to appear seamless. Which is why dedicating at least two to five times a year to coaching in order to stay current with changes in the industry, to modify bad habits, and to discover techniques that elevate your game and allow you to secure the highest caliber work available. This requires an investment in your career and your self. It’s just a fact.
At some point, with a fair amount of perseverance on your part, you’ll consider yourself a professional. How well you handle yourself, those you work with, and the job itself will either back up that claim… or it won’t.
The ball is in your court.
Copyright © 2017 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.