The ‘Sophomore Slump’ is legendary for all manner of business, including voiceover. How well you weather the all-too-common phenomenon as an actor and voice talent can determine whether you will go on to have a career at all.
If you’d been blessed with dumb luck from the onset of your career, and scored some profitable results early on, it’s likely you might assume your career could/should run on autopilot at some point. However, as much as we would hope that for you, the truth is this train of thought could account for how your immediate ‘slump’ might have come to pass.
Regardless of how talented and skillful you might be, you’re likely to happen upon a period where you’re simply not booking, or you’re booking far less than you previously enjoyed—regardless of the current economy.
Few recover from a sophomore slump to transition from novice to truly owning their fate for a reason. Many talent simply give up, rather than honestly doing all they can to identify and overcome industry obstacles. And succumbing to apathy never solved anything; its a certified career-killer.
As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, much of the frustration talent face is due to unrealistic expectations. In fact, you could say the definition of unhappiness is when reality does not meet expectation. Which is why having realistic expectations from the start improves the likelihood of adding to your overall happiness and success.
So, just because you gave it your all once, some time ago, regardless of whether it was two months, two years, or two decades ago, a simple review of what you accomplished prior to succeeding is inevitable and necessary to sort, stabilize and reassess your current situation.
Start by asking yourself:
1. What (and when) was the last success you achieved?
2. What were the circumstances that led to that accomplishment?
3. Who were the players when things were going well? The client, your agent, manager, producer, director, your coach and/or demo producer?
4. What training or experience did you have just prior to doing well?
5. What have you done differently since accomplishing your last great success?
You’ll likely discover what you should have done but didn’t do, or what you changed that should have been left alone that could have attributed to the lull you’re experiencing.
Just as professional athletes who never stop training because their performance depends on it, the same holds true for voice actors. Nevertheless, far too many talent fool themselves into thinking they can get by without coaching. Or they can rely solely on Online Voiceover Workout Groups, when what they really need is a few private sessions with an expert who truly understands them, the industry, and what the individual talent is honestly attempting to accomplish with their career. You have to train for it.
In fact, one of the first questions talent agents and casting directors typically ask you is, “Who are you studying with?” (They mean currently, not 10 years ago.) You want to respond honestly, intelligently and proactively. Understand how you respond speaks volumes to them about whether you mean business or not, because they certainly do.
Still, many “intermediate” voice talent mistakenly fall prey to the notion that once they’ve had a modicum of experience and training, there’s no need to invest in coaching any further. At least in their head they check that box off on their “to-do” list. However, rationalizing to your self there’s no need for you to coach any further, privately or otherwise, is a recipe headed directly for a ‘sophomore slump’ disaster that often results in a full-blown career crash and burn. Thus the adage ‘cheap is very expensive’. Every professional is expected to INVEST in themselves throughout their careers, not solely at the onset.
Telling yourself coaching is “too expensive” is simply a justification of a cheap attack. If this is your business, you have to rise to the occasion, especially considering that this specific mindset will only result in further derailing you from having any career at all. In fact, it could cost you even more than your career. It can cost you your integrity, your self-worth, and might even lead to an unwanted pattern of concentrating, unnecessarily, on failure, rather than concentrating on coming up with workable solutions and imagining positive outcomes. The more you practice the latter, the more valuable a team player you’ll likely become in every scenario.
But, clinging to the excuse that you “already know how to act” implies you have nothing left to learn. While you might know intellectually, or consciously think precisely that, this is the message you’re sending to potential talent agents and casting, whether you realize it or not. Frankly, sidestepping coaching can account for the terrific failure rate all the entertainment fields boast, even after you might have had a terrific start to your career. It falls to you to remain relevant and keep your skills sharp.
For what it’s worth, no success has ever come about without failure. All the more reason to be realistic about your assets and shortcomings, and own them. You don’t have to publicly announce every foible, hiccup or obstacle you have to overcome over social media, but you do need to learn from your mistakes if you hope to accomplish anything.
Life’s messy, but only if you’re in there, rolling up your sleeves and mixing it up.
Copyright © 2020 Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.