The ‘Sophomore Slump’ is legendary for all manner of talent and business. But, as actors, as voice talent, weathering the all-too-common Sophomore Slump determines 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’d assume your career could run on automatic from that point on. However, nothing could be farther from the truth, and likely how your current ‘slump’ came to pass.

As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, I generally equate this to unrealistic expectations. It’s been my experience that the definition of unhappiness is when reality does not meet expectation. Therefore, if your expectations are realistic from the start, the likelihood of you being happy is far greater.

That said, 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 had when you first started.

Few recover from a sophomore slump and transition from novice to true ownership of their fate, for a reason. Many talent simply give up, rather than truly doing all they can to overcome the situation. Apathy is a certified career-killer.

Just because you gave it your all… once… some time ago. (Okay, granted it was a while back.) Well, regardless of whether that was two months, two years, or two decades ago, a basic review of what you accomplished prior is inevitable.  

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 your lack of action attributed more to your lull than anything you may have actually done.

Much like professional athletes who never stop training because their performance depends on it, the same spirit holds true for actors, whether you’re a voiceover, or otherwise. Yet, so 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 need is private sessions with an expert who truly understands them, the industry, and what they’re attempting to accomplish. You have to train for it. It takes conditioning. Besides, one of the first questions talent agents and casting directors alike will ask you is, “Who are you studying with?”

Many “intermediate” talent mistakenly fall into the notion that once they’ve had a modicum of experience and training, there’s no need to train further. They can check that box off on their “to-do” list, so to speak. However, rationalizing to yourself that there’s no more need to coach, privately or otherwise, is shortsighted and a recipe for a ‘sophomore slump’ that inevitably becomes a full-on crash and burn. Justifying to yourself that coaching is too expensive is nothing more than a “cheap attack” that will only further work to derail you. It can cost you your career, your integrity, your self worth, and can become the catalyst for a pattern of failure, instead of the opposite. Cheap is very expensive. You have to continue to INVEST in yourself well past your initial training or you may never become the professional you had always intended.

Clinging to the excuse that you “already know how to act” assumes there’s nothing left to learn. Frankly, this element can account for the terrific failure rate, even after having had a terrific start.

Keep in mind: no success has ever come about without failure. All the more reason you have to own it. You don’t have to publicly announce over social media (in fact, I strongly recommend you refrain from this impulse entirely), but you do need to learn from your mistakes if you hope to accomplish anything. Not that you won’t experience and survive quite a few doozies that there’s simply no rational explanation for, it’s just that the unexamined life, to quote Plato’s Apology, is simply not worth living. 

Copyright © 2022 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.

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