by Joshua Mackey
Voiceover and audio production are performance arts. Let's not forget it.
One year into freelancing, I found myself almost ready to throw in the towel. I had left my cushy corporate job at a small market radio cluster, and had failed to elevate my income to an acceptable level. I was ashamed and loathing the idea of walking back into the job market with my tail between my legs. It looked like I was going to fail.
This dire scenario drove me to discover the two most important words in my career as a professional voice talent and audio producer: hunger and humility.
I'm continuously auditioning, cold-calling, learning new things, and honing my craft. I invest in my business and my skills. And I'm unceasingly concentrated on treating my clients well, even if they don't always return the favor. Don't get me wrong, I'm no doormat. I have fired clients, and will fire more. But only when they are detrimental to my business. Otherwise, there are no clients "too small", no projects "too insignificant", and no feedback "too harsh".
Sometimes feedback can be hurtful, if I allow it to be. Stubbornly, I've learned to put the feedback into my fuel tank and use it to power my freelance vehicle. Whether I'm voicing an instructional video for electricians, or building a multi-regional radio ad for John Deere, I see it as a performance, open to interpretation and criticism. If I don't want to be harshly criticized, I should consider a different business. I believe it can be boiled down to this premise: I want my clients' business, and I want them to be happy with what they get from me - whether I am or not.
In graphic design, a client may love the logo's shape and design but dislike the color. A graphic artist will simply change the color to suit the clients' needs. In voiceover and audio production, however, we tend to get offended by clients/colleagues/managers not liking the "color" of the voiceover or audio.
The way you say "Sasha's Sugar Central" sounds weird. What's that awful swishing noise before the music comes in? Why doesn't this (raw, unprocessed) voiceover sound like the spot I heard in your demo? You're just not there. I don't know what exactly is missing, but it's missing something. Can you put more emphasis on the business's name? Maybe you haven't had your coffee yet this morning, because this voiceover sounds dull and boring. It's nice, but it's not doing it for me. Etc.
I provide creative input, but I have learned to partially detach myself in order to reduce the emotional impact of my clients' feedback. It reminds me of when I was young and felt like there were no restrictions to creation. I would spend hours and hours using my silver dual-deck ghetto blaster to record songs off the radio, mix them into the perfect playlist, and use the small onboard "microphone" to voice track the mix. It would take me all weekend. And when I was done, I would hand it to someone I thought could benefit from it and move on to the next one.
Without my ego playing a lead role in my performances and business, I am able to stay humble and hungry. And successful.
Joshua Mackey is a freelance voiceover artist at www.mackeyvoicetalent.com. He welcomes your correspondence at