Tag Archive for work

The Devil and the Danger in Comparing

These days, most folks are on Facebook and other social media platforms. It’s wonderful in a lot of ways, allowing you to keep up with friends and family you might not stay in touch with otherwise. There’s plenty of uplifting posts, puppy pictures, and food porn to amuse. (Not to mention games to while away the time)

And it’s also a cesspool of argument, vitriol, and poor spelling. People defend their opinions from the towers of half-educated ignorance and personal attacks. It can really get you down, reading the same kind of negativity day after day. Even voiceover can fall victim to these type of arguments, as we have our well known bastions of polarization. (p2p, anyone?) Arguments over the ‘right’ way to engineer something, or who has the most (best) resume and many other issues light up every group I’ve ever been a part of.

But in my opinion, the greatest danger to us is in the land of comparison. When you look at social media, the picture that you see of someone’s life is very one dimensional. There aren’t usually the smudges, the busted corners, or the effort it took to set up the perfect photo of 4 family members and 3 dogs. Whether it’s just that it feels like every other mom (or parent) has it together when you don’t, or that every other vo has booked so much more work than you, those comparisons are everywhere and a slippery slope of bad feelings and worse consequences.

VO (and freelance in general) is a very isolating way to work. For those of us who work full time, you’re home, often alone all day with a work environment of a small padded room. It’s natural to look to the internet to provide the ‘water cooler’ that we lack. And those comparisons seem to follow along right after. This person is always posting their great gigs, and gosh, it seems like they hardly have any down time. What are they doing that you aren’t? The next person not only has time to record audiobooks, they also go to the gym and look fantastic in the bargain. Yet another person has an attentive spouse, a great looking home, and beautiful children.

It may sound silly, but I really believe mental state is an important component of work for freelance professionals. We sometimes have very little work day structure, and a ‘bad brain day’ can make it much harder to get things done. Where I’m trying to go with this is to say that you don’t have to compare. Remember how much you don’t know about other’s lives. You don’t know how much down time is between the photos that are posted. (They may have been saving pictures for 6 months.) The second person has no kids so they’re able to get up early and make it there. Not a fair comparison since that’s not your life. The perfect home? You missed the fact that out of 3 hours of tornado kids, this was the 15 seconds they were still and smiling.

Don’t let appearances lead you into false comparison. You’re on your own journey, and that probably looks different than everyone else’s. The important thing is how far you’ve come and where you’re going, not what someone else is doing.

Looking in the Mirror-And you!

So as the last part in my series here, I have to touch on one more little bit of self examination. It goes along with my last post, talking about negative self talk. It’s negative self opinion about your own talents.

In my time serving the voiceover community, I have heard so very many talent talk about flaws in their voice or delivery, their mouth noise, their read, or any one of a number of things. I honestly make a point with every one I talk to to reassure them that whatever it is they are worried about, that they believe is ‘their’ thing, lots and lots of other people do too.

Working from home is such an isolating profession, and the voiceover industry in particular since we spend so much of the day in our offices or booths. You hear your voice, or maybe one or two others on a regular basis. Me? I hear dozens, and have heard dozens. I can promise you that you’re not flawed or unique in your amount of mouth noise. Or whatever you’re worried about! Don’t let your anxiety or negative self-opinion drag you down and lead you to be hard on yourself for no reason. You’re not alone!

We all have so many details to worry about as self motivated entrepreneurs, so don’t let something this minor trip you up.

Now let me say as an addendum here, there is one way that positive self talk can harm you, and it’s not about mouth noises. In extreme cases I’ve seen people so convinced that they knew what they were doing, they ignored pro advice from experts in the VO genre because they believed that they knew best. There’s a good self examination, and good self opinion, and there’s evaluating advice that we don’t want to hear from people who know what they’re saying. And it’s pretty easy to figure out who is worth listening to–the internet is all around us as a fantastic research tool to figure out who’s done what, worked with whom, studied with whom and so forth, plus reams of past advice in many cases. (Thank you FB search-in-groups function.)

Many talent have seen a flood of people enter the industry, lured by unscrupulous coaches after their dollars, or idiotic articles that paint voiceover as nothing but ‘talking’. These newbies will often make transparent grabs for advice, having done little to no research or learning on their own, and in some cases have even asked for people’s client lists! That being said, sometimes you might get a grouchy response when you ask questions or look for information, but don’t let the snark dissuade you. We’re good people. We work hard, and the best friends I’ve ever had have come through industry relationships.

Next week I’ll be discussing another major thief of joy from my voice talent friends-comparison.

Looking in the Mirror-What Now?

So you’re here. You’ve got some guides looked at, you’ve made your notes, and you’re full of ideas. Now what?

The place you’re at is a tough one. It’s easy to get paralyzed at this point, or to have an awesome start, but then fall off the wagon with your plan a few weeks or months later. (It bears an uncanny resemblance to those New Year’s Resolutions!)

I have two pieces of advice for you to help you get going on your self improvement train. Number one, keep it small. Whatever your first task, your first step on what you want to do is, keep it as small as possible. At this point, getting the ball rolling is a whole lot more important than how far it moves. You want to keep it small to help make it (whatever your steps are to your goal) doable, and something that can turn into a habit. If you make grand and vast plans, life will probably get in your way in a hurry, or you’ll fall off the wagon before you can lock in your habit forming, so that you’ll have the regular turning to your tasks as part of your daily routine.

Second piece of advice–watch your self talk! Maybe this sounds a little too ‘self-help-book’ to you but listen to me for a second. The way we talk, to others and ourselves influences our thinking. The more you state or think something, the more you’ll believe it. If you call yourself stupid or some other negative word it’s easy enough to believe it on some level over time. You don’t have to talk to yourself in sunshine flowers and hippies, but if you call yourself stupid, counter it. Say, ‘no, I made a mistake, that doesn’t make me stupid.’ The reason why I emphasize this is because many of the voice talent I’ve met are extremely self critical, particularly when they make a mistake, and feeling like you’ve failed will only make you do so. You’re going to screw up on your goals. Maybe you’ve fallen off the wagon for a while. Accept it, learn, and get the heck back on! The race is only over when you’re dead.

Next time will be my last post in this series, covering one of the most common things I’ve seen voice talent do in the 7 years I’ve been in this business.

Looking in the Mirror-How To

So when you decide it’s time to slow down, to do that self-examination, how do you go about it? For me, it starts with picking up a pen, and writing. Personally, writing on paper has always helped untangle my mind. I love making lists and writing out my thoughts to help me get myself in order. I often discover numerous things about whatever I’m working on while I’m writing. Other methods may include sitting down on the computer and doing research, or typing as opposed to writing out your thoughts. Whatever works for you, as long as you’re taking time and taking a good look at where you’re at, that’s the important thing. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have a hard time with recording their thoughts, or even just stopping long enough to do so. I believe this is important though–even if it’s a pad and pen on your counter you scribble on as you move through your day. Or an app on your phone, whatever works!

While you’re here, ask yourself some questions. Where do you want to go with your business? What is your ‘big’ goal? How are you going to get there? Do you have an infrastructure in place to handle a greater amount of work? Do you have a business plan, and if you don’t, when will you make one? And don’t get overwhelmed because something seems big or far away, when it comes to your goals. Make the goal, but then look at what the first step is. The goal is important, but after that, it’s only the step in front of you that matters. For right now, just get down as much as you can. You can fine tune later.

When you’re looking at guides and how-to’s, make sure you’re considering how they can work with your specific life circumstances. Kids, outside jobs, and many other factors influence how we make organizational plans fit our lives. It’s easy to give up on getting more organized or evaluating things if we feel like we’re failing whatever plan or guru we’ve found. Don’t let someone else’s idea of how you should be running your business make you feel like you’re not good enough.

The important thing is to take a solid look at where you are, where you’re going, and how far you’ve come. To make plans, and consider new things. To admit things you could have done better, but also to celebrate your successes. The mirror may be uncomfortable sometimes, but we all need to take a good long look to be sure we’re going where we want to, and we know how to get there!

Telling People What I Do

Confused-woman16One of the biggest struggles I have had in creating my business is explaining to people what exactly I can do for them. Since I came up with the idea for this without a lot of thought ahead of time–boy have I learned a lot!–when I first started to get asked what I could do I gave a lot of vague, fractured explanations, and got a lot of confused looks. I do a lot of editing, but the whole ‘virtual assistant’ idea isn’t unique to me, but isn’t very common. Most people who use someone to help with their clerical work use someone local, a friend/spouse/kid, or something of that nature.The reason for this, I think is the need for a trust bond. It’s harder to trust someone you don’t know. And getting a diffused explanation doesn’t help either. I think this probably cost me some work at first.

I’ve tried to help in the past by writing a ‘diary‘ of sorts where I would detail different jobs I did and try to help give people ideas. This was kind of an intermediate step for me-I followed it with simplifying and clarifying the language on my services page. But now, when people ask me I have a shorter and simpler explanation, and I find that it helps me connect with people better.

What does this have to do with voiceover? If there’s one thing I hear and read constantly, it’s to learn what you can do, and do it well. Many talent try to be a ‘jack of all trades’ when first starting out, and it can mean that you don’t have a polished sound in any arena. It’s awesome to branch out, but have some strong areas to start from first. It sure helped me when I did.

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