There’s a saying that goes, “You need to be in the right place at the right time.”
I used to be discouraged by this idea as it characterized my success as something far beyond my control, and at best, something I would have to wait passively for. As my early professional years went along I realized, in many respects, this ideology had a lot of merit. I saw peers that were foisted into the right place by privilege and circumstance, and others who could afford to wait on opportunity’s stoop.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say as a young twenty-something in New York with a day job and a dream, I was a little disheartened. Until, I realized, like in any numbers game, the Law of Large Numbers often prevails. The Law of Large Numbers states that, “if you repeat an experiment a large number of times and average the result, what you obtain should be close to the expected value.” At first glance, this has very little to do with VO, but after some time experimenting and collecting data with my business, it clicked.
The hypothesis: does being in the right place at the right time improve your likelihood of success?
The prediction: if I put myself in a lot of places for an extended period of time, my preparedness will intersect with opportunity.
With the next step in my experiment realized, I began investing in voice-over communities, group classes with studios I wanted to be on the roster for, got deep into VO Twitter, and began networking on LinkedIn. I listened to VO School Podcast religiously, read Paul Strikwerda’s Making Money In Your PJs, and listened to every podcast appearance and entry level class Tom Aglio and Lisa Biggs had on direct marketing. I would introduce myself at parties as a “voice actor” as opposed to “an actor”, and was hungry for audition and job feedback on sites like Voice123 as I accelerated my brand. Eventually, my door opened: after four years freelancing with various agencies, my (now) agents found me on a roster for diverse voice talent. I was prepared with a sharp home studio, a varied portfolio, and the chops to compete on the next level, and I was signed.
However, in my opinion, in voice-over, there is no mountaintop. Just various settlements along the way to rest, gather oneself, and decide whether you’d like to soldier on, or settle down and establish yourself. Now that I had made it to the next big rung on the ladder, a new iteration of showing up and showing out made itself apparent. I had to book with studios, often in smaller roles to start, consistently show that I could be “the guy”, foster organic relationships with the team and other talent, and be patient for my opportunities…again.
When I was first in the agency ecosystem, I was overeager – I’d never seen rates like this, I was unfamiliar with “exclusivity”, and I was enamored with the idea of residuals. I found myself backsliding into my old patterns of comparing myself to my peers, getting frustrated at where I was in my process, and getting skeptical that my shot would come. Now that I was in “the right place” when was my “right time”? Like a misguided alchemist I thought I could substitute other ingredients for time: was I not marketing enough, was I not submitting good enough auditions, did I need to upgrade my already maxed out mics? I spun in circles for months. Then, despite my misgivings, it happened: I was glued to the right place, with a team of folks looking after me, and the right time found me.
I broke into anime appearing in six series in one year: two as weekly series regulars, I had the privilege of doing an animated short with a major network, I got to play opposite Fred Armisen in Black Friday, I was in a movie in theatres, I got to do things in that twelve month period I never dreamed of, and quite frankly still can’t believe happened. But who was to thank? I’ve probably thought about this every day since, puzzled through it, resisted the urge to try and replicate lightning in a bottle…but after much consideration, I think it was the collision of opportunity and preparedness, at the intersection of Right Time and Right Place.
What I try to reiterate to students is that voice-over is a long game, but that doesn’t mean you’re far off from your first wins. Get out there, meet people, hone your craft in private so you’re ready for each new job – and treat each new job as a debut of your skills, having fun along the way. Because fun, in my opinion, is the best fuel in this business. It’ll keep you sharp, it’ll keep you hungry, and it’ll cause people to seek you out when they need you: at the right time. Please don’t take my sentiments as a prosperity gospel but moreso a ra-ra to cheer you on in your journey, encourage you to speak up at parties, attend conferences, and be an active member in a VO network like VO Pro, which is one of the best, and trust that good work does not go unnoticed for long.
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