Living Life as a Hyphenate
Pursuing two similar careers simultaneously has its advantages.
We've all heard of "the triple threat."
That refers to a talented performer who is an actor, singer, and dancer. Someone who's multi-talented and has a competitive advantage because they are so versatile.
That's not me. Yes, I can act. I think I can sing, though my teenage daughter tells me differently. Often. Dance? Hmmm... choreographic movement would be more accurate. I can certainly follow instructions, but the few dance classes I took in college didn't get me too far. One quick dance turn and I became so dizzy that I ended up wiping the floor with my backside.
I am, however, a hyphenate. That is, someone who is active in more than one occupation simultaneously. In my case, as an actor in more than one medium: voice over and on-camera (film/TV).
It's a nice balance. Voice over and on-camera work share many foundational similarities, such as basic acting training, though the work is pursued and performed differently. They're independent of each another; oftentimes when work is slow in one, it's can be quite busy in the other. And when a client needs a versatile actor who is trained, proficient, and experienced in both - it's a jackpot moment!
They say: Diversify your investment portfolio.
Diversify your income stream.
I say: Diversify your activities. It's called BALANCE.
And makes for a happy, interesting life.
Similarities between voice acting and acting for film/TV
It's the old peanut butter and jelly thing. Voice acting and film/TV acting go together very well. Provided, of course, that you enjoy (and have the time to pursue) both.
One involves acting behind the behind the mic and the other in front of the camera. The similarities? You still have to know the story behind told and your role in it.
In other words, the basics of script analysis or the who, what, when, where, and why:
Who you are in the story
What you’re trying to achieve
Your relationships to everyone and everything going on in the story
Your environment (time and place) and the situation you’re in
Your journey (and the viewers or listeners who are on it with you) as you progress from start to finish
It's a balancing act (no pun intended)
I see voice acting and film/TV work as two halves of a whole. And when I need to divide my day between them, it makes for an overall satisfying experience. The best of both worlds.
Like one day last week. Perfectly balanced between voice over and on-camera work.
The first half of my day was spent in an in-person acting class. The other half was in my voiceover studio, working on a small job and a few auditions that had come in while I was in class.
Half the day working face-to-face with other human beings in a dramatic, emotional scene, being directed and redirected to explore various character choices.
Half the day working alone in my voiceover studio with business copy, following general specifications and directing myself to discover the story within and the best way to tell it.
Maybe it’s the Gemini in me. I like communications in all its forms and I enjoy balancing two or more aspects of it throughout my life. (Writing would be a third form, but since Gemini is the sign of the twins and not triplets, I’ll leave it out for now!) Just like I enjoy balancing physical movement with sedentary desk work, home time vs. adventurous travel, healthy food with desserts. (Gotta find room for dessert!)
The nice thing about fostering dual careers is that when one isn’t going so well, more attention can be put on the other. When film/TV auditions become slow, especially during the industry’s quiet seasons, voiceover opportunities often pick up. And vice versa. The challenge is when both are slow or, alternatively, both are in high gear and demanding of your time.
I experienced this in my corporate career, too, though it took the form of a pipeline, with sales prospects who were at different stages of the sales process. Occasionally my pipeline was filled with potential customers all in the early stages of the sales process (translation: they weren’t yet buying and I wasn’t earning commissions). When the bottleneck wouldn't budge and I just had to bide my time, I focused on other activities: finding new leads, learning about the latest marketing and technical research to present to prospects and existing customers, or working behind the scenes to nudge the sales process along. All activities served the overall sales process. Knowing this helped me through the doldrums of the slow times (and assured the top executives that progress was being made).
Sometimes, you just have to slug through the challenges. Juggling activities can help to not only move things along, but also shore up your confidence. And it can be a blessing in disguise. When business is slow in one area, it frees you to dedicate more time and attention to other customers who are buying.
Know your priorities, be honest with those who book you should you run into an unavoidable conflict, and honor existing commitments.
Too much of a good thing? Sometimes, you can't have it all. Or at least not all at once.
Now for the reverse. Too much business coming in from both careers at the same time. A rather nice problem to have, though it can be stress-inducing. What to do, what to do?!
Hello, priorities! And previous commitments!
Once in a while, I've found myself on set for 12 hours or more when an urgent voiceover request comes in. Or on a plane, getting ready to take off for a vacation, when a revision to a previous job is needed.
What do you do? In the first case, you honor the previous commitment and try to work in the new request as best you can. It may be tiring after a long day on set to come home and record a voiceover job, but it can - and has - been done. And done well. Sometimes the voiceover client is willing to give extra time, sometimes not. If you can't honor the request, let them know ASAP, so that they can make alternative arrangements. Or offer to find another talent who's available in your place. That's (to use a marketing phrase) value-add.
As for the job that comes in while you're away from the studio? I've booked work in a travel setup I carry with me. Studio time can also be rented in many cities around the country - that's where networking with colleagues comes in, just to find out where the best ones can be found.
From the perspective of the actor, it's much easier to work voiceover jobs around an otherwise inflexible schedule. Most voiceover work is recorded, edited, and delivered by the voice actor working alone. Quite different than being part of a large film or TV team made up of cast, crew, network, etc. that works in-person and on tightly managed schedules. The nature of the work allows a busy actor to manage things well when both voice over and on-camera opportunities come calling.
And yes, there are times when it just can't be physically managed. If you can't block off your schedule in advance around firm commitments, you may have to turn down those other opportunities. Sometimes a client - either voice over or on-camera - can reschedule. Sometimes not. I find that honesty and forthrightness are the best policies. Know your priorities, be honest with those who book you should you run into an unavoidable conflict, and honor existing commitments.
That's just good business. And sound moral sense.
Laura's Quick Tips
You’re a human being, not a robot! If you can, work different aspects of your job to do each day. The variety may provide greater overall satisfaction with your work day.
Another option is to devote one day to one specific task and another day on a different one. You may find that you accomplish more per day when you focus on only one thing.
If your work is getting you down, find different aspects of it that you enjoy and make sure to weave some of the enjoyable tasks in with those that you know you’ll just need to plough through.
When you have more than one activity serving your overall purpose, you can relax (a bit) knowing that while one is slow, the other could be ramping up and producing.
Keep your priorities straight and your commitments honorable. Few will fault you if you're just overly busy. Many more will resent and drop you if they don't think they can trust you.
None of us is just one thing in life. So I say - as a Gemini with lots of energy and interests - mix it up and make each day as productive and enjoyable as possible. And be honest with yourself. Life is more than work. I’m an actor who mostly splits her time between voice over and on-camera work, but I’m also a mom with family responsibilities. And an active individual who needs “me time,” which includes daily exercise and private "please don't bother me for an hour" downtime.
Balancing these different things pays off dividends in overall happiness and a sense of accomplishment. When one aspect of my life doesn’t seem to be going well, there’s usually another that’s steaming along satisfactorily. And even when something is truly going wrong, I can regain some perspective and see that at least something else is going right. It fosters gratitude, appreciation, and contentment.
And peace of mind is worth a great deal.