[Admin note: If you are wondering where the archives from the past six months are, the answer is simple: I gave myself permission in June to set aside this blog for the summer. Summer’s now over, right?]
I was once given good advice by a voice actor to discover my niche. I know, that’s not unusual advice. But it stuck with me. He’d told me that when he started in the voice over business, he was jumping on every voice job posting he’d find, regardless of the style called for. It wasn’t until he learned what he was good at (young, hip, urban) and what he wasn’t good at (corporate, business narration) that he started landing gigs consistently. I took his advice to heart, and concentrated on what I figured my niche was (young relatable guy next door).
The danger of the niche advice, though, is only looking for opportunities that fall within the predefined boundaries you’ve set for yourself. We learn by experimenting, and by failing. My friend who gave me the advice to discover my niche wouldn’t have figured out what he was good at if he didn’t also figure out what he wasn’t good at.
And let’s not sell short our ability to learn and adapt. We grow by stretching, and sometimes when we stretch, we end up bumping into something new and good. Of course, we might end up grabbing on to something that really isn’t meant for us. That’s OK — if we’re honest when we evaluate, we learn and move on.
Recently, I was asked to read a short elearning script that was out of my pre-defined wheelhouse. The onscreen image was of a man 45 years my senior. I gave it my best shot — I slowed my speech a bit, paused more often than I normally would, and added as much gravel as I thought I could get away with. I also tried to stay in a lower register. The result? Eh — it was passable; not great. Better than I would have thought I could do. But I really enjoyed the opportunity to pay attention to this character, and figure out an approach. While I won’t be bidding on any jobs soon for any more octogenarians, I did enjoy the stretch, and will take my approach of studying this character to those I do end up voicing in the future.
What about you? Have you had any stretch assignments that worked out well? Any that didn’t? Tell me about it!