Do The Hustle

I started hustling for voice work back in 1990, the summer before my last year at university.  Back then, we were still a few years away from the internet hitting the mainstream so one had almost no option but to use the yellow pages and published directories of ad agencies & production companies to find names and numbers of places that might hire voice talent. Now, this blog entry could easily drift into one of those annoying pieces that get passed around by e-mail by elders who seem amazed at the concept of time passage.  “Did you know there was a time when we had to submit our voice demos on cassette tape?!” (cue all the jaw-dropping in the under-25 set)  But I’m not going to go there.  Instead, I’ll focus on the one thing that hasn’t changed from generation to generation:  In the voice-over world, you must prepare to be a hustler.

Your agent can only do so much.  I say that as an agent, to decrease the pressure on me of course, but the truth is – no one markets you better than you, at least in theory.  I had a few agents over the years but I instinctively knew I shouldn’t just wait around for the phone to ring.  I knew I had to get my demo out to people.  I needed to hustle.

And can I clarify?  Hustling isn’t defined as just bugging your agent all day, though don’t get me wrong, we agents love to hear from our talent constantly (Editor: Note sarcasm.  RK: Once again, I don’t have an editor!). Hustling means getting out there and learning about the industry.  Who does voice casting in your city?  Which key recording studios hire/cast voices? Which voice coaches offer continued training?   Hustling means getting out there to industry-related events.  It could be an obvious thing like an acting symposium or maybe something not so obvious like an entrepreneurs networking event or an opening party for a film festival.  Or how about hovering around the bar at a downtown watering hole on occasion, too?  Even if you don’t meet a single person in the industry, it can still be good, providing there’s something tasty on draught.

The point is to get out there and converse with your fellow man and woman, which includes your peers. Take an acting workshop or an improv class.  Commit to the industry you’re in and the career you have chosen.  Be around the people who have made the same career choices and talk shop.  Don’t be obnoxious or self-absorbed of course but ask questions and absorb information.  Bring your business cards everywhere but be tactful about handing them out. 

In those pre-internet days, I used to keep a spreadsheet which listed everyone who had my voice demo, with brief notes about when I last talked to them and whether or not they hung up on me.  I wouldn’t call these people every week or anything – again, there’s a fine line between persistent and competely annoying and you NEVER want to cross it.  But checking in with industry contacts 2-3 times a year is reasonable.   It’s good to remind the people who hire voice talents that you exist and that you’d like to be one of their “go to” oral specialists.

Learn to do the hustle!

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