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Mindset in Voiceover

Mindset in Voiceover.

Be honest – how much more time have you spent worrying about the future this year? I know I’ve had to dig pretty deep at times to keep my chin up.

Mindset in Voiceover.

Be honest – how much more time have you spent worrying about the future this year? I know I’ve had to dig pretty deep at times to keep my chin up.

By Hannah Melbourn
17 February 2021

What’s the real price you pay for running your own business? Whilst there are no doubt loads of upsides – choosing your hours, focussing on your strengths, never having to answer to a crappy boss, the biggest downside is probably the level of uncertainty you face. You don’t know exactly how much money you’ll make in any given month, or which auditions you’ll win or lose.

You don’t know when a sore throat will strike and leave your voice out of action, or when a hot lead will go cold all of a sudden leaving you uncertain of how much work you really have in your pipeline. At the same time, what’s the biggest challenge we face in a global pandemic?

Outside of the awful effects of the illness itself, one of the hardest things for many of us has got to be living with the constant sense of uncertainty Coronavirus has unleashed on our lives.— Hannah Melbourn

When will I be able to see my friends again?  When will my kids be able to go back to the classroom? When can I see my parents? Can we even book a holiday this year?  Is it safe to go out? I could go on.

As a freelance voice talent all of this can turn into a vicious cycle, as one set of worries feeds the other.  Be honest – how much more time have you spent worrying about the future this year? I know I’ve had to dig pretty deep at times to keep my chin up. I’ve seen people around me having breakdowns under the pressure and being signed off work, I’ve watched mental health issues spiral out of control, and I’ve seen a friend dealing with the fact that a parent has had a serious diagnosis missed and left untreated. She is still uncertain of what the outcome of that situation is going to be.  And this is just what i’m seeing – we all have these stories.

Image by Hannah Melbourn

But one thing I’ve learned lately is that even the most concrete of certainties can crumble in times of huge upheaval.  Looking around at people in my own life, I’ve witnessed friends losing their ‘proper’ jobs and small businesses folding that were considered a “sure thing” 12 months ago.  I’m not talking about crazy off the wall ventures, but solid, bricks and mortar businesses going under.

And it has really made me think.

The truth is that in actuality, nothing is certain, and the events of the last 12 months have only spelled that out in all-caps.

We can drive ourselves round the bend watching it all unfold – we can get so hypervigilant that we can’t sleep (I’m amazing at that particular one) but if we have no control over any of it anyway then, who does that really serve?

Maybe what we need to focus on are the tools to keep us sane, ideas that we can turn to when the boat is rocked and we feel, quite frankly, a bit sick.

I have a friend Charlotte who I just want to talk about for a moment because I think her story is really inspiring.  First up what you need to know about Charlotte is she’s that friend – you know the one – the one who buys the first round of tequila shots, the one you look forward to hanging out with because she is the living embodiment of the permission you need to get up to your naughtiest antics, and the first person you invite to any party.  She’s funny, super kind, confident and will tell you to your face if you’re being an idiot.  But the other thing you need to know about Charlotte is she has also really suffered, and in such a profound way that you would never imagine it from first meeting her.  She told me her story not long after we had met and it knocked me for six – I won’t go into the details here because to do so would be glib, but suffice to say – she is someone who has suffered deeply.

When I first met Charlotte she was working for a celebrity in a super high status, very glamorous and pressurised events-based job that she was amazing at, and that she loved doing.  She had enough steeliness and ferocity to handle that kind of showbiz environment whilst still keeping it real. It didn’t affect her. It was like water off a duck’s back and it was very much “her world”.

However, about 2 months before the pandemic hit she was made redundant out of the blue, and it came as a real shock.  Once she got over the initial bombshell, she began to relax again – safe in the knowledge that whilst it was a shame that one door had closed, she had a whole set of totally transferrable skills and wouldn’t struggle to find another job.  Not only that, she knew that she wouldn’t struggle to find another well paid job.  And as a last resort, she could take a freelance contract for a while until she could find something else. Until of course, she couldn’t. Coronavirus and lockdown had other ideas.  It quickly became clear that the game had changed.

Whilst the events that happened next are indeed extraordinary and unprecedented (I’m referring of course to the unfolding of a global pandemic followed by 3 national lockdowns) what I think is really interesting, is what Charlotte decided to do about it.

A lifelong lover of yoga, Charlotte decided that she was going to use this moment of chaos to retrain to become a yoga teacher, and has managed to raise the funds to do so (whilst completely unemployed) through a combination of crowdfunding and intermittently renting out her house on Airbnb whilst she and her young son crash with friends. She offers free daily yoga classes to friends and family whilst she is doing her training, and she swims in the sea every day, come rain or shine because, quite frankly she will not be crushed.

Image by havasimarina from Pixabay

She’s grateful. Every day she posts online about her sea swimming – here’s a typical caption: “Get outside. Pull some shapes. Get in the sea. Fall. Laugh. Cry. Shout at the wind. Close your eyes and listen. Pull yourself together. Have a bloody good go.”

Yes, you heard that right, in December, January February, every day – whatever the weather, this person gets in the freezing North sea, in just her cozzie, hard as nails like a tiny blonde Jason Statham.  And loves her life.

I’ve never once heard her moan about it.  She isn’t just “retraining”, she’s embracing this, she’s rolling around in the actual joy of it. She doesn’t feel like a victim. She’s a force of nature and I am honestly, (as might be coming across), a little bit in awe. Follow her story here.

So what can we do as voiceovers? How can we be more… Charlotte?

The Law of Attraction.  

Sometimes dismissed as pseudoscience, the idea behind the law of attraction is simple, like attracts like. When we think negatively and use a critical voice with ourselves we behave in ways which attract more negativity, and this in turn brings on more negative lived experiences, in a cycle.

On the flip side when we think positively, practise self-care and compassion towards ourselves, our behaviour changes in small almost imperceptible ways, which has a knock on effect on our lived reality.  For me, that’s the clincher. It’s not just ‘think positive’ it’s behavioural change on an incremental level.

Think about how it feels to be in the kind of mood where you expect bad things to happen – you can really just sit back and watch those crappy coincidences chalk up in front of your eyes, right?

But I’m also discovering that the opposite is also true.  When you’re behaving in the opposite way, small synchronicities suddenly show themselves. Your eyes are open to them – you notice them and count them, and think ‘wow’. You’re motivated so you roll the dice again, and this time up pops an opportunity your old self would have missed because they were too busy shouting at a parking attendant.

How do we get there?  Try these:

As Julia Cameron made famous in her ‘morning pages’ from the Artists Way (a must read for anyone living a creative life, first published in the UK in 1994) there is no running from the truth if you write 3 A4 pages of stream-of-consciousness every morning. You literally write anything.  Nobody is going to read it. It doesn’t matter what you write but it has to be first thing in the morning, no exceptions.  Do this for a few weeks and you’ll see all the answers to your questions right there in front of you.  Doing this one exercise is how I got the courage to ditch my part time job and make the leap to becoming a full time voice artist.  After several weeks of diligently doing my pages the message was relentlessly clear: my boss was a bully, I had to leave my job, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life, I just needed a push. So I jumped.

Can you vocalise what it is you really want? Can you get super specific about it? Say it out loud and write it down. Telling people about your goals and aims makes it real and gives it flesh.  What are your goals as a voice actor? How do you want your career to look in 6 months or a year? Really drill down into it and set specific goals that you can break down into manageable steps.

You know that mean voice in your head (OK this is confusing for us voice actors! The one that’s there all the time..not just in the booth!) the voice that puts you down when you look in the mirror, the one who encourages you to imagine the worst. Who’s voice is it? Nasty teacher from school? The bully who used to taunt you as a teenager? Your own bitchiest version of yourself?  Try replacing it with your best friend’s voice.  What would they say? How would you phrase that sentence if you were talking to a young child?  It takes effort but that bad guy can be deconstructed and rebuilt.  The more we listen to and are influenced by our inner critic, the more vanilla our reads become and the more blocks stand between us and our creativity.

Love your body. No matter how imperfect or wonky. Yoga is not about being a bendy Wendy. Sure when you go to a class there are always those more able to get into certain poses than you. But the point of yoga isn’t sport, you can join a football team for that.  Yoga is the practise of looking in, of self compassion. As Naomi Annand writes in her beautiful book “Yoga a Manual for Life”, “Yoga is mindfulness in motion, flowing breath-led sequences that open up layers of perception and remind us that we are embodied souls walking alongside others, just like us”

As voiceovers we work with our bodies, and the health of our back, neck, shoulders and jaw is key, as is a connection to our breath and diaphragmatic control – all of which are all enhanced by practicing yoga.

A mainstay in virtually any form of therapy, healing or wellness philosophy, gratitude is almost always up there at number one. Practising genuine gratitude for what we have seems to be a really important part of moving through pain. I have tried to start this habit of gratitude with my 4 year old.  We name the things we are thankful for and have a cuddle. Again it’s noticing the positives, and saying them out loud.  The pandemic has reminded me to be genuinely grateful for every client and every voice job I book, and I try to pass a sense of that on in my communications with them.

The ancient philosophy of Stoicism has become very unfashionable in recent years, so much so that the ideas have been distilled down to mean one just thing, repression of emotion, and have even become associated with the modern term ‘toxic masculinity’. Of course there is more to it than that, and a whole new movement has sprung up dedicated to the modern incarnation of stoicism, a “Stoic Mindfulness and Resilience Training course” is available from  If you look at some of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s most famous quotes such as:

“Look well into thyself: there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look”

and “Confine yourself to the present.” The parallels with modern mindfulness are clear.

As voice actors we can use these principles to fortify ourselves in times of uncertainty, and help us cope with the constant stream of rejection that comes with our job.

According to the law of attraction, nature hates a vacuum, so it makes sense that we should make energetic space for good things to flow into.  Ask for what you want, chuck away some stuff that no longer serves you, and good things will flow into your life. It also feels good, gives a sense of control over your environment and can benefit other people if you’re donating to charity, like this awesome initiative donating pre-loved baby clothes to vulnerable mothers. Perhaps you could clear some old voiceover sessions off your laptop onto an external hard drive, or have a really good clear out of your desk. “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now. Not for the person we were in the past.” Marie Kondo.

OK bear with.  Emotional Freedom Technique involves tapping your body in specific areas whilst focussing on a problem you want to release, or goodness you wish to encourage.  

Sometimes described as “acupuncture without needles”, it is based on the same tenet of energy (or chi) as acupressure and acupuncture, but you do it on yourself by tapping your body with your fingers. 

I know I know, it sounds a bit like theatrical placebo to me too. Possibly – but if this school of thought makes you cringe a bit, go back to the law of attraction for a moment.  This one can make sense to me because it’s essentially getting you to say it – to speak out loud what you want, in a ritualised way, starting that chain reaction of positive thought followed by positive action.

When we are really up the creek, it can be helpful to simply look outside of ourselves. Volunteering, mentoring and donating your time to good causes are amazing ways to do this.  Maybe a newbie VO has emailed you to ask for some help, maybe there’s an elderly neighbour who needs a hand with things around the house. It’s easy to want to hunker down when things are tough, and it’s easy to become entrenched in a scarcity mindset, fearing that there is never enough. But unfolding your arms a moment, being vulnerable enough to try something else, can feel a lot better for you and a lot better for all of us in the long run.

Personally I can’t wait to be able to go out and have a proper dance with my mates again, and have a drink in a pub, all those things that made us so happy that we took for granted!  But in the meantime I hope some of the suggestions here are helpful for anyone struggling with the uncertainty of their freelance booth life right now.  

Hannah Melbourn is a multi award winning voiceover working from her broadcast quality home studio in Kent, UK. Check out Hannah’s showcase and request an audition from her here.

Welcome to the VoicesUS blog. Here we explore all facets of the amazing world that is the voiceover industry. We feature guest authors on topics such as how to get started, what equipment is best for your recordings, how to find clients and how to best show off your skills on VoicesUS. To join our family of North American voiceover artists please click here. To audition the perfect voice for your project click here.

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