So, I have been getting this question lately and just thought I would share on my blog.
Honestly, I have always used my voice. I’ve done voice overs, speeches, MC, jingles, backup vocals, live training, videos…. you name it. However, in the early days I was not paid for them. They were always part of some initiative in corporate, for a friend, or for a friend of a friend. In my corporate jobs it was touted as part of the job or it was a way to get more exposure for a project or initiative. It was a “comes with the territory” expectation.
Likewise, despite having great paying jobs, I have always had side hustles and a personal mandate that I would have multiple streams of income. Honestly, I have always been an entrepreneur. It has been my primary goal but being a polymath and a self-described Renaissance Woman, it is sometimes hard to not shift constantly between rational and experiential thinking. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/renaissance-men_b_875453
Having the ability to switch between modes of thought and the demands of the tasks is both a gift and a curse. Often, I find myself doing things that I don’t enjoy, simply because I’m good at it and I can.
Well with time comes wisdom. With wisdom comes everything. And everything comes at a price.
After decades of being thrown into everything, sitting in board rooms where my ideas are stolen, having a voice but not being heard, being ridiculed due to misogyny, patriarchy, gerontocracy, and racism, I realized that I was a H-E-N-R-Y (High Earner Not Rich Yet), but also Tired, Tired, and more Tired.
My brother and I were a singing, dancing, and narrating duo as children. We would come outside from playing and go straight to recording. Until we were older and purchased studio equipment, we would use 2 boom boxes (that term just dated me) to record ourselves, play back and record stacked tracks of harmonies, adlibs, radio imaging, announcements, etc. We set out on a path as children to use our voices and monetize our passions. But growing up in rural SC at that time did not lend itself to natural pathways into broadcast media and creative genres. So, while it was our #1 desire, it ultimately became our hobby instead of our primary plan. So, we took jobs that paid the bills but by excelling in those jobs, our passions became a pastime. Despite not abandoning our dreams entirely, we never took the risks to truly get the traction we wanted. Add love, marriage and baby carriages and you have a tsunami of responsibility that further puts your passions on the shelf.
So, what did I do? EVERYTHING. Corporate, Engineering, HR, real estate, consulting, coaching, training, singing-songwriting, music, production, etc., while trying to be a devoted wife, mommy, daughter, sister, aunt, friend. The juggling made for some interesting times and burnout. Yet when you are self-made and come from a hard-working family who had to prioritize, compromise, and sacrifice, you are wired to work like you will lose it all tomorrow. Not to mention, we live in a patriarchal society where it is socialized that women must be everything, do everything, be a superwoman.
The self-intervention point came when I took stock of more than just my bank account. Decades later I had material things but felt like that was all I had. I had no extracurricular activities anymore, I either slept an awful lot or not at all, my athletic physique was a memory in pictures (still is but I'm working on it with some great friends who hold me accountable and won't let me backslide), and I didn't want to be around people that much anymore because I was around jerks all the time. I became an introvert (although I was an extreme extrovert prior), was a shell of my former self and literally felt like I was being sucked dry of my essence. So, I started to make some changes to reclaim my happiness and Zen. I began to make discerning choices, I began to say "No", and I began to walk away from any sign of drama or people who did not value my talents, education, experiences, and perspective. I stopped worrying about the double standards that were placed on me and realized I can't outwork self-consumed, cutthroat people and cultures. Nor did I want to make that my mission to spend my valuable time and talents trying to convince people to change or prove them wrong. I began to do work that benefits me, makes me feel more whole again, and breathe life and vitality back into my lungs. I developed my list of non- negotiables and it was freeing.
However, the one thing still on my abandoned goals list was using my voice. I was still approaching it from a hobbyist lens. The pivot came when my niece and nephew started their company https://www.lovebombd.com/. I always talk to them about finding ways to diversify and start businesses. But they did it with the magnitude and force that I’d wish my brother and I had when we were younger. They devised a plan, got it up and running, and took the big risk and leap to leave their jobs before they could talk themselves out of it. Despite having a career in the field she studied in college, my niece realized very quickly that she would not be happy with the politics that hides incompetence by working for someone else. They have never looked back and have been thriving for years now. That lit a fire in me to stop playing it safe.
Even though I made my mind up to change the focus of my efforts and investment of my time, I was still straying away from my vocal passion. It wasn’t until I was proudly listening to my niece and nephew who were featured on the podcast Side Hustle School (https://sidehustleschool.com/episode/594/) that I stumbled upon an episode with voice actor Carrie Olsen (https://sidehustleschool.com/episode/923/). Funny thing is, I was doing some training for a client as part of a consulting project at the time and I was asked to convert the planned live training session I was supposed to facilitate into an e-Learning module. It was a daunting and excessive effort and I totally did not price my services appropriately. The client was happy with my work, but I was not happy because I did so much work for pennies. I knew the value of live facilitation but did not know how to price creating and voicing eLearning because for me it had always been a “comes with the territory” in my HR and corporate experience. Yet I saw glimpses of my story in Carrie’s. I looked her up and reached out to her to get involved in her Voice Over Success Intensive training (https://carrieolsenvo.com/). I have met some great people, have learned so much about the industry, and am constantly working and building my voice over business each day.
I have no regrets. Albeit painful and full of adversity, the things I have mastered and now utilize from the business and corporate world are invaluable. I can focus on my performance and am gaining new VO muscle because the business side is innate in me.
I will never dumb down or suppress my talents or thoughts again. My motto is catch up or I’ll go the path alone. I am comfortable with seeking ongoing improvements, new levels of happiness, and lifelong learning. So, in this phase of life, I am focused on exercising my creative muscle more and hopefully I will provide professional voice services in my padded room until I can’t voice no more. #AWVO out.