Yesterday, I read an article about McDonald’s Corp. that got me thinking about how I approach my voiceover business – and life in general.
The reason Mickey D’s is losing customers – particularly at lunch – is because they have been working aggressively at building up their beverage offerings to compete with Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. The article explains that while the fast food giant has been creating multiple beverage stations, hot and cold coffees, latte’s, frappés, milkshakes, and smoothies…beverages are not the reason McDonald’s core customers patronize them. In other words…
Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are not your competition, McDonald’s.
Know your competition
It should come as no surprise to anyone (other than the company’s execs, apparently) that McDonald’s’ competition is other burger joints: Burger King, which is offering the Angry Whopper, BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich, and sweet potato fries; Wendy’s, which has a huge hit with their Pretzel Bun Burger; or even Taco Bell and their Doritos tacos. What new product is McDonald’s promoting right now?
News flash: KFC is not your competition, either, folks.
So what does this mean to the rest of us?
Know your strengths
Whether you’re a restaurateur, a salesperson, a voice artist, or a writer – whatever you do for a living – you have to know your strengths. You need to know what it is you do best and who it is you need to do it for; otherwise, you’ll be trying to attract the wrong customers and giving the customers you do get a likely inferior product. (Did I mention McDonald’s is serving chicken wings?)
Personally, I would love to voice movie trailers. Unfortunately for me, my voice lacks the gritty, hard-edged quality that most movie trailer voice actors have. So I’m content to voice commercials, corporate narration, and on-hold messaging. Having started out acting, I have voiced a number of characters over the years – from a pre-Colonial American soldier to a lumbering, digital super-villain – so I’m happy to lend my talents to documentaries, museum recordings, and audio dramas.
But movie trailers…I’m just not seeing it happening.
That’s ok, though, because I’m not wasting my time auditioning for gigs I have no chance of winning. Being a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad to two kids under the age of 4, time is precious to me.
Trying to make myself appear to be something I’m not by offering something I’m not 100% capable of doing well does a disservice to the prospective client as well as to myself.
Know your limits
When I was younger, I auditioned for everything: trailers, audio books, TV commercials. I never sent in auditions I thought were sub-par, but looking back on it now I realize many of those auditions were probably tossed after 5 seconds of listening; I just wasn’t cut out for many of those gigs!
Likewise, as a children’s writer, I specialize in poetry. I like the compact, succinct little vignettes and stories that poetry allows me to create. I’ve written about a half-dozen picture book manuscripts, but for now, I do not see myself writing any middle-grade novels or YA (Young Adult) fiction.
For one thing, I can’t imagine being able to sit still long enough to write that many pages just to get my story out. For another, I don’t think I’d be able to keep the plot, characters, or settings straight. Some people have told me writing poetry is a lot harder than writing a chapter book. I have no idea if that is true.
I also have no intention of finding out!
Know when to stretch yourself
When I say we need to play to our strengths, I’m not implying that we shouldn’t step outside our comfort zone(s) now and then. Otherwise, how would we grow?
There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters now and then. If you’re a voice actor, try auditioning for a role that might be a stretch, if you think you can pull it off. If you’re a prose writer, see what happens if you try to write some poetry. Maybe it’ll be awful…maybe it won’t be half bad. But at least you’ve pushed yourself and can learn from the experience.
It’s when you start spending an inordinate amount of time outside your area of expertise that things may start to falter. It’s great to develop new clients and new things to offer…but not at the expense of losing your old clients.
Unless you don’t mind losing your old clients.
Sometimes growth requires pruning
Verizon, which started off as a landline telephone company, realized there were less headaches and more money in wireless communications. So they eventually sold all their landline services and became a strictly wireless provider. In this case, they expanded what they were doing, realized there was a more profitable way of doing it, and totally changed the focus of the company.
But you’ll notice, they didn’t start selling computers, TVs, and all sorts of other equipment. They continued offering phone service – just a different type of phone service.
They knew their strength was communications service, not communication devices - and they knew their competition was AT&T and Sprint, not Apple and Samsung.
Assessing my life
As previously mentioned, I’m a voice actor, children’s writer, and stay-at-home dad. I’m also a husband, neighbor, friend, indoor soccer player, and parishioner. How am doing with these? I’m not sure.
There’s more I could do to build up my business. I don’t write as much as I’d like. I never feel like I spend enough time with the family - even though I’m with the kids all day long. And those other responsibilities? I wish I could be better at those, too.
Sure, it’s a juggling act. But it’s also a juggling act I created myself. I do the best I can, and if the day comes when I find I’m just not fulfilling my obligations in one of those areas, something will have to go. I can tell you, it certainly won’t be the family.
For now, I’m doing my best, playing to my strengths. If I ever get to the point where I’m not doing my best, I’ll need to reassess my life.
Although, for the record, I still don’t see any movie trailers or chapter books in my future!
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