What do you do with an overload of auditions, a thousand ideas of how you could deliver one particular tagline – and no idea what work task you should tackle first? For some, the answer is: ‘do nothing.’ Decision paralysis is real.
As a voice actor, having too much work is considered a nice problem to have. But a lot of that work piling up isn’t just recording sessions for big-budget national network commercials and fun animation dubs. There’s behind the scenes stuff like auditioning, invoicing, client outreach, studio setup and demo production too.
On any given workday, what should you do first? And how should you do it? The endless possibilities can be overwhelming.
What is Decision Paralysis
Decision paralysis is the inability to act decisively when faced with too many choices. It presents as uncertainty and inaction due to feeling overwhelmed.
And, as you’ll see, procrastination is the sneaky cousin of decision paralysis.
Common Causes of Decision Paralysis for Voice Actors
Here are some common offenders that can make getting any real voiceover work done seem practically impossible.
1. Too Many Auditions
You just woke up to an email inbox slammed with 15 castings for completely different jobs. Now you’ve gotta figure out which one to tackle first. Do you start with the smooth read for the car commercial, the quirky cartoon character, or the ominous video game villain?
2. Script Conundrums
The script you’re looking at is an absolute humdinger. The lines are all over the place and there isn’t much in the way of direction listed in the specs. Do you go for the deep, gravelly tone – or the light, upbeat delivery? Should you just split the difference? What about your deadpan read for comic effect?
3. Vague or Confusing Direction
Most producers are great at giving direction. And then some producers say things like, “make it sound sparkly – but, you know… not too sparkly.” What does that even mean? Ugh. Direction ambiguity can turn the self doubt knob to eleven, especially when trying to gauge the appropriate amount of sparkle.
4. Fear of Screwing Up
You hit the record icon and then spend the entire time worried that a single mistake or verbal stumble might haunt you in post-production. Can I edit that out?
5. Overthinking Auditions or Your Demo Reel
Your reel is a big deal. It can get you work. Your auditions are a big deal. They can get you work. You spend hours obsessing over a single line, going down a rabbit hole of options, options, options. Which of the 257 takes is the one?
6. Procrastination Peril
Maybe you can’t make a decision, so you put things off. Instead of working you’ll binge-watch Below Deck, organize your closet by color and research shrimp taco recipes. Suddenly all your audition deadlines are RIGHT NOW, which causes even more stress.
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So What Can You Do?
Even though some of us get hamstrung by this type indecision more than others, there’s nothing worse than a pep talk. This isn’t a just put your head down and grind speech. Platitudes suck.
Strategies to Defeat Decision Paralysis
Here are some actionable suggestions for moving forward even when you’re overwhelmed by the possibilities.
1. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Got a bunch of auditions in your inbox? Great! Now pick the ones that genuinely speak to you and your strengths as a voice actor. Do those now. And don’t worry if there’s stuff you don’t feel is a good fit. Sometimes passing on an audition is the right move. Work hard on the stuff that matters, but don’t spread yourself too thin.
2. Limit Your Options
When a script is way too open to interpretation, don’t exhaust yourself trekking every possible avenue of delivery and tone. Narrow it down to two strong creative choices and commit.
3. Reinforce Your Confidence
You’re not auditioning for the Royal Family. You’re auditioning for a producer named Steve. And Steve thinks you’ll be a good fit for this project. That’s why he sent you the script. If Steve thinks you’re a good voice actor, you should too.
4. Embrace Defeat
Not every audition will lead to paid voice over work. And you learn a lot about what what works and doesn’t work from the NOs you get. If rejection really bothers you, let it stoke the fire that keeps you moving forward.
5. Set Time Limits
Faced with a tough decision? Set an alarm that allows a reasonable amount of time for you to do the necessary mental gymnastics and dissect the problem. Once the timer goes off, make your decision and run with it.
6. Ask for Clarity
If a script’s direction is a real mess, there’s no harm in asking for a little clarification from the client, casting director or your agent. Maybe you can both zero in on what they are looking for from your read – without you stumbling through the dark trying to pin down the appropriate amount of ‘earth-bound dazzle’ for their explainer video.
7. Seek Feedback
Have a trusted friend or mentor? Sometimes a fresh set of ears can provide a little clarity or a new avenue of thought to explore.
8. Tame Procrastination
Instead of wasting time watching YouTube tutorials on things you have no intention of ever actually doing, set an alarm and dedicate yourself to working until it goes off. Even if it’s just 20 minutes of work, that often gets the ball rolling and you’re suddenly in the zone.
9. Flip a Coin
I know this sounds dumb. But hear me out. When faced with a seemingly impossible A/B decision, flip a coin and let heads or tails decide for you. Proceed with whatever the coin tells you. Best case: you commit to something and complete the task. If, while working, you find yourself regretting the coin’s decision, then you know you were always supposed to do the opposite anyway, and you can reverse course. This technique only works when the stakes are fairly low – but I’ve used it when I couldn’t make my mind up and just needed a little push.
As a voice actor, you have a lot on your plate. If you’re a beginner, it can be tough to know what to prioritize. But even seasoned vets deal with decision paralysis. Sometimes just moving forward, even when you’re unsure about what the right thing to do is, will at least get the ball rolling. And then you can refine your approach and fire for effect.
Other things beginner voice actors should know about:
- A Day In The Life of a Voice Actor
- Voiceover Jargon: The Industry Terms Voice Actors Need to Know
- Do Beginner Voice Actors Need Audio Engineering Skills Too?
- How Much Money Do Voice Actors Make?
Plus, gear reviews for voice actors:
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface Review
- Sennheiser MKH 416 Microphone Review
- Sony MDR 7506 Headphones Review
- Mogami Gold XLR Studio Cable Review
Curious about how to start your voice acting career? Want to learn more about voice acting and the things beginners should know about the voice over industry? It’s more than just having a great voice. Check out this comprehensive voice over training course for beginners!