Dan Hurst - Voice Talent

Voiceovers In English or Spanish for commercials, narrations, and e-learning.



Voiceovers in English or Spanish for commercials, narrations, and e-learning.


I had a session with a new client today. I must tell you that I have a man crush on this guy. Let me explain.

While setting up his intent and ideas for the copy he said, "I know I'm not a writer for broadcast or voice work. So you need to help me out here. "

Actually, the copy was quite good. Very creative. And as with most creative copy, there was a lot of room for interpretation. So as I was going through the copy to analyze it and decide what approach I was going to take I asked him a few questions about it.

His response was, "Hey you're the professional voice, help me say it the best way to make this work. "

Now that doesn't often happen in this business. Usually creatives already have a good sense of what they want in the interpretation. I consider creative writers to be geniuses. Seriously! Their penchant for weaving words and colors of thought amaze me. However, sometimes they tend to write for print, not broadcast. And I'm using broadcast in the very loose sense as anything that is not print, but requires a voice. 

Print writing generally translates very well into voice. But when there are time restrictions or intents that require very specific voice interpretations, the writing has to be a little different. Let’s face it; print has the advantage of being able to explain the intent.  For example, “‘Sure,” he said sarcastically.”

Obviously types of copy will vary.  Commercial copy is very different from corporate narration. eLearning is quite different from IVR.

But, when you are dealing with creative writing (generally commercials or promos, or audiobooks) what do you do when you have little or no direction on the read?

Look for the directions in the copy.

Here’s a great trick.  Record the copy with absolutely no interpretation whatsoever; just a simple, moderate read of the words. Then go back and listen to it. What needs to change? And why?

Here are five considerations to help you discover, define and deliver your version of the script.

1. Words are choices.

Writers usually choose their words carefully. Intentionally. For that reason alone, it is critical to consider why each word was chosen. Is there meaning in that word? Why the combination of words? Is there meaning in the structure of the sentence? Is there a pattern? Is there a choice of words that would indicate style or character?

2. Find the turn.

Usually, every commercial has a turn; a shift in intensity or interpretation. For example the copy might start with a humorous or silly bent, and at some point switch to a more serious intent to make a statement. Follow that lead.

3. Label the style.

Words sometimes reflect eras and styles. For example, what is the difference in something that is “rad” versus something that is “boss?”  The words reflect different eras; perhaps different attitudes and interpretations.

4. Focus on the words that modify.

This is a key element for good interpretation. Most voice talents focus on what are often referred to as “power words.” Those are the words our eyes are drawn to when we are reading the copy.

For example read this line out loud before you read the next paragraph: “He ran as fast as he could out of the burning house.”

Most talents will read that line this way: “He RAN as fast as he could out of the BURNING house.” The problem with that interpretation is that those words don’t need emphasis. The listener will automatically emphasize those words in his/her brain.  That interpretation misses the conversational aspect of that line, as well as the urgency.  By that I mean that in a normal conversation you would not say it that way.  Picture yourself in a state of agitation and stress telling a reporter that story while standing out on the sidewalk while the firefighters continue to battle the fire.  How would you say it?

More than likely you would say it as, “He ran AS FAST AS HE COULD out of the burning house.”

Focus on adjectives and adverbs. They are what color a sentence. But even then, don’t over do it.

5. Quit projecting.

This habit is a throwback to the old acting training we got.  Remember when Mrs. Jones would holler at you in the middle of play practice, “Project! You’ve got to project to the back of the auditorium!”

In voiceover work you usually don’t need to project unless it’s part of a character. You’ve got a microphone. Let the mic do its job. Instead of trying to tell the story to someone sitting in the back of the room, try telling it as if you were speaking right into the ear of your best friend standing next to you.

Back to my new client.  I used these elements to interpret and deliver his copy. One take and a safety later, the session was done.  And the client was thrilled.

In my journalism classes in college, my professor would often say, “Use an economy of words.” In VO work we need to learn to use an economy of expression. It is not your job to create emotion or to interpret the story for the listener. Let the listeners draw their own conclusions and picture the story in their head. 


I am convinced that one of the biggest reasons so many voice talents fail is because of a terrible lack of good business acumen.

If you treat voice work as a hobby, that's all it will ever be. There's nothing wrong with that if that's what you want. But don't fool yourself into thinking that your hobby will become a business sensation. It won't. Not without business savvy. Why?

Because as voice talents we work with other businesses. They run their enterprises as a business, and they expect to work with vendors and service providers that are also committed to good business practices. And the reason they hire voice talent is because they have a need in that area. A need! It's not that they just want to have a nice voice touting their product. They need it. Along with that, they need someone who understands how important that is and how to meet that need.

Think of it this way: If you need medical attention, are you going to hire a hobbyist practitioner or a trained physician that knows how to take care of you?

If you're serious about developing a voiceover business, full-time or part-time, you need to start treating it like a business and manage it accordingly. That takes a lot of work because you have to develop every aspect of a good business: administration, marketing, R & D, sales, legal, accounting, and on and on. It's a business!

So, if you're happy on your playground, good for you! God bless you for it! But if you've got career plans, you're going to have to develop your business skills. You'll never succeed without that.


One of the keys to succeeding in the voiceover business is setting oneself apart; being and delivering something that others don’t. So, I offer three things that you can start doing today that will transform your voiceover career. Or your career as a writer. Or you career as a creative director.  Or your career as a…oh, you get my point.


This is all going to sound so esoteric, but it really is life changing for your business.


Volume Does Not Speak Louder Than Words


When you step back and look at this principle it makes total sense.


When do people get louder? When they think no one is paying attention or they don’t think they are getting through. Or perhaps when they are angry or frustrated.


Any one of those reasons says more about the person speaking than the person listening. When you raise your voice to someone you say more about yourself than you do about the person to whom you speak, and very little about what you have to say.  Generally when you raise your voice to someone, their natural reaction is pull back and pay less attention to you. Think about it.  When someone raises their voice to you, don’t you think less about what they are saying and more about how to take control or get out of that situation?


The same is true as a voice talent. The idea that you have to “project” is misleading. You have a microphone. You don’t need to “project.”


What you need to do is “connect.” And yelling never connects. Intimacy connects.


I Can’t Listen As Fast As You Speak


I have to credit my Dad with that phrase.


He was on a phone call with his stockbroker. He had put it on speakerphone so I could listen in.  The guy just went on and on about why Dad needed to switch to whatever it was this guy was selling, and hold on to whatever it was that whatever it was that whatever it was.  After several minutes of listening to him Dad finally blurted out, “Listen, I have no idea what you are talking about because I can’t listen as fast you talk.”


Now, as voice talents this is an ongoing battle.  We’re constantly given forty seconds of copy for a 30 second commercial.  And then they tell us that they really need it to come in at 28 seconds.


But the truth of the matter is that space and time are as critical as the words you speak.  Your listeners need time to absorb what you are saying.  When you give them something to think about and then immediately give them something else to think about, and then grab them and essentially tell them to quit thinking about what you just said and think about a new idea, you just confuse them. 


I realize that’s not your fault. That’s on the client.  BUT…


When you are given that time and space…use it!!!


One of my majors in college was music.  Voice, to be precise.  One of the things I discovered was that a rest is as important as any note.  The same is true with speaking.  Space; time is just as important as anything that you have to say.  Let your words and your phrasing breathe. And in doing so let your listeners use that time to absorb what you are saying.


Tell Your Story


Clients become fans of “what” you do and “how” you do it.  But they become believers in you because of “why” you do it.  That “why” connects with something inside of them that lines up with their passion and drive.  And it is often the “why” that creates long term, loyal clients.


Several years ago I was the live announcer for a big sales convention. One of the speakers was the top salesman for that company. After I had introduced him I sat there mesmerized by his presentation. It wasn’t a big “rah, rah, rah” speech. It wasn’t a “you-can-be-rich-too” speech. It was a simple heartfelt message that each of us has a story; a “why.” And at the heart of our success is connecting our story with our client’s story.


I realized at that moment that even as a voice talent I need to connect my story, my “why,” with each of my clients.  It’s not that I need to tell them my story, but rather that I know their story – who they are, what makes them special, and why they do what they do.


That simple realization changed my business.


As voice talents it is really easy for us to get lost in the technique and delivery of the message.  But the truth of the matter is that we need to get lost in the story!


Watch tonight’s news and look for those stories where they interview someone who saw the accident, or the fire, or they are the victim of a crime. And notice how you are drawn in by their story. If the news reporter was telling the story you wouldn’t be so connected, but when the person who has the story tells it, you are totally in it.


That’s what I’m talking about. When you get lost in the story you become compelling in your delivery. Even if the copy is weak and limited, make up the story in your mind and deliver it using their words. Let their story become your story.


These three simple ideas can change your career.  I know.  They changed mine.



Voice Talents often struggle with how free they should get with an audition. On the other hand, clients want their copy to come alive, but they are cautious about how far to let the talent stray, and rightly so. Where and how do you draw the line?


I have a client who will send me copy and some explanation of what they are trying to accomplish with the spot they want me to voice. Occasionally this client will suggest the style that they were thinking about when they wrote it.  But each time she ends her instructions with, “Please play with it.”


Very early when I started working for them, I asked if they wanted me to submit a take where I played a bit with the copy. There was a long pause then she answered, “Well, no one’s ever asked that before. Sure, go ahead. We probably won’t use it but knock yourself out.”


Well, you know how the story ends. The client went with the delivery I played with.


It doesn’t happen every time, but a huge part of the time the client will hear that more casual read with a slight ad-lib or fresh interpretation thrown in and love it.




I’m convinced that one of the main reasons is that they’ve heard the submitted copy so many times, and debated it so many times, and heard so many people read it the same way over and over that when something comes across that breaks the mold or the rhythm, their ears perk up and they hear their copy in a fresh and invigorating way. And that is exactly what they want their customers to hear!


I have a new approach to submitting VO takes to clients whether as projects or as auditions: to get my clients to expect something they don’t expect.


It’s not always possible. Sometimes the copy just doesn't lend itself to that. Sometimes the directions are very clear otherwise. But when the opportunity is there, take that shot. Surprise your client. Surprise yourself!


Here are some ways to do that:


1. Focus on the words of contrast, and let them do what they are supposed to do. By contrast, I mean the words that make the copy come to life. Not by volume but by interpretation (although occasionally that may require a change in volume). Show some love to descriptive words, such as verbs and adjectives, without selling or distracting.


2. Watch the rhythm and musicality of your delivery. It’s real easy to get into a pattern of “rhythmic phrasing,” especially when reading out loud.


Here’s a great little experiment. While listening to something that you’ve read and recorded, draw your voice pattern on a sheet of paper. If you see the same or similar pattern repeating itself, you need to work on your delivery!


The most common pattern is one that starts high and ends low. If you were to draw it, it would look a bit like the side of a ragged mountain.


3. Be careful of “news reads.” You’ll notice that most newscasters on TV and radio have a very specific lilt and volume to their delivery. It’s a very precise, mechanical, and consistent pattern that comes from reading news story after news story after news story. It works fine for news, but it is almost never what the creative agency wants. They want a more natural and conversational delivery. It includes less projection and a greater connection with the copy and the targeted audience.


4. When it comes to the audition copy, forget about the time. Seriously. Now, sometimes the client will want to see if the copy fits the time. Fine, give them that, but make your money audition one that generally disregards time and focuses on the story. If you get the job, then you can focus on the timing.


5. If you’re stuck trying to find a creative interpretation, here are a few suggestions to get the juices flowing:


a.    If it is for a commercial, read it backwards, sentence by sentence. Why? Usually the ending of the commercial is extremely important. That is where the slogan or tag is. Often, that is where you find the final urgent call to action. Many times that is the resolution of the copy. Reading the spot backwards, sentence by sentence, will help you understand the structure of the whole spot. Record it and listen back to each sentence. I’ll bet you will have found one of the best ways to deliver that particular sentence in the correct order of the spot.


b.    Go through and highlight the words you should show a little love to. Not necessarily the action or power words. Try the adjectives and adverbs and see what happens.


c.     Study each sentence and then say it without looking at the copy, pretending you are saying it to a listener that you visualize. Then edit those sentences together.


d.    Try a different awkward posture. Perhaps standing on one foot, or arms straight up over your head. Be inventive. What that helps do is cause a slight distraction that gets you out of your way.


e.    Whether the project is for video or not, visualize what it should or could look like. Study the copy to see if there is any unusual way that it can be interpreted.


f.      Become a character or alter-ego that delivers the copy.


g.    Read each line as fast as possible, then as slow as possible, and then finally, at the speed you feel to be natural. Make sure you’re recording. You might discover a very fresh, compelling delivery.


6.  After you’ve recorded the audition, listen to it a few times with a very critical ear, and ask yourself the following questions:


            a. Is this a different delivery than what everyone else is submitting?


            b. Am I bringing anything fresh to this interpretation?


            c. Do I really understand what the copywriter intended?


            d. Am I believable and connected with the listener?


It’s real easy for voice talents to fall into a “default mode” and sound like every one else. It’s safe. It’s convenient. It’s lazy. And it won’t get you hired. Why even waste your time? Why waste the client’s time?


Playing with the copy (unless the client doesn’t want that) will do a number of things if done right. It will get you out of a rut. It will brand you as creative; a risk taker. It will get the producer’s attention, which is especially important if there are a lot of people auditioning for the project. And most importantly, it will help you connect with the copy and the listener.


One of my favorite lessons I learned about this was from one of several opportunities I had to work with the late T. Max Graham. A recording session with him was a crazy lesson in creativity and humor. T. Max had a knack for finding and interpreting little nuances in copy that made it come alive in a way none of the rest of us had seen.  In this one particular VO session, he played a customer looking for something at a hardware store. I was the store manager.


His first line was “Uh…I need a nail.”  As the store manager, it was my job to find out what kind of nail, what he was going to use it for, etc.  But T.Max never got past that first line. He just kept repeating it different ways as an answer to each question that I asked. By the time we got to the AVO line at the end, we were howling!


The client, who had tears from laughing so hard said, “We gotta go with that!”


I have a client who will often ask me to submit an audition for a new project. Sometimes he’ll close the conversation with, “If it’ll make me smile, it’ll be worth your while.” I love that! It’s an invitation to play!




It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m going over the next week’s assignments and workload. While doing that I have the Kansas City Royals on the TV. I suddenly hear my friend Mike McCartney, the Public Address announcer for the Royals call in a batter, and I am transported back to fourteen years of my stint as the PA announcer for the Royals.

It was, for the most part, a magical tour. Oh, not all of it. Dealing with some of the head cases in baseball upper management positions is always a challenge. Not all. But some. All in all it was one of the highlights of my career.

For some reason I recalled an incident that changed my career as a voice talent.

I don’t even remember who we were playing at the time, but, as normal, after the game fans would gather by the exit doors where the players would walk out to go to their bus or, in the case of the Royals players, their cars. Those were the same doors that the rest of the staff used to exit.

Most of the time when I walked out, no one said a word to me. I hardly look like a baseball player. But this one time as I walked out I noticed a little girl, probably about five or six years old, standing next to the ropes by her father. She was teary eyed, and I figured it was because it had been a late night and she was tired.

As I walked by she held up her ball glove and a Sharpie. I noticed and smiled. Her dad said, “Would you sign it? She hasn’t been able to get anyone to sign it all night.”

I said, “Hey, I’m obviously not a ball player. I’m just the public address announcer.”

He suddenly got rather excited.

“You’re the announcer? Honey, this is the guy that says ‘Now batting’ when the ball players come up to bat!” Then he looked at me and said, “That’s awesome! Would you sign her glove?”

Within minutes, I was surrounded by a crowd asking for my autograph. It was all rather embarrassing.

But I learned something special that night.

The late, great Kevin Gray, the guy that hired me for the Royals once told me, “Your job is to be part of the fan’s experience. As far as you’re concerned, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose. The important thing is, did the fans have a good time? Every time you open that mic is an opportunity to make it a better experience for the fan.”

I soon realized the wisdom of those words. Even beyond that role as the public address announcer.

Our job as voice talents is to be a part of the listener’s experience. It’s really not our job to sell anything or hype anything. Our job is simply to connect with the listener. And in doing so, to connect the product or service with the listener.

Let me share three things that I learned from that encounter with that little girl. Three things that relate to our job as voice talents.

First, it’s not our job to create emotion. That’s the writer’s job. It’s simply our job to say the words in a way that the listener can choose to create emotion.

We often confuse ourselves with music. Yeah, music. You know how during certain movie scenes the music enhances the action on the screen? For some reason, many of us think we are like that music – that it’s our job to enhance the action on the screen.

Well, we’re not like that music. What would have happened if I, as the PA announcer, had opened the mic during a fly ball and in dramatic terms announced, “It’s a loooong fly ball to center field! Will he catch it and will the runner on third base score?”

I can tell you what would have happened. I would have been fined by Major League Baseball!

In voice work, it’s not our job to create emotion. It’s simply our job to connect the information with the listener without interfering with the event. Let the action create its own emotion.

Secondly, as voice talents, we’re not the story. Anything we do that detracts the listener from the story is a violation of our responsibility.

Kevin Gray once told me, “I never want to hear from a fan that we have an awesome P.A. announcer. Because if I hear that, I know that they were distracted from what was happening on the field.”

Yeah, that hurt. A little. But I understood what he was saying. If I may use the metaphor of a painting, all we are as voice talents is a brush stroke. If we draw attention to that particular brush stroke, the painting is ruined.”

Finally, what we do as voice talents really is magic.

Just like with that dad and his little girl, it was special because of his experience. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was all about him and his experience.

The same thing is true with what we do as voice talents. It’s not about us. It’s about the listeners, their experience, and their connection with the product or service. But we have to remember, we don’t create that experience. We reflect it.



Published February 16, 2015

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and with it all the hoopla of cards, and chocolate, and flowers. But I noticed something interesting this year. I received Valentine’s greetings from a number of clients! That’s new to me. What a thoughtful way for a business to connect with their vendors!

It got me to thinking. As voice talents, we spend a great deal of energy and time trying to connect with clients. An awful lot of what we do is just to get noticed. Just to get heard. All the emails and phone calls and demos and Google ads and postcards and…it’s sort of like trying to get that first date, isn’t it?

But what causes a client to fall in love with us?

I wrote to a few of my clients to ask them that very question. I told them I was going to write this article for voice talents and that they, as clients, would remain anonymous. They could say whatever they wanted.

Naturally, I received some of the responses one would expect. There is a demand for responsiveness and professionalism. Clients want someone they can trust. Someone that they know from experience will deliver their project accurately and on time.

But there were some additional little gold nuggets that came through in their answers.

Several of them spoke about “connection.” Not so much in the sense of compatibility, but more of a sense of purpose. That sense that “we’re in this together.” One client put it this way:

“I want to sense that they really get where we’re going with a project, and believe in it.”

It’s an interesting point. Usually a client has had the project on their plate for some time. As voice talents, we are normally one of the last people to see it and have any creative input. The client and all their contracted help have already lived it and know what they expect from it. They need us on board with it right away. They don’t have time to sell it to us.

Another client said it this way:

“You know almost before they open their mouths, there is a tangible connection. They are bright, interesting people who know how to tell a story. Not the voice, not the reputation, but honest God-given talent. They would captivate you around a campfire, and they can sell, define, and be the spokesperson for any product, company, or process that is given to them to interpret.”

The second word I noticed used often was “understand.” Clients need us to understand what the copy is really saying and how they want us to deliver it.

This is somewhat of a tricky one. Sometimes, especially with a new client, it takes a bit of time and trial and error to really get their terms and expressions…especially if it is a client from a different country and/or culture.

I had a new client in Germany that sent me a script for a film promo. He kept asking me to sound “bigger and softer.” I finally asked, “Do you mean like a big ol’ teddy bear?”

He started laughing and saying, “Yes, yes, yes! You are a teddy bear!” Turns out that my voice was to be one of the characters that was also the main narrator of the film. And yes, I was a teddy bear.

Here’s what one client said about why he loves voice talents who understand:

“They are in command of their talent and have an innate ability to understand how to interpret direction and carry that into their delivery.”

This idea of “interpreting” copy popped up a lot in the responses I received. It’s probably one of the top three critical elements of what we do as voice talents. All copy that requires an interpretation has a clue or two to get you started. It may be a word, a term, a rhyme, a rhythm, an attitude, something that isn’t like all the others to color your interpretation.

“I want to hear someone that is warm, and real. Unless of course I’m going for shtick; then I need a real hammy announcer-type. Ultimately it’s about finding someone versatile that understands what you’re trying to achieve and gets into the moment.”

I love how one client explained it:

“A sense that the [talent] has care and attention and fits inside the piece.”

“Fits inside the piece!” Isn’t that great?!?!

Falling in love. It’s a magnificent thing. And when a client falls in love with you, well, it’s just magic!

Let me close with this quote from one of my clients that says it so well:

“The key is ‘getting it.’ Does the VO talent ‘get’ what they are doing? Are they funny and dry at the right time? Are they appropriately enthusiastic? Can they sell without getting cheesy? And do they love what they do? THAT is when I fall in love!”



Published January 21, 2015

“I got nuthin’,” I muttered to myself as I stood before the microphone in my booth staring at some copy that an anxious client was waiting for me to voice. I was looking for a button to reset myself!

I don’t know if it was the copy or if it was just my frame of mind, but the more I stared at the copy, the more I realized I had nothing to bring to the table. I couldn’t see anything to get excited about. I wasn’t even real sure what the spot was all about. I mean, I knew what they were selling, but honestly, I couldn’t even figure out why.

Ever been there? Of course you have. Most voice talents have.

See, most of us are at somewhat of a disadvantage. An agency has a creative team to write copy. They spend hours discussing, arguing, planning their approach. Even if it’s a one man agency, that writer will have spent some time with the client creating the ad. They play with the wording. They have a vision. They know what they want out of this…and out of you.

But you…you stand there in your dark little booth, not having been privy to the discussion of the intents and nuances of the copy. And somehow you have to make it come alive. You have to make it sparkle. You have to birth this baby with every dream the client has for it.

You’re sunk. Maybe that job is still open down at the post office. May you could paint houses. Maybe you could…

Wait! All is not lost. There are some things you could do to “reset” yourself. Try any or all of these. I promise you they will change your perspective!

1. Read it the way you know the client definitely does not want it read.

Seriously, try this! This is exactly what I do. I start recording and then read it like a pirate. Then read it like an international spy about to make a drop. Then read it like a mountain man. Hey, it’s my personal studio; I can do whatever I want.

2. Listen to some music that you think might work with the spot.

It’s amazing how once you have that aural stimuli you often get a fresh sense of direction. Sometimes, I’ll even record the read while listening to the music playing softly in my headphones, although usually I prefer to not work with headphones.

3. Spend some time on the internet researching the product and/or the market.

Sometimes, after researching and reading the comments about the product, and seeing what their customers think about them you’ll come away with a whole different perspective. However, if it’s a new product, you’ll have to be a little more creative. Go research the demographics or market that your client is trying to reach.

I’ve started doing this with local spots that I do. I hop on the internet and research the market and discover some things about it that I never knew. That changes my whole perspective of who I’m talking to and sometimes what I’m talking about!

4. Call your mom.

Why not? If you are fortunate enough to still have your mom, go call her…or your dad, or another family member. It’s a great way to ground yourself. You are, after all, one of the coolest, most creative people in the world to your parents.

My mom has Alzheimer’s. She’s doing great, but obviously her short term memory is gone. One day I called her 3 times. Each time she was so delighted to hear from me. It was like I hadn’t talked to her in months! Talk about a reset!

5. Get naked.

Now, before you get all high and mighty, think about it. Who’s gonna see you? Who cares? You’re standing there in a dark booth! It’s not immoral is it? I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal. But getting out of your comfort zone will do wonders for your delivery!

Even if it’s just for a few minutes, try it! You’ll have a sense of quirkiness that will bring some magic to your read.

By the way, your client doesn’t need to know you do these. This is just between us.

So there you have it. Five ways you can reset when you are at that mental brick wall that happens to us voice dogs once in awhile.

I’d love to know what you do to reset. Please share your thoughts!



Published November 3, 2014

I had a great question from a client today:

“Why do you always talk about other voice talents? Aren’t you afraid they’ll steal your business??

It’s a remarkable insight when you think about it. In the normal business world, people who do the same thing you do are competitors. Competition is about winning…and losing. Tell clients about other voice talents and you could lose work.

I guess there may be some concern there. I mean, when I talk about other voice talents, it’s about great talents that I’m impressed with – talents that I would hire.

Maybe I should shut up. Maybe I should play ignorant when a client is looking for a particular voice and I know someone who would be the perfect fit.

Maybe I should…Nah. That’s not how the voiceover business works today. You see, it’s not just about talent agencies and casting websites anymore. Those each have their place, but for the majority of us, the best work comes by referral.

That’s what I love about the voice talent business!

See, we’re not all alike. We don’t sound alike. We don’t interpret copy alike. We don’t deliver alike. If I’m not the person a client is looking for, wouldn’t it be in my best interests to help my client out instead of letting him/her go through the process of listening to hundreds of other voice talents? Wouldn’t it be a mutual benefit for me to be his/her contact for a different and great voice talent that meets their demands?

A few years ago, I needed a good drywall guy to handle a rather complicated project. I asked my handyman if he knew anyone that could do that. His response was “No, but if you need me to take care of it, I will.”

I knew he couldn’t handle the project, so I went on a search. I found someone that I was sure could do the work. I was right.

After the project was finished, I asked if he knew a painter that could finish the work. He did. I hired him.

In the process of getting the painting done we discussed getting the carpeting changed…you know where this whole thing is going. My original handyman lost out on a lot of work simply because he wasn’t there for me.

Here’s the bottom line: I’m not the only voice talent any of my clients use. If I can help them meet the other voice needs that they have, I make myself more valuable to him/her, I help out a fellow voice talent, and I become the go-to guy for my client and any of his/her friends to which I’m recommended.

The good news about all of this is that I’m not the only voice talent that abides by this policy. In fact, I don’t know of a voice talent that doesn’t!

I tell my voiceover clients this all the time: If I’m not the voice you need, I have plenty of contacts that I am completely comfortable recommending.

Why wouldn’t I? It’s in my clients’ best interests.



Published August 4, 2014

Specialized Diversification. It’s a term that is normally used in financial circles, but it’s a key to pretty much any business growth that I can think of.

To define it simply, SD is, for business purposes, becoming a specialist in a select number of areas for the purpose of increased and balanced revenue production.

Generally, all sources of revenue have cycles. There are certainly numerous exceptions to the rule. However, a good example of revenue cycles is the housing construction industry. There just isn’t a whole lot of construction work available in the winter months. Seasonal farming is another example.

In the voiceover business, if one depends on commercials for their income, the brunt of one’s work depends on the retail cycles. Retail cycles certainly vary. For example, automotive sales have their cycle, while the clothing industry has a very different cycle. Even healthcare advertising runs in cycles.

The significant problem that so many voice talents run into is that their income fluctuates with their client’s work cycles.

Enter Specialized Diversification. What if the cycles of your revenue sources worked in some sort of harmony so that your income flow would remain fairly consistent?

Yes, it can be done! However, every voice talent is different, therefore everyone’s Specialized Diversification will be different. Some voice dogs are good at only commercials, but they can do a variety of different kinds of commercials. Some have a vocal delivery style that can slip easily from commercial work to explainer videos, but couldn’t hard-sell if their life depended on it. Some can do corporate eLearning, or even educational eLearning, but haven’t the foggiest idea about how to create a game character. Some can do tons of character voices, but could never pull off an audiobook. Some voices have found their niche in network programming, but couldn’t sell mustard to a hotdog.

But what if you had two or three specialty areas? Niches that you were known for. Fields in which you were considered an expert. And I don’t mean considered an expert by you yourself, but by clients. Several clients. It’s not reasonable to consider yourself an expert in a particular genre if you only have three or four ongoing clients in that field, is it?

One other thing I might mention. I’m talking about building a career here. If voiceovers are a part-time business for you, great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But be honest with yourself, if you are doing this part-time, you only have part-time to develop it and yourself. That means it’s going to take a little longer before you are ready to diversify.

This whole process is going to take some time. Actually, it may take lots of time.

Like I tell newcomers to the business: Nobody swam the English Channel after just a few swimming lessons.

How do you set up an SD plan that will work for you?

It begins with a brutally honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. That means getting those gut-wrenching insights from people you trust both within the VO business (talent, coaches, producers, agents, etc.) and clients. What are you good at? What are you not so good at? What do you suck at that you think you’re good at? Why hasn’t your business grown more?

And by the way, a little sidebar here. We LOVE to talk about marketing in voiceover circles, don’t we? We think marketing is what grows our business. We’re all looking for the Holy Grail of strategies. What’s the secret? What’s the best? Frankly, most marketing schemes are just “paintin’ a pig.” The pig looks good, but what got accomplished?

Here’s the secret to marketing: Find out who needs what you’ve got and tell them, and quit wasting your time telling people what you’ve got that they don’t want.

OK, back to SD.

Secondly, based on what you are good at doing, what do you need to do to be great in that field? See, experts are people who are great at what they do. Better than others. Maybe not better than everyone else, but better than the majority.

I’ve said this before in a previous blog: Good is based on the market standard. One isn’t even competitive until one is good. Better is stepping beyond good to get noticed. But great is what the client chooses.

Unless, of course, you’ve got a client that doesn’t care, but that’s for another blog.

Become great at what you do and you’ll be busy doing what you’re great at.

Thirdly, and this is critical, choose a complementary genre or niche that you can excel in. One that will produce a revenue stream that flows differently from your #1 field.

Let me explain. I got into the voiceover business much the same way most of us did – doing commercials. I had been in radio, and it was a simple, natural step. However, it took me years to realize that I sounded like a guy in radio doing commercials. Once I got that fixed, I soon realized that there are some types of commercials I just wasn’t good at. So, I began focusing on a handful of categories. As that business grew, I soon realized that the revenue cycles could be tough on the checkbook. About that time a local producer was needing a Spanish voice for some corporate training stuff. The more I got into that, the more I realized that it was something I was pretty good at. And that launched my eLearning genre.

Now, I have three genres that I focus on: commercials, eLearning and network programing. And the revenue flow from those three sources produce a fairly balanced and consistent income, along with great potential for growth.

Fourthly, get the word out. Nobody bought something they didn’t know about.

Well, there was that time back when I was in radio that my boss drunk-dialed one of my infomercials and couldn’t figure out why an exercise bike was delivered to his house. But normally, people know what they’re buying.

So, you have to get the word out. But here’s the secret: people buy what they trust.

A potential client that doesn’t know you might respond to your Madison Avenue marketing push, but even then they’re not going to hire you unless they trust you.

Here’s one of the best things you can do to get the word out: Client relationships. Why? Because clients have other potential clients in their circles of influence. And if people buy what they trust, they are more apt to buy a voice talent on the recommendation of someone they trust. Remember, clients hire great. They also recommend great. If you’re their expert, they are going to recommend you to their friends.

I don’t have any scientific research on this, but I can tell you that about 75% of my new clients come from referrals. I spend very little money anymore on cold marketing. I’d rather spend the money on clients that are already using me and believe in me, because I know they are my best option for new business.

There you have it. Specialized Diversification. It works. I wish I could tell you there is a quicker, smarter way to develop your diversification, but I don’t know of one. We’re in business. Good businesses diversify slowly and steadily as they build strong foundations and discover their real potential.

Think it through!



Published June 25, 2014

Have you ever been driving along, enjoying the ride when all of a sudden a warning light on the dashboard flashes on and shatters the calm? It’s scary because you usually don’t know what caused it. What you do know is that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.

In the voiceover business there are also warning lights that need to be heeded. Just like with your car, if you don’t heed those warnings, it could cost you money! Maybe a lot of money!

Now, I want to be very clear that what I’m writing about here does not relate to the vast majority of your clients and/or potential clients. The truth is that other than the point about “Improperly Timed Copy,” NONE of this applies to any of my clients (and even then those clients are very few and far between). I have great clients and a great working relationship with them. One reason for that is transparency and understanding. I know what they want and need from me, and they know what I want and need from them. The truth is my clients know these things, and none of them would disagree with any of this.

So, take these warnings as cautions. This article is meant for educational purposes only. Contents under pressure. Use only as directed. Apply only to affected area. Keep cool; process promptly. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform. Not delivered by a voice coach or a business consultant, just an incredible simulation. Slightly higher in Colorado. No alcohol, dogs, or horses. Well, maybe horses. First pull up, then pull down. This is not a competition, it is only an exhibition. Published simultaneously in Canada. This information is subject to change without notice.

Here are the five warning signs, not in order of priority, that voice talent need to watch for:

1. One Year to Perpetual Buyouts (For The Price Of A 13 Week Run, or less)

Yes, this is a dangerous one. Buyouts are not uncommon. Especially in non-union jobs. The problem with a buyout is that it may control what you can and cannot do during the length of the buyout.

Example: A local bank wants you to voice their commercial. Since it is a local bank in a small town, and the spot will run only on the local radio station, they are only paying $125. However, they want a complete buyout in perpetuity. Why? Because if they want to use the spot again in a couple of years they don’t want to have to pay additionally for it.

The problem is that two or three years later a larger financial institution wants to use you but their requirement of no conflicts has you in a pickle. Legally, the first bank could run their spot again, and that jeopardizes your agreement with the second bank. If not handled properly, it could even land you in court.

How can you avoid this? If a client asks for a buyout, suggest that instead they accept an exclusive for whatever period of time you are comfortable. If they insist on the buyout on terms that handcuff you, don’t do it. It’s simply not worth it.

I have actually told a potential client that insisted on a cock-eyed buyout that I would agree to it if they would be willing to sign an agreement that they wouldn’t ever use any other voice talent for their commercials.

No, we didn’t come to an agreement.

2. No Charge Revisions

This is a goofy one. If I hire a painter to paint a room in my house, and then after the job is done I ask him to come back and repaint one of the walls – at no charge – because we’ve decided to change the color, what do you think he’ll say to me?

I’ve never understood clients that feel they have the right to expect you to do revisions at no charge.

Now, if you factor those revisions into your price with the client, no problem. But chances are, in order to stay price competitive, you have not done that.

How can you avoid this? You need to be upfront with what revisions will cost. Plain and simple. In fact, what I usually do when I submit my quote for a new job is I add a sentence that indicates that any revisions after the project has been delivered will incur an additional fee. That fee is based on time increments in the studio, and I spell out those costs.

3. Inadequate Copy

This isn’t about an occasionally misspelled word or grammatical gaffe. I’m talking about significant problems with:

Spelling. A significant number of misspelled words is a warning sign that you are not dealing with a client that has a command of the English language. That could be a problem.

Bad Grammar. The problem with bad grammar is that the project will more than likely come back. But if you take the time to correct it, then that is more time that you are giving up that you are not getting paid for (unless you have such an arrangement with the client).

Bad Translation. As a bilingual voice talent I deal with this all the time. I consider myself a professional, who has his clients best interests at heart, so I feel I have the responsibility to let my client know there may be a problem with the translation. Now, mind you, I do so discreetly and cautiously. But if I don’t protect my client, I haven’t acted professionally. A bad translation takes time and money to fix. A client who isn’t willing to make sure the translation is right, is a client that is not worth having.

Improperly Timed Copy. This is one issue that pretty much every voice talent deals with. There’s a running joke in the business about a client submitting forty-five seconds of copy for a 30 second commercial. But it is no joke that if you deliver that VO as originally written, it is most likely coming back. It’s also no joke that a client who consistently sends you copy that is too long is eating up your time, and his, because the copy is going to have to be re-written at some point.

It really is amazing that so many copy writers don’t understand that a :60 spot delivered at a comfortable, connecting pace is around 150 words. A :30 is around 75 words. And don’t forget that each number is a word. A telephone number is seven to ten words! $150 is four or five words, depending on how you say it.

How can you avoid letting these inadequate copy issues eat up your time? You need to be professional and friendly while handling these things. Sometimes the problem comes from the producer, sometimes from the client, and sometimes a third party. Be very sensitive and kind in broaching the subject, but let the client know that there are some issues that are going to affect the effectiveness of the product.

It’s important to have these matters settled before you go into the booth. Hopefully these sort of jobs are minimal for you, but until you have a plan to handle them, they will haunt you over and over.

In any case, be proactive in making your client look good!

4. The Promise Of Possible Future Business

We’ve all heard it before. “Please do this one at this low rate, and if it all goes well then there will be more work at a better rate.” I would bet a bag of donuts that less that 1% of us have ever gotten more work at a better rate because we succumbed to this gimmick.

While your client is telling you that they are hoping the project will work into additional work, what they also may be saying is that they don’t have the job locked in. Doing a job that isn’t locked in is asking for a high maintenance project! It means that the producer isn’t real sure what the client wants. It is also saying that your client underbid the job.

Translation: there will be changes. In fact, there might be an outright rejection by the client. So, use caution when this warning light comes on.

If it involves a client that you already have a working relationship with, you know if you can or cannot trust the client’s promise. If it is a new client, treat it as a warning light.

5. Jobs That Don’t Meet the Criteria Of The Quote

This is a touchy subject. A client submits a request for a quote on a project. Let’s say they tell you it’s a 2:30 video, straight narration. You return your audition and a quote, and a few days later you get an email indicating that the client has chosen you for the project, and the final version of the copy and instructions are attached.

As soon as you open the attachment you realize that the client has submitted copy for a 4 minute video, and it involves you primarily doing the straight narration, but they have also added in a character voice that they want you to do.

What now?

Well, avoid a “what now?” by being up front that your quote is based on a 2:30 minute video of the copy submitted for the audition. I would even include a statement (and I do) that any changes to the submitted copy and elements of the project are subject to a change in your rate.

There are obviously more than five warning lights that you need to be aware of. But these five are critical to running your voiceover business in a more productive and stress-free manner. Will you lose some business when heeding these warnings? A small “maybe,” but you will also be building a healthier work environment. And healthier work environments lead to greater success!


Published May 19, 2014

This past week I had the unique privilege of providing the Live Announce for the huge Melaleuca Sales Convention in Salt Lake City. It was my sixth year for that convention.

There is nothing quite like the energy of an annual corporate convention! When the convention is a large, fast-paced, high-energy production, a live announcer is a better way to go than relying on pre-recorded introductions and announcements. Far too many things change at the last minute. I’m blessed to have those opportunities, and grateful to be a part of a company’s annual celebration!

It takes a lot of work to make a convention program work! To put on a production like this last week’s job takes a minimum of six months of planning on various levels.

The client, the agency and the producer spend an incredible amount of time pursuing the right strategy and options. The creative team begins to put together a plan to accomplish the client’s vision. That may take months of “back and forth.” Finally, after the dreaming, planning, strategizing, and innumerable creative concepts, the client’s vision comes into focus, and the next phase of work begins.

Spending time backstage at a large convention is mind-boggling. It literally takes hundreds of people to put such a production together, and then to pull it off live. In just a few days a complex stage design of multiple levels, ramps, entrances and exits are built. Miles and miles of cable, trusses, lighting, curtains, screens, and speaker arrays are assembled to specifications that would make an architect’s head spin. A full TV production studio is built behind the stage. The entire arena is turned into a recording studio. A maze of curtains creates offices, green rooms, the make-up room, all full of office furniture, living room furniture, computer desks, printing facilities, and TV monitors in every room to keep up with what is going on. Then, of course, there is the ever popular catering area where workers take their meals and breaks.

Once the convention production starts it is full-speed ahead. There is no turning back. Everything has been planned to the second and must be coordinated between the stage presenters and crew, the live video crew, the audio crew, the light crew, the power points crew, the teleprompter crew, and I’m sure I’m leaving out a few departments. Snap decisions are made on the fly, timings adjusted in real time, and all communicated in a unique language of it’s own over a headset network that covers the entire arena.

The people that make this all work are incredibly, intimidatingly good! Even gifted.

And once the production is over, everything has to be disassembled and moved to the next the job, which in and of itself will be very different and equally complex.

The immensity of this last week’s production served as a great reminder to me of how voiceovers fit into the whole process whether it be for live productions or recorded commercials, narrations, eLearning, etc.

We voice talents who own and mostly operate out of our own studios often miss out on how complex and intense the entire production process can be. Even a simple thirty second TV commercial involves so many people, all doing their job; all coordinating and giving their best efforts; all communicating and bringing the vision to life.

It’s an awesome privilege to a small part of that whole process!


Published May 4, 2014

With apologies to Stephen Covey’s brilliant “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” there are some things that some of us struggling entrepreneurs do that are counterproductive to our success and effectiveness.

As a voice talent, these are critical to my business. Unfortunately, I speak from personal experience. I hope you’ll take these seven bad habits as non-judgmental observations, in no particular order of priority, that I’ve learned from my own missteps. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on any of these. I’ll leave the application to you.

1. Not Seeing Themselves As Their Clients See Them

“You have the voice we’re looking for,” said the man at the other end of the phone line.

Well, naturally I took that quite personally. So with a bit of fake humbleness I told him how pleased I was that he was willing to entrust his voiceover project to little ol’ me.

“Well, we’ll see,” he answered. “The voice is right, but we’ll see if the delivery is what we’re looking for.”

I missed what that client was saying up front.

See, the right voice is like choosing the right oil color for a painting. Ok, fine. You’ve got the right color, but it’s more about what you do with that color that counts.

Yes, it’s important to see yourself for what you really are, but that needs to be tempered by really understanding how your clients view you.

2. Not Knowing The Difference Between Good, Better, and Great

This is a common failure among voice talents.

Good is based on the market standard. One isn’t even competitive until one is good. Better is stepping beyond good to get noticed. But great is what the client chooses.

I see this all the time in the marketing materials of a number of entrepreneurs: “I can do….” Frankly, that tells me that you aren’t the person I’m trying to hire for that particular matter. I don’t want to hire someone that “can do” something. I want to hire someone who excels, who is a specialist, who owns the element that I’m looking for.

3. Emotional Decision Making

Interpreting, creating and developing a project based on emotional interpretation is deadly. Why? Because everyone’s emotions are different.

Voice talents who interpret copy by emotion rather than by understanding are completely missing the intent and point of the copy.

Emotion is a reaction. You can’t create that in the listener or viewer. All you can do is give them the story and let them assimilate it and apply it to their life.

But if you understand what the copy is saying, and you focus on that, instead of trying to manipulate the listener’s emotions, you’ll be ahead of what I would guess is 98% of the other voice talents.

By the way, this little realization revolutionized my content delivery for my clients AND my audition process.

4. Selling Rather Than Connecting

This is very similar to the previous point.

Know the target audience’s needs. The product will sell itself to people who need it.

People respond to what their perceived needs are. If I don’t think I need a new pair of shoes, all the shoe commercials in the world won’t make a difference. On the other hand, if I believe I need a new pair of shoes, coming across as trying to push something onto me that I already am willing to consider will just cause me to build resistance.

Connect. Don’t sell.

5. Wrong Clients

I can’t fully explain how critical this issue is.

Wrong clients will suck you dry. They will soak up your energy and steal your time. I don’t know about you, but in the voiceover business time is a critical element of what we have to sell.

As hard and harsh as it may seem, you have to unload wrong clients. I’m talking about clients that steal your success by being high maintenance, hard to collect, abusive, and demand unfairly low rates.

Let them go.

I learned a long time ago that a client that consistently underbids a project, and therefore asks me to low-ball my rate, or consistently comes back with changes that they don’t want to pay for, or are insulting and think they have the right to talk down to me, or take an excessively long time to collect is the wrong client for me.

6. Wide Thinking

This is another way of saying “trying to do too much.”

A few years ago I needed a finish carpenter to redo some shelving and woodwork around my fireplace. I talked to a number of carpenters who told me that they could certainly do the job. But when I talked to this one guy, I learned that shelving and interior trim was his specialty, and in fact, all he did.

Yes. He’s the guy I hired.

You can’t do everything. I mean, you may be good, but you’re not that good. And even if you were, a client is going to be looking for someone who is a specialist in the area they are trying to fulfill.

You don’t start out as the best of everything. And you never get there. Find and develop your niche. Become the authority in your niche!

7. Finding Time Instead Of Making Time

This is a personal issue.

As entrepreneurs we are driven to succeed. We’ll do whatever it takes to win. The problem with that mentality is that sometimes it causes us to lose sight of the real priorities in our life.

If you take the approach of “finding time” for your loved ones, yourself or the other important things in your life, you will be giving them “left over time.” Believe me, they are worth more than that. Way more than that!

Real quality and balance in this area happen when you make time for yourself, those people and other important things. They are worth more than your leftovers.

Sometimes, because we are so driven, we forget to breathe.

Ever go on a trip and suddenly realize that your gas gauge says you are driving on fumes? What happens? Driving on empty increases stress…distracts you…makes you a worse driver.

Same thing is true in your business.

So, there you have it: Seven bad habits many of us entrepreneurs develop as we try to make it in the business world. Break these habits, replace them with good habits, and you’ll see your success soar!


Published March 10, 2014

I gotta tell you: I have the best clients in the world. The Best!

Today I woke up with a touch of laryngitis. I probably should not have slept naked out on the porch last night. After all, it is still winter. In any case, I woke up to a full day of work – actually a full week of work – but I made Barry White sound like a Vienna Boys Choir standout. The voiceover business went on hiatus for me today.

There was nothing else to do but contact each client that I had a project scheduled for and let them know my dilemma. I dreaded those calls and emails.

I shouldn’t have worried.

My clients are AWESOME! All of them seemed to really care and were willing to give me a couple of days to get back. Even a client who had me scheduled for a rush job! One client, when I called him, as soon as I said “Hi,” broke in and said, “Don’t say another word! Go gargle and rest and don’t say another word until you’re back!”

Each one of those clients could’ve rightly said, “I’m sorry, this job has to be done today and I’m going to have to go with someone else.” Yes, that has happened in years past. Some projects are on that tight of a schedule! But today was different. Even the rush job said “Get well. We’ll just figure out a way to put this off for a couple of days.”

I was so blown away by a client who said it quite succinctly, “Dan, you’re our voice guy. Crap like this happens to everyone. We’ll work around it.” Of course then he laughed and said, “But don’t ever get sick again. Ever!”

I poured myself a cup of hot tea with lemon and honey, sat down in my easy chair (in my robe), and pondered my good fortune. I am so blessed. Yes, I’m blessed because I have good work and opportunities. Of course I believe I’m blessed by a God who helps me survive the business world as a small entrepreneur. But what I am so aware of right now is how blessed I am because I have the best clients in the world!

How does that happen? Certainly there are many factors to consider, but for our purposes, let me give you five things that I believe are fundamental to getting the greatest clients in the world.

1. I take the time to get to know my clients as they reveal themselves to me.

I’ve got clients that I’ve had for over two decades! Over 20 years! A lot happens in 20 years. You learn a lot about each other in 20 years. But you can also learn a lot about each other in 20 minutes. The point is that my clients are a lot like me. They each have a life of dreams, goals, and passions. And the more I get to know them, the more I love them…and their dreams, goals and passions!

I’ll never forget the time a client told me the story of having been bitten by a rattlesnake. He was out hiking in desert (his passion) when it happened. Who tells you stories like that? People who believe you are interested in them, that’s who. And yes, I was interested. Concerned and interested. So much so that he received a pair of snake-proof boots in the mail a few days later.

Two years later when I took a construction team down to Honduras to build a school, he made a generous donation to the school.

These are my clients. These are my friends.

2. Their project is incredibly important to me.

Of course it’s important to them. It’s their livelihood. I know that. And that’s exactly why it is so important to me. If I don’t give them my best work, I’ve said they aren’t worth my commitment and focus. But the truth is, they are worth it. Every ONE of them.

I used to tell clients how busy I was, and how I would try to get to their project as soon as I could. How arrogant is that?!?! The truth is, I’m only busy because my client has an important project to get done. They don’t really care how busy I am or about my other clients. They have no relationship with my clients and their projects. They chose me to voice their project because they believed I was the right choice. That makes them the right client! The right choice needs to treat the right client the right way.

3. They know I will treat them with integrity and honesty.

“Yeah, I know I quoted you $800 for this job, but that was based on my assumption that I was doing the entire narration. I didn’t know that some of the copy was actually the voice of the client. So, the rate is really $500.” That’s from a conversation I had with a client not too long ago. Even though my client had already signed off on the $800, it wasn’t a fair rate. I couldn’t charge her that amount.

If your client knows, believes and trusts that you are going to take care of them, and that you are going to act with integrity and honesty, you are going to build a lifetime relationship! I’ve learned that I can trust clients who trust me.

4. I will never give them second best.

This seems like a no-brainer at first glance, but it is actually much deeper than that.

I am stunned by new clients who ask me, “Before we sign off on this, if you make a mistake or the client doesn’t like the way you read a particular sentence, what is the charge to redo it?”

Seriously? Are there voice talents that would charge you to redo that? I don’t know of any, but I would like to so I can publish their names and blackball them from the industry!

No! My goal, and the goal of every voice talent I know is to give each client the absolute best product they can possibly deliver.

My clients need to know that. They need to know that when I am working on their project, that is all I am working on. I am totally focused on making sure it is the best I can do. That means that if the copy is screwed up, they get alts. If there is a better way to say something, I’m going to suggest it. Not as an insult to the copywriter or translator, but because all of us are human and miss things. My job is to make my client look good! Period!

5. Finally, I am part of a team.

This is one of the most critical aspects of a voice talent’s responsibility. I am part of a team. It’s my job as much as any other member of the team to make sure the message is represented correctly and successfully.

And by the way, I never have any right to mention or imply that I am working for a particular client unless that client gives me specific permission to include them in my marketing efforts. In the same way that a client expects confidentiality from a writer, a developer, or a producer, that client deserves my quiet confidentiality. I have government and non-government clients that require me to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I sign them, but really I would never reveal that information anyway. I’m part of the team. I have my client’s best interests at heart. I would never do anything to violate that.

They know that. I am part of the team.

So there you have my five things that are fundamental to getting the greatest clients in the world.

The great news is that as far as I know, almost all of my fellow voice talents agree, believe and practice this! There are a few charlatans in the group that cannot be trusted, but I don’t hang around with them! I’m far too protective of my industry to tolerate unprofessionalism and treachery. My experience is that the vast majority of voice talents are incredibly honest, hard-working people. I’m proud to be associated with them. And if I don’t fit the style or voice that you need for your project, call me! I’m happy to recommend any number of other voice talents that would do the job you need! By the way, I don’t consider other voice talent to be competition. They are fellow professionals, and our job is to get your job done!


Published December 12, 2013

So, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything controversial. And now that I’m stuck at home with the flu and bronchitis, I figure it’s a perfect time to irritate and offend some folks. See, I have “plausible deniability.” I can claim delirium.

Having made my disclaimer, I’d like to offer my end-of-the-year observations of our VO industry.

First of all, the VO biz is healthier than it has EVER been! Ever!

See, it used to be locked up by a select few, but those days are gone! It was locked up nationally as well as locally! I remember when I was first starting out in the biz, I would hear over and over…Sorry kid, we use Drew Dimmel, or Jim Birdsall, or John Jessup, or any other established voice talent in Kansas City. Now, please know that those guys are friends of mine. I love ‘em, and I will NEVER measure up to them. But that’s the way it was!

That has all changed! While some clients want the celebrity voice on their spot (which makes little sense when you think about it – think baggage, competition, customers who don’t like the celebrity, etc), others are realizing it’s about a sound…a delivery…a style that will make the product standout. Celebrities don’t sell a product. Content and delivery do!

True voice actors are in a better place than they have ever been to carve their niche.

Secondly, I’m actually delighted at the influx of people into our industry. Of course there are folks that don’t really understand the demands of the industry. They’ll discover it pretty quickly. Of course there are the folks that will take advantage of that interest and sell them coaching and demos. Some of those businesses are legitimate,; some are not. Businesses will always exist and survive on the coat-tails of any significant industry. Nothing wrong with that.

But what I’m really delighted about is that there are thousands of people out there who are willing to dream and hope and challenge themselves. That is fundamental to surviving in this industry. Hey, for those of us for whom this is our livelihood, remember that dream? We owe it to our industry to do our part to encourage, mentor and build the talent base of the future.

Thirdly, more and more voice talents are settling for what they can get away with. Frankly, this disgusts me. This is not snobbery or elitism, but folks, if you are going to survive in this business, ignore the charlatans that will mislead you to think you can get away with cheap equipment “until you get to the point where you can afford better.” That’s a sell-out. If you have what it takes to be in the business, you need the equipment and service that will compete with thousands of other voice talents that will eat your lunch on every audition simply because they sound better!

C’mon! It’s a business! Invest in yourself! I don’t mean go out and borrow a bunch of money and buy the best of the best. I am a huge advocate of never going into debt in business. But seriously, if you’re trying to run a business with a USB mic plugged into your laptop, you’re not thinking big enough. You’re a hobbiest, at best. And you are most certainly settling for what you can get away with.

Yeah, so I’ll probably hear about that one.

Fourthly, VO marketing is not about getting your name out there so that people will hire you because they’ve heard about you. It’s about building relationships.

That’s the failure of how so many people use P2P websites (online casting websites). Any website that is built and promoted to get you “more work” from your auditions is misleading you. You get more work by building relationships with clients. I NEVER resent a client who hires another voice talent, but takes the time to let me know. That’s an open invitation to connect and begin building a relationship. THAT will lead to future opportunities! I know. I’ve got several ongoing clients that were developed that way.

And finally, fifthly (is that a word?), the voice talents that are entrenching themselves in this business are doing so by carving out a niche. The truth is, there is no real future in trying to be a “general practitioner.” That doesn’t mean that you won’t do work in several other areas, but once you get known as THE voice for a particular genre, you will find yourself smiling all the way to the bank from work in that area. For me it is eLearning, TV Promotions, Automotive, and Infomercials, in English or Spanish. Of course I do work in a variety of areas, but I have clients in those four areas that generally don’t even consider anyone else. They’re comfortable working with me. They know what I’ll deliver. And they don’t worry about my production, which is exactly the way they want it.

Quit trying to be all things to all people. You’re better off focusing on your strengths and uniqueness. That’s not to say that you won’t develop in other areas. As you mature in this business, you most certainly will develop other areas. We’re voice actors. We grow. We develop. But don’t make the mistake of trying to grow your business in the areas that you have not truly mastered.

So with that, I bid adieu to 2013!

Here’s to an awesome 2014! We deserve it!!!


Published October 12, 2013

One thing I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks is that quality pays off!

When I built my studio I decided to invest in good equipment, not settle for “what can I get by with.” I researched and bought equipment that I knew would create the sound that my clients would be happy with.

I put money into the structure of the studio – the acoustics, the design and the overall feel of the studio.

Yes, I made some mistakes along the way, but I corrected those as I discovered them. The result was a magnificent sounding studio that I am proud of.

But a couple of weeks ago things changed. We had a new roof put on the house. In the process, the roofers forgot to seal up a piece of flashing around the chimney that runs down along my studio. Sure enough, two days later we had a big storm – two inches of rain. All two inches of rain ran right down through my studio destroying part of the ceiling, part of the wall, and soaking the carpeting.

Fortunately, none of the equipment was damaged, but the room and the acoustics were terribly affected. Not to mention equipment that pulled out of service until the studio can be repaired.

But here’s the payoff of investing in the right equipment: I was quickly able to adapt, keep up with my work load, continue to provide my clients with their voiceover requests, and not miss any deadlines. Not only that, but business has continued as usual as I’ve picked up three new clients over the past week.

And here’s the kicker. In the middle of all the restoration process, a couple of clients have asked me to revise work that was done several months ago and I was able to match the sound of the original.

That’s what the right equipment will do for you.

Forgive my rant, but voice talents who settle for “whatever I can get by on” equipment, are not only asking for trouble, but are putting their clients in a vulnerable situation.

Voice talents: if you deserve to be in this business, you deserve to invest in quality equipment and learn how to use it. Clients: if you want consistent quality and ROI, hire voice talents that believe in themselves and in offering you great service and great equipment. It’s a win win situation.


Published July 10, 2013

Well, that didn’t come out quite right.

Basics are important. You have to do them. The problem is that too many of us never get past the basics. If all you do are the basics, that’s all you’ll end up with. The basics.

A race car driver that never does more than the basics will never win a race. A musician that never gets past the basics will never write a masterpiece. A business that never goes beyond the basics will never know real success.

A builder friend of mine once said, “Every basic house I’ve built is still standing, but I can’t make a living off of basic.”

As a voice talent, if all I do are the basics, I’ll sound like thousands of other voiceover dogs out there trying to make a buck. I’ve never gotten a voice job because I sounded like everyone else.

In fact, one of the biggest ironies in the voiceover business is that clients who want a voice that “sounds like the guy next door,” don’t really want him to sound like the guy next door. What they really want is for the guy next door to think that he sounds like the voice in the commercial. But I digress.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. While the basics are important, they are not what win the race. So what do you have to do to move beyond the basics?

I once asked Bill Leach, an artist friend from many years ago, how he started a project.

His response was, “You start with the basics.”

“What are the basics?” I asked.

He answered simply, “A clean canvas. Everything else is everything else.”

In this voiceover business, the basics are pretty simple: Have a sound and delivery that clients want; have good equipment and know how to use it; and run your business with integrity and common sense. But it’s what you do beyond that which will determine your success. In other words, everything else is everything else.

With that in mind, here are 3 ideas to move beyond the basics.

Understand that the basics are the starting point.

The basics of any business are the foundation. That’s all. And every similar business should have those same basics.

So what sets you apart from every other similar business?

What do you have to offer that will appeal to a client?

By the way, if you answered “a lower price” you just lost round one. Good clients don’t want cheap, they want fair.

Respect the basics, but don’t let them limit you.

One of my favorite baseball pitchers of all time was Detroit’s Mark “The Bird” Fidrych (RIP). He had all the basics down, as do most professional ball players. However, his winning ways along with his absolute joy on the field and quirky behavior made him one of baseball’s favorites. When Fidrych hit the mound, it was something beyond the basics that made him a winner…and a crowd favorite.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Stick with the basics.” Well, I’m here to tell you that doing that will shut your business down.

Of course you have to do the basics, but it is what you do beyond those basics that will determine your success.

Trust the basics, but do what you do better than the basics.

The business gurus have all kinds of terms for this: making your mark, defining your brand, elevating the elements, etc. But the practical side of it is simply what do you do that is better than others?

Now the amazing thing about this is that often this is something that others perceive, or sometimes it’s something that only you believe…until others discover it. On the other hand, there are those who are far better at what they do than they ever get credit for.

And, unfortunately, I’ve known way too many people and companies, and so have you, that think they are better at something than they are.

So, this is a tough one, but it is critical to moving beyond the basics.

I did something rather eye-opening personal research over the past few months. It was an in depth analysis of my business. I’ll save that story for the next blog, but I discovered something about my business.

I was doing all the basics in almost all categories of my voiceover business, but it was in those categories where I have a little extra “sump’n sump’n” that I’ve done my best. The problem that I discovered was that I was spending far more marketing dollars and efforts to generate business in the categories where I’ve got the basics down, but I’m not anything particularly special. I’ve wasted a lot of dollars and time!

It’s like trying to sell white paint. Have you noticed that paint companies don’t brag on their white paint. Why? Because basics don’t sell. Clients want something beyond the basics.

That’s why your auditions, your demos, your marketing, and especially what you deliver to the client needs to be beyond the basics. And by that I mean everything from your audio quality to your interpretation and presentation. What do you have to offer that is better than the basics?

Here’s the bottom line: you’re best at where you’re not basic. Oooh, that was good. Read it again!

Now go be unbasic.


Published May 5, 2013

I’ve noticed something about the voiceover industry.

There is a deceptive myth in the voiceover industry that to make it in this business you have to crack the L.A. or N.Y. barrier. It’s simply not true. Don’t think so? Look at the facts:

Various estimates for spending on advertising in the United States annually place the amount around $200 billion a year (over $500 billion worldwide). A surprisingly small amount of it is spent through L.A. or N.Y.

According to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), American companies spend about $20 billion a year on eLearning and sales training. Almost none of that money is spent through L.A. or N.Y.

It’s impossible to come up with a dollar figure for annual spending on corporate video/narration work because the way companies define and report spending for such projects is rather ambiguous, but it would appear that it is most certainly in the billions of dollars a year. However again, almost none of it comes through L.A. or N.Y.

So where does the myth come from?

Well, television programming and screen generally are produced through L.A. and N.Y. outlets. So, of course animation voicing and promotional voice work for TV and screen tend to come out of those markets. And yes, some commercials are produced by production houses in those markets. As a result, people assume that those two markets are the Meccas of our industry.

But it’s not true.

There is great production work being done in every city in the United States. Because of the technology, those production houses that use voice talent have discovered that it’s just as easy to work with a voice talent in any other market as it is to have one come into their studio.

In fact, do a quick internet research on talent agencies. You’ll find that the percentage of L.A. and N.Y. agencies servicing voice talent is equitable compared to the number of agencies in other markets. Then, look at where the auditions are coming from in the industry. The bottom line is there is more voiceover work available outside of L.A. and N.Y!

Without naming names, I have heard other major national voice talent say that they are able to get more work out of L.A. and N.Y after leaving those markets because the auditioning process is different and less demanding on the talent. One talent explained it this way, “When I was in L.A. I was required to go into a studio to audition for a job. That meant that at best, because of the traffic and conditions in L.A. I could only get to generally no more than four auditions a day. If I landed a job, that actually cut down on my auditions. Now that I’m no longer living in the market, they obviously can’t require me to come into the studio for an audition so I can get more auditions in. As a result, I can audition in numerous cities either by emailing an audition or by a live ISDN audition, and I get more work!”

Then, consider the exploding eLearning and corporate narration industry. Very, very few companies run these types of jobs through L.A. or N.Y. They tend to use local companies or production companies that specialize in these formats. In fact, my experience is that most of the eLearning work is coming from international companies.

How can you and should you take advantage of this situation?

Well, first of all you need to decide where you are going to make your mark.

If you’ve decided that you have to be part of the TV and screen industry then by all means connect with those outlets.

If you’ve decided that you can make your mark in the vast commercial world outside of L.A. and N.Y. go for it! Start locally and move out geographically. Find out who’s doing what. Connect with them and determine how you can fit into their needs.

Secondly, if you’ve decided to pursue the opportunities in eLearning and corporate narrations, pursue those options aggressively! You’ll find that almost all of those jobs are outside of L.A. and N.Y.

Believe me, the work is there. I was just copied on an internal memo that went out to the employees of a major eLearning company. The memo simply stated that they were aggressively seeking voice talents that could handle character and natural conversational deliveries “wherever we can find them.”

If you are one of the 95% (I’m guessing on that percentage) of voice talents that don’t live and depend on L.A. or N.Y. you can take heart. There is a lot of work out there – far more than in just those two markets.


Published April 11, 2013

I’m about to rock somebody’s world.

I had lunch the other day with a fellow voice talent. I love those opportunities. Most of us are so confined to our studios all day that we don’t get much of a chance to actually interact in person with someone else in our business.

But this time it was different.

Glarb (not his real name) was down. He’d been spinning his wheels for months trying to get some good voice business and was getting nowhere. He couldn’t figure out why.

I’ve known Glarb for several years. He’s a great talent. He really is. And I’m jealous of his studio. But all of that was obviously not enough to get him work.

I asked him what he had done to generate business over the past 6 months.

It was the usual. Email blasts, some direct email, even some direct mail postcards. A few phone calls to key people. He has a couple of agents. He’s doing the normal SEO thing. He’s listed with a few VO websites. And auditions. Lots of auditions.

Not that he hasn’t had ANY work. He just hasn’t had enough to survive on.

Sound familiar?

Let me explain why so many good voice talents struggle in this business. Then I’ll offer a solution that you can start implementing today.

It doesn’t matter if you could do a better job than the voice talents they are currently using. If they don’t feel like they need someone new, you’re wasting time approaching them.

If you’re marketing yourself to people who have access to far more voice talents than they know what to do with, you’re wasting time.

In fact, if you’re doing what everyone else is doing, all you’re saying is that you’re like everyone else. Why should any client hire you?

I asked Glarb to summarize his whole scenario in one sentence.

He thought about it for awhile and then said, “It’s like no one needs me anymore.”


Unfortunately Glarb has been doing what far too many voice talents do: all the right things for the wrong people – people who don’t need them!

Here is one of the key secrets for motivation, whether it be personal, corporate, or sales: need.

See, we’re stimulated by wants. But we’re motivated by need. It’s need that drives us.

“How badly do you want this,” isn’t nearly as powerful as “How badly do you need this.”

Glarb has been pouring out his energy on people that want good voice talent, but not on people that need the talent he has.

Why am I so sure of this? Because it’s how I operate.

Years and years ago in my early life I spent a stint as a home alarm salesman. We were required to set three appointments a day by phone. That usually meant about fifty plus calls a day using the script the company had given us.

Personally, I thought the script was weak and manipulative, so I altered it. No, actually I completely changed it. I started asking potential clients if they felt a need for a home alarm system. What happened?

My call to sales ratio went down drastically. My closing rate went up dramatically.

Then, of course, the company sold and moved out of state.

But my point is, people are motivated by need. Clients are motivated by need.

Start marketing to needs. Ask clients what their voice needs are. Do they need a fresh voice for a sales video? Do they need a new phone message? Do they have a project coming up that they are going to need a voice like yours? Do they know of someone that needs a voice like yours?

When approaching a new client, ask them if they need a fresh voice. If they say no, thank them, give them your card, or email them your information, and move on. Find the people that need what you have to offer!

Now, I realize that there are some that will respond to this with “Yeah, but…” Don’t bother. This isn’t a theory. This is how I do business…and it works.

Oh, and by the way. Glarb connected with three clients that afternoon and landed a narration job, an IVR job, and a recommendation for a new client that needs a voice for his new marketing campaign.

Want to succeed in this business? Go meet your client’s needs.


Published December 27, 2012

Wow! What a whirlwind end to 2012!

First, my wife fell (while decorating for Christmas) and broke her leg in 3 places. A few days later, my father passed away while recovering from surgery. So, the day I got my wife home from the hospital, I flew to Virginia to bury my Dad. I got back home 2 days before Christmas.

The good news is that Marcia is on the mend. She has to stay off her leg for 2 months, then another month of intense physical therapy and the dishes will finally get done.

OK, maybe some of the household chores are getting done in the meantime.

I must tell you that I have no idea how anyone can get through something like this without a trusting, abiding faith in God.

On Christmas morning my son, Eric, presented me with the initial plans for a 501-c-3 (non-profit) corporation to honor the work my Dad spent his life doing in Central America. What an overwhelming, challenging, stimulating opportunity! I’ll tell you more about it in days to come.

Yesterday, December 26th, was my first day back in the studio.

There was something comforting about the scattered papers, the dirty coffee cup, the half bottle of water in the recording booth, the blinking light of the printer telling me that I needed to replace the toner; and most of all, the scores of emails and voicemails of clients/friends with words of hope and encouragement.

What an amazing business I’m in! I’ve never physically met 99% of my clients, yet every one somehow shared my storm. What an incredible statement about small business America! We are a network of real people; passionate about what we do, but compassionate about our fellow. Humbling and reassuring!

Thank you for your care. Your calls and notes of concern have been such an encouragement and inspiration.

And right now, if I heard that you had the flu, I would want to jump in the car and bring you some hot chicken soup!

That’s what family does.


Published November 26, 2012

The voice over industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. The technology is such that many of us in the voice business are building our enterprise all over the world. I am blessed to have clients on every continent, and fortunately that list is growing. Frankly, that amazes me!

To all of my clients, new and not so new, I want to affirm my desire to be your voice talent of choice. So, let me share my commitment to you:

1. I will give you my absolute best effort.

I don’t give different levels of effort and attention to different clients. Your project is as important to me as any other project I have.

2. I will quote you a fair price based on what I charge my other clients.

I don’t quote different rates for different clients. I attempt to keep my rates within the average of what other voice talents charge for similar service.

3. I will deliver your project on time.

I know that you have time constraints and are depending on me to get your voice over project to you when you need it.

4. I will make sure your voice project is technically and audibly the best I can make it.

I have invested a great deal in my studio, and continue to do so to maintain outstanding, quality work.

5. I want your business.

I want to work for you again and again. My goal is to be your go-to guy for voice overs, and I will do what I have to do to make that happen.

Thank you for the privilege of working on your voice over project. I realize I am accountable to you, and I am grateful for your trust.