Dan Hurst - Voice Talent

Voiceovers In English or Spanish for commercials, narrations, Radio/TV Promos



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


This is an updated version of a blog I published 8 years ago. I think it’s as relevant today as it was back then.

One of the challenges of voiceover work is finding new customers.  Most voice talents are in business for themselves and have to do it all: production, administration, marketing, even housekeeping.  Hmmm… sounds like any other small business!

There are a number of ways that many of us voice talents seek new business.  There are agents, production houses, referrals, Pay-to-Play sites, free listing sites, networking, phone soliciting, social media connections, direct mail, web banners, text ads, magazine ads, Ebay, Craigslist… oh, and email.  

A lot has been written about emailing as a marketing strategy.  There are whole companies built up around those efforts.  Does it work?

Well, yes…and no.  It’s pretty much like any other marketing strategy.  Done right, yes it works.  Done wrong it can work against you!

But it must work to an extent, right? I mean look at all those emails you get in your inbox!  Obviously it’s working or they wouldn’t be doing it. It’s gotta be a law of percentages thing – send out enough emails and you’re bound to get some work, yes?

Maybe you guessed, I am not a fan of mass emailing.  Generally if I get an email that is not addressed directly to me, I don’t read it (unless the subject matter is so compelling that I can’t help myself, or it contains the words “naked” and “jello”).

I don’t use email lists for marketing.  Ever.   I don’t even save a list of email addresses that I send out. Every email is individually researched, targeted and sent.  That’s just me.  I know some people buy lists and send individual emails, and I don’t think they’re wrong for doing so.  But I prefer to research a little about a potential client before I send them my info, so I tie the two efforts together.

Now, sometimes the only email address I can find on a potential client’s website is Info@… or I have to leave a message on a contact form, but that hardly qualifies as having put them on a list.

For the purposes of our marketing discussion I would say that anytime you put multiple email addresses in your “To:” box, that’s spam.  And everyone is irritably sensitive to spam.

The truth is if you get an email that you didn’t want, don’t you sort of think of it as spam?  It’s just the nature of the beast, I guess. But I disagree with the concept that just because something is unsolicited it’s spam.  Especially if it’s a business seeking a business opportunity with another business!  That’s called marketing.  And that also is the nature of the beast.

The way I look at it, an email inquiring about a business opportunity is no more illegitimate than a door-to-door salesman (although even that’s illegal in some communities).  My point is there is nothing wrong with a legitimate email offering your services anymore than there is anything wrong with legitimate snail mail making a legitimate offering.  

But HOW you make the offer is critical.  So, here are 5 things to keep in mind when you use email as part of your marketing strategy:

1. Send an initial inquiry to see if the company accepts voiceover demos (or whatever you are offering), and to whom such information should be sent. I always include a line in that email that introduces me as a bilingual voice talent, fluent in English and Spanish.  The reason I do that is so that if there is a need for what I have to offer, it may get the right person’s attention right away.

2.  Now, if the general rule of thumb applies, you are going to get only about a 2 or 3% response. I have gotten as much as 10% in certain business categories that I’ve marketed.  But that open door to those who have responded essentially pre-qualifies your reason for following up with the right person.

3. Never send an attachment by email unless you’ve been given permission to do so.  Don’t do it.  It makes you look like you don’t care that you’ve clogged up someone’s inbox.  And it may well be intercepted and deleted by the recipient’s server, meaning they’ll never even see your email!  I would suggest that if you are using the email to refer them to a demo, put a link in the email, or something they can copy and paste to access the demo.  I do both.  Some servers will kill links, so go ahead and add the link address as a precaution.

4.  Keep your email simple, informative, and short.  Just tell them who you are, what you do, a quick reason for why they may be interested in you, and how they can follow up with you or learn more about you.  That’s it.  

Ron Green was the most successful salesman I ever knew.  He could sell anything.  And pretty much did.  I asked him once why he was such a good salesman.  He laughed and explained that he was trained to keep selling until the customer said yes or no.  But learned to stop selling when the customer said “More, please.”

5.  Connect with the customer.  
I have a guy who trims my trees.  I met him because he came around once a year, dropped off a flyer to let people know that he would be in the neighborhood the following month if they needed him.  It was a very well done flyer that explained what he did, how to get in touch with him, and of course, in that flyer an offer for a free estimate the following week (“please call right away to let me know what time would be best for me to drop by”).  He’s one of the busiest tree trimmers around.

I asked him one day how he came up with his little marketing strategy.  He said, “Well, everyone else uses flyers to get business.  I use ‘em to get appointments for free estimates. I figure no one buys off a flyer.  They buy from a person.”

The fact is I rarely have a client hire me right from a marketing piece I’ve sent out.  The marketing piece is just a door bell.  If they open the door, then I can connect with the client, start building a relationship, figure out if I really am able to help them out, and determine how I should continue with that opportunity.  In some cases they want to hear from me every two or three months.  For some, once a year is enough.  Some call me when they need me, whether it’s weekly, monthly or annually.

And one more point about connecting with your client:  just because you’ve corresponded with someone by email, doesn’t give you the right to invade their space.  I can’t tell you how many people I know that seem to think that because we’ve exchanged a few emails, they think I’m interested in their mail-outs.  I mean, I guess they’re still sending mail-outs.  I blocked them a long time ago.

Emails.  I love ‘em (but not mass emails).  I use ‘em all the time to go after new business.  But the game is constantly changing and if you’re not on top of how your clients use email, and know what will get them to notice you in a positive light, you’re wasting your time…and theirs.


Using Audio In Your eLearning Project

By Dan Hurst, eLearning Voice Talent

The longer I am in this business, the more I learn about the emotion of audio.

Think about it. You have a favorite song, perhaps a favorite band or style of music. Why? Because it invokes a certain emotion in you.

You love certain sounds of nature. Perhaps ocean waves, or wind through the pines, or birds singing. Why? Because those sounds connect with you and focus you on a place you love.

The same thing is true with voices. Certain voices bring comfort, trust, and connection. And while the opposite is also quite true, this speaks to my point. Using audio in your eLearning projects can enhance or ruin the effectiveness of your work.

I’m an audio guy. Voiceovers, to be specific, but audio nevertheless. And sometimes clients will ask me to help them add music or sound effects to their projects, which I am happy to do. After doing this for a several years, and researching what works and doesn’t work (often from my own mistakes), may I make some suggestions on how you can vastly improve the audio of your eLearning projects, whether you plan on doing the audio yourself or use another company?

1. Use the audio to connect.

Although there is certainly an emotion that can be invoked by audio, whether it be with music or voice, the purpose of the audio is not to create an emotion but to create a connection. Whatever emotion it produces is entirely up to the participant.

Music or voice that attempts to create emotion just sounds dramatic or silly.

Connect. Don’t emote.

2. The quality of the audio is critical.

We live in a day and age where all of us are bombarded by highly developed and technically astute audio productions. When we suddenly hear some audio production that is less than perfect, we notice it right away.  And not only do we notice it, but we form an opinion about it.

For example, I just got off the phone with a company from which I ordered some supplies. The auto attendant voice was fine, but had recorded the announcements and instructions too far from the microphone, which created a hollow, “echoey” effect. Then on top of that the background music and the voice were fighting each other for my attention. My immediate reaction was, “Didn’t these people listen back to the very first thing a customer hears when they call them?” Not a good first impression. Imagine an entire eLearning project like that!

If you’re going to do audio production for your eLearning project, don’t cheapen the project by making it sound cheap. Use some decent equipment. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by taking a let’s-do-this-for-as-little-as-we-can attitude. Compare your audio production with the production of a competitor. Or several. Which sound best? Why?

Let’s face it. A USB microphone into a laptop isn’t going to sound as good as a Condenser microphone through a decent interface into your laptop. And even if it does sound good to you while sitting at your desk, what is it going to sound like to the end-user?

3. Let it breathe. 

eLearning is education. It takes time to absorb the material. A voiceover that is too fast, or moves from one thought or concept to another too quickly loses the learner. It’s just plain ineffective. If you are doing the voiceover yourself, quit thinking about reading it, and think about speaking it. Speak it to someone standing or sitting there in front of you, or as I prefer to think of it, someone sitting on a park bench with you.

4. Remember your audience.

This seems pretty simple and superficial, but it is astounding how many eLearning projects fail to connect the audio with their audience, even if the teaching content is spot on.  Let’s face it, if you are targeting an audience that is primarily urban, it’s probably not a good idea to use a rural sounding voice. No, I know you would never do that.  But would you use a 2nd generation Mexican voice talent from L.A. to voice a project targeting sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic? I mean they both speak Spanish, right?

Seriously, one person cannot decide alone which audio sound works for the general audience.
It takes a diversified group with a vested interest in the product to decide which voice and which music is going to work best for the project. One person cannot decide for the entire audience.  And if you still aren’t sure, make the decision based on some legitimate research!

5. Simple Is Better.

Every layer, every element of your project is something else the end-user has to absorb and process. And the more things you throw into the mix are more things that will contribute to learning fatigue. More words, more color, more sound, more motion all compete for attention and processing. Keep your audio as simple as possible. Don’t let it distract.

And speaking of distracting, if you are going to voice your own project, make sure there are no distracting noises in the background, no distracting mouth noises, no distracting plosives, no distracting sibilance, and no distracting speech habits.

It occurs to me that I’m being kind of negative. My apologies. I just want your next project to shine! And with a little attention to these details, your audio certainly will.

~  ~  ~

Dan-daniel eduardo-Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His eLearning voice clients include Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, United Rentals, Volkswagen, and numerous universities and government agencies. When he’s not working, he spends time cheering for losing sports teams and getting kicked off of golf courses. Find out more at www.DanHurst.com.


I spent more than the first half of my voiceover career never having had one VO coaching session. Not one. I figured my clients and producers were my coaches. While there is some wisdom in letting your clients coach you to success, there are also some great disadvantages.

Letting your clients direct and coach you, coaches you to their standards. And while those standards may be good, they are nevertheless limited to their requirements.

Furthermore, your clients aren’t interested in discovering and developing your talent. They are simply interested in getting the VO that they need. Nothing wrong with that, but let’s face it: they don’t really have your best interests at heart.

A few years ago I decided that maybe now that I was making a fair living in this voiceover world, maybe I should try this VO coaching thing. I was at lunch with a fellow VO dog, Jon Specht, and he mentioned his coach, David Lyerly. I asked him to tell me more. And before the end of lunch, Jon agreed to introduce me to David.

A couple of weeks later we were connected and on the calendar for a couple of sessions a month.

I must tell you, that was one of the most career changing turn-of-events of my life.

David was/is brilliant, brazen, and brutal! And all class.

I’m one of those guys that likes clients and producers that know what they want. I don’t care if they are mouthy and harsh, as long as they know where they are going. And David was/is one of those guys.  Not that he was mean. He most certainly wasn’t. But he didn’t let me get away with less than 100% either.

Some time later I somehow met Mary Lynn Wissner. I was looking for someone who could take me deeper into the narration and in-story VO.  She is spot on for that sort of thing! She takes an actor’s approach to interpretation and has incredible insight to the discovery and nuances of copy. So…I started using Mary Lynn a couple of times a month.

A couple of years later, David decided to pursue another path in his career. WHAT??? And I needed to find someone to replace him. My dear friend and VO goddess Roberta Solomon, suggested Dave Walsh.

What a find!

I hate Dave like a brother. Dave is in LA. I’m in KC. If he called me tonite and said “I have a flat tire and need some help,” I would jump on the next plane. He’s the most honest, confrontational, real, frustrating, realistic, illuminating, instructional person I’ve ever known. And I look forward to his direction a couple of times a month.

In addition to Mary Lynn and Dave, through the genius offering of OpenCoaches.com, I’ve also started coaching with Joe Cipriano, J.J. Jergens, and Erik Sanchez.  I gotta tell ya, having them in my stable has been a brilliant move on my part, if I may say so myself.

So, let’s assess. Dave Walsh and Mary Lynn Wissner a couple of times a month, Joe Cipriano, JJ Jergens and Erik Sanchez once a month. Yeah, I think I’m pretty well covered. And probably a little obsessive. But the results speak for themselves.

I say all of that for this: If you are a voiceover talent, you are selling yourself short if you don’t have a VO coach. Even if just once a month.


I had an interesting conversation today with a friend who is a radio programming consultant. He was asking about my radio imaging work, and made this comment: “That’s gotta be a frustrating thing.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, because, when a consultant gets hired by a radio station one of the very first things we recommend to change is the imaging. It’s the easiest thing to change and it quickly produces a recognizable difference to the client and the audience.”

That started me thinking. There are certain vulnerabilities that voice talents must endure. Several actually. But there are four that I can think of that seem to really take their toll on us.

Four Vulnerabilities

1. It is really hard to establish ourselves as part of a company’s team.

The very nature of our business makes us a simple, disembodied voice for most of our clients. Then when a client decides to make some changes, we often become an expendable part of the change. It’s not personal. In fact it’s quite impersonal. We usually have no dynamic relationship with the client other than just being a service provider, so they have no loyalty or consideration for us. It’s business. That’s just the way it is.

But the good news is that we can work harder and smarter to build those relationships. It takes time and energy. And creativity. But it certainly can happen.

2. How we market.

Too many of us confuse sales with marketing. For most of us, our first connection with a potential client is essentially a sales call, whether it be an email, snail mail, a phone call, or whatever. It doesn’t work very well, does it?  No wonder the closing rate on those sort of approaches is usually no more than about 1 to 2%, if we’re lucky. That’s a very perverted concept of marketing.

Marketing is what you do to get to the sale. That involves a lot of research, discovery, timing, and connection. The old adage that you are always selling yourself is quite cliché, and downright wrong. In reality, you can never really sell yourself until you’ve done your marketing. Marketing takes time. Lots of time and attention.

Marketing begins with you “selling the client to yourself.”  In other words, you have to determine if that particular client is right for you, and do you really have what that client needs. Do you believe that you are the best answer for that client’s needs?

One of the problems with that is that usually, in our business, the client often doesn’t know what their needs are because they don’t have their next project. And chances are that they’ve already selected a voice for their current project, or have a stable of voices that they are already comfortable with. So your marketing requires the research to determine the probability of whether or not that client may eventually need you. That’s a pretty vague premise on which to build a sales strategy! It may work if the client does the same sort of projects time after time (such as automotive commercials or specific eLearning genres), but what if the client’s demands change with every project?

I don’t know of any client that hires a voice because they want that voice. They hire a voice because they perceive that they need that voice for their project. So until they need your voice, you have nothing to sell!  Marketing is the art of finding clients that need your voice. And there is no way that you can discover that until you’ve done your homework about what the client does, how the client works, who the client likes to work with, when the client chooses a new voice, and how the client makes that decision.  And even with that knowledge, you haven’t even started selling your services.

Some may think, “Oh, I think I’ll just join a Pay To Play site and let them send me clients that are ready to hire me.”  Yeah, good luck with that.  About the only advantage that I can think of that a Pay To Play site might have is one where you can actually interact with the client and build a relationship…and then someday perhaps the client will be ready to use your voice. But if you’ve already gotten caught in the bidding war of cattle calls, you’ve probably already undersold yourself to the client that may or may not consider you. Again, remember, successful marketing and selling is based on need. It’s pretty tough to audition for a potential client that you know little to nothing about, with only some vague instructions about what they’re looking for, and they have no clue about who you are and what you really bring to the table.

Let me recommend that if you are going to use a Pay To Play site you avoid the bidding wars and ONLY audition and work with clients that have set rates. In my experience, those clients have a much better understanding of value and are far more professional in their business.

Until Pay to Play sites offer the “Set Rate only” option to their talents and clients, they’re just accelerating the race to the bottom on talent rates. You’re foolish to get into the bidding game. Bidding wars say a LOT about the client, the Pay 2 Play site, and you.

Set rates are one of the reasons I appreciate agents and true casting sites so much. No legitimate talent agent or casting agent puts jobs out to bid.

Trust me, I’ve heard the argument from both talents and Pay to Play site owners: “Hey, we’re just offering clients and talents the opportunity to work together at a rate that they will both be happy.”  If you want to buy into that concept, then let an agent negotiate the rate for you. Don’t be your own negotiator. And if you feel you can’t find an agent, start researching casting agents and/or sites that will do the negotiation for you and work with them. Or find a VO manager (one with great connections to talent agencies and brand clients).

By the way, a growing trend in voiceover online services is casting sites. There are some that are legit, but be careful. Anyone can call himself or herself a casting agent, and they’ll be happy to take your money. A legitimate casting agent doesn’t charge for listing you. They take a percentage if they negotiate a project for you either directly or through your agent, but they don’t charge upfront. And some will also charge the end client a fee or percentage.

3. We try to be all things to all people.

Stop it. You are not good at everything. If you are going to carve out a niche for yourself in this business, you are going to have to be one of the best at what you do. Not just good. Not just great. But the best. The best clients hire the best talent. That doesn’t mean they pay the most money. That means that unless you are one of the best at what you do, you are little more than a hobbyist in that genre, and are probably not even going to be considered. You’re generallywasting your time.

Take your anger at me about that and channel it to find out what you are the best at. And capitalize on that!

What are your possibilities? Well, just look at some of the genres in the voiceover world:

Commercials (and even in this category there are countless sub-categories).

Explainer Videos (the short narrations that companies use on their websites to introduce new products or instruct consumers on how to use them).

Corporate Narrations (the narrations that companies use to explain or introduce their services).

eLearning (which uses everything from announcers to characters to the tune of billions of dollars a year).

Gaming (demanding an incredible range of character voices).

Telephony (what company doesn’t need this?).

Public Announcements (everything from in-store announcements to museums, to public transportation, to emergency services, to live announcing at conventions, etc).

I’m sure I’ve missed some, so please feel free to add in the comments.

4. Our productivity.

This ranges from the way we handle business, to our equipment, all the way to how we prepare and improve our craft. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Add to that the complexities of the demand of advertisers and their agencies, and it can be intimidating and even disheartening.

So what can you do about your vulnerabilities?

Well, there are blogs and more blogs written on that subject.  And there are coaches and more coaches that can give you insight and help you focus on that. But I want to recap these thoughts with four things that you can start doing today.

A. Start by building up relationships with your current clients. You already have established a connection there. Build on it. Eventually, if you do it right, you’ll have them on your side even to the point of becoming your advocate to help you find new clients.

B. Study marketing. Learn WHY and HOW to market. Your local community college no doubt has a few courses on this right now. There are plenty of eLearning courses on marketing that you can take at home. I’ve even noticed a few voiceover people offering marketing courses and services (I have no idea how effectual those are, but we shall see).

C. Research yourself. What VO genres are you best at? Not that you can’t develop and improve in other areas, but what are you really good at? Start marketing yourself in that arena.

D. Create a DPA – Daily Productivity Agenda. Go ahead, write down a daily activity list of what you have to do be more productive. Put it on your schedule and do it! Every day.

My DPA tends to change from day to day, but I’ve found that certain days seem to require the same agenda; for example Mondays. But every day I put in 30 minutes to an hour of marketing work. Every day I put in time to get coaching or to review recent coaching sessions. Every day I have a financial goal, and I stay in the studio until I achieve that goal, or realize that it is impossible to reach that goal that day. And by the way, I also permit myself to take the rest of the day off when I reach my goal if I am able to do so.  And finally, every day I spend about 30 minutes researching and reviewing what’s going on in the VO world.

This is a tough business. It’s competitive, frustrating, sometimes disheartening, and often lonely. Let’s face it: you’re on your own. That, in and of itself is another vulnerability.

But good careers are being made out of this work. The people who study it and learn what works and doesn’t work will survive it. It takes heart. It takes determination. It takes passion. It takes knowledge. Of course it takes some talent and a few breaks. But overcoming your vulnerabilities will insulate and strengthen you in your drive to succeed.

Go get it!


So I thought I've got these random thoughts that pop into my head. Probably a result of that car accident as a kid.  Anyway...here you go:


1. Isotope’s RX 6 rocks!!! 


2. Voicing Podcasts for clients is a new VO trend.


3. Sometimes a project is worth more as a non-union job.


4. I love clients.  It’s the ones that don’t love me that drive me nuts.


5. Everybody needs a hero.  But everybody also needs to be a hero to someone.

6. Most people are probability thinkers. I choose to be a possibility thinker.


7. I’ve got way too many microphones. And preamps.


8. Which one of you clowns hired my neighbor’s lawn service???

9. I wish I had a dollar for every voice coach/trainer that said I could make thousands of dollars.  If I had taken their course, I’d have thousands of dollars!


10. Yes, Mr. Client, I got that copy at 11:58 am. And I can have that back to you today. But today may mean 8:30pm.


This evening my wife was busy talking on the phone but had “West Side Story” on the TV in the background. I happened to walk in.


I’m no movie critic. My favorite movies are “Grumpy Old Men” 1 & 2. But I can tell you that listening to most of the actors on “West Side Story” was a most painful experience! Those are some of the worst combined Spanish accents I’ve heard at one time. Embarrassing!

Now, I realize that movie was done a long, long time ago, but I wonder if directors and producers have changed that much when it comes to selecting English with a Spanish accent.  As a bilingual voice talent, I often get requests to do English with a Spanish accent. It’s surprising how many times I get asked to dial back the accent.  In other words, to not sound so Hispanic. Apparently, the producers and director of “West Side Story” didn’t have a clue about what they wanted in this area.


I’ve come to realize that there are a number of different reasons that clients want English with a Spanish accent. 


First, they want to attract North American English speakers with a slight Hispanic accent. This is usually for the purposes of advertising a Tex-Mex restaurant or other similar place of retail business, implying how Mexican they are. Sometimes this voice is also used in eLearning or corporate narrations to suggest that the company also employs Hispanic workers, but the project is primarily targeted at English speakers.

Secondly, they want to attract 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanic speakers. Usually this style gets used in retail. I’ve done a number of commercials like this for auto, phone, banks, etc. This is generally done by a combination of English and Spanish (Spanglish). This most certainly would have been appropriate for “West Side Story!”

Thirdly, they want to suggest that the voice is truly a Latino individual for whom English is a second language. This is more prevalent in documentaries or specialized retail advertising.


What it really boils down to is that we are a multi-cultural nation. I know there are those that would scream their heads off in opposition, but it is what it is. And frankly, I’m proud that we are multi-cultural. I totally understand that there are legal and political issues that must be resolved in this arena, but the fact is that we are a multi-cultural nation. And that requires that many businesses and organizations present themselves that way.

So, to Bilingual Voice Talents, I would offer some things to consider in how you offer and present your services.


1. Embrace your accent.


Yes, your voice is unique, but so is your accent. Market it. Offer it. Use it. You are who you are, and you communicate to a great group of people. Let advertisers and producers know that.


Make your accent a positive when marketing yourself. And if you can turn the accent on and off, so much the better. It’s called range!


2. Identify your accent.


Are you a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation accent?  Promote it. Your accent, and the way you can categorize it makes you an expert.  Clients hire experts.


3. Consider your options.


This is a big failure for so many bilingual voice talents. Take some time and research to figure out whom all might be interested in what you have to offer. Consider government projects, corporate, industrial, educational, retail, etc. Even take a look at IVR and phone messaging. Why not consider the potential in news presentations, language targeted media, government, etc.


OK, that’s the extent of my rant. I hope it will start a conversation about what is useful for accented VO.  Please share and post your comments!


It was 1964.

I left my home in Honduras to come to the United States to go to school. My missionary parents made the difficult decision to send me back to the States since the educational opportunities in Honduras were painfully lacking at that time.

It was a traumatic transition to say the least. And I’m not being dramatic when I say that the most traumatic element to that whole experience was the incredible inhumanity and hatred that I saw when I made my new home in a boarding school in the deep south of Louisiana.

I had never seen racism. Never. If it existed in Honduras, I never saw it. And I simply could not understand it. It was vile. It was degrading. It was embarrassing. I wasn’t even a religious person but I knew it was ungodly.

The boarding school I was in did not allow us to watch TV, but I did have some access to the newspaper. What I read turned my stomach.

But there was this one man who although vilified, one sensed that there was a change happening.  His name was Martin Luther King, Jr.

I read his words, although I knew full well that I wasn’t getting the whole context of what he said. I heard the commentary by so many of the people around me. I knew from their vitriol that this was someone I needed to know more about.

Unfortunately, I was too young to have an impact on anyone’s thoughts at that time, but I was deeply disturbed and angry by what I observed.

However, the one thing I began to notice was that this Dr. King was different from every change-maker I had noticed before. See, I grew up in a country where change was effected by military will. I lost count of the number of revolutions I went through. But this was different. Dr. King spoke of peaceful resistance. He spoke of a willingness to suffer for change. He spoke of a change within.

What I began to notice was that the Black community began to be willing to pay the price for change. And those within the White community that were so filled with hatred toward them, did not change. I presume because they were not willing to change.

I’ll never forget how at the end of the school year in 1968 (now in a different school) I was stunned with the news of his assassination. I had never even considered that such might happen in America. I sat there in a friends home watching the news, literally trembling.  And I made a commitment that day that as a White guy, I would never, never tolerate or ignore racism.

Many years later now, as a man who since his youth has discovered a relationship with God and has a greater passion for what America should stand for, I say uncategorically that there is NO place in America for patriotism AND racism. The two cannot coexist.

In spite of the fact that many of our American forefathers were slave owners, and were so wrong for that, the very nature and character of America is rightful equality and opportunity for all who seek that ideal.

Anyone who exerts any, ANY effort
to decry or deprive anyone of their equal rights and opportunity is neither a true American nor a patriot.

I also learned something else from these many years of observing the racial struggles of America. Change comes only by those willing to suffer for the change.

Today, I recommit myself to suffer for the change that America so desperately needs.


How many times have you heard or said, “If you don’t clean your plate you don’t get dessert."

It’s intriguing to me how we have carried that mentality over to personal success. We look at success as the sweet reward for having to deal with all the other stuff we’ve had to swallow.

This is probably one of the greatest misunderstandings of success. We have a tendency to think of success as some sort of state of being that we achieve because we’ve done all the right things – you know, sort of like we’ve cleaned our plate so now we can have success – dessert.

But success is not dessert.

Success is having something to eat in the first place.

I’m in the voiceover business. It’s taken me several years to build a client base that I absolutely love. Seriously, I think of my clients as family. I’m close to them – or at least to their business endeavors. I think about them. I wonder about them. I really want to see them win. Oh sure, there are a few batty uncles in the lineage, but that’s just family.

I realize that it is my clients that provide whatever success I might enjoy. And that is exactly my point. Success in business isn’t about how much money you’ve made, or how great your cash flow is.  Real success is that you have something on your plate.

I have the best wife in the world.  How she has put up with me for 178 years is beyond me. One of the things that I really appreciate about her is that she has come to accept that my mentality is that if I don’t have work, I’m unemployed, and that’s why I work so hard at building relationships and being available to my clients all the time – even on vacation. Success is having something on your plate.

Not that I don’t enjoy a vacation now and then. I do. In fact, I’m planning on one in a few weeks. But the beauty of my business is that I can take vacation for as long as I want as long as I stay connected to my “family.”  And if they need me, really need me, I’m there for them.

No, success isn’t about reaching a revenue level or a particular bank account balance. It’s about having to get into the studio and get a voice job done because a client is waiting on it. It’s about recognizing that I have something on my plate, and for that I am grateful.

As we face this New Year, let me share five thoughts to make this new year one of your most successful.

1. Make a commitment to make your clients successful.

Your clients are not thinking about making you successful. That’s the last thing on their mind. They’re thinking about their own success. And if you think with them that way, you will most likely become part of their ongoing strategy for success. Meet their needs and they’ll meet yours.

2. Recognize that your client’s project is more important to them than anything else you have to do.

A few years ago, my little granddaughter taught me an important lesson about this. I was in my studio, and she was busy drawing on some papers on the floor. As she was lying on the floor, she accidentally bumped a chair that had some books and papers on it. They fell down on her leg. She was quite distressed about the matter.

I said, “Mona, it’s OK. Let me get this finished and you can sit up here on my lap and we’ll watch something on the computer.”

“But Grandpa,” she replied, “I need you to kiss my knee now.”

The reason your clients (and my clients) expect immediate attention is because it’s important to them and they trust you to be part of their solution.  That is an honor and a privilege. To your clients, it’s all about the “now.”

3. Embrace the realization that your client really needs you!

Think about it.  The reason your client is calling you, even at the most inopportune times is because he/she needs you.  To my voiceover compatriots, even a request for an audition is a signal that your client or agent needs you!

4.  Smile

I don’t know why this works, but it does.

I’m a natural born grouch. I mean, even when I’m pleased, people ask me what I’m upset about. Even in my wedding pictures, the happiest day of my life, I looked mad. When I get to heaven I’m going to ask God why He made me with such a sour face.

But I have found that when a client calls, when I force myself to smile – no matter what the issue – it completely changes the tone of the conversation. And knowing that I have something on my plate gives me a reason to smile!

5. Remember that all success is based on meeting needs.

Your client’s problem, concern, or issue is an open door for you to succeed! When your client calls with a need, he/she is saying “Here, have a helping of success!”

Don’t wait for dessert.  Enjoy what is on your plate now!

The best part about it is that you don’t have to prepare it – your client cooked it all up and is ready to serve you a big helping of success now!




“How do you stay in business?”

It was the frustrated question of a fellow voice talent who was struggling.

I thought about his question for some time after our conversation, and it led to this blog.

How DO you stay in the voiceover business? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were a number of things that I knew but had somewhat neglected and needed to revisit. And there were a few things that I seemed to be doing well, but the truth is that a balanced business is a healthy business.

Perhaps some of these thoughts and reminders will help you to grow a balanced and healthy voiceover business. But let me say right up front, I’m addressing those voice talents that want to grow their business. If you are a VO hobbiest and are fine with the workload you are doing, God bless you. Go for it and have fun (and ignore my comments about rates). I mean, I know it really is fun, and I wish you well. I really do!


However, I’m addressing those voice talents that are making a living at this, or at least attempting to do so.




The voiceover business is one of the most unique businesses around. Our product is in demand and growing. And yet our product is an intangible. We have no product on the shelf. Everything we deliver is custom-created. It’s not like we can go in and buy someone’s voiceover service, take over their client list and immediately be in business.


This business is one that must be built by the individual voice talent. You can’t even hire someone to build it for you. Of course, you can hire someone to help you, but overall it’s something you have to do on your own. And building it takes time. It’s further complicated by the fact that often you never even meet your client face to face, so you’re at a disadvantage and so is your client. It’s hard to build a relationship that way.

Furthermore, many of our clients change clients, and so we have to continually work to re-establish ourselves, build new relationships, and create confidence.

In my case, 60% of my client list is international. I’ve never met any of those clients face to face. It took time to build those relationships, and it is something that I have to consistently work at developing.


I say all of that to encourage you to create a plan to continually and consistently build your business. Think and work through the scenarios of what it’s realistically going to take to find and develop clients. What will your client turnover be? How often will each client most likely have work for you?


I’ve found that I need to spend up to an hour a day reaching out, making new contacts, connecting and reconnecting with new and old clients. Now get this: I HAVE to do that just to maintain my current workload. I’m not even talking about increasing my business. I mean I have to spend up to an hour a day just to stay even, and I’ve been in business for over 25 years!




This took me way too long to learn. I’m ashamed to admit that.  I spent so much time over the years trying to do stuff that I’m, at best, average at doing. But clients don’t hire average. If you’re average in this business, you’re starving.


The turning point came when a client asked me to do a Dick Vitale impression for a spot. Well, I have nowhere even close to a Vitale impression. But the client insisted. They really needed me to do the job and they were down to wire on getting the job done.

I sent them a few takes of a pathetic rendition of Dick Vitale. A few hours later they came back and asked me to redo the audition with a few changed lines, and “could you give us a bit more of the Vitale emotion?”

I tried again.

The client was still not happy.

Another try.

And a couple of days later this email:

“Our client has decided to actually hire Mr. Vitale for their project.”


What a waste of time. I should have just told them from the very beginning that I’m no Dick Vitale and that they needed to look elsewhere.

My point is that you are who you are. Do what you’re good at. Don’t try to be someone or something else, unless of course you are an impressionist.

Can you learn different styles? Perhaps, but do yourself a favor. Get a coach and trust them to tell you when you are ready to deliver those goods.

In the meantime, excel at what you excel at.



This is one of my pet peeves.

If you are going to compete in this business, for goodness sake do what you have to do to get a quality sound.


I am so amazed at how cheap so many voice talents sound as they try to pawn off their efforts as a professional voice talent. In fact I just saw a post (again) on Facebook from a start-up voice talent who asked, “what microphone and interface should I use, and I need to start as cheap as I can.”

Look, I’m not trying to be mean here, but if you want to compete in this business you’d better make sure you sound as good, if not better than the rest of the dogs in the hunt. Quit playing the mind game that you can go cheap, and as you get more business you’ll build your equipment quality. No! Start with good and then upgrade!


Seriously, your potential clients are listening to up to 100 auditions or more for a particular job. If your sound quality sucks, nine times out of ten that will automatically disqualify you. They are only going to listen for the first few seconds and if the quality isn’t there, you’re toast.

It’s not about expensive equipment versus cheap equipment (although cheap equipment is one of the main culprits). It’s about sound quality. If you want quality clients, you have to produce quality sound. Oooooo! That was a good line.  Read it again.

Every couple of months a client will ask me to help them find additional voice talent for a project. I used to put those jobs out on Pay 2 Play sites, on Facebook, and whatever other means I could think of.  I must tell you that at least 90% of the auditions I got back were crap.

I was amazed at how bad so many of those auditions were. Bad sound. Bad reads. Bad interpretation. Bad editing. Just bad. I’m not kidding! 90%!!!


Now, I just go back to the voice talents I know will submit good auditions.


Question your sound quality. Share some samples with your fellow voice talents. Ask them to give you an honest appraisal of your sound quality. If there is an issue with your signal, get a sound engineer to help you out. But don’t embarrass yourself by sending out poor quality sound.

By the way, here’s an aside: Based on my experience that 90% of the auditions submitted to potential clients are awful. Don’t be afraid to submit even if they’ve already received a large number of submissions. I can promise you that most of those auditions are garbage. Just make sure yours is not one of the 90%.




Along that line, be the exception. After having been on the receiving end of searching for voice talent on behalf of some clients, I can tell you that another one of the most frustrating things of going through auditions is that almost everyone sounds alike.


Think about it. If the client hears 10, or 50, or 100 people who sound almost alike and interpret the copy almost exactly alike, why in the world would he/she hire you if you sound and interpret the copy like everyone else? Chances are if the client wants the read that almost everyone has submitted, they’ve already chosen their talent…and it’s not you.




In other words, define, develop and set the standard in your niche. Quit wasting time in VO niches that you are not good at. The old 80/20 formula is as real here as it is anywhere. 20% of the voice talents get 80% of the work in any niche you are pursuing.


If you want to excel in a particular genre, you’d better train, develop, deliver, and market yourself better than 80% of everyone else.




Face it; clients don’t want to have to spend a lot of time looking for the right voice and interpretation. So, the first one that comes along that grabs them is often the one they go with.


This is where the combination of copy interpretation and production make or break an audition. The client doesn’t expect the audition to be the final spot, although that does happen on occasion. The client is just looking for someone who gets it and delivers what they are looking for, or as sometimes happens, surprises them and takes them in a completely different direction.


I mean really, when you think about it, what difference does it make if you went up on that word or down on it? Don’t sweat the little stuff in the audition. The client is looking for a unique interpretation that speaks to their image, sense and intent. They know they can get you to change little things here and there if it is that important. And as soon as they hear the “sound” they are looking for, they will most likely jump on it, or at least flag it for review.


So, be early!

BTW, here’s a little trick that works for me. I warm up in the morning with auditions. Then I get back into the groove after my lunch break with any other auditions that have come in. And finally, I close out my day with any other auditions that might have come in.

That sounds like I audition a lot, but it really isn’t that much. I’m very selective, and there are times, almost daily, that there have been no additional appropriate auditions come in.


But for heaven’s sake, don’t put off auditions for a day or two, no matter how much time the client/agent gives you.


To quote a current client the first time I sent him an audition: “(Expletive deleted) if what you sent me, as fast as you sent it, is what you do, we’re going to have a wonderful life!”




No client has the right to establish your value and your rate. Frankly, not even the union has that right (And really, they don’t do that. They just establish a base rate). You are the one that should decide what rates you work for.


I’ve never been to a doctor that let me establish his/her rate. I’ve never been to a gas station that let me establish the rate I was going to pay. Never gone to a restaurant, looked at the menu and said, “Nah, that’s not what I pay for pommes frites. My budget is half of that.”


You establish your rate and your worth. When you work for less than an acceptable rate you say to the client, “I’m not worth what you should pay for this project.” 

I’m not angry or upset at you for doing that. You are not a threat to my business if you do that. It doesn’t really matter to me because I wouldn’t work for that lowball rate anyway. I’m just embarrassed for you. You’ve undercut your worth and you’ve enabled a client to cheapen his work. If you are even a halfway decent voice talent, you can and should get what you are worth!


I recently had a potentially new client that wanted to hire me for half of my rate. She said that’s what they had paid in the past and that other voice talents were fine with that rate.  I suggested she contact those voice talents again because I just couldn’t work for that rate. Yesterday, I got an email from her saying that her client had approved my rate and they were ready to proceed with the project.


My point is that you are the one that should establish your rate. If you don’t have the confidence in your talent or value, you will most likely undercut yourself. This is where connections and relationships with other voice talents and agents are so important. What are your peers charging and getting for similar work? Ask! Be willing to walk away if the rate is too low. And hold on to your self-worth.


The old excuse, “Hey, $25 is better than nothing,” is simply baloney. If you are marketing to that client crowd you are in the wrong store. Think about it this way: if you can get $25 for that job, you can most certainly get more for it. I know several voice talents that work for those kind of rates, and say they are happy. But if you plan to grow your business, you have to move beyond that low-ball mentality.


By the way, in my experience it is the lower paying clients that are often the hardest to collect from. Learn from my mistakes.


So, there are some thoughts on staying in business. No doubt you have a thought or two to add. Please do! Part of what makes our voiceover community so great is the willingness we have to help and encourage each other.


# # # #


Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonalds, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, and many more, along with his national work for numerous infomercials, ESPN, MLB, and the Golf Channel, among others. When he’s not working, he spends time cheering for losing sports teams, getting kicked off of golf courses, and cursing his boat motor.  For more information go to www.DanHurst.com




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!