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.

DON'T POOP IN MY POOL!

DON'T POOP IN MY POOL!

Published April 19, 2011

Some people have grubs in their lawn. Some people have rabbits that eat their flowers. I have ducks that poop in my pool.

No, it’s not by design. Why would I want that?

See, we live on a lake. Why one would live on a lake AND have a pool is beyond me, but the house came that way when we bought it. It’s a lovely home, and I have a gorgeous view from my voiceover studio window out over the lake. But…I have ducks.

Well, two of them anyway. Beautiful Mallards that flew in from posing for a Conservation Convention, I presume.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like ducks. I just don’t want them pooping in my pool. I know, I know, they’re just looking for a comfortable place to swim, and tainting the water is just a natural way of life for them. But it’s my pool. And there’s a whole lake fifteen feet from the deck.

Last night I finally decided to do something about it. L’Orange and Pate, as I’ve come to know them, landed on the deck at their regular time. They walked around on the deck, I guess to make sure I’d done a good job cleaning it up. Then they stood at the edge of the pool, waiting for whatever signal ducks wait for to jump in.

I strolled out to the pool and started talking to them, hoping the neighbors wouldn’t hear me. I told them in no uncertain terms that they were no longer welcome to swim in my pool since they obviously had no manners and found it necessary to relieve themselves in my pool that I worked so hard to maintain and keep clean.

They just quacked and started walking away from me.

“Look, I know this is hard to understand, but this isn’t your pool. And we don’t allow the kids to pee in it, and we’re sure not going to allow you to poop in it,” I said, as I walked menacingly toward them.

Suddenly, as if they understood, they both quacked and took off toward the lake.

Now, I’m not dumb. I knew they would try to come back after dark. Mallards can be so dishonest. So, I was ready.

I hid out in the shadows by the pool with my killer broom. I’ve never used it on a duck, but there is a breaking point…

Sure enough. There they came flying back onto the deck under the cover of darkness. Insidious little beasts.

“Aha!” I said, lurching out of my hiding spot. “Did you really think I would believe you? Listen, a duck that will poop in your pool, will come back in secret to sabotage you. I know how you are.”

They just looked quizzically at me pretending they had never seen me, and had no idea what I was talking about.

“Do not mock me!” I cried, and ran threateningly at them swinging my broom.

Ducks have an apparent survival instinct that I had not read up on. Suddenly they flapped their wings and dove into the pool to get away from me!

“Oh, no! OH NO! Don’t even think that’s gonna work,” as I ran to the other side of the pool.

They immediately swam to the other side of the pool and just quacked at me.

Now, after years of observing ducks, I don’t completely understand them, but there are some things that I can pick up on. And one of the things I clearly understood was the lady duck asking the guy duck what he was going to do about it.

And all he said was, “Back off, Myrtle, it’s a fat guy with a broom. He’ll probably keel over any minute with a heart attack and we’ll be fine.”

That did it.

A rage within me suddenly began to boil. A silent scream in the night. I thought back to all those hours I’d spent sweeping and vacuuming the pool, treating it to keep it clean, caring for it so my neighbors would be jealous. I snapped.

“IF YOU CRAP IN THAT POOL I’M JUMPING IN TO GET IT AND SHOVE IT UP WHERE ITCAME FROM!”

Two startled ducks frantically flapped their wings and quacked in horrific fear, realizing their lives were in eminent danger. Suddenly the lake made much more sense than this LakeNess Monster, and they duck-cussed me as they lifted off…

…and then they pooped in my pool.

Today I’ve spent a lot of time just gazing into the pool. I have no words to express the utter helplessness I sense. A few hours ago I got out the pool broom and vacuum system to clean up my defeat.

The moral of the story?

Oh, never mind. Make up your own. I have work to do.

Sometimes you lose to a duck.

YOU KNOW YOU'RE A VOICE TALENT WHEN...

YOU KNOW YOU'RE A VOICE TALENT WHEN...

Published March 9, 2011

You know you’re a voice talent when:

1. You have a chronic case of headphone hair.

2. You catch yourself repeating lines you hear in commercials.

3. You believe mouth ticks can kill you.

4. A one take is like a hole in one.

5. You know what it means to rock the mic.

6. You’ve done a few takes and then realized you weren’t recording.

7. You hate P words.

8. You plan to do this for the rest of your life.

9. You wear quiet clothes.

10. You think a great mic is the Holy Grail.

ON PROFESSIONALISM

ON PROFESSIONALISM

Published February 21, 2011

Professionalism.

It’s something every one of my clients expects. But what does it mean?

This is a new age in the voiceover industry.

It used to be that some “talents” could just record a voice job and whatever they thought was acceptable was. After all, the talent was the “professional.” But times have changed.

Today, a voice talent is not a star. Not even close. Even though numerous celebrity voices are used for voice projects, the average viewer or listener hasn’t a clue who the voice is, nor does he/she care.

We giggle today at the clips that have floated around about Orson Welles going off on an engineer, or William Shatner belittling a producer. However, today that sort of behavior would lose them business.

Being a professional carries a different distinction today than it did a few years ago. Merriam Webster defines professionalism as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a professional person.

So, what conduct, aims, or qualities?

Well, certainly that could be argued ad nauseam, but at the foundation of professionalism is a dedication to the success of a project. Think about that. Today’s successful voice talent invests himself/herself in the success of a project! As a client, producer or engineer, couldn’t you use someone like that in your corner?

That’s why we agonize over the interpretation of a line. It’s why we obsess over voice character. It’s why we become anal about a phrase, or even a word. It’s why we even rehearse before the session starts.

Professionalism isn’t about commanding more money. It’s about demanding perfection…from ourselves.

I get great satisfaction from a client/producer saying, “That’s exactly what I had in mind.” And frankly, I also love, “Well, that’s not what I heard in my head, but I like that. Let’s go with it!”

One of my greatest privileges is discussing a project with a client, writer, and/or producer to come up with the perfect wording or attitude for a voice project. Voice talents bleed for that opportunity. We want to see our clients succeed beyond expectation. And our work ethic represents that.

I had a session today with a client that I’ve had for several years. At the beginning of the session he told me he was looking for a straight, authoritative, announcer with some energy. I gave him my first read, and he nodded his head and said that’s it.

Then he wanted one, just a little slower. Again, he nodded and said it was what he wanted. Then he said, “I don’t know what else to try. Give me a read as if I hadn’t given you any direction.”

I said, “Well, based on the content and the intent of the copy, I’d like to try something with a little more smile and a little more sell.”

He said, “Go for it.”

I gave him my read. At the end he sat back, shook his head, and with a slight smile said, “That’s what I want, and I didn’t even know it.”

Professionalism. It’s a passion to see your client succeed.

NEED A RECOMMENDATION?

NEED A RECOMMENDATION?

Published February 7, 2011

“I hate to ask this,” she said, “because we still want to continue using you for most of our projects, but for this one we’d like to use a different voice. Is there anyone you could recommend to us?”

I chuckled. I was not in the least bit offended or bothered by her question. In fact, I was honored.

Imagine that! A client trusted me enough to ask for my recommendation. What a pat on the back!

I wish all producers and clients knew this little secret about us voice talents: we’re not threatened by each other. Do we want your voice job? Of course, but if we’re not right for it, we’re thrilled to be able to hook you up with someone that is exactly what you’re looking for. If I can endorse another voice talent for a project, I am more than happy to do so!

Why? Because we’re driven by success. Certainly our personal success, but also your success, and our fellow talent’s success. Every project that we get or that a friend of ours gets is a learning experience for us!

I love reading about great projects that my voiceover cohorts land. Do I get envious? Not at all! I figure I can learn something from every person who gets a voiceover job. Every one! I want to learn how they got the job and how they made the client happy. I want to discover the little things they do that give them an edge. Not so I can beat them at their game, but so I can be better at what I do.

And if I can recommend someone for a job, and they get the job, I’m thrilled to be a part of that whole process because I have a front row seat to see how it worked.

I have a significant client that uses numerous voice talents in numerous languages. When they need an English or Spanish male voice talent, they call me. But I also get a call from them for almost every project they do when they need a different voice talent. I can’t tell you how much I treasure that relationship! Without them even knowing it, they are teaching me how to be better at what I do.

And I love the relationships I have with fellow voice talents that I can recommend and who send me work for the same reasons. I take great pride in considering myself a business partner with so many different voice talents!

So, here’s what it boils down to. If you need a recommendation for a voice talent, don’t hesitate to call me. I’m delighted to make a recommendation that you’ll be happy with!

AN OPEN LETTER TO NEW CLIENTS

AN OPEN LETTER TO NEW CLIENTS

Published October 16, 2010

Dear New Client:

WELCOME! What a pleasure to work with you! I love new clients! I’m going to do everything I can to make you happy and glad you hired me as a voice talent! The success of your project is extremely important to me, so you can count on my attention and commitment to do my part.

Now, let’s lay down some ground rules so we’ll get along famously and you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for from me. Here are 5 things we should agree on:

1. I have one goal: to make you look good!

Tell me what will make you happy. Tell what will make your client happy – that’s what I’ll do. I believe you know far better than I do, what your client wants, so explain it to me.

I realize you are extremely passionate about your project. Tell me why. That helps me understand you and your client.

2. Tell me what you want.

Do you want a particular voiceover style or attitude? Want specific words emphasized? Tell me. Make sure I know about it.

And use words that I understand and work with. If you want me to raise or lower the pitch of my voice, say so. Do you want me to be more energetic? Tell me! Use words like friendly, deep, conversational, sophisticated, happy, announcer, intense, younger, older, excited, story-telling, hard-sell, soft-sell, mysterious, bubbly, sad, hesitant, etc. Don’t tell me to sound like I’m taller and wearing a bow tie.

3. If you’re not sure what you really want, say so!

I’m a professional, not a prima donna. I want you to succeed. I don’t succeed until you’re satisfied. I’m happy to give you various styles and approaches. I’ve got range. I can give you various reads. Just explain what you’re wanting!

But remember, my tool, my instrument is my voice. It wears out. Overuse it and it will start to sound a little different than at the beginning of the session.

4. Explain to me why you hired me. What is it you heard in my voice or my demo that sold you?

As a voice actor, I have many voice styles and elements. Yes, I have a signature sound, but even that can be colored many ways.

5. I want you back as a client. Tell me what I have to do to make this happen.

Let’s build a long working relationship.

I’m a small businessman. I make my living keeping clients like you happy. You don’t need to dangle the carrot of more business in front of me. I’m already going to give you my best, and it’s worth every penny you pay for it. Please don’t sell me short or cheapen my product. Be upfront and fair about your budget.

So, thanks for your business, my dear new client. Let’s get busy!

IT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL

IT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL

Published October 5, 2010

Wow! What a small world!

If someone had told me twenty years ago that I’d be working with companies all over the world, providing voice talent for their various media needs, I would’ve rolled my eyes and thought they were nuts.

But here it is 2010, and that’s exactly what is happening! Who knew that a guy in Kansas City could provide voiceovers for companies all over the world?

What an amazing small community this has become due to the internet and other technological advances. In the past two days I’ve had phone conferences with clients in Italy, Brazil, Chile, Honduras, England, and China! And in every case, these are clients that found my website and contacted me.

And now with Skype, I can chat with them in real time for pennies. That blows my mind. I can remember when an overseas call was over $30 a minute!

The international marketplace is changing at breakneck speed! The people that learn to relate and interact globally, and can work within the cultural and language differences, will reap great benefits.

That doesn’t mean you have to know the different languages. 80% of my international work is American English! It means you have to have the sensitivity and patience to work in a language challenged, culturally diverse, business-aggressive environment. And realize that your international clients are having to do the same.

So, for those of you seeking to make international in-roads in your business, no matter what it may be, I offer 5 things for you to consider:

1. International clients like to do business with friends. Offer the service they need, but be willing to go one step further to get to know your client personally. Almost everyone of my international clients has invited me to come visit them and stay at their house. And I have done the same for them. It’s the way business was done years ago in America.

2. International clients are as technologically advanced as you are, maybe even more. They know how to make use of the latest digital opportunities. They can teach you a thing or two to make you more proficient. And they are willing to do so.

3. International clients have access to far more people like you with your business service. They need you, but if you don’t deliver, they can find someone else in 15 minutes or less. Take care of them!

4. International clients admire your courage and determination to make it in the international business world. They know it’s tough. Once they’ve contacted you, it’s because you caught their attention. That says something!

5. International businesses are usually very successful national and local businesses. They just branched out. When you are dealing with an international client, you are usually dealing with a very savvy business person or company. Don’t BS them. Don’t be arrogant. And don’t sell them short. They know what they want and they know how to get it. If you don’t deliver, someone else will.

Oh, and one other point. International companies know each other. They’re more than happy to exchange ideas and recommendations. And that, my friend, can make you or break you!

Welcome to the wonderful world of international business!

WELCOME WORLD!

WELCOME WORLD!

Published September 27, 2010

What an exciting business this is! It wasn’t too long ago those of us who don’t live in L.A. or N.Y. focused our efforts on local opportunities. Within the last 10 years the national opportunities opened up as clients started using the internet to connect with voice talents. Now, companies all over the U.S. open up their voice demands to talents all over the country.

Within the last couple of years the market has really opened up to the world! Just within the last month I’ve had the privilege of working for companies in Italy, Brazil, Germany, Venezuela, the Netherlands, and Mexico. Actually, Mexico deserves an extra mention since there has been so much work from there, thank you very much!

I know several international companies as well as several voice talents check this blog every once in awhile, so let me take this opportunity to offer some suggestions to make the international voice opportunities work as efficiently as possible.

1. If you are an international company looking for an American English speaker, find one that will help you make sure your translated copy says exactly what you want to say.

Almost invariably, the copy I get from an international company has some grammatical issues that need fixing for American English. This is due to several factors: Translators that are not completely at ease with both languages, colloquialisms, vague uses of English words, and terminologies that don’t translate easily.

It’s not that big of a deal. I’ve found that if addressed appropriately and with respect, companies welcome the help.

2. If you are an American voice talent working for an international company, take the time to really understand what your client is trying to say in the copy. Sometimes because of the differences in language, the copy is awkward and even incorrect. Study the copy and ask questions – help them say what they want to say the best way.

Be careful to not disparage or insult the translation. Everyone wants the best product possible, and taking shots at the translation is unprofessional and unproductive. Make sure you understand what they want to say, and give them options.

3. Take the time to know the audience. Whether you are the company or the voice talent, you need to really know your audience and how they will receive the production.

4. As the company, know what you want from the voice talent as far as interpretation and style. As the voice talent, take the time to discover what the company wants. Don’t make assumptions. Both parties must be very clear on their expectations and understandings.

5. As a voice talent, take the time to follow up with the company. Often, cultural matters and customs inhibit the company from completely expressing their feelings about your work. Set them at ease – let them know that your goal is to make them completely happy with the project. Ask them for suggestions on how they might prefer your product. And then, deliver as quickly as possible.

It’s been my experience that international companies use voice talents as loyal partners of their marketing team. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you!

One other point. International rates can be very frustrating. The truth is that the vast majority of companies that want to play in the international markets are willing to pay the rates of the market they are seeking to reach. While it is not uncommon for companies to seek to negotiate rates, I’ve found international companies perfectly willing to pay the fair rates for the market.

It’s a small world! If anybody knows that, voice talents do. Seek to make your international clients as successful as possible and you will be greatly rewarded!

Tomorrow I have projects for China, England, and Argentina. Oh yeah, and one for Austin, Texas. It doesn’t get any better than that!

And if any of you international companies are looking for a voiceover talent to help you with American English, let’s talk!

VOICEOVER PASSION

VOICEOVER PASSION

Published September 16, 2010

I love this voiceover business!

One of the main reasons I love it is because of the people in it!

I don’t mind telling you that most of the voice talents I know and work with are the best people in the world. They are great at what they do; they respect each other; and they have a remarkable passion to see each other succeed.

Why? Well, maybe it’s because the voiceover business is not yet recognized as a critical part of the marketing world. The creative writers are well-respected as the backbone of the advertising industry. And they should be. The graphics creatives are revered, as they should be! Audio engineers even have their own category in the Emmys and Oscars, and they should.

But voice talents?

Nah, we’re just..well..uh…a voice.

Yeah…right!

Great voice talents bring copy to life! They create mental images that are FAR more impressive and life-changing than video images and print graphics (to all my video shooters and graphic illustrators friends: just kidding).

BUT…combine a killer voice talent with your graphics or video and you’ve got a life-altering project!

So, some day voice talents! Some day.

Some day all producers will understand how we make them look good! Clients will understand the value of a voice that creates a brain image of their product, and video/audio engineers will get the impact of a voice well done. Some day.

The great news is that many of those folks are already there. They get it. They know the value of a great voice talent.

But still…

In a recent awards event there were three projects that I voiced that were nominated. Two of them won. I was pretty wired about that. But in the entire awards ceremony, the voice talent of each of the projects was never mentioned. Not once.

Now, mind you, I’m not bitter. I’m really not. If anything, I take it as a challenge. That’s just the way I’m wired.

So, here’s a call out to you folks that put on those award ceremonies. You hand out candy to the writers, the producers, the musicians (well, some of them); how about some love for the voice dogs?

In the meantime, we’ll just keep voice acting; improving our craft; developing our technique. When you’re passionate about something you don’t need accolades. You need opportunities.

And some cash doesn’t hurt.

ENGLISH / SPANISH CURIOSITIES

ENGLISH / SPANISH CURIOSITIES

Published September 6, 2010

I’ve addressed this subject before, but it’s good to bring it up again once in awhile: Converting English projects to Spanish is one of the most complicated ventures you’ll ever take on in the wonderful world of media production.

Each week I get a handful of projects from clients wanting to convert their commercial or narration to Spanish. Cool! That’s one of the main ways I make my living. Clients who do this all the time understand the issues. However, new clients often get quite frustrated with process.

See, English to Spanish isn’t a word for word venture. In fact, Spanish tends to run 20 to 25% longer. Why? Mainly because of syllables. For example the word “train” in Spanish is “ferrocarril.” Three syllables more than in English. “First Aid” is “Primeros Auxilios” – about three times longer to say. And phone numbers? Don’t get me started on phone numbers. Almost every number in Spanish takes twice as long to say as in English.

Then add in the complexities of play on words, colloquialisms, etc. and you can see how difficult the whole thing can get.

Now, take all that and factor in that the client wants it to fit the same format – a 30 second TV spot, a timed narration for video that has to sync up to the points and/or graphics, and so on – and you can see how difficult things can get.

The bottom line (colloquialism) is that you almost always have to cut copy (industry colloquial term). And that can open up a can of worms (try translating that colloquialism) if the copy has to go back to legal (another colloquialism).

So, if you’re wanting to get your English project voiced in Spanish (and by the way, Yes! It has to be translated. We don’t just read it in English and say it in Spanish), you must realize that it’s going to take a little extra time and effort. And if there are any verbiage, copy length and terminology issues it may take even longer.

Now, Spanish to English is a whole different matter! For some reason Spanish copy writers tend to write with great flourish, often quite dramatic and eloquent. It is, of course, a beautiful language. Unfortunately that beauty doesn’t usually translate easily…if at all.

As translators, we often find ourselves searching for terminology and sentence structures that will lend some justice to the original. Not an easy task. For example, part of a Spanish to English translation job I had last week would have literally translated as, “The unnecessary consequences of wrong choices and weak planning will leave one with far reaching complications later in life if even the smallest of details are ignored when choosing a business to change your oil.”

Ahhh…Breathing life into words in English and Spanish. What a fascinating line of work I’ve chosen!

STUPID COLD!

STUPID COLD!

Published July 24, 2010

So I’m fighting a bad cold, sore throat, and a nasty round of laryngitis. In the middle of summer!

I’m pathetic.

Between the wheezing, snorting, coughing, sputtering, and dripping I’m wondering how to get the voice jobs done that are due on Monday.  I wonder if I record the spots and then speed them up if I’ll sound normal?

Nah, probably not.

And the advice…oh, the advice one gets when one is sick like this!

“Try a spoonful of kerosene in hot tea.”  WHAT???  Isn’t that like deadly or something?

“Grapefruit Seed Extract.”  Check.  I think that’s in the second canister from the left.  The big one.  Doesn’t everyone keep a bushel of that stuff around?

“Dip your tongue in Scotch.  Don’t drink it.  Just hold your tongue in it.”  Yeah.  Right.

“Slather your chest in Vicks, then wrap a towel around your chest.”  Slather?  You want me to slather in goop?

“Go to a sauna and sweat it out.”  Yeah, that oughta do it.  The other people are gonna love a wheezing, sweaty, naked fat guy in there with them.

“Just ignore it.  It’s mostly mental anyway.”  Really?  Wonder what the client will think when he gets his voiceover back: “You can..sniff..shcrub and shcrub…cough..sneeze…sniff..and shtill not geth…drip…drip…thosh shtains out…hack, hack.”

No.  I think I’ll just suffer this one through.  Let it run it’s course.  Enjoy my miserability.  I know it’s not a word.  But it should be.

Because if there is anyone who has the ability to be miserable when he’s sick, it’s me.

Just ask my wife.

HAVE YOU PEAKED?

HAVE YOU PEAKED?

Published July 12, 2010

I’ve been watching the World Cup.  In fact, a few days ago I watched Spain win it all.  In all of the TV commentary someone said, “They peaked at the right time.”

A doubtful comment at it’s best, but I got to thinking about my VoiceOver career.  Have I peaked, or is the best still to come?

It’s a valid question.  Is your best work still in you, or are you on the backside – the downslide – of your best work?

Well, the immediate answer is “No! I’ve still got it.  I can still produce.”

Really?

I was the stadium announcer for the Kansas City Royals for 14 years.  Through those years I had the privilege of getting to know some of the best players of the game.

Frank White is one of the great major league baseball players, and certainly the best 2nd baseman the Royals ever had (8 Gold Gloves).  At the end of his career on the field we were having a conversation shortly after he scored his 2000th hit.

We met at a little watering hole after one of the games.  He knew that the organization was trying to phase him out and he was really hurting over it (and rightly so!).

He said, “Why do they want me out?  I can still play!”

The truth be known, he most certainly could still play!  The organization was just playing the odds, and they were pushing him out after such a brilliant career.  It was just cruel.

By the way, the player they brought in to replace him was gone after 2 years.

I’ve often thought about that exchange.  Especially with reference to my career.  When do you peak as a voice talent?

The good news  is that you probably have what it takes to produce for a long, long time!  Certainly far beyond what a professional athlete can expect.  The difference is that you have to adapt to your voice and capabilities.

And speaking of voice and capabilities, one of the things that drives me nuts when I get requests for an audition is the reference to the requirement for a middle-aged voice.

What does that mean?  What is middle-aged?

I mean, I figure I’ve got another  20 years of voice work left in me.  Am I still middle-aged?

On the other hand, I’ve got one of those deep, rich voices.  Is that middle-aged or are they looking for a lighter voice?

And I’ve been in this business for over 25 years.  What are the parameters for “middle-aged?”

Hey producers, it’s time to lose that “middle-age” reference.  Explain yourselves.  Do you want a lighter voice or a heavier voice?   Because good voice actors can deliver either.  It’s all about acting.

For example, today I did a “middle-aged guy buying a car” and “a tough old mountain man.”  In both cases, the client had specified a deeper voice.

See what I mean?  How do get from a “deeper voice” to those other styles?  It’s all about voice acting…not just the voice of the talent.

So…whom do you want me to be today?

By the way, my favorite voice/style direction ever was “kind of a cross between Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas with less hair.”  I swear that is exactly what I was told.

It’s all in the delivery!

And NO!  I haven’t peaked yet!

WHY DO I DO THIS?

WHY DO I DO THIS?

Published June 23, 2010

I recently took a life inventory; something I recommend in the Success Strategy Seminars I occasionally lead.  It was a remarkable time of assessment and focus.

One of the questions I ask in the inventory is “Why do you do what you do?”

It’s a tough question because it’s generally aimed at business people within their work environments. What makes it tough is that there are 5 answers that are not allowed:

1.  It’s my job ( or any semblance of that answer).

2.  It’s what I’m good at (or any semblance of that answer).

3.  It’s what’s expected of me (or any semblance of that answer).

4.  I can’t afford to quit (or any semblance of that answer).

5.  I don’t know.

Now, I was in radio for a number of years.  I loved it, except for the last few years.  During that time management pretty much decimated what had been award-winning and ratings-topping radio.  It wasn’t fun anymore.  It wasn’t creative, and it wasn’t good radio.  But the money was awesome!  So I pouted all the way to the bank!

But I got to a point where I could not answer that question legitimately anymore.  And I knew deep inside my frightened soul that a change was coming, whether I made it, or the company made it.

That change launched me into one of the most challenging, exhilarating, scary, rewarding journeys I’ve ever been on: full-time voiceover work.

I had the good fortune of knowing that a change was coming in my life, and I went to work to build a new future.

Some people say the change couldn’t have come at a worse time.  The economy is a mess.  The industry is flooded with folks hoping to carve out a little piece of the pie, and radio and TV ad revenues are way down.

I don’t see it that way.  I’m part of a revolution.  Thousands and thousands of us are fed up with the corporate B.S. we’ve had to deal with.  We’ve snubbed our noses at the big boys and are building solid new companies that will grow and, in fact, be stronger and more profitable than many of the companies we left.

Which brings me back to that Life Inventory question I asked earlier: “Why do you do what you do?”

It would be real easy to answer that with a jab at the corporate goons who’ve ruined radio, but I’ve already done that.  The truth of the matter is that I am more in love with what I’m doing now than any job I’ve ever had.

Over the past few years I have fallen in love with my clients.  I don’t know how to say it any differently. I’ve met some of the most creative, insightful, warm people I’ve ever known.  Their passion, their commitment, their quirkiness inspires me!

Listening to their dreams and focus has driven me to a whole new level in personal motivation and passion. So how would I answer that personal inventory question?

I do what I do because with just the inflection of a word or the color of a phrase I can change lives, build companies, and create a legacy.

That, my friend, is reason enough to “get up and do it again!”

How would you answer the question?

I LOVE SUCCESS!

I LOVE SUCCESS!

Published June 7, 2010

Man, I love clients who include me in their plans!
I don’t know about you, but one of the things that I love about the voiceover business is that you get to build relationships with clients over the long term, and you really feel you are a part of their success!
LOVE THAT!!!
I’ve been in this business 25 years.  I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself lying in bed just thinking about a particular client and dreaming of ways for them to increase their business.
It’s addicting isn’t it?  As a voice talent, you just feel like you are part of that company’s life.
That’s part of the painful reality of our business.  We love our clients.  So much that we would bleed to make them successful.  And when they struggle we hurt with them!
I never want to lose that pain.
And there’s something else I never want to lose: The shear giddiness of a client who thinks outside the box.
Oh, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a good one.
There is little that is anymore exciting and fulfilling than to be part of someone’s dream.  I have spent hours, literally, in person, on the phone, by email with clients planning strategies.  I can’t explain what a rush that is.  Is there anything anymore heady than knowing you are part of a plan…a strategy…a goal?
What it boils down to is that as voice talents, we are more than just a disembodied voice that yells at people.  We are part of a dream.  We work every day with clients that are investing their lives in their product or service.  
They should expect no less from us.
One of my most recent great pleasures has been to be the voice of Winning Colours, a new all-purpose cleaner that is about to take the United States by storm.  For the past few years I’ve been their voice in Canada and in Mexico.  Now, finally, they are making the push into the United States.  
Over the past few years it’s been my incredible pleasure to dream with Eric Lehner, the CEO of Winning Brands, the maker of Winning Colours.  We’ve dreamed.  We’ve strategized.  We’ve argued.  We’ve tested.  We’ve challenged.  We’ve experimented with ideas.  And finally the product is launching in the U.S.
What an amazing journey!
It’s true.  You are part of your client’s goal, strategy, and dream.  You owe them everything you’ve got to give. They deserve nothing less.
But the exciting truth is they owe you nothing less either. 

CAN EMAIL MARKETING REALLY WORK?

CAN EMAIL MARKETING REALLY WORK?

Published May 25, 2010

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

A VOICE TALENT'S PRAYER

A VOICE TALENT'S PRAYER

Published May 12, 2010

Dear God,

Thank you for giving me the unique and privileged opportunity to be in the voiceover business.  Not too many people can say that they absolutely love what they do, but I can!

I’m grateful for clients who must be the absolute best in the world.  Well, except for that one guy that totally scammed me, but that’s between You and him now.  Please bless my clients!  Make their efforts and hard work completely successful.  Overwhelm them with the rewards of a job well done.

And thank you for the fellow voice talents You’ve put in my life.  You’ve made me better by knowing them, and I am inspired, motivated and challenged by each of them.

Lord, there are some folks who don’t get enough credit or appreciation in this business: the engineers, and producers, and writers, and translators that make magic out of my often inane and inadequate performance.  Please bless them in a special way!

But most of all, thank You for a wife and kids that put up with my idiosyncrasies and weirdness.  You’ve given them great patience and a high tolerance to my obsession.  I know it’s not right to stay up until 3am working on a silly audition that I have a 1 in a 1000 chance of getting, but how cool is it that I can!?!?!

I really only have one thing to ask for.  Would it be OK if I kept doing this?  I mean, would You connect me with the right people so that I can keep doing this for a long time?  That would be awesome!

So, I just wanted to say THANKS!  I know I don’t deserve it, but WOW, You’ve been good to me!   I am of all people most fortunate, and I am deeply, deeply grateful.

dan

P.S.  By the way, thanks for helping me figure out where that stupid buzz was coming from in my studio.

A DAY OFF OR AN OFF DAY?

A DAY OFF OR AN OFF DAY?

Published May 5, 2010

It doesn’t happen that often but earlier this week was a “no payday”.  No paid work.  Nothing.  Nada!

Oh, I had work to do.  But not paid work.

I used to panic over days like this.  Maybe get a little depressed.  Wonder what I was doing wrong.  I’d read about how busy other voice talents were and think my career was over.

Not anymore.  I realize it’s just part of the ebb and flow of the business.

I was in our grocery store the other day.  I noticed that there were only a few shoppers.  I saw the manager and just casually asked, “How’s it going?”

He just shook his head and said, “We’re in trouble.”

I didn’t really know what to say, so I opted for “Hey man, it sucks all over, but we’ll get through this.”

“No,” he said.  “It’s not that.  It’s that since it’s dead today, we’ll get hammered tomorrow!”

It’s weird how it works that way, but it does!

And sure enough, the next day I got swamped.  In fact, the night before,  I received an email from a client warning me that he had a large project coming in and could I “work him in?”  As it turned out, that’s exactly what I had to do – “work him in.”

Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  I most certainly am not.

But here’s a little secret:  your clients go through the same thing!  When things are slow for you it’s probably because things are slow for them, so…

That’s the perfect time to touch base with them just to say “Hi!”  Or to follow up on some leads with a personal note.  Or to check your invoicing and see if anyone needs a little nudge.  Or to clean out your audition files.  Or to tweak your website.  Or to develop a new demo.  Or to work on a Press Release.  Or to mine the internet for more leads.  Or to clean up your database.

Or to do what I did.

Go hang out by the pool.

I WEREN'T SO SMART YESTERDAY!

I WEREN'T SO SMART YESTERDAY!

Published April 16, 2010

“Guys my age shouldn’t have to learn anything.  And yet I find myself learning more now than ever before.”

Famous words by my Dad from a few years ago.  Dad, 85 years old, is now really irritated that his computer isn’t fast enough or powerful enough to do some of the things we wants to do on it. He’s decided it might be time to get a new one.  One with a really big screen so he can see it.

“No point in having a computer that could run a small country if you can’t see what you’re doing,” he tells me. “And no point in having a bigger computer if you can’t learn something from it.  The smartest people in the world are those who are aren’t smart enough.”

I guess I inherited his hunger for knowledge.

That certainly was true today!

I was in a session with Matt Smith and after we were done he schooled me…SCHOOLED ME…in a couple of new mic techniques.

And the light came on!

I had been taught wrong.  Not that what I was doing was wrong for everyone, but I was doing a couple of things that I had learned from some great engineers and some great studios…things that weren’t right for me and my voice.   I don’t need to go into all the details but mostly it had to do with a combination of proximity and mic gain.  Really, it had to do with being smart enough to realize that I’m not smart enough.

Now, I’m no slouch in the voice booth.  I’ve been doing voiceover work for 25 years.  It’s been very good to me and I make a decent living at it.  And I know how to work a mic.  I know about the sweet spot and how to avoid pops and sibilance, and acoustics.  I know how to build a great signal chain.  I know about mic placement and bass traps and reflection.  I built my own studio and sound booth.  I know stuff, you hear me?

But there is always more to learn.  And today was one of those special days!  It was exhilarating!  I couldn’t wait to get out of my sessions so I could play around with my newly learned techniques.

That’s the beauty of this voiceover business!  It’s a combination of art and science.  It’s the marriage of creativity and technical know how.  It’s the passion and determination to outperform yesterday.

Today I am a better voice talent because I learned something new.

I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!

I AIN'T NO DICK VITALE!

I AIN'T NO DICK VITALE!

Published March 24, 2010

At what point do you simply say, “Sorry, I can’t help you?”

One of the biggest mistakes that Voiceover Talent make is to try to be something that they are not.  

Let me give you an example.  A few weeks ago I had a client ask me to voice a commercial for him in a particular character.  He was looking for a Dick Vitale type read.  Now, I don’t really do characters.  I’ve tried.  I’m terrible. Because I’m fluent in English and fluent in Spanish, about the only character I can do well is English with a Spanish accent.  And my Dick Vitale doesn’t sound right with a Spanish accent.  Or without a Spanish accent.

So, I told the client I really couldn’t do a Dick Vitale read.  He told me he was desperate.  His client was demanding that, and he was down to the wire, and would I please give it a shot.

Crap!  He’s a good client.  I couldn’t just tell him “Sorry. No!”  Maybe if I listened to Vitale enough times I could get close.

So I said ok. Reluctantly.

After an hour’s worth of work, I sent him the most perfect Dan Hurst Dick Vitale ever!

The next day my client called and said his client had decided to do something else.

Ya think?!?!?!?

It just proves my point.  You are who you are.  Do what you do.  Stick with it.

I don’t know why I let myself get pulled into those situations.  They never work out!  Never!  Not for me, anyway.  I know what I can do.  I know, for the most part, what I can’t.  To overstep that boundary is foolish, a waste of time and energy, and misleading to the client.

Here’s the understatement of the year:  You didn’t get to where you are by being something that you’re not.  

Well, actually if things haven’t gone well for you maybe you did get to where you are by trying to be something you’re not.  But the point is that the best of what you’ve got is where you’ll earn your living.  It’s that simple.

Don’t kid yourself.  Do what you do and leave the other stuff to people that are better at it.  

I have a friend who had a carpenter do some work at his house.  The guy was awesome!  Incredible work.  My friend also needed some concrete work done on his driveway, so he asked the guy if he could do concrete work.  The guy said he had done his own driveway, but he wasn’t really a concrete guy.  My friend hired him on the spot.

Do you know how much it costs to have a driveway re-done by someone who really knows what they’re doing?

You are who you are.  Do what you do.  Stick with it. 

WHAT DID YOU SAY???

WHAT DID YOU SAY???

Published March 13, 2010

I’m a bilingual voice talent. English and Spanish.  It’s a niche that has developed through the years, and I’m extremely grateful to God and my parents for the privilege of growing up in a foreign country and learning to speak two languages fluently at the same time.

Along with that bilingual voice work comes the added opportunity to do some translation work.  With the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S., many retailers and corporations are looking for better ways to communicate with the various communities.

Now frankly, I think the Spanish advertising thing is a little overdone.  I mean really, does McDonalds have to advertise in Spanish in L.A???  But there are thousands of other times where Spanish advertising is totally appropriate.  I’ve done several ads and training videos for law firms, banks, employment services, etc. that target the Spanish population with pertinent information about their services.

I’ve heard the arguments about how if “they” are going to live in this country “they” should learn English.  Well, they are.  I don’t know of one native Spanish speaker that isn’t trying to learn English.   They are anxious to learn our language and our culture…the good parts.   And local advertisers and companies are right in seeking ways to communicate with them and assimilate them into our way of life.

That’s where good translation work comes in.

So, if you are an advertiser or a company seeking to put together a commercial or a training manual targeted to Spanish speakers let me give you 3 suggestions that will improve your efficacy.

1.  Lose the slang and colloquialisms.

Read through your copy.  Are you using phrases and terms that will translate what you really want to say?

For example, I was given copy to translate yesterday that said, “Is your credit card company giving you the rap, rap runaround?”  Huh?

Sometime ago I was given a car spot to translate where the dealer was offering a “No Bull(beep) Sale!”  And he was irritated with me when I tried to explain to him that it just wouldn’t translate well.  So, I gave them the line, and I’m not making this up, “The We Won’t Sell You The  (beep) Of A Bull Sale!”  It just lost something in the translation.

Which, by the way, leads me to a parenthetical thought:  What is it with car dealers that have to name every sale?  It’s the President’s Day Sale, the Spring Cleaning Sale, the Tornado Bustin’ Sale, the Tradin’ Pants Sale, the We’ve Got Your Back Sale…make it stop!!!  Since when does naming a sale make it special?  C’mon, do you really think the “Our Boss Has Gone Nuts Sale” is that compelling?

So my point is make sure your copy says what you want it to say without slang and colloquialisms if you want a clean translation.

2. Allow for more time.

Most languages take longer than English does to say something.  It certainly is true with Spanish. That’s just the way it is.  Deal with it.

There are a few main reasons for this phenomena.    Many of the words have more syllables.  For example, cat is gato; car is auto (or carro); street is calle, and bus stop is parada de buses.  See what I mean?  And when you figure that most English commercials speak too fast as it is, you can imagine what that does to a Spanish translation.  And don’t get me started on phone numbers  (I actually had a producer once say, “It’s a phone number.  It’s only seven letters.  How can it take that long to say?”).

Another reason for the length problem is that sometimes terms have to be explained.   Especially if it’s an abbreviation or a coined term.  For example I was translating anOSHA/Safety Manual for a company.  They used the term “First Responders”.  Now, most English speakers would know what that means, but it’s not a common term in Spanish.  What is it?  First Aid?  Firemen?  Ambulance?  Police?  It’s Primeros Respondedores, but the term needed to be explained at least once.

So, figure at least 20% more time to say something in another language.

3.  Make sure your translator is fluent, fluid, and familiar with BOTH languages.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a translation done by a native Spanish speaker that wasn’t completely at ease with the English language, and they botched the translation because they missed the intent of a phrase or a word.  That just ends up costing the client more money and time.

And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a translation done by an English speaker who took Spanish in college and spent a month in Mexico…and embarrassed themselves and the client.  By the way, the word in Spanish for embarrassed is not “embarazada”.  And when you bake bread you don’t “orinar el pan.”

Just sayin’.

So, I wrap up my diatribe by saying there are millions…MILLIONS of people who would appreciate hearing your message in their language as they adapt to this fast-paced, intimidating society of ours.  Do yourself and them a favor and honor their language and culture with an accurate yet comfortable translation.  They deserve it and so do you.

PLEASE LIKE ME

PLEASE LIKE ME!

Published February 25, 2010

A few weeks ago John Melley posted a discussion in the Marketing For Fun And Profit Group of VoiceoverUniverse.com called “How Scarce Are You?”  It was brilliant.  I highly recommend you read it.

In the post John asked the question, “How can I get them to say ‘That’s the person I want to do all my voice over work?’”

A great question.  And one that I hope will generate some discussion here.

John goes on to say, "You do it with the words you use, the way you treat your clients, how you look after them, how you dress, speak on the phone, how you write your emails, your letterhead, demo packaging, the experience they have with you in the studio. Your “Presentation.”  Those are all great reminders.  Read them again and think about them.

Now, obviously talent and delivery are critical to success with your client.  And you’re not going to get ALL of a clients voice work unless it’s a very small client.  But you can position yourself to make yourself one of your client’s “go to” voices.  So, with that in mind, I’d like to add a few thoughts to that question.

1.  Your client pretty much already has a voice in mind.  It’s your job to figure out what he/she is looking for.  Ask them for ideas and samples.

I learned this lesson from my wife.

Several years ago she decided she wanted a new hair style.  When she went to her hair stylist, she was asked to bring in pictures of what she had in mind.

My wife, Marcia, knew what she was looking for.  The stylist wasn’t offended that she wasn’t leaving it up to her.  It was all about pleasing the client.

A side note: the picture changed several times before she decided on what she wanted.  But that’s for another blog.

2.  Study the copy.

Your client has a unique writing style.  It’s different from every other client.  There are little nuances and inflections that your client has already heard in his/her head.  Find out what the client is expecting. Learn their writing style and how they interpret their copy.

I totally blew this today.

A client sent me the copy for a voiceover – a car spot.  I always do the real hard sell delivery for this client.  So, I recorded it and sent them a couple of takes per his request.

Well, not exactly per his request.

A few minutes later I got a call from the client, who fortunately was laughing, to tell me that Cadillac spots sound better when they are not screamed.

I’m an idiot.

3.  Understand your client’s schedule.

By the time your client gets to the voiceover part of the production, he/she is already in a time crunch.  That’s just the way it is.

If you can move heaven and earth to accommodate their schedule, they will appreciate and remember you.

Will they take advantage of you?  Sure.  But no more than their client takes advantage of them.  It’s just the way the business works.

4.  Tell your client that you welcome their direction.

I make it a point to tell new clients to feel free to tell me what they want, to interrupt me if I’m not doing what they want, to tell me what they like and don’t like, and that I’m not offended or bothered by that.

I have clients that are comfortable interrupting a read.  I like that.  I don’t take it as an insult.  Why should I waste their time and mine doing something that they’re not going to use?  The way I figure it, every time they interrupt me I get a little closer to what they’re looking for.

It’s all about pleasing the customer.

A couple of years ago Marcia and I purchased our second original painting by P. Buckley Moss, one of our favorite artists.  In fact, this painting was essentially commissioned, not that she does that sort of thing, but she offered…and we were thrilled!  When we received the painting – one that represents her unique style – it was missing two things that Marcia really wanted in the painting.  When asked if it was what she wanted, Marcia mentioned the couple of things (Hey, she asked!).  Pat took the painting back and acted pleased…PLEASED…that she would be able to add those two items to the painting.

That blew me away.  An artist of her stature was more interested in pleasing a fan than in her own interpretation of a subject.

That painting is one of the pieces in our collection of which we are most proud.

Believe me, treat your clients that way and you will be one of their favorites!

5.  Become a fan!

Your client is a fan.  You need to be a fan of your client.

I learned the importance of this a couple of years ago when I got a call from a producer inquiring about using me for a project.  He said he got my name and phone number from a mutual friend “who says you’re a good friend of his.”  That referral was from another client that I really do admire.  I really am a fan.  I just didn’t know it showed.

Apparently it does.

So, there you have it.  Make yourself one of your client’s favorites and you’ll have work for life!

Most certainly there are many other things you can do to make yourself one of your client’s favorites.  What do you think?