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Stop Doing The Basics! I Mean,
You've Got To Move Beyond

By Dan Hurst
Voice Actor

Stop doing the basics
. Well, that didn’t come out quite right. Basics are important. You have to do them.

The problem is that too many of us never get past the basics. If all you do are the basics, that’s all you’ll end up with. The basics. For instance,
  • A race car driver that never does more than the basics will never win a race.
  • A musician that never gets past the basics will never write a masterpiece.
  • A business that never goes beyond the basics will never know real success.
A builder friend of mine once said, "Every basic house I’ve built is still standing, but I can’t make a living off of basic.”


As a voice talent, if all I do are the basics, I’ll sound like thousands of other voice over dogs out there trying to make a buck.

I’ve never gotten a voice job because I sounded like everyone else. In fact, one of the biggest ironies in the voice over business is that clients who want a voice that "sounds like the guy next door,” don’t really want him to sound like the guy next door. What they really want is for the guy next door to think that he sounds like the voice in the commercial.


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

I once asked Bill Leach, an artist friend from many years ago, how he started a project. His response was, "You start with the basics.”

"What are the basics?” I asked. He answered simply, "A clean canvas. Everything else is everything else.”

In this voice over business, the basics are pretty simple:
  • have a sound and delivery that clients want,
  • have good equipment and know how to use it, and
  • run your business with integrity and common sense.

But it’s what you do beyond the basics that will determine your success. In other words, everything else is everything else.

With that in mind, here are ideas for moving beyond the basics.

1. Understand that the basics are the starting point.

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

So what sets you apart from every other similar business? What do you have to offer that will appeal to a client?

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

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

One of my favorite baseball pitchers of all time was Detroit’s Mark "The Bird” Fidrych (RIP). He had all the basics down, as do most professional ball players. However, his winning ways along with his absolute joy on the field and quirky behavior made him one of baseball’s favorites.

When Fidrych hit the mound, it was something beyond the basics that made him a winner … and a crowd favorite.

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

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

Now the amazing thing is that often, this is something that others perceive, or sometimes it’s something that only you believe … until others discover it.

On the other hand, there are those who are far better at what they do than they ever get credit for. And, unfortunately, I’ve known way too many people and companies, and so have you, that think they are better at something than they are.

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

4. Basics don't sell.

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

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

What do you have to offer that is better than the basics? Here’s the bottom line: you’re best at where you’re not basic. Oooh, that was good. Read it again! Now go be unbasic.
Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada and Walmart. When he’s not working, he spends his time cheering for losing sports teams and getting kicked off of golf courses.


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