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From Personal Experience: 7 Bad Habits
That Will Hurt Your Voice Over Career

May 5, 2014

By Dan Hurst
Voice Talent

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

As a voice talent, these are critical to my business. Unfortunately, I speak from personal experience.

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

1. Not Seeing Yourself As Your Clients See You

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a common failure among voice talents.
Good is based on the market standard. One isn’t even competitive until one is good.
Better is stepping beyond good to get noticed.
But great is what the client chooses.
I see this all the time in the marketing materials of a number of entrepreneurs: "I can do….”

Frankly, that tells me that you aren’t the person I’m trying to hire for that particular matter. I don’t want to hire someone who "can do” something. I want to hire someone who excels, who is a specialist, who owns the element that I’m looking for.

3. Interpreting Copy By Emotion

Interpreting, creating and developing a project based on emotional interpretation is deadly.

Why? Because everyone’s emotions are different.

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

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

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

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

4. Selling Rather Than Connecting

This is very similar to the previous point. Know the target audience’s needs. The product will sell itself to people who need it.

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

Connect. Don’t sell.

5. Keeping Wrong Clients

I can’t fully explain how critical this issue is. Wrong clients will suck you dry. They will soak up your energy and steal your time.

I don’t know about you, but in the voice over business, time is a critical element of what we have to sell. As hard and harsh as it may seem, you have to unload wrong clients.

I’m talking about clients that steal your success by being high maintenance, hard to collect, abusive, and who demand unfairly low rates.

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

6. Wide Thinking

This is another way of saying "Trying to do too much.”

A few years ago I needed a finish carpenter to redo some shelving and woodwork around my fireplace. I talked to a number of carpenters who told me that they could certainly do the job.

But when I talked to this one guy, I learned that shelving and interior trim was his specialty, and in fact, it was all he did. Yes. He’s the guy I hired.

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

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

7. Finding Time Instead Of Making Time

This is a personal issue.

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

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

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

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

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

Same thing is true in your business.


So, there you have it: Seven bad habits many of us entrepreneurs trying to make it in the business world develop.
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 Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonalds, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, Walmart and many more. 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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Comments (17)
David Sumeray
6/26/2014 at 11:27 PM
Excellent, helpful article.
I just want to point out, Michael Ray Davis, that IS what Dan says. Interpreting copy by emotion is a BAD habit!
Jason Culver
6/26/2014 at 3:14 PM
Thanks for these gems, Dan; they are words of wisdom - number seven is my favorite.
Maxine Dunn
5/14/2014 at 2:25 PM
Hi Dan,

WOW, this is a wonderful article! Thank you so much for sharing such valuable ideas. Every single thing you've outlined here is RIGHT ON. Thank you!

- Maxine
Michael Ray Davis
5/9/2014 at 3:25 PM
I agree with most of your comments, but Interpreting copy by emotion is wrong. We must sell the listener on the copy based on what is written. That is called acting. It is what separates storytellers/actors from narrators. Absorb the character, understand the character and make him yours. We are not zombies or readers or narrators, we are actors and must interpret the words just as we wuld interpret the words of a screenplay. I cannot read a book without knowing who and what is my character. My opinion. Be a narrator if you like, I choose to be a voice actor.
- Michael Ray
Leah Frederick
5/8/2014 at 4:15 PM
This is so very, VERY true. Thanks for the timely reminder, Dan!
Herb Merriweather
5/8/2014 at 12:17 PM
...fantastic insight, Dan! Thanks for keeping us focused...
Sacha Criado
5/7/2014 at 4:33 AM
Great article! Thanks for sharing your experience.
5/7/2014 at 12:54 AM
As I'm starting to get my feet wet in narrating ebooks, this information is valuable and I'm going to take it to heart.
Debbie Irwin
5/6/2014 at 4:39 PM
Great insights and reminders all the way around.
5/6/2014 at 2:55 PM
Great article - thank you Dan.
Christian Rosselli
5/6/2014 at 2:22 PM
Incredible article Dan! Right on the money. It still baffles me when I see talents trying to do everything at once- Promo, Trailer, Narration, ELearning, Telephony, Animation and Commercial. Like, how could you be "that good" at all of those right out of the gate?! It doesn't make any sense.
You touch upon some great points throughout.
Steven Gonzales
5/6/2014 at 2:11 PM
I love when the voice of experience teaches! Thanks so much, Dan, for sharing!
Lance Blair
5/6/2014 at 1:54 PM
Superb insights. The idea of not using 'left over' time for people and things you really care about is really important. Thank you.
Pablo Hernandez
5/5/2014 at 4:16 PM
I'll keep it simple, Dan: You hit the nail...on the head!
Rebecca aka LoveThatRebecca
5/5/2014 at 4:15 PM
Wow Dan - excellent points that are almost never discussed. Thanks for writing this and I look forward to sharing it.
Rory O'Shea
5/5/2014 at 3:29 PM
Solid piece, Dan. Thanks for the friendly nudges on a couple of points I have forgotten to master myself - or simply allow to find their way back into my routine.
5/5/2014 at 3:16 PM
You are an amazing mentor, Dan. Thanks for this incredible article. Think I'm going to print this out and pin it up right here on the wall in front of me.
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