Caution, slippery when wetHave you ever heard that experience is the best teacher?

While that may be true, experience also happens to take the longest to accumulate, sometimes accompanied by unpleasant situations and hard lessons learned.
If you don’t have time to make mistakes, and I mean, some really big ones, check out this cathartic article by Dan Hurst.
He wants you to learn from his experiences… better than finding out for yourself in addition to be mighty convenient!

Mistakes Voice Talent Make

By Dan Hurst
I guess this blog post is somewhat of a catharsis because I’ve made pretty much all of the mistakes on this list!
The good news is that making the mistakes isn’t career ending (for the most part). The bad news is chances are you didn’t know they were mistakes and you made them…or are making them.

I would imagine you’ve got a few to add to this list, so please feel free to leave a comment and add your own. Hey, we can all learn from your mistakes!
OK. Here goes:

1. Trying to be all things to all people.

I started in the voiceover business years ago when I lost my radio job. I couldn’t find work anywhere. McDonald’s wouldn’t even hire me! My wife suggested that I use my voice for some commercial work. I thought “Well, somebody’s doing that voice work. I might as well try to get a piece of the pie.”

I was so desperate for work that I tried to do everything. I mean everything! I tried typical announcer to character voices. I did screaming car commercials to soft, sensual perfume spots. I tried imaging work; phone work; even church spots.
The problem was I was getting very few returns. People hired me. They just didn’t hire me again. Dick Solowicz, my agent at the time sat me down one day and said “You’re good, but you’re not good enough to be everything. Pick out 3 or 4 styles you love doing and lets make you an expert in those areas.”

That saved my career. Or gave me a career, depending on how you look at it.
I’ve since learned there are some things that I’m just not that good at. I’d like to be, but I’m not. No sense in trying to beat my head against the wall and waste time trying to convince others to give me a try. They just won’t come back.

The truth is I suck at imaging. I’m not a movie trailer guy (as much as I want to be). And I don’t sound like a 25 year old. No sense trying!
But put a deep, warm, whimsical, friendly, caring script in front of me and I’ll nail it just about every time. Give me a screaming car spot and I’ll make your ears bleed. Want a typical announcer? Here I am; English or Spanish.

2. DJ Mentality

Most of the Voice Talents I know have a background in radio. And lately, because of the “brilliant” business acumen of most radio consolidators (I can’t bring myself to call them broadcasters), there are a lot more radio talents getting into the voice business. Welcome to the show, but leave your radio baggage behind.

In the radio business, and I was in it for several years, the production director calls you and tells you he needs you to voice a few spots. You go in and rip ’em off as fast as you can because that’s all that’s expected of you.

Well, you’re not in the radio business anymore. You’re in the advertising/creative/acting business. If you want to make it in this business you have to lose that DJ mentality.
Our clients are looking for someone who can make their copy come alive. Someone who really gets what they’re trying to do and say. Someone who understands that it’s their job to make the client look good. Someone who treats the copy as if they wrote it and as if it was the last spot they’re ever going to do.

3. Inconsistency

Years ago I totally embarrassed myself in a session. It was an ISDN session and the client was patched in for it. After a few minutes into the session I heard the client say to his client, “Wow, this isn’t the same voice I heard on the audition.”
I had failed to follow up and listen to the audition and determine what voice the client was looking for. I wasted his time and increased his costs because he had to take studio time to get me to where he wanted me.

I’ve been on numerous multiple-voice sessions where one of the talents made this very mistake. It’s costly and it just puts everyone else in an awkward and frustrating position.
Don’t do it. Be consistent. Know what it is about you that your client hired you to do.

4. Out Of Your League

This is similar to #3. Sometimes you get hired to do something that you just aren’t capable of doing. Oh, you think you can, but you can’t. Your demo suggested that you could, but the demo was doctored and you are out of your league.

Some time ago I was working on a two-voice Spanish spot for a client that didn’t know Spanish. The other talent knew Spanish but was not a native speaker. The difference was awkwardly obvious to me and no one else. I approached the agency and gave them a heads up but they dropped the ball. The client didn’t know it…until the spot aired.
The agency lost the account.

Listen, when you pretend that you can deliver the goods eventually it’s going to get back to your client that that’s what you were doing: pretending.

A few things are about to happen here. First, you are never going to be hired by that client again…maybe not even that production house. Secondly, you’ve cost the client money, and chances are you won’t get paid – so you wasted their time and yours because you could have been doing a job that you’re good at! Thirdly, you may have damaged the credibility of others that you are working with. And finally, now you’ve got a bad reputation with a few people in the industry. Not good. Not smart.

5. Bad Records

OK, one more. This is, after all, a blog and not a book.
Learn to keep good records and get your invoicing in on time. I’m speaking from experience here. I’m horrible at this. I’ve got great invoicing and bookkeeping software, but I’m pathetic when it comes to keeping up with the invoicing. It’s an area I have to really focus on. My CPA hates me.

Not getting your invoicing done in a timely manner does a number of negative things. It creates a bookkeeping nightmare for your client. It makes you look incompetent. And it just creates more work for you that you are obviously not good at! Oh, the IRS is gonna love you!
We’re business people for crying out loud! We need to act that way.
So… you’ve probably thought of a few more mistakes that need to be added to this list. Let’s see ’em. It can only help make our business better!
Dan Hurst

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Great advice Dan,
    I am in the radio business and it’s hard sometimes to stick to that 3/4 voice/vocal range your good at. Sometimes with a ‘stage’ name people think it’s okay to have an ‘identity crisis’ with yourself. Thanks for pointing out that it’s not.

  2. Repeat after me… “I’m not Morgan Freeman. I’m not Morgan Freeman. I’m not… (Morgan Freeman.. or James Earl Jones or Don LaFontaine)”
    You are who you are.
    Learn it. Love it. Believe in it.

  3. Thank you, Dan for a candid, honest wide-eyed look at our business and craft. I learned so much from your experience. Sometimes we just need to pay attention to the basics.
    And to Alex…that is my mantra! I avoid those job offers that look for that ‘voice’ like the plague. Why? Because I’m NOT…

  4. Thanks Dan. A good reminder. I too have a radio background and have been working on leaving that baggage behind ever since I got into voice acting. In my zeal to try to get work I have auditioned for projects I probably wasn’t suited for. As I am learning who I am as a voice actor, I finding it easier to pass on jobs that don’t fit my voice style.
    Great blog!

  5. Wow! Do I agree with these. First don’t try to be all things. You’ll end up being a B+ at everything. And guess what? They’re going to hire the A+ talent every time. So you’ll always be a bridesmaid and never a bride! Who cares if you’re their second or third choice? you still didn’t get the job!
    When you’re first starting. try a variety of material, but start narrowing the field down quickly. If a spot doesn’t feel right or your struggling on it, it probably isn’t right for you. Do what you do best and you’ll be that A+ talent. Then you can branch out a bit.
    And amen to losing the DJ mentality. I work and teach in L.A. Across the country, folks come to voice overs from broadcasting. In L.A. they come to it from acting. So don’t think “rip and read”, think “what’s my motivation!”
    Oh and the invoicing… remember the accounts payable clock doesn’t start ticking until they receive the invoice. If you fiddle around and don’t send the invoice you’re only delaying when you get paid.
    Very practical advice.


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