A man with a beard and glasses sits at a table while looking down at a book. He has a pen pressed to his lips and a pensive expression on his face. A coffee cup sits next to him, a notebook is front of him and a small stack of books sits to the side of him. Coaching

Voice Actor and Coach Shelly Shenoy on 6 Career Blunders to Avoid

You’ve stepped up (or sat down) to the mic. You think you’re ready to press record and give that audition all you’ve got – but are you missing something?  

Misconceptions, Misunderstandings, and Mistakes

Whether you’re starting out or you’ve been voice acting for a while, there’s always something to learn.

As a voice over artist, director, casting director, and producer, Shelly Shenoy has seen and heard voice actors making wonderful things happen – but has also seen and heard them making every kind of mistake. Below, she offers insights into a few common career blunders – and how they can be avoided.

Investing too Little Time

If you think a few auditions a day is enough, think again! The amount of time you put into voice acting is often correlated with the returns you see. Staying focused while working from home can be challenging, but it is necessary.

She suggests that if you’re pursuing this part time, remember it is both the quality and quantity of your submissions that will reflect your returns. Hundreds of voice actors can be notified of and submit for the same audition.

Did you know there are things that can take you out of the game – even in just the first 4 seconds of your audition? Invest time to understand what a great audition is, what the industry expects from you, how to deliver and compete.

Having the Wrong Motivation  

We all want to make money and be successful, however if that’s your motivation for being in the business you might burn out before you see success. Shelly says that when people come into her office and immediately ask how soon they can make money, she knows they’re in it for the wrong reasons.

What Shelly can show them is how to build a career and run a business with training, practice, a great work ethic, and time.

Most importantly, Shelly emphasizes, “If you love the practice, and love what you’re doing, you’re already off to a great start for building a successful and happy career. This is work, but it should still be fun and enjoyable. Then, when you do start to see returns, it gets really exciting!”

Figuring You Need an Agent

With platforms like Voices, it’s not necessary to get representation. While it can have some benefits, just because you’re independent doesn’t mean that you won’t realize your potential in the world of voice acting.

Shelly notes, often times actors will sit down in her office and sigh, “if I only had an agent…” which makes her laugh.

Shelly exclaims, “Don’t you realize, right now you have access to potentially the greatest agent in the world – you! Times have changed, and once you’ve learned how to negotiate contracts, track down clients and work from home – soon enough, agents will come looking for you – and once that happens, you may not even be interested in handing over a percentage of your sweet new income.”

Believing How You Look Doesn’t Matter

According to Shelly, the entertainment industries are all connected…and little things can have a ripple effect. Another mistake people make happens when they start traveling to casting director offices for voice over auditions.

Shelly says “I’ve heard people excitedly talk about wearing their pajamas to work, or, going from the gym straight to a voice over audition, all sweaty and disheveled.”

Shelly tells a story of an audition she attended. She thought, “It’s just a voice over. I can wear my sweatpants and snow boots – who cares….” but her consciences kicked in. “Put some cute pants on and a fun sweater. Next, sweep your hair up and put a little lip gloss on for Pete’s sake.”

As Shelly was leaving the audition, the Casting Director took notice of her. “You’d be great for a campaign my friend is casting right now. It’s on-camera.”

Shelly was sent in two days later for a car commercial campaign with an initial buy-out of $35,000. Shelly made it to the final round of callbacks and was placed on hold – all this from the decision to freshen up.

“I can’t emphasize this enough!” Shelly says. “Even if you aren’t attending a casting in person, keep in mind that when you look good, you feel good – and feeling good will be heard in your voice, not just sometimes. Every time.”

Only Training with One Person

In order to make well-rounded decisions, it’s important to get various perspectives on your career and the industry.  

“As far as Directors and Coaches go, make sure that you’re visiting and speaking with as many people as possible.” says Shelly. She also suggests that this will allow you to have a balanced perspective and make choices that are most beneficial to you.  

“Do your homework on a few things. First, make sure you’re working with someone who is working, not someone that worked a lot five or ten years ago. The industry changes every season.

“You don’t want to be taking career advice from someone who was a successful voice over director back in the day. Look up their projects, look for referrals, look at their IMDb page.

“Mic rust is a real thing for voice over artists that take breaks for weeks or months at a time – the same goes for directors. If you want to be sharp, current, and working in the industry – your mentor should be doing the same.

“Every time I voice direct, it makes me a better voice over artist. And every time that I’m a voice over artist working with another professional director, it makes me a better director. These things fuel each other.

“It’s important to find someone who is passionate, fired up, and thriving in the industry – because this is what you want to be doing too, so hold your directors and coaches to the same standard.” encourages Shelly.  

Not Knowing your Instrument

The phrase is thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? Shelly says one of the keys to knowing your instrument is learning where you voice will be okay, and what is too much for it.  

“Without your instrument, how are you going to be in the band?” she asks.  

For example, if you’re having a new vocal issue, take note of what you did 24 to 48 hours beforehand. Are you tired? Did you try a new food?

She recommends, “Once you start really paying attention to what works, you can start learning new tricks to help yourself out. Start looking at simple things first, like how sugar, tea, acids, lemon, or honey might help you, how much it will help, and when!” she explains.

“Remember these things will take time to build from, but once you start to master your instrument truly, it will be very exciting.”

Get Out There!

Knowing your instrument, loving the business, putting in the time – all of these elements come together and can help you find or continue to have success.  

Shelly’s final piece of advice – “This industry is constantly changing, but if you’re willing to put in the work, let go of a little fear, and think outside the box – it will be the most exciting ride of your life. And hopefully, we’ll get to work together someday!”

About Shelly Shenoy

Shelly Shenoy headshotShelly can be heard on the radio and television voicing for many major national brands. She voices 26 characters in Casper the Friendly Ghost on Netflix and she’s voicing the lead role of Kate Garcia in Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Shelly is the Casting Director for all non-union projects at one of NYC’s most prominent sound studios.  

As a coach, Shelly has written, directed, and produced original demo reels for over 800 students. Shelly holds voice over classes every 4 to 6 weeks in New York City, coaches voice actors via Skype from all over the world, and teaches the program “Mastering the At-Home Audition.”

Shelly is on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook @ShellyShenoy, and her Coaching & Directing website is www.NycVoCoach.com.


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  • Avatar for Kim Dixon
    Kim Dixon
    September 7, 2017, 10:44 pm

    Thanks Shelly, this material is good to always keep in mind and also encouraging!