A struggle that I see come up a lot, either if it’s questions from emails, or in various groups online, is how you can turn your engineering skills into something that pays and something that you eventually can turn into a career. Many of you already possess great recording or mixing skills but are struggling to make a living doing it.
Maybe you have run out of friends to record for free in exchange to help you grow your portfolio? Maybe you are living in a small remote town with no artists or no other related opportunities around you?
The questions and struggles can be many. I know, I’ve been there.
However, there are some key elements that you can focus on to turn this around.
Consistency and Patience
What is so important and what I have learned throughout the years is the importance of being consistent and having patience. If you can practise both, a lot of things can happen over time.
Let me give you an example - let's say you live in a town with a lot of music around you, such as Los Angeles, Nashville or London, and you need to grow your network of people you know in the industry (musicians, producer, label owners, etc). Going to one network event and expecting to walk out of there with a job, is highly unlikely (this is what I expected at first). The best approach and I’ve heard this from many people in the industry, is to play the long game. You need to consistently attend these events and make your face known to the people around you.
This is how you build relationships that can eventually lead to a job, or get hired for a project, down the road.
But what if you don’t live in one of the music capitals of the world?
There’s always the option of travelling to a town a few times a year that has a bigger music scene than your town. However, don’t travel there without having any meeting setup beforehand. Do your research first about whom you want to meet and try schedule in a few meeting with some key people in that city over a few days. Go see some bands and introduce yourself.
This is what Herb from Pensado’s Place had to say about it:
You also have the option of building a name for yourself online, whether you live in a big or small town. This, I believe, is based on how much value you can add to peoples lives. For example, sharing knowledge on how to overcome various recording or mixing challenges people are experiencing or providing tutorials on various audio/music subjects.
You can also use the internet to find interesting bands you would like to work with and contacting them through email. Tell them how great they are and what you are doing. Offer them your services by offering to do one song for free and if they like it and wants to work with you in the future negotiate a fee.
What is important to remember, and I say this again, consistency and patience. Building your client base from nothing takes time but stay consistent with your work and things will change for you.
Start Learning About Business
This is something I wished I started learning about way earlier and something I have delved into with great interested for the last year or so.
There are so many great resources where you can learn about how to run a business and this is an essential skill you really need to have to start make a living doing music.
Many of you might think this is boring and all you want to do is music, however, without any business sense whatsoever, chances are you will fail.
I have a few favourite resources that I like to recommend to you and they are:
Ramit Sethi’s website where you can find amazing info about starting your own business and other great articles in all things related to having a business. He also has some premium courses that I can recommend you check out.
Check it here: https://growthlab.com/
The E Myth - Book
A newly purchase of mine but explains why most small businesses fail. Voted #1 business book by Inc. 500 CEOs. Very easy to read and I’m enjoying it so far.
Buy it here: Amazon
The Six Figure Home Studio Podcast
Discovered their podcast fairly recently but Brian and Chris are sharing some great knowledge on starting your business and most of it is related to music/audio (Where I discovered The E Myth book).
Check it here: https://www.thesixfigurehomestudio.com/podcast/
Find Out What Separates You From Other Engineers Out There
Why should artists and musicians come to you instead of the other engineer down the street? Because you are cheaper? You can deliver a mix faster? You have better credits? You know how to operate a mixing board? You are reliable?
These are questions you need to ask yourself if you want to be able to distinguish yourself from the competition out there.
However, you don’t want to have to rely on cutting your prices to get clients. Rather, focus on how you can add the most value to your client, for example, how much of the workload can you take away from them so they don’t have to think about anything else than provide you with their best recording (if you want to provide is a mixing service).
One thing that I have found that is hugely important, it surpasses any cool gear you might have or how good you are technically, and that is being reliable. Showing up on time, pick up the phone when they call, cover for someone last minute (even if it means you have get out of your couch at 11 pm).
If you want to learn more about how to find work and become a freelance sound engineer, download my free guide below!
Let me know what you think in the comments below! Are there anything you are struggling right now with your own career? Let me know and I’ll get back to you.