If you are just starting as a freelance sound engineer and you have never had a paying client, this episode will help you. Even if you already have paying clients this can be beneficial for you.
The tips and techniques I share in this episode is what I did when I started out, and still do.
Before we get into these techniques, I want to let you know that this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time but be patient and consistent in the work you put in and you will see results.
When I started it took me a few months to get my first paying clients. I was still in college and was doing free recordings for bands I found around London. This eventually led to paid work.
And as I have spoken about before, expanding your network when you are new in town is more important than going after paid work straight away. Also, you never know where this can lead down the road.
For me, it allowed me to work for pretty cool people and artists and getting paid for it.
So, let’s dig into these tips that can help you get your first paying client.
1. Record bands or artists for free
If you are still in college and are studying audio engineering, this is when you want to start offering recordings and mixes for free. It allows you to start widening your network of bands and artists you know whilst getting better at your craft. These people can also become paying clients down the road.
This is exactly what I did when I moved to London. Without much experience, I had to start doing things for free. Eventually, this would pay off and clients would start paying for my service.
If you are not sure where to look for bands or which clubs/venues to go to, look online. Google any genre you are interested in plus the name of your town. I’m sure you will find some cool band that you can go see and talk to.
Shadowing people who are already in the industry can be such a powerful way of 1, getting your foot in the door, and 2, get offered paid work down the line.
I have shadowed people, mostly FOH engineers for live shows. And when he can’t make it for a show, who do you think he will recommend? (You, of course)
This doesn’t have to be complicated. If you know someone who works in a recording studio or wherever you want to work, ask them if you can shadow him or her for a day. Don’t say, “Hey, can I shadow you because I want to work for you”.
Instead, show interest in their work and make it all about them. Tell them that it would be a great learning experience for you to see them work. If it goes well, by the end of the day, ask them if you can come back.
3. Don’t Ask For A Job
This is a technique I talk about in the free guide, 3 Tested Ways To Increase Your Client Base, and it’s something I refer to as “The Coffee Technique”.
Rather than emailing every recording studio you know, begging for a job, it’s much more effective to ask the person you want to work for out for a coffee. Tell him or her that you love what they do (give examples) and that you want to take them out for a coffee to ask them questions about their work, etc.
This is what I did which gave me my first job at a recording studio. And I still do this when I’m looking for new opportunities.
4. Build Up A Portfolio
With all those free recordings and mixes you did for people, in the beginning, use them in your portfolio. A simple Soundcloud playlist will do fine.
This will allow you to reach out to new clients and be able to show them what you can deliver. If they like it and want to work with you, you can now start charging for your service.
I don’t mean go to an audio school, you probably already did that. Rather, start learning about business and how to add value to people so they want to work with you. Some great resources that are free that you can check out right now are Six Figure Home Studio Podcast, The Graham Cochrane Show and this space.
I wish this was something I started studying sooner in my career. Because we can all make kick-ass mixes (to some extent) but to run a business is a different skill and it takes time to learn.
This included learning how to charge properly for your service and how to gain more clients, etc.
6. Lead Magnet
If you have a website and a killer portfolio but no one is hiring you (maybe they forgot about your studio or wasn’t looking to record anything) try to get people on your email list through a lead magnet. This way you can stay on top of peoples mind by giving awesome and free content to people on your list. This way, when they are ready to start recording or mixing, they will sure remember you.
7. Build Meaningful Relationships
This does tie back tip nr. 1 and 3, however, building meaningful relationships with people in the industry is important. And something that can pay off down the line. However, it takes time and effort. For example, you might need to continuously go out and see bands or take someone out for a coffee to slowly build that relationship but in the end, it can pay off. It has for me multiple times.
8. Apply for projects/jobs online
Don’t forget that you can apply for jobs online. Some sites are specifically for the music business but the one I recommend is music-jobs.com. They have jobs for the US, Brazilian, Latin American, England and the Italian market. You do have to pay to be a member but there are some cool opportunities posted there.
9. Use SoundBetter, Fiverr or Upwork
Rather than you applying for jobs you can sign up to any of these sites and have people find you. Some people might wonder if it’s worth it and I wrote an article about this in the past. I haven’t tried it enough but I know people who do make a living out of Soundbetter.
10. Run Facebook Ads
If you have a great website, a great portfolio and the Facebook Pixel installed so you can track people who visit your website, start showing ads to them. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on this but it can let you stay present in bands and artists minds. So, when they are ready to record and your studio or service shows up you have a better chance to get hired than if they forgot about you.
The reason I want to mention patience as its own point is that you can do all of these techniques, but without patience, you might quit before you get to see the rewards. I never fully realised how important patience is in this business until some year ago. It takes time to build relationships that will lead to paid work. It takes time to wait for bands to be ready to go into the studio with you. It takes time to build up traffic for your website. It doesn’t happen quickly. But stay with it, be consistent in your work and it will pay off.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you have your own tips you like to share or any particular one you found most helpful?