I have discussed this topic with many of my private students over the years. Here is the basic question I receive a lot.
“I am a new recording engineer and I offer my services for free and I can’t seem to get any takers, any advice”?
I always answer this question with a question. I’ll ask my student, “are you constantly meeting and interacting with musicians on a regular basis and no one needs to have any recording done or did you simply put up a Facebook post or two and you are waiting for clients to find you?"
When you are new to this game I know it can be difficult and sometimes intimidating to put yourself out there but in this game, especially at the beginning, it’s all about self-promotion. At least until you are at a level where past clients will do a lot of the promotion to other artists for you.
Here is how I would tell you to start. Make sure you have a portfolio of examples of your work that people can listen too. If you were to walk up to me and offer to record me for free the first thing I would ask you is “where can I hear some of your work”?
If you do not have any sort of portfolio started you want to get that in place first before you try to attract clients. Even if it’s your own personal music, have something that is well recorded and mixed so people can hear the quality of the work you can turn out.
Doing free work is a great way to build up a client base and get your name out there, but most people won't be excited with “free” if they are not sure how the quality will be and they won't know how good you are until they hear some of your work….make sense?
For example, if I were to offer to be your wedding photographer for free you and your spouse-to-be would initially be happy that you could potentially save a lot of money as wedding photographers can be very expensive right? However, after that initial excitement wore off, the next thing you would want to know is can I take a good picture. You would want to see some of my work right? If you had no way to see if I could take a decent picture or if you looked at my past photos and they were all out of focus then me offering to take your photos for free would not have a lot of value now would it?
The other thing to keep in mind is doing a lot of work for free could potentially hurt you in the long run. You don’t want to develop the reputation that you’re that “free guy” who does things for little to no money. Most people think if it’s too cheap the quality cant be very good and once you develop the reputation that you’re the cheap guy on the block, raising your prices latter may be a challenge.
So just make sure you strike a good balance. Start off with a good portfolio then network, network, network. Maybe do a couple of session for free to create some sort of a client base but then quickly start charging for your services. Do not stay the “free guy” for too long.
How much to charge? That topic will be discussed in a future post.
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