It’s the dream of most people, give up the day job and work for yourself making money from recording all day, be that a composer, music producer, engineer, dubbing mixer or sound recordist.
Creatives are good at lots of things, but for many managing the fundamental business needs isn't one of them. However neglect these at your peril as your business, your finances and your home life will suffer.
Alternatively, if you feel like you are doing a lot of work and not getting a lot in return then you may be missing some or all of this list - if you are then you are simply a busy fool and if you continue you may end up with no business, no money and no life!
However, speak to some people who try and before long they wonder why they have no money, even though they have the gear and the talent. Here are the top 8 things anyone starting up or running a studio or a freelance business can do to ensure a better business.
The Tools and The Talent
Although this should go without saying, it does still need spelling out sometimes, you need the tools and the talent - both are essential to make sure you can produce high quality recordings that people will pay you for. You may not have Abbey Road or the BBC to work with, but a high quality set-up suitable for your work and the right training is the start of success.
In recent articles we have discussed what matters to clients and what clients need to know about creatives. Clients defy the law of gravity, they simply don’t fall from the sky, it takes time to find them and to have them trust you with their work. It’s easier if you do a few things to help like create a web site, a showreel, make it easy to contact you, join LinkedIn and for heaven’s sake don’t use your personal Facebook page for your business - a picture of you drunk with a traffic cone on your head is not exactly the best advert for your business.
Deliver The Goods
When you get a project make sure you work out how long it is going to take to do the job, what it’s going to cost and how much you want to make. Remember that the last two are no the same. AGREE IT IN WRITING AND GET WRITTEN CONFIRMATION THAT YOUR CLIENT ACCEPTS THE TERMS. You don’t need a lawyer simply an email that says “I agree to proceed with the project on the terms in your quote”. Then make sure you under-promise and over-deliver, if you know it takes a week then quote 9 days, things usually take longer than you think. Also build in 10% contingency into the project costs, things usually cost more than you think. Then deliver more than you promised and your client will be loyal to you.
Raise Some Invoices
You would think this would be top of the list for many, but often days, weeks and in some cases, months can pass before we send clients their bill. Take some time to sit down and raise those invoices, if you don’t then you won’t get paid. Better still invoice them immediately the job has finished or if that isn't practical set aside a regular time each week to do your invoicing.
Raising an invoice is not the same as getting paid, and no one likes asking for money, especially creatives, but many clients often forget they owe you money or don’t pay until they get a reminder or a statement. get into the habit of sending statements and if necessary follow up with emails and telephone calls to get the money in.
How Was It For You?
This may sound like a bad idea to ask your client for feedback, but it’s only a bad idea if you’ve done a bad job. More often than not, clients are happy to offer feedback on your last job and appreciate you asking them for it. When I do this I often get given a new job to quote for - and simply for asking how the last job went. Remember if it went badly and you don’t ask then they may not come back and you will never know. So book some calls with clients and get that feedback!
Keep On Top Of Your Emails
I now operate the zero inbox method - the only things in my inbox are emails that still need a response, so in effect it’s my task list. The plan is to get that inbox empty so the only way that can happen is if I do, delay, delegate or delete the stuff. This is the only system that has ever worked for me. So if you have stuff to sort and a free couple of hours then take time to respond to those email, enquiries and quotes - there may be a few jobs sitting in your inbox.
Take Some Time Off
If you run your own business there doesn’t often seem to be a break. We know that all of the Pro Tools Expert team are often working early late and weekends. Long term this is going to burn you out and kill your creativity - so if you have to work late or at a weekend then make sure you book a day or even an afternoon off when you turn everything off and go and relax! I’m off to the movies now for that very reason!
You can make money in this industry but it takes more than having an amazing studio and great talent. The road to hell is littered with closed up studios and out of work engineers, composers and producers - but you don’t have to be one of them.