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. More and more people are converting the garage, putting a posh shed down the garden, moving into the loft or the cellar and running an audio business from home.
However, speak to some people who try to run an audio business, and before long they wonder why they have no money, even though they have the gear and the talent.
It takes at least five ingredients - miss any of them, and you may not make it.
Ingredient One - The Tools and The Talent
Of course, this goes without saying, you need the tools and the talent - both are essential to make sure you can produce high-quality recordings. 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.
Get what you need and don't see starting a new business as a blank cheque to fulfil the wish list you had when you worked for someone else. There may be a good reason your ex-boss didn't buy half the things you asked for.
We have written numerous articles on Production Expert about buying gear, check them out here;
Ingredient Two - Clients
Clients defy the law of gravity, they just 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 attract new work like creating a website, a showreel. Then make it easy for potential customers to contact you, join LinkedIn (a lot of my work comes from my Linkedin contacts) and for heaven’s sake don’t use your Facebook page for your business. Set up a dedicated business page and make sure you set your Facebook privacy settings appropriately - a picture of you pissed with a traffic cone on your head is not the best advert for your company.
Ingredient Three - 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 the client and how much you want to make (the last two are not the same). AGREE TO EVERYTHING IN WRITING AND GET WRITTEN CONFIRMATION THAT YOUR CLIENT ACCEPTS THE TERMS. You don’t need a lawyer merely 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 typically cost more than you think. Then deliver more than you promised.
Ingredient Four - Invoice The Client
You have agreed your price and terms, so then invoice the client. All my new clients have to pay 50% up front and 50% on delivery, with no exceptions, and I deal with some pretty huge brands. So make sure they get the invoice so they can pay you. I invoice at least twice a week to stay on top of cash flow.
If you forget to stay on top of invoicing your clients, then you'll soon find you've worked for weeks and are broke, and then you have to wait for the money to come in from the invoices you have sent.
I make it a principle that I like to have as much work invoiced by the 10th day of each month, this then helps me work out if I can relax or panic.
Ingredient Five - Chase The Money
An invoice is not the same as getting paid, so make sure you chase your clients - if the work involves masters then don’t release them until you are paid, especially with new clients. If they start trying it on (and some do) then you need to be firm, you don’t have to be rude you simply need to say that the company policy is that masters are only delivered on receipt of full cleared funds. Remember to include this in the written terms outlined above.
I’ve sent in debt collectors twice in eight years, and then both of them paid me within hours, this is the last resort and is only to be used on clients you never want to work with again.
It Takes All Five Ingredients
You can make money in this industry, but it takes more than having a fantastic studio and great talent.
The road to hell is littered with closed up studios and out of work engineers, composers and producers - you don’t have to be one of them.
They say 'do something you love for a living and never work another day in your life.' Rubbish! Working for yourself is hard work, in fact, you'll work harder than you've ever done before, but follow these five simple principles, and you can make a success of it.