Over the last ten years of my self-employment in the Audio Production Industry I have learned countless valuable business lessons, many of which were taught the hard way through mistakes I had made, which isn’t something I’m embarrassed to say. Don’t ever be afraid to make mistakes, in business… or in life. The best lessons in life are typically taught through the occasional bundler or lapse of judgement, we're only human after all.
Lessons learnt through mistakes should become part of your exclusive value system. A balanced and experienced value system will pave the way for future professional and personal development - both key to succeeding in the Audio Production Industry... which is a demanding, competitive and challenging industry.
In this article, I list 10 pitfalls that can harm your professional success in the Audio Industry which you should avoid at all costs, all of them (bar one) I have made once or twice in the past.
WorkIng For Free
If you are starting a self-employed career in the Audio Production Industry then working for free is part of the course right? Wrong! So wrong in fact I personally believe working for free in order to 'get a break' or 'get some exposure' goes down as one of the biggest studio myths ever! Working for free is a gut wrenching trap that over time can leave you feeling pretty worthless. If you end up feeling this way, especially in the early stages of a new profession, you run the risk of quickly not valuing your future work or client relationships.
Desperation - Working For Cheap
It isn't easy finding paid studio work. Try to not let desperation get the better of you in the pursuit of paid projects. Not too dissimilar to working for free, working for cheap or low-rates can over time lead you to question your value as a professional. Of course, there will be times when you need to offer a client a special rate or deal but don't make these types of discounts frequent. Years ago I used to offer stupidly cheap rates studio sessions on Mondays. I got plenty of clients through the doors, which was great, but... you guessed it... only on Mondays. Cheap became expected from my clients, they constantly requested sessions on other days of the week at the same low rate. That cheap rate ended quickly but the damage was already done to my business reputation which took months to repair.
Not Being Competitive Enough
Working for free or cheap are not great stepping stops of success in the Audio Production Industry. Equally, not being competitive enough will also harm your growth. I could fill this section of this article with tips on how to set your rates but I can't... and won't because discovering the right rate structure for audio production work varies from person to person. Instead, when I say "Not being competitive enough" I mean not being competitive enough with your ambitions in relation to your peers. It's important to be able to summon up that inner drive that eggs you on to be the best at your craft, be a better communicator, be a better business person than your competitors. There have been times I've lost that competitive edge with myself which leaves me in limbo. I don't really progress or learn anything new when I'm in this state which in turn harms my turnover. Avoid this lull, don't get complacent, get competitive with yourself.
Not Being Humble
Always be humble in the Audio Production Industry. Don't be the big "I am" be the "I can". Potential clients and collaborators are only ever interested in what you can do, not who you are. Starting a self-employed career in the Audio Industry, or any industry for that matter, comes with a great deal of responsibility. You must be independent and self-sufficient but don't let those qualities turn into superiority or arrogance. Let's be real here, anyone can start a business... that's not the impressive bit - It's what you do for others in that business that counts. Build a trusted reputation and work will fly in. Stay humble
Not Producing The Type Of Work You Are Best At
What are your skills and talents that set you apart from the rest? Whatever they may be, work out what your USP is (unique selling point) and make that the key service you offer in your studio. Try not to be a 'Jack of all trades, master of none' because you run the risk of not nurturing a reputation for being the best at "insert your USP here". If your talents and skills are in producing rock bands then work hard at being known for being that person who does amazing work with rock bands in the studio, not a broad-brush producer that takes any job that comes their way.
Over Promising, Under Delivering
Avoid over stretching yourself. It's so easy to over promise on your services, especially if you are pitching to new potential clients. Over promising and under delivering is simply a recipe for disaster. You will only deliver compromised work not showcasing your true enthusiasm or skill sets to their best standards, worse still, you'll let your client down.
Nothing good comes from over promising - Under promise, over deliver is the only way of providing services in the Audio Production Industry. Clients will return time and time again if they know you can deliver consistent work... better still... produce work beyond their expectations.
Ego - Leave It At The Door
Egos don't promote creativity in studio sessions, not from the artist, especially not from the audio professional. Having an "I know best" attitude in response to client requests isn't going to do you any favours. Even if you do know in your heart of hearts that you do actually know better than your client you can't let your ego get the better of you.
It's so easy to become an island to oneself in this industry, after all, many pros working in the Audio Production Industry receive projects online and work by themselves - Don't get complacent with that way of working as you will most likely isolate yourself from your creative peers.
I worked for several years with clients in attended sessions in my studio. Money was coming in and my schedule was normally quite full but I didn't make any time to get to know other professional producers working within the industry. This started to become a problem when I started to need collaborators on specialist projects. These days I have a healthy network of colleagues that I know and trust. I regret not making the time to go to events and meet & greets earlier in my career, so I urge those who normally work on their own to get out of their comfort zones and get networking either in person or at the very least over the internet.
Business is all about networking, the Music Industry, in particular, has always had the following mantra "It's not what you know, it's who you know".
Proudly Using Cracked Software
This is my "bar one" I mentioned at the start of this article. I am proud to have never downloaded or used cracked software (Scout's Honour). However, some of my peers throughout the course of my professional journey so far have... or still do.
Let's put the obvious fact "cracked software is theft" to one side and talk about another aspect of cracked software, Value.... or lack of. I'm a firm believer that if you are the type of person that thinks it's OK to use cracked pro audio software & plug-ins in your studio then you show little respect for the industry at large. How can you ever expect to earn respect or build your reputation as professional if you don't have respect towards software companies? Respectable professionals in the audio industry don't use cracks, follow suit.
Not Following Your Instincts
The most important pitfall many professionals fall into, myself included, is ignoring one's instincts. Have faith in your initial ideas or those brainwaves you have when you are neck deep in a big mix. Instincts are simply reactions or behaviours to regular patterns. If you have a good solid value system based on lessons learnt from a string of mistakes or pitfalls from your past then your instincts will not let you down in working in the demanding, competitive world of Audio Production.