This is a guest post from Nick Lewis of Brighton Mastering.
After reading Joe’s post about charging for your work, I had a few thoughts about home studio engineers starting out, and the current state of the recording industry.
As an online mastering engineer, I get sent very respectable sounding home-brew mixes all the time, but a lot of home studio owners don’t feel confident enough to charge for their work. Your studio and your skills are an asset, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t benefit from that.
All businesses require investments of two sorts: tools and labour.
A typical home studio owner has invested hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars into their equipment and countless man hours learning their trade.
Most haven’t had the benefit of formal training or the traditional ‘tea boy’ route (harder than ever to afford or find a venue for). But that doesn’t mean they haven’t studied, and aren’t talented at what they do.
If you’ve invested in tools and labour, and can produce a professional product as a result, then you’ve got yourself a business – that’s true of any industry, recording included.
Keeping the Client Happy
The only thing any business really has to do is keep its clients happy.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of most home studio owners charging for their work is a lack of confidence which stems from aiming to match the highest budget, glossiest major label recordings.
As long as you’re confident you can work to a standard that will satisfy your client, then take the job. It doesn’t matter if it matches up to the latest Britney Spears record, it just matters that your client is satisfied enough with the work to pay you.
Obviously you want to do a good job, and this is not an excuse to be complacent and aim lower. It’s just something to bear in mind when deciding whether or not to start charging for work.
The trick is to be honest about where you are in the quality scale and price accordingly. It doesn’t make sense to charge the same rates as Abbey Road when you’ve got a laptop, a £500 audio interface and an SM58. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t charge at all if that’s all you need to get a decent sound.
Take an objective look at what you’re doing. Ask people you’ve worked with what they honestly think of you work. Pitch your price at the right level. Work to the highest standard you can.
A copywriter needs a copy of Word and the ability to write. An audio engineer needs a studio and the ability to make things sound good. If you’ve got that, you’re in business.