So, you’ve been sitting at home making tunes for a while, you think you’re pretty good at it and see no reason why you shouldn’t start charging other people for your work. After all, you can provide a service to people who can’t do it for themselves.
But how do you go about getting clients? There’s no fixed answer, but here are a few pointers.
1. Work for free
Do something enough and eventually someone will pay you for it.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that getting a foothold in any media industry involves working for free initially, but in this case, try not to feel too cheated.
Whether you’re looking to record demos or set yourself up as a mix engineer, you will need a portfolio of work to convince people to pay you for your work.
If you’ve only worked on your own material up until now, it will also give you valuable experience of working on other people’s stuff – a radically different experience.
The people you do gratis work for at the start are also the most likely to be your first clients, and to recommend you to others.
2. Get your price right
Getting your price right is essential. Take into account your gear and your experience. Take a look at other studios offering comparable services and see what gear they’re working with. Honestly assess where you stand in relation to them.
If you’re charging more than the Studio Across Town That’s Owned By The Guy From That Band (you know the one) you’re charging too much.
Convincing clients away from established professional complexes will in all likelihood be a case of undercutting them. Don’t go too cheap though: it looks suspicious.
3. Build a website
It doesn’t have to be amazing, but you’re going to need a website to point people to and show off your by now bulging portfolio. Get a web developer friend to knock something together for cheap or free, or just use a template for now.
Business cards with the URL on are also a good idea for when you meet musicians (i.e. potential clients).
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Live engineering
Given that your potential clients are musicians, the trick is to figure out where musicians will be, and introduce yourself. Where’s the most obvious place? Gigs.
Live sound engineering is a great way to meet musicians. Do a good job and they’ll already think favourably of your skills. It gives you an excellent basis for a relationship, particularly if a band keeps playing at the same venue – you also get to earn some money out of it, and you might just find yourself a new vocation. Some people prefer working in live sound.
Then again, not everyone’s suited to it. If, like me, you don’t thrive under pressure, you might be better to just turn up and introduce yourself. A strung out, sweaty engineer isn’t going to recommend him/herself to anyone.
5. Rehearsal studios & music shops
Where else do musicians go? Rehearsal studios and music shops.
Short of getting a job in one, your best bet is to put posters up and leave business cards/postcards lying around.
Put an eye-catching offer in big lettering on it. Make everything you leave look as slick as you can to differentiate yourself from the handwritten ‘drummer wanted’ posters and inspire confidence in your professionalism.
Probably don’t go round each room introducing yourself. It’s OK at gigs, but wandering round a rehearsal studio shaking hands with strangers will either get you chucked out or arrested.
6. Social media
Ever since Myspace, musicians have gone crazy for social media. Every band has a member who’s on Twitter half the day, so if you spend half the day on Twitter too, you just might run into each other.
Don’t be too upfront. Again, it’s a great way of meeting musicians and building a relationship so they think of you first when they’re ready to record their demo/have it mixed/whatever you’re planning to do with your studio.
Start by following all the musicians you can think of in the local area. Check out their music, say nice things about it. You know, make friends.
However you want to approach it, getting clients is about identifying your target market (musicians with cash to burn), letting them know you’re there, and making an attractive offer.