Are you thinking about starting your own business as a recording studio or music producer?
Have you recently finished audio school or interning? Have you simply been recording and producing on your own for a while, but are hesitant to go into business for yourself?
It can be intimidating or outright terrifying to think about putting up your virtual “open for business” sign as a freelance audio engineer or music producer. I totally understand! I had been teaching voice and songwriting lessons for 15 years but had only been “dabbling” in recording and production for a few years. I was terrified when I moved to a new city with no contacts and publicly announced that I was a recording engineer and music producer. At that moment in time, it was sink or swim. I had to buckle down and do it or I was going to have to go find a regular day job.
Now that my production business has been thriving for about 12 years, I’ve learned a few things! I came up with 8 tips that should help you get started today.
Create a business entity.
The easiest way to establish a business in the US is to start a sole proprietorship. Check your local city and state requirements, but it should be very simple using your social security number and home address. There are other entity options if you think you may have a more complicated situation, so be sure to check with your tax accountant to figure out what is best for you. In most cases, however, keep it simple and set it up as a Sole Proprietor and establish a “Doing Business As” or DBA. If you have a studio name or producer name you’ve been dying to use, make it official!
Establish your brand around your strengths and talents.
There are a lot of recording studios and a lot of producers. What sets you apart? What areas are you feeling really confident in? Focus on those areas and build your brand around them. Since I was a voice teacher when I started to learn how to record and produce, I started working with my students on their songwriting and creating demos to present to their producers. We did mock recording sessions to prepare them for their real recording sessions in the studio. After doing this for a number of years, I began recording the vocals for their final projects, eventually learning to edit them, mix them and do all vocal production. It was a process that took me several years but I was proficient with vocal production long before I knew how to mix a drum kit. What could be your niche? Are you a guitar player so you really know how to dial in tones? Are you an expert at micing up a drum kit? Create your niche around what you do best while you continue to build your knowledge in the areas you are less confident. As soon as you feel confident in other areas, shift your messaging and your brand to include it.
Create your client avatar around the niche you’ve established.
Now that you know what your niche will be in the recording and/or music production business, figure out your client avatar; what is their age, gender, what are their insecurities, and what are their problems you can solve? Will they all be remote or all local or a combination? All of your messaging and marketing; from your website copy to your photos should appeal to this client avatar.
Take yourself seriously.
You’ll be tempted to charge the lowest rate possible, work the craziest latest hours, and bend over backward to please clients that are never happy, just to bring in work. Knowing your value, in whatever niche you decide to focus on, and presenting yourself that way will attract people who are willing to pay what you are worth and respect your time and talent. Keep your rate competitive but shine in other areas, such as attention to detail, turn-around time, professionalism or just being fun.
Make your studio a comfortable, professional space with a vibe that makes you happy.
Do your best to present your space as professional and comfortable. Especially if you have clients coming to your home studio, make sure that it’s clean and presentable and as disconnected from “family living” as possible. I understand it’s not always possible to make a home studio feel like it’s not in your home. Believe me, I’ve had a variety of home studios and some situations were more ideal than others. Two studios ago, clients had to walk through the living room, kitchen, and family room to get down to the studio. Ugh! I hated it, but it was the only option at the time. I always kept the house as clean as possible (with teenagers….it wasn’t always easy!) And remember, this will be your “workspace” which is why you want to create a space and vibe where you are happy. If it’s adding plants, lava lamps, LED lights or whatever, do it a little at a time and make it your “happy place”.
Set up your website with testimonials and portfolio.
Marketing 101 advice is to have your own website because platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are just rentals. You do not have a direct connection with your clients or potential clients on social media. Every business should have a “home base” where people can come and get a clear picture that you are legit. Grab a domain with your business name that you’ve registered using GoDaddy. The annual fee to own this domain is relatively cheap. As soon as you have even just a few songs that demonstrate your abilities and a few happy clients, create a website (use a simple website-building platform such as Wix or Squarespace). Remember to keep the website simple. It could even be one page. Make a simple statement about who you are and what you can do for your client avatar, a professional picture, a few testimonials and a playlist widget featuring your work.
Start your email list.
This is how you connect with your audience and potential clients. Use a free email marketing program such as Mailchimp to add a “subscribe” widget to your website. Begin building this list and send updates once a month. These don’t need to be time-consuming or extravagant. What this does is it builds your authority and lets people who stop by your website know, “Oh, this person is serious.” Provide value to this audience and nurture it. Ask them to reply to questions so you can better understand them. Be real in your messages so that they feel like they can trust you.
Conduct yourself like a professional in all aspects of your life.
Keep the angry rants at your mother or ex off of social media. If your branding is political, keep it professional and “kind”. Go to networking events and shake people’s hands. If you “cold call/message” potential clients, do not spam them with copy/paste messages. If a client decides not to work with you or isn’t happy with your work, be humble and understanding. If given the opportunity, ask them what they were unhappy with and listen, rather than get defensive. Do not gossip or talk badly about others in your field.
That’s it! See, it’s not really that hard at all. I hope this was helpful and that you can ROCK your own Recording Studio/Music Production Business!