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Freelance engineer
Old 12th November 2009
Here for the gear
🎧 10 years
Freelance engineer

I wasn't sure if I should post this in this forum! (admin, move if so!)

Basically my question was... Does anyone have any advice for someone who wants to be a freelance engineer?

How exactly do you break into doing this? (good places to start, what not to do, etc.)

I would appreciate any advice!

Thank you in advance.
Old 12th November 2009
Lives for gear
BrandRecordingCo's Avatar
🎧 10 years
hmmm...well, I would say there are two ways to go about doing this:

1. Work your way up through many years of experience in studios, as an assistant, intern, etc. Build an amazing client list, and let the work begin to speak for itself. Once your name is out there, and people want you to work on their record, the phone will start to ring. You can quit your job, and freelance picking and choosing from all the labels, managers, artists, etc. that are calling you.

2. For everyone else, and I'm assuming you too, this may not be an option or you simply weren't lucky enough to do this. So, you need to start taking on whatever projects you can get. You will most likely be putting up ads on all the social networking sites and ad listings, hanging fliers in music stores and maybe colleges or something, contacting bands that you know or see at a local show that you like, if you're in a band...make a good demo or something to showcase your production skills...etc. In the beginning, you will get lots of replies from local bands or artists saying something along the lines of:

"I have like 8 songs I want to record...I sound like "x" and "z" artist...oh, and I don't have much money. I'm pretty good and think I could do all 8 songs in a day for like $200. That sound cool?"

So now you have a choice. You tell them there is no way you can record 8 songs in a day, and that budget is way too low. Or, you try to work with them. You will end up putting in WAY WAY WAY more time than you are paid for, but you better do it because you need a demo reel that sounds good. I would tell this person to pick their best 3 songs and concentrate on doing them right, and negotiate a reasonable budget. The important thing at the beginning stages is to take the work you can get, and make sure it sounds good. Take your time and do it right. You are putting in free hours for YOU! Think of it as practice and an investment in yourself and watch your client list grow.

On the other side of things...I once under charged myself and lost a client. I later found out they asked another guy, who charged 3x as much as I was, and they went with him b/c they thought they would get a much better record. A few months later, they were begging me to re-mix the crap job they got from this so called engineer. Bottom line, don't undercharge, even in the beginning. You have to look professional.

It's like fishing man. You will reel some in, and some you will lose. Every client you do work with, make sure they enjoy their time spent with you. Be likable...and deliver a good project. Put in the time needed to make that low budget demo sound professional, in the beginning. You have no referrals or examples at first, so why would someone pay big money for you. Charge less, but produce pro results. As your name grows through word of mouth, people will start contacting you and you can charge what you want.

Good luck!
Old 12th November 2009
Lives for gear
studiostuff's Avatar
🎧 10 years
Get yourself a portable Pro Tools rig and a reasonable mic selection. Start recording band rehearsals and live gigs, cheap or for free.

If you're any good with people, you should do well enough.
Old 12th November 2009 | Show parent
Lives for gear
🎧 10 years
i just went freelance about 1/2 a year ago. Things are great but I had my own clientele and am well known in town. i also have my own PT rig and numerous mics, outboard, etc.

Now, I find myself too busy and the wife is pissed that I bring all these strangers to the house! So I'm looking to buy my own small spot.

My only advice would be not to give up a position if the work wont follow you, and make sure you have decent facilities on the line in case a project comes up bigger than you can handle. The last thing a freelancer wants to do is turn away business.
Old 12th November 2009 | Show parent
Lives for gear
🎧 15 years
Becoming a freelancer is easy. When you have someone who wants to record with you, you call up a few studios in your area that seem cool and ask what their freelancer rates and requirements are. Oftentimes, a studio will require that you hire a staff assistant for at least a day (I'm actually doing this next week at a studio that is new to me), and that's a good idea anyway. Figure out what the band can afford in terms of the studio rate and whatever you need to make and then make recommendations to them based on those factors.

The great thing about this kind of scenario is that if you do a good job at the studio and they like you, they're MUCH more likely to call you when they need some additional help.

Chris Garges
Charlotte, NC
Old 13th November 2009 | Show parent
Here for the gear
🎧 10 years
hey thanks for all the responses everyone!! I appreciate the time you guys take to write. I want to get on doing this, but I live in such a dead area for music and there is no money right now, so getting a decent set-up is a bit far off.

I'm back at school in January as well so, no time anyway! : )
Old 13th November 2009 | Show parent
Gear Addict
🎧 10 years
Here's my feeling on it:

Old 13th November 2009 | Show parent
Gear Maniac
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
My 2 cents:

I sold cars for 3 years (05-08) and became very very good with people.

I have played in local bands in my area from 02-Now. I have met many many good people and friends, venue owners, promotions managers and so when I decided to make my little bedroom hobby studio into my full time job I just literally called everyone I knew and told them what I was doing and offered to work for cheap because I had to in order to pay my bills. I quickly found out what my competition was charging and made sure I was better than him and started charging more.

I am 23 years old, I am a home owner and I work from home in my home studio making a living recording music. It does not matter if your product isn't the greatest, people will pay for that if they want it, but for someone like myself I make a decent living recording young poor bands and demos for more experienced bands. It is my NICHE. Don't over promise and under deliver. That will kill you. If you tell people that your work will sound like the multi million dollar studios in town then you wont make it, but if you tell people that you run a home studio and your quality is good then you'll have nothing to worry about.


Never be a know it all and never stop learning. Humble yourself and sit in on any and every session you can and never stop asking questions.
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