Freelancing is tough.
Many people go into it thinking that they get to spend all of their time creating projects that they love only to quickly realize that this is not the case. Not only do you have to be responsible for the quality of work that you produce, but you also got to now handle all of the not so fun nuances that keep a business running such as accounting, sales, business development etc.
Here are some things I learned over the past 2 years being a freelance music producer and engineer:
01: Be Yourself
One of the most important lessons is to be confident in who you are as a freelancer/service provider. Start developing a personal approach to your creative work, but make sure you stay clear of making the work be about you when you are hired a freelancer. You should always add your personal touch to your work, and over time, when your work gets more notice, this will be the main reason they clients want to hire you.
When it comes to your personal work, you have to be open to telling your story because you are the only one who is able to do that. For example, I am a freelance producer/mixer with a love for everything vintage(not only sounds/synths). I was born to Jewish/Russian parents in the former Soviet Union, moved to Germany with 10 and had to overcome a lot of adversity to get to where I am now. Struggling with at least a mild form of Aspergers and depression, I tell my story in my social media posts which help me relate and connect with potential clients on a deeper level. Don’t be afraid to tell your story.
02: Learn To Say No
When bills need to get paid and your workload is looking extra light, it is very tempting to say yes to any project that comes your way, but don’t. Look out for the warning signs when speaking to a potential client. Are they punctual? Do they respect your time and not argue about your rates? Do they have a vision of what type of work that they want to be done, or are they all over the place?
Keeping these questions in mind will help you determine if this potential is a good fit. Remember, when you accept a project you are potentially turning down a bigger one down the line, so you have to make sure that each project you take on is worth your time.
3: Content Is Still King
I cannot stress this enough. You can create a beautiful website with nice elements and colors but if there is no content or the content is lacking and you don’t provide any value to potential clients, then it defeats the purpose.
When creating content for your own brand, of course, you should put emphasis on how it is presented to entice the audience, but the message of the piece is what is going to keep them hooked.
04: Define Your Key Audience
Being able to target your audience is going to be really effective when pitching to get new work. If you are a producer who has a portfolio with a lot of work in the rock genre, then it doesn’t make sense to spend your time pitching rappers. Once you have a clear audience in mind, you’ll be able to more effectively lock down clients in your niche. I’m not saying you have to stay in this area forever, but you’ll notice more times than not when pitching potential clients, they want to see the work that you have done that can be beneficial for them and the experience that you have in their field.
05: Add Value
One of the most important lessons to learn is to always remember to add value to your clients. You aren’t selling your services, you are selling your value that you can bring to your client. There are hundreds if not thousands of people and companies that do what I do, but why do clients hire me? Because they can’t get from anywhere else in terms of efficiency, work ethic, and value that I bring to each client.
This will not only help attract and retain clients, but it will also make sure that you aren’t undervaluing yourself in terms of how much you’ll be making per project. Once you can effectively prove your value to a client, it is easier to stand firm on your pricing.
Provide disproportional value upfront, without expecting anything in return. - Gary Vaynerchuk
06: Build Long Term Relationships
Building relationships with not just your clients is key to keep growing and expanding your brand. I am not too skilled when it comes to writing toplines or mixing certain styles of music, but I have people in my network that are who I refer to on an ongoing basis. I often get requests from clients that I can’t handle, but because I was able to build relationships with other creatives, I am able to send them work and vice versa.
The quote “Your Networth Is Your Network” is the truth. In order to be a successful freelancer, you have to get out and network with your fellow peers, even just reaching out to say you like a piece of work they did can lead to a long-lasting relationship. Also if you haven’t figured this out by now, the freelance life is pretty lonely. It is a lot better when you have an established network of peers that you can call on to get work done together and bounce ideas of each other.
07: Never Stop Learning
It’s very easy to keep your head down and to just focus on work, but don’t forget to keep learning. We live in a great time period where all we have to do is Google something to find the answer. Take full advantage of that. Want to get better at mixing? Start learning now. Want to learn more music theory and composition? Start learning now. Keep expanding your knowledge base and you’ll notice the positive effects that it has on you and your brand.
08: You’re Your Most Important Client
This might be the most important lesson of them all. One of my favorite pieces of advice I have received this year was “Spend an hour a day working on your own brand before working on any client work.” This really made me change how I start my days because I often used to find myself scrambling to get client work done before I took the time to work on my own brand which led me to put off certain tasks to help me grow and get my name out there.
I strongly recommend spending one hour in the morning tackling the things that you need to get done in order to grow your brand. It can be as simple as answering emails that you have been putting off, researching topics for new blogs posts, or starting to develop your own content marketing strategy. Remember you are your most important client, don’t feel bad for putting yourself first.
I hope all or at least some of these lessons help make you a better freelancer before you read them. Being a freelancer isn’t easy, and is always a work in progress. Don’t get too caught up if you aren’t where you want to be exactly in life today. Keep you mental health in check, keep up the hard work, be consistent, build relationships and you’ll be on your way.