Life As A Freelance Musician Part 10: My Biggest Mistakes as a New Freelancer

Like anything in life, when you look back, you wish you had your current level of knowledge back at the start of a new endeavor. Here’s a few common mistakes that either I’ve made or seen others make when starting a career as a feelancer musician.

Buying Too Much Gear

Sure, we'd all love to have this in our basement, but is it the best use of money when you're just starting out? Do you really need all this to make music?
Sure, we’d all love to have this in our basement, but is it the best use of money when you’re just starting out? Do you really need all this to make music?

Probably the biggest thing I see all over the net is people who become total gear nuts. I hate to write this because I LOVE analog gear, I love battling to get some old synth to work with my system and having wires and knobs all around, but the problem is for many, this becomes too important.

I see folks who have every piece of equipment you could ever imagine and are surrounded by wires and modules. However, you listen to their songs and what’s missing is dedication to their craft or songwriting skills. The things they’re creating with their massive amounts of hardware only sound marginally better than tunes that could be created with more modern software-based methods.

Sure, a hardware oscilloscope looks cool with its little waves appearing as you play your song, but is that really money better spent than good headphones, good monitors or software solutions that do the same thing and then some? If you are just starting out, you might not even have the expertise or knowledge to fully utilize a lot of pro gear. It’d be better to spend your money on lessons or some other appropriate means of learning.

The companies that make gear are always telling you you need more. Remember that you really don’t need a more than a few pieces of hardware and a few programs to make decent music. There’s a level where buying gear and fiddling with it becomes a distraction from actually completing songs and producing something. Here’s a great article to start with from earlier in this series if you’re not sure what the most important things to buy are.

Not Backing Up Data

Now, a lesson from my own bank of failures. This is the most catastrophic thing that has happened to me thus far in my career as a freelancer. I had four large projects going at once, I had been working on them in tandem for about three months, so many things were close to done but not quite there. One day after a very long session, I delivered final drafts and a few completed things to most of these clients. To this day, I don’t know what happened, but the next day, ALL my music was gone. All my project files. I only had a backup from about 5 months earlier on a USB hard drive.

If this had happened ONE DAY earlier, I would have been unable to recover from the loss. I had just completed about 18 hours of work finishing 3 of the 4 projects. I still had to pull an all-nighter and remake the final projects songs for mastering. It could have been so much worse so it made me realize I better backup every day.

I don’t recommend Carbonite, since they exclude WAV files and a lot of others with their free plan. Also, have fun completely removing it from your system. is a much better solution that is simple and automatic just in case catastrophe strikes. Your money is better spent on a backup system than most other things you could buy when starting out.

Taking Criticism Personally

Early on, I lost some jobs and contests I entered. I felt my entry to the contest was the strongest of the many that I heard. The one they picked as a winner confused and disappointed me. I spent a lot of time and I thought their song was boring. Now, almost a year and a half later, when I listen back to mine, I hear glaring mastering and mixing problems. Although I still don’t think the winner’s track was more interesting, it was definitely professionally mixed and mastered whereas mine was a bit more amateur.

You can’t win them all. I still lose jobs. As mentioned before, you can’t always beat someone else’s prices or turn around time. And there is always someone more talented out there. I would imagine that even big-name Hollywood score composers don’t get every job they’d want. Take it with a grain of salt and glean any positive constructive criticism you can.

Worrying Too Much

When I first started, I worried constantly while away from my computer. I thought I might miss an important email or someone else would quote back a client before I could and get the job. I obsessively checked after sending auditions in. You don’t want your emotional state to be all about work in any kind of job. I’ve learned not to sweat it so much. What happens happens.

My articles have been a little inconsistent lately since I’m in the middle of a huge project right now. I’m saving up that melody one for when I have time to make it really good. Stay tuned, I am not disappearing.

Next up:
-The Secret Arts of Coming Up With Melodies
-Beginner’s Guide to Compression


Screen Shot 2013-05-03 at 2.36.44 PMBeatscribe is a full time indie composer, musician and writer. By day he creates soundtracks and sfx for various mobile gaming companies, by night creates megaman-inspired chiptunes, in the afternoons he drinks tea. Check out his latest releases, tutorials and retro ruminations at

5 thoughts on “Life As A Freelance Musician Part 10: My Biggest Mistakes as a New Freelancer”

  1. Definitely truth to this, I’ve been guilty of all of these at some point, but I can’t stress enough on the 1st one. Seriously, get good headphones and good studio monitors and buy your software and sample packs and you’re good.

    1. indeed. Gear does have an impact, but it does not make the artist a pro. It’s hard to resist all those shiny gadgets and blinky lights though!! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Great info here. Sometimes is tough to look at what we might be doing wrong, but I appreciate your honesty in this post. Some good cautionary tales for starting (and seasoned) producers here!

Post a Comment!