Life As a Freelance Musician: Part 6: The Business Side of Things
I often get clients who are coming out of a disappointing project with another artist. It’s weird to me that people who have a chance to do what they love, wouldn’t take it serious enough to do the boring parts. Being professional is one of the annoying parts of the job that doesn’t always jive with our artistic side. But it is important. Here’s a few things that are imperative if you want to keep clients.
Honesty and Communication
Being straightforward and honest with clients is very important. The Internet is a shady place full of people trying to scam you. Just open an Elance job offer and see how many liars immediately appear and start pressuring you to give them an upfront payment. This is what many of your clients are wading through before talking to you. Many have already been scammed by someone who just took off with their money.
Remember, these people are essentially buying un-made art from you on your reputation alone. It’s scary for them to hand over a down payment or sign a contract when they have no idea about how you work, how long it’ll be, what happens if they’re not happy and other things like that. Try to put their mind at ease by being up front about as many of these things as possible. I have a sort of “boiler plate faq” document I email all my new clients to answer questions like these:
-What happens if I don’t like your song?
-How long does it take?
-How many revisions am I allowed?
-What formats do you deliver?
-What if I need a change a few months from now?
Another thing that helps is to make a clear spreadsheet of exactly what is to be delivered, in what format, and when. You can always refer back to this later. It protects both you and the client for forgetting what was agreed on or one party trying to add/remove things dishonestly or unintentionally late in the project.
Organizing files and contracts and making time tables and a schedule are boring tasks, especially to us creative types. But it’s a necessary evil if you are going to do music for more than a hobby.
I don’t like to schedule every minute of the day, so I tend to group things into, “Do this today”, “Do this sometime during this week”, “Do this by month end” and just work my way through the list taking breaks in between or whatever. Most clients aren’t in a time crunch on music, but they do expect to be kept in the loop and have a general idea of where you are and when you’ll have them something to listen to.
Here’s a few websites I cannot live without as an indie musician:
Soundcloud.com – We’ve already talked about this one obviously. Best place to set up a portfolio, works great on mobile devices, lets you showcase your work.
LegalZoom.com – A great place to get contracts made, incorporate your business and other exciting legal junk.
EchoSign.com – Having e-contracts makes you look more professional, and clients usually sign them with a lot less hesitation than if they have to print something, sign it with a pen, scan it back in and email it to you. I’ve actually lost clients because they were in a country where not everyone has scanners and they just got annoyed with the manual hard copy process.
Webs.com – This might seem like a wimpy little web building site, but it does one thing that soundcloud doesn’t. You can upload MP3’s to the same page and play them with a little play button. Why does this matter? If a client wants to preview SFX, it’s really annoying on Soundcloud since it automatically moves on to the next sound. Also, you can make a nice minimal “soundboard” type page of nothing but a list of your sound files and play buttons next to them.
Elance.com – Great place to find postings and clients. The odds are stacked against you at first of course, but keep at it!
PayPal.com – Obvious one. Quick easy way to transfer money. You can also pretty much build invoices here and not have to mess around with excel or other software for that.
idrive.com - A simple cloud bakcup system. You need to be backing up not only your project files but also your legal documents, quotes and other stuff.
Next few weeks:
-Enjoying the Pros of Freelance Life
-When Is A Song Done?
-My Biggest Mistakes as a Freelancer
-The Secret Arts of Coming Up With Melodies
Any other topics you want to hear about? Post in the comments!