How Do You Set Your Rates? Budget Hacks Part 3

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In past episodes, we have discussed how to set your rates on a supply and demand basis and the nuances of working for free while not seeming cheap. This time we are going to discuss some of the ways to get the most money from a project. Not only can you get a little more money out of most budgets, you can also get free promotion from them.


Do You Want It?
When most people start out freelancing, they want any business they can get. Eventually, you get to a point where you can be a little more choosy. There will also be a lot of projects you are on the fence about. One of the tricks to make a project that is questionable more enticing is to make it more financially appealing. One of the best tricks in the Music Industry is to listen to the project before quoting a rate! Personally, if a band sounds like Hinder or is some sort of Grind-Core noise madness, I am not going to be as passionate as I would if it was a Punk/Pop/Dance/Indie band. Some genres of music don’t do it for me and that’s not going to change. However, if a band really thinks they need my style of working to get their sound across, I need to make it worth my while by raising my rate. If I know I am not going to enjoy working on a project I may double my rate. If I don’t get the project, I didn’t want it anyway. If I do get the project I can be happy that once it is done I will be able to take a day off for everyday that I worked, since I am being compensated by double for my time.

How Do I Accomplish Raising My Rate?
First off, make sure you do not advertise a rate and if you do, print it reading: “for as low as” and make it clear to any who contests your rate that the advertised rate doesn’t apply to their project for some reason or another. Second off, before you give a quote on a project, get details: is there a label/promotion involved? If so, this may help get the word out about your work. Is the band incompetent and going to be a nightmare of working extra hours/hating your life? If so, it’s time for a rate increase.

Budget Negotiations
I don’t want to get into any cheesy, business man “Always Be Closing” BS. However, there is one simple rule to make sure you get the most of any budget. GET A BUDGET FIRST! If a band has a larger budget than you know what to do with, you can use it for rentals, hiring techs, assistants etc. However, if you give them a rate below what they were expecting often times they will take that money and spend it on a video game system for their van instead of something you had the vision of helping their record be more awesome! Before you give them any quote you need to always make sure you have gotten a budget from them first!

That Extra Mile
One of the best tricks when creating a budget is to give them something free in exchange for them promising to spread the word about your services. As a Producer, bands always need favors in the form of Alternate Versions, Instrumentals, etc. For a session player, this could be giving away a secret pedal setting you used on a song, after the band gets a permanent member. When I was starting off, I would never charge for this. I would just simply ask the band to spread the word, as much as they can, about what I do for them. It is easy to work this into a budget talk.  When a band asks for a discount on the rate and you are willing to give it to them, it is a simple thing to ask them to not tell anyone about the lower rate but to tell everyone about how much you kicked ass for them.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.