How Do You Set Your Rates? Working For Free Or Cheap Part 2


Last time, we told you the basic guiding principle behind setting your rates. Today’s questions is: what do you do when you are trying to get your foot in the door? How do you work for cheap without seeming cheap? How do you fit into a budget without word getting around town that you cost nothing to work with? Let’s find out.

We all would love to think that we can start off freelancing, charge the amount of money we will need to survive and quit our day job forever. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen easily. The music industry is a pretty cool place and there is insane amounts of competition. If you need to get your foot in the door, you are going to need to work for cheap and even free sometimes. However, there are many tricks to making others seem like you are worth a lot more then you are charging, when really you are getting a little.

The Bonus System
When I started out my career as a Producer, I was offered some wise advice: “If you set your rates too cheap, you seem cheap.” Easy enough! But then when I kept my rate high I had no work! I was offered a simple solution, when I would meet with a band about working with them I would tell them my rate was $200 an hour, but I would then offer my services for free during pre-production/rehearsals and mixing. For session musicians, this amounts to doing the rehearsals for free, a songwriter may offer the first song for free if an artist hires them for numerous songs.

But What About My Reputation?
Obviously, we want a client who you did awesome work for to spread the word around town afterwords. What about when they tell all the other bands that you did the rehearsals for free? In my experience, one simple line always helped this situation, tell your client, “I am doing this to help you guys out and obviously me too, just do me a favor, don’t tell anyone I did the rehearsals for free.” That simple request helped me 99% of the time.

The Long Tail  
On many records, I ended up working for less then $4 an hour but I am now able to work for 10+ times that everyday from establishing myself through this method. You have to pay your dues and this is one of the ways to do it; I have seen myself and dozens of others prosper with this method. Let me know how it works for you!

Next time we will show you how to get the most from a project and how you can get promotion from your business while setting rates. 

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.