How to Lose Clients As A Freelance Audio Engineer
Many of the engineers that may visit this page or may visit this site will fall into one of these categories: 1. You are a professional engineer that mixes professional work either independently or for a company/ label, 2. You may be a hobbyist who mixes your own music or music of others in your home studio, or 3. You are a student studying Audio Engineering in school or perhaps studying music(if so, you'll also want to check out this.). Then there’s the last bunch of engineers who’ll most likely get the most from this post. Those are the engineers who record and mix professionally / semi-professionally for a myriad of clients on a local level not necessarily with large record labels or post production films houses. This post is for you….All the others I named will enjoy this too of course . We compiled this list out of well…frustration, by the way I’ve seen some clients treated, so even though I’m speaking from the engineer’s point of view here are the MAJOR 6 reasons you are losing (or will lose – Hopefully not) clients.
1.Be A “Music Snob”
One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen with engineering buddies or engineering co-workers is the trait of being a “music snob”. Some of you may not know what I’m talking about, but when you’ve been to music school or you’ve engineered your first big band or artist…or maybe even when you’ve just scored Pro Tools HD/ or the Waves Mercury Bundle THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOUR CLIENTS! Your clients are paying you, (hopefully) so why be rude to them about their music? I’ve met many an engineer that looks down on rap, or rock or metal or whatever, because they are “used to a more sophisticated” style or genre. DON’T. Your Clients are your clients and you’ll regret burning bridges because of a bad attitude or dare I say, an engineer “GOD complex”. If you want to keep paying clientele, don’t brag about the better music you could be doing instead of the “Walmart jingle” you are getting paid to do. Do your work like it’s the next Prince album and keep your clients happy and respecting you as a professional.
2. Be A “Know-it-All”, that looks down on your client’s suggestions
You may think this goes with the previous rule, and I guess it could, but this one is specific to the process of engineering and the way you treat the client’s product. The specific engineers will remain nameless, but I’ve worked with a few engineers who would jump at every turn to tell the client why they were wrong about their craft. “You shouldn’t record it this way, record it like that.” “You use Fruity Loops? Wow that’s Trash!” etc. You can probably think of a few “quips” of your own. The number one rule in music is:
|“If it sounds good, it is good.”
Let me give you an example, I was mixing an album for an artist a year or so ago and on every vocal track there was a high shelf at 14K boosted 15dB! Did it sound good in context once I received it? No, but to them it must have. Do I need to tell them they are idiots for doing that? Nope! I just need to make the changes I feel necessary to achieve the mix they hired me for. That’s it. No need to prove anything to your clients. They’ll appreciate you for your skills when you can achieve a mix that they (and you) are happy with. At the end of the day, if your client found a sound they liked recorded through a trashcan and it works in the mix, your job is to make it fit and sound the best it possibly can. Of course, this advice doesn’t mean you shouldn’t suggest best practices, and the best ways to achieve high quality results (i.e. Please don’t bring me mp3 files to mix….it just doesn’t work, thanks). You get my drift I’m sure, just don’t prove you are the smartest music engineer when you don’t need to, and don’t dismiss sounds that just flat out work, no matter how odd the eq or compression or recording device etc.
3. Be Unorganized & Unprofessional
Recording local acts as a Freelance engineer, I’ve seen some fairly wild sessions. Hip Hop sessions where the artists need to take a “smoke” brake during the song or need to get some alcohol to record a verse better. If you are holding the session in your studio it’s up to you whether you want to turn away clients because of things like this. When you aren’t working in your own studio it’s not up to you, so you just have to deal with it or quit. It’s your choice. If you are fine with it, then you’ll want to keep reading. I’ve always taken the stance, if that’s what artists need to do to make their craft the best they can make it; it’s up to them. With that said, as the engineer on the session, I am working so I don’t partake, that’s just me. It’s always kept me fresh and kept me alert so that’s what’s worked for me. I can say that on listening sessions I have taken a drink or two of champagne/wine when we are celebrating the end of an album or the end of a mix, but during a session I think it’s important to stay alert. That’s the end of my take on that.
Side note: Smoking, over time increases high frequency hearing loss. The more you smoke (or are exposed to smoke) on a daily basis, the worse the affect. (Fun fact) Here's more if you are so inclined: Healthy Hearing
Being unorganized, is inexcusable if you want to be a consistently highly regarded collaborator (that’s on anything, music or otherwise). Have your recording session ready, your templates set, your file management clean and easy to follow, and your session prepared BEFORE the client arrives. The creative process can be a challenging one. Clients often want to write to music for a while, or want to record on a moment’s notice so being prepared when they come in for the session always shows professionalism. You want to exude that this time is taken seriously on your end, that way you can legitimately charge the rates you charge. Part of organization is to remember how a particular client likes to record and to recall those settings ahead of time. Treat every client like it’s your last, it just might be.
4. Be Late.
In congruence with the last number, this is unprofessional. The only person who can be late (and will almost always be late) is the client. They have that right, they are paying, just inform them that your hourly rate starts promptly at the stated time. It’s up to them to make any decisions from there. As the engineer you have to get things set up, if you’re recording drums, you have to get all the mics out and get the routing set etc. What kind of setup are you doing? (Should have thought about that way before the session). Almost always something will go wrong, so it’s best to have that happen when the client isn’t there, that way you don’t have to deduct time and you don’t have to look unprepared. Being on time as the engineer who is setting up the session always means being early.
5. What’s Troubleshooting?
We are planning to do a more lengthy post on this later, but it’s important to know how to troubleshoot. What do I mean by that? The most efficient way to troubleshoot an issue when you have no idea what the issue is, is the process of elimination. Yea, it’s literally that simple. Lol. It works in every case. I’m not saying you’ll solve every issue at that particular time, but you’ll be able to pinpoint to a degree of certainty what the “culprit” is that’s causing you your madness. What do I mean by “The Process of Elimination”? I mean verifying piece-by-piece what’s working and what’s isn’t. Go through your signal chain and eliminate an item by proving it’s working properly through whatever means you have i.e. using it by itself, or using it in a different fashion so you can verify it’s efficacy.
6. Be non-versatile or stubborn
Don’t be stubborn…just don’t be. Yes, you may be accustomed to recording string quartets but don’t reject rock bands who love your work and want to record. Most of you will know that working with different genres, or live vs. studio work requires different skills and different approaches. Don’t be closed minded and think “there’s only one way to skin a cat”. The creative and scientific nature of the engineering discipline lends itself very well to experimentation, so this may be the issue you have the least problem with, but always remember there are different ways to achieve awesome results and your clients may have suggestions on the ways they like to accomplish their art. Try different approaches; try different techniques for different genres. Always remember you’re never too old to learn, and when you think you are, you’ll remain stagnant and cease to grow as an engineer.
** What’s Your Take? Do you have more to add to the list? Comment in the FORUM! **
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