9 Tips To Thrive As A Freelance Musician

This is a guest post by Doug Beney, founder of the blog Midi Lifestyle

You have skills that clients need.

Perhaps you also have a great studio filled with high-end gear and a beast of a PC that will handle anything you throw at it.

You know that your skills can be turned into marketable services, but somehow people are still not finding you.

What is it, a holiday or something? Where are all of the high-paying customers?

For any kind of freelance work, you will need to learn at least the basics of marketing. You have to realize that even if you’re on your own, you ARE a brand and you need to promote yourself in order to build a steady client base.

In this article, I will be sharing with you some tips, that if applied consistently, can make a HUGE difference in your freelance career.

Enjoy the read and do comment below what your biggest takeaway was.

Make Sure Your Portfolio Is Awesome

1. Make Sure Your Portfolio is AWESOME

The first thing you’re going to want to do is an honest audit your current portfolio.

Your portfolio is a place for your best work only. That experimental track you just created might be cool to share with your friends or post on your Soundcloud, but will it knock the socks off of potential clients?

And even though you’re only creating audio, that doesn’t mean you should not worry about your portfolio page looking beautiful. Great looking album art helps.

2. Make it Dead-Easy For Clients To Hire You

So, a serious customer is checking out your portfolio

Potential Customer: “Hmmm. Cool Soundcloud demo, where can I find more of [insert your name]’s work?”

Quiz Time: What’s a more likely scenario: A.) Potential Customer forgets about you…or B.) Potential Customer actually remembers to come back to your profile.

Unfortunately, if you answered B, you are are wrong. Dead wrong!

So you might be asking “Yeah, that’s pretty unfortunate…But how do I avoid it?”

First impressions count. You have to be memorable and catch the attention of potential customers immediately.

The two most important things someone looks at when hiring are:

  • Your qualifications (album / performance credits, education, skills, awards, etc)
  • Your portfolio (sound clips, past project info, etc)

Arguably, your portfolio is the most important determination of whether someone will pass on you or hire you. It is what you will use to answer the question “Why should I hire this person?”

Make it easy for someone to view your portfolio and also make it easy for someone to buy your services once they land on your portfolio. That could mean adding a “Work With Me” button that links out to your AirGigs service.
Work With Me

Note: Not a real button. Don’t click it.

If you don’t have existing testimonials from past clients within your portfolio, then linking out to another site like AirGigs, where users can read past client reviews can be a helpful thing. Some clients may also feel more comfortable hiring you through a platform, so providing this option allows you not to lose a booking due to concerns about fulfillment, payment processing, etc.

For creating a beautiful portfolio, I recommend any of the following tools:

Make Sure Your Profile Picture Is Professional

3. Make Sure Your Profile Picture Is Professional

Obvious, right? You’re not going to want cheeto stains to be on your shirt for your profile pic.
However, as someone that does his fair share of freelance hiring, you’d be surprised how many people use blurry or unprofessional photos that you might even question whether or not to use as a Facebook profile picture.

You don’t have to wear a business suit (Like our monkey friend above) and hire a photographer to take your picture, but make sure you’re dressed decently and the lighting is good where you snap the photo.

Go The Extra Mile When Applying To Job Listings

4. Go The Extra Mile When Applying To Job Listings

You can find freelance music-related jobs on all sorts of sites. Often, you will see in the listing, the name of the job listing submitter, their company name, and/or some form of contact address.

Instead of just sending a hit-and-run style response and hoping for the best, go the extra mile and shoot over your ideas to the job poster’s email or company’s email.

Example email template:

Hi, [Name]! Just saw your listing on [Website] looking for a [Job Position]. Just applied! When I read your listing, I immediately got excited because a couple months I worked on [project] for a client and he was beyond thrilled with the final result. Anyway, I just wanted to give you some ideas that I had for free about your project. [Your ideas here] Talk soon, -[Your Name]

In addition, if you’re an AirGigs member, you can use AirGig’s safe payment method as a guarantee for satisfaction with the work you provide.

Make It Your Daily Ritual To Apply To X Jobs

5. Make It Your Daily Ritual To Apply To X Jobs

It’s better to apply to 5 jobs a day on a regular basis than to reply to 50 in one day and instantly get burned out for weeks.

Come up with a number of freelance job listings you want to apply to per day and always stick to it.

Never have a “skip day” or make excuses because that will snowball and before you know it, you’ll lose your habit.

6. Invest In Self Promotion

Setting up a great website, and posting your services on freelance platforms is just the starting point. To make a decent living, you have to treat it like a business and invest in some kind of self-promotion. You have to find a way to “get heard” above the noise. This doesn’t have to be some elaborate or expensive marketing scheme, but just something that you do consistently to get in front of your customers.

A great way to increase awareness – or simply expand your portfolio – is to find potential customers on social media sites.

Real life example:

A while ago, my friend was just starting out, trying to find clients to produce film scores for.

As an experiment, I searched twitter with a variety of queries such as “I Need film to hire a composer”. (Make sure to keep the quotes when searching in Twitter to get the most accurate results).

I eventually came across someone who looked serious and who had recently posted that they were looking for a film composer.

The next thing I did was Tweet at them, referring him to my friend where they talked in more detail about the project.

Just using a basic technique like that can seriously make a difference in your freelancing career. Some people call Twitter the “cocktail party of the internet” – meaning that there are conversations going on all around the room (the internet) and you can join in at any time to provide value and network.

Use Social Media The Right Way

7. Use Social Media The Right Way

In addition to social media outreach, you can also work on building your audience. Here’s a great guide on social media marketing without being spammy

Key takeaways from that article are:

  • Use Twitter Advanced Search (As mentioned earlier)
  • Avoid “Get followers fast” shortcuts, as they’ll only produce, less-than-active followers
  • Spend just as much time interacting with other users’ social content as you do posting your own content (Hashtags can be powerful to find conversations!)

Follow Up With Previous Clients

8. Follow Up With Previous Clients

The greatest part of customer service is being able to talk one-to-one with your clients to get a full understanding of their needs and being able to fulfill them.

But what do you do when their needs are met and they already paid you for the job? Do you just hope they come back to you, or do you follow up with them a reasonable time after their purchase?

While you should absolutely be getting repeat customers without any follow up, you can greatly increase the amount of work you receive by following up with old clients.

Simply ask them how everything is going with their projects and if you can help in any way. Feel free to even offer a discount for repeat customers.

Try branching out your skills

9. Try branching out your skills

Try thinking outside of the box when deciding what type of skills you can provide.

Since you’re a musician, there are a ton of different musician-related blogs and magazines that are looking for passionate writers.

The great part about this is that successful musician-related publications can always use an extra freelance writer on their team to create content.

That is one example of how you can branch out your skills. Quality articles is something that’s very in-demand.

Here are some additional ideas for services you can provide:

  • Music production services
  • Music transcription services
  • Lessons
  • Online courses / workshops
  • Music production consultations
  • Audio logos, loops & sample pack creation
  • Article writing for music production blogs

The list can go on. Be as creative marketing your skills and talents, as are you are with your music!

Final Notes

I hope you have gotten a lot out of this article!

Succeeding as a freelance musician depends on you actively building relationships with clients and providing phenomenal service.

So, I’m interested…What one tip/strategy has made the biggest impact on your music career? Drop a comment below.

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