First:- Practise in Private
Before you even think about doing some work for anyone, you need to practice with the tools you have. A guitarist would never take a gig without practicing the basics and neither should you! Practice using XLR cables. Practice how to get your microphone hooked into your system so that you’re getting sound from it. Practice adding reverb etc. Imagine yourself setting all of these things up with an artist/band in the room. All of a sudden, efficiency takes over and you want to look like you know what you’re doing. Practicing all this in private with help immeasurably!
I am not a proponent of anyone ever working for free. You may ask, how do you charge when literally starting out and have no idea what you’re doing? Initially, you don’t charge for your skill but for your time. However, what your time is worth will change depending on your skill level, but it’s very important to understand that even as a beginner, your time is worth something.
It may be $50 for a song. It may be $25. Your time is always worth something.
Don’t be the ‘Free’ guy.
This is a story that may sound familiar. Years ago a friend of mine started getting into recording. He bought some gear and started to practise. Soon afterward, he was asked to record a band. This band knew that he wasn’t very experienced so said to him, “We don’t have much money, could you do it for free? It will give you great exposure”. He knew he didn’t have much experience so he agreed to their request. It went from a free day, to two free days, to a free week, then a free month and finally to three free months!
This project dragged on simply because the band knew that they had a blank cheque and could keep moving the goalposts. It became incredibly frustrating for my friend because he was under the impression that it would only be a small project. He got taken advantage of because he didn’t set the boundaries in the first place. This is why working for free is NEVER a good idea.
The only time I will work for free is if I am exchanging it for a trade. For example, at one stage I needed a website built so I had a friend who wanted an album mixed. We negotiated an exchange.
Doing favors for friends.
It’s one of life’s greatest joys to be able to assist a friend in helping them achieve a dream. It really is! As a producer, you will have many opportunities to help the people around, especially friends, see their dreams come to reality. There is nothing better than doing a favour for a friend once you have established a history or have been receiving your normal rate. When there is mutual respect, everyone is instantly more generous.
Evenso, don’t be afraid to discuss boundaries. You do not want to have ‘doing a favour’ become the cause of misunderstanding over your time and skills.