The Business – Minimize Your Personal Risk

Since a composer/music producer normally is a freelancer, he has to deal with many different risk factors. The first step in minimizing or even avoiding risk factors is to be aware of them.

For example:

  • what if you become seriously ill and couldn’t work?
  • what if your machine broke down?
  • what if you didn’t get paid for a very long period of time?
  • what if you got too many jobs at once?

In this business, we should spend some time thinking about those kinds of questions before they become reality! You won’t find a complete list of your personal risk factors in this tutorial. Neither will you find all the answers; but hopefully you are going to develop an ability to detect your personal risk factors and how to get control over them.

Building up your business network

In many cases, the best and also the easiest way to minimize your personal risk is by surrounding yourself with people who are in a similar situation to yours. Why? Think of a software problem with your computer. Just do a Google search and in almost every case you will find the answer on the Internet because at least 1,000 users have had the same type of problem before. This example shows a very simple principle:

People who are in a similar (or even the same) situation often have similar (or the same) problems/risk factors!

The probability that you will get solutions to your problems, new ideas, a better workflow, etc. is high when you are part of a community. So, become a member of a forum, share your studio with other composers or musicians, attend music production lectures and seminars, keep an open mind and listen to what others say, in other words, become connected. By building up your personal business network you create a safety net that prevents you from stepping into every single trap and, even more importantly; you give fortune a chance to find you.

Risk factor: An unstable income

Without any doubt, an unstable income is the biggest risk factor for a freelancer. You won’t get a steady paycheck, so your income depends totally on you and what you can do.

First of all, you need to determine or track down the specific things that generate your income. Here are some ideas and options, which may be true in your case:

  • you compose music for hire
  • you work as a arranger or orchestrator
  • you teach music composition or an instrument
  • you work as a studio musician/session player
  • you do mixing and mastering
  • you collaborate with various music publishers
  • you work as an audio engineer at recording sessions
  • you work as an audio supervisor
  • you produce library music for licensing
  • note: list is far from complete

Important: Whatever things determine your income, do more of those and less of the other things. Of course, these things may change, over time, and you will need to adapt to those changes. However, you should always spend the most time doing things that increase your income in a direct or indirect way.

Income Streams

Obviously, you can stabilize your income by generating many different income streams instead of only one big stream. Remember, what if the big stream suddenly dries up? It might be very difficult to find a substitute quickly! However, if one of the little streams ends, it won’t hit you so hard since your loss of income will be very low because you still have all the other streams coming in.

It is perfectly normal that one or some of these little streams may become bigger over time. That’s good but just make sure that you don’t lose sight of the others.

Note: The concept of “distribution of risks” is not a must, it is only an option, but it might give you more freedom and some sense of inner peace. Just remember that in some cases one big stream may be the best choice, so you will have to decide what is best for you.
Risk factor: Professional know-how

Professional know-how is a very important part because being a professional means having deep knowledge, a solid craft, and excellent skills. It is a general rule that people most often collaborate with professionals because they want to lessen or eliminate their own risk. So you better be sure of exactly what it is that you do because:

  • that’s the only way to make your music sound great.
  • that’s the only way to build up confidence in what you do.
  • that’s the only way to generate repeating success instead of random success.
  • that’s the only way to make the client put his trust in you.
  • that’s the only way to make other professionals collaborate with you.

If you have the slightest doubt about something you write or do, get rid of this weak point by investing the time and energy in better understanding the problem and finding a proper solution.

Important: You cannot build a professional business based upon doubts and ignorance!

Risk factor: Time

With regard to music production, you can save a lot of time and energy by using templates, presets and macros. Let’s assume that you want to create a completely new project in your sequencer; this means that you will need to invest a lot of time in finding the right instruments, loading the samples, finding the right effects with the proper settings, balancing the mix down, etc.! Always try to improve your workflow and avoid doing the same steps repeatedly on different projects. This way you will free up more time to focus on the important things such as the composition itself, high quality recording, alternate parts of specific tracks/instruments or even an alternate version of the whole song. (See 10 Tips To Be More Productive Composing)

Note: By saving a huge amount of time every day you can even increase your income and do less work, all at the same time! So it is really important to recognize which parts of your personal workflow can be improved. Remember: there’s no need to do the same work steps several times, once is enough!

Risk factor: Getting attention

Like I said once before in this tutorial: You need to give fortune a chance to find you! This means that in order to become successful you need to attract attention first. It’s very interesting to watch how many people do everything they can to remain hidden, but on the other hand, they still want to be successful – that’s just not going to work.

Note: If you are really a person who prefers not to go public, for whatever reason, there is always a way around that. One really good way is by finding an agent or a partner who will take care of your public relations.

Of course, everyone should consider whether or not something is worth spreading around in the first place (I mean content for websites primarly). Unfortunately there is so much nonsense out there that it is very easy to waste your time totally! However, on the other hand, there is so much information available that is way too valuable to miss. So make yourself the type of great person who enriches the public with precious content and worthwhile information.

Risk factor: Burnout

The risk factors we have dealt with so far have been income, optimizing your workflow, time, and publicity. There is one very important factor that is often seen when it is far too late. If you thought about work all day long you will probably forget about your evening relaxation, spare time, and taking a vacation to relax. However, these things are of the utmost importance in order to keep you going further. So, don’t forget to take some time off after a project is finished.

Take your dog for a walk, spend some time with your family or watch a movie. It is important to develop the ability to stand back and take a look at your work from a distance because this is good for your health, it is an excellent source of inspiration, and it is a great way to improve your work and the best way to enjoy your life after your work. All this might sound totally mundane, but in fact, burnout really is a high risk, and it is a serious disease!

Summary

These risk factors should be considered examples in order to give you an idea of what can affect you. Your personal risk factors may be totally different from the ones listed above, but I can guarantee that there still are ways to minimize them.

In fact, the more you minimize or even eliminate your personal risks, the more freedom you will have in your work and in your life in general. So take a look at the following questions in order to determine your personal risk factors:

  • Do you have a stable income? What do you do to make money?
  • Are you really confident in what you do the most? How can you boost or increase your confidence, your craft, your knowledge, your skills?
  • Do you work with templates and presets? How can you save even more time in order to focus on more important things?
  • When and where did you spend your last vacation? How many hours per day do you spend at your job or working? What are your hobbies?
  • What part(s) of your business are you afraid of?
  • What is your personal worst-case scenario? What are your specific actions to avoid it?

Of course, this list is incomplete, but hopefully it is long enough to make you think about your own personal risks. By facing up to the fact that they are present, you will get control over your risks and avoid being controlled by them!

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Comments

  1. Ek Blessky

    Grateful thanks for the tips!

  2. Fabricio Z

    This is simply amazing. You just described everything I’m passing through. I’m a freelancer composer and sound designer for games and I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years. A few years ago, I quit my full time job (I was a web designer and developer) to start working with music full time. For a few time, I was doing great, but then, I experienced all these problems: My income streams have all dried up, I passed a long time without getting paid, I was overworking in order to make money fast and completely overwhelmed by work, problems and then, I had a burnout. I’m still passing for a lot of these problems, but with time, we find some ways to manage it better.

  3. Hi Fabricio, thanks a lot! Yes, it’s really a matter of how you manage your work. It can help you achieve your goals but it also can eat you up totally! …. I’m glad you took something useful out of my article!

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