If you’re not turning people away, you probably need to raise your rates.
Why raise your rates?
Low rates do two things. First of all, they send a message to people. And it’s not a good one. It tells people that your capabilities are sub-par. And it sends that message before you’ve had a chance to prove that you can actually do the job. It makes it that much harder to convince artists that you’re the right person for the job and you can give them a recording that they’ll be proud of.
Low rates also do another thing. They attract Bad Clients. You might have already met a few. The ones who keep coming back for mix revisions (free, of course). The ones who show up unrehearsed and take three times longer to get the take. The ones who bring their dodgy friends who think it’s ok to touch your gear without asking. The ones you suspect might be badmouthing you behind your back.
You’ll still get some good clients. Some people are reasonable and respectful no matter what they pay. And there will still be people who are prepared to pay through the nose and still make your life difficult. But generally, putting bigger numbers behind the dollar sign will weed out the people who aren’t serious about their music — the people who aren’t committed, aren’t prepared to work hard and aren’t interested in investing in their career.
(Of course, there are many artists who are serious but genuinely can’t afford professional assistance. As the person with skill and experience, you have an obligation to help. But don’t get confused — you don’t have an obligation to work for peanuts. Sometimes a better way to help is to give some good advice about how the artist can record at home and do their own production. You’ll build trust with your honesty and give you an opportunity to develop a relationship. When that artist is ready to take it up a level, you’ll be on speed dial)
So why are your rates so low?
The most common reason producers and engineers charge low rates is that they’re fearful of turning artists away. The thinking is that a session for lunch money is better than spending that time twiddling thumbs. Cashflow, relationships, all that. But it’s a false dichotomy — you wouldn’t be twiddling your thumbs in that time. You’d be doing all sorts of more productive things. For example:
—Learning a bit more about how to use that new piece of gear.
—Working on your own projects to build your portfolio.
—Finally getting around to vacuuming the carpet.
—Doing extra work for your high-paying or long term clients.
—Going out meeting more artists.
All are better for your best and future artists than locking up your time for little money and/or bad clients.