1. Define your ideal customer
Today, sound is needed in various industries.
In order to define your ideal customer, you first have to define the ideal industry for you to be part of. Is it gaming? Advertising? Cinema? TV?
Be Specific! If you want to work in the advertising world for example, your ideal customer could be “a company that creates animated, web broadcasted videos for high tech companies, with 2-8 employees. They should be located in ______”. OR “my ideal customer is a mobile gaming company that has an animation department and created its own content”.
2. Know your industry
Once you are focused on one industry, you should make sure you're informed and aware of the different jobs and titles in it. This will allow you to know who are the main key factors to address to when offering your services, who makes the decisions regarding the employment of freelancers. If you work with production companies for example, chances are that the producer will be the one to talk to when trying to get that gig.
Second, you should know which are the main players in your industry; Who are the best freelancers that do what you do? Who are your direct competitors? What are the biggest companies in your area?
3. Build a portfolio
Now that you know who to address to and that you acquired some knowledge about the titles and roles in the companies that are potential customers of yours, you have to be able to show them what you can do for them.
A website is the best way to do that. A good looking, simple and clean website can make the decision makers choose you instead of the next sound expert. The idea is that you put your greatest works in your website, and just send the link by mail. Update your website every time you finish a new interesting project.
Your website should be industry oriented. This means that if you want to reach out to TV show producers, don’t send them a website full of mobile games that you’ve worked on - They just don’t care. And no, the fact that you are an excellent sound designer for video games, doesn’t mean you can mix a TV show. If they hire you, it’s because they are 100% sure you have the knowledge and experience in their specific area.
4. Know your rates
You are one step before starting engaging your customers! Once they see your website, they’ll probably start asking about your rates.
To know your rates you’ll have to know first what are the entry level rates, Union rates in your country and top specialists rates.
To know the different rates you can simply ask. There are plenty of Facebook groups where you can ask for the standard rates in different industries.
The next step is to place yourself somewhere in that spectrum depending on your experience, tools available and location.
If you’re a total beginner and only have some experience as an intern for example, you should start with entry level rates. If you have some/lots of experience as an employee but never worked as a freelancer before, you could search for the the Union rates, if you have one in your country, and start by charging 60-80% of those rates.
In either case, you should make a research by asking people from your industry.
Don’t forget to start raising your rates as soon as you start working with more clients.
5. Sales: Build a customer database and start making calls
Well, this is the hardcore part you never thought you’d have to deal with when you finished sound school. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. You either love it or hate it, but if you want to thrive in the jungle, you’ll have to love the hustle, and do it with passion.
Start by building a database of the companies that could be potential customers. Use a simple Google Sheets page to start with. It should look like that:
Then, you can start making calls and introduce yourself. It doesn’t have to be long. Keep it simple: “Hi, I’m dan, how are you? I’m a sound editor for TV shows, I worked with ___ and ____. I saw some of your great projects on your website and I’ll be happy to work with you.” Then they will probably ask you to send them an email with your details. That’s where you drop the bomb - your awesome website!
Do this 30 -60 times a day, and you’ll probably start having some of them calling you back and start working with you in no time.
TIP - Have some kind of speech ready that helps you convey important information like what you do and who you’ve worked with in a few short sentences. Chances are that most of the people you’ll speak with won’t have more than 3 minutes to spend with you.
TIP 2 - Don’t be shy! Your 10-20 first calls will probably be a total disaster. But, you’ll improve over time, refining your speech and carisma over the phone, and slowly build confidence. After a few days making calls, you’ll make the wolf of wall street look like a call center grandma.
6. Follow up
Chances are, most of the companies you’ll call and send emails to, will forget about you right after. That’s why you have to remind them! The best way to do that without coming across as annoying, is by a follow Up routine.
Following up means that when you finished your first engagement with a potential customer, you can set a reminder (to yourself) to send them another mail 3 months later, informing them about new cool project that you were part of. You can also call them again every 6 months. This will probably make you stick in their heads. Some of them will even appreciate the effort and devoutness.
In any case, Follow Up routines work like magic. You can get new customers without searching for them. You’ve already initiated first engagement, so you just have to remind them of your existence every now and then.
7. Last tip - Be professional
Always provide on time - Your word is everything. If the deadline is 4pm, you better make sure the mix is already in the client’s mailbox by 3pm.
Be available - If you’re planning on working 9AM to 5PM - Forget about being a freelancer. Your customers want you available every minute of your waking hours.
Keep your head down -The customer’s always right. If they want you to change that awesome sound effect you’ve created, to this shitty sound downloaded from YouTube - Do it! with pleasure.
Be nice - Always sound like you’re happy to hear and talk to your customers, and always be willing to help (as long you’re not being exploited). Don’t wait too much to answer text messages and mail - people are impatient.
Always raise rates - Don’t be afraid to raise your rates every now and then. Your customers will respect you for doing that, and those who don’t - you’re better off without them.