How Free Work Can Help You
Giving away free work seems extremely counterproductive when we’re talking about starting a business to free up our time…
However, this one powerful strategy can actually end up doing a lot more than you otherwise might think.
Yes you should not be constantly giving away free work. But finding the balance may be the difference between achieving your goals, or crashing and burning.
Come hangout where we discuss how to approach free work and why you just may need to give it a shot!
What You’ll Learn:
- How to approach free work
- Why it’s strategic
- When to give away free work
- The benfits of free work
- What you can learn from free work
and much more!
Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Hey guys, welcome to electronic dance money, your number one business resource for making money as electronic musicians and
producers. Hey, what’s up, everyone, welcome back to a brand new episode of electronic dance money.
I’m your host, Cristian Kizito, we’re gonna be hanging out for the next Oh, I don’t know, 1520 minutes, maybe a little bit longer, who knows how long, this one’s probably going to be another short one getting ready to pack up and fly out to the Pacific Northwest for Thanksgiving over here in the US. And then I’ll be back next week. And things are ramping up as always, at the end of the year, my busy season. But let’s talk a little bit about the opposite of what you would assume a business does. And let’s talk about free work. And free work as a producer, a mixing engineer sound design any way you could use free work that could actually help you out, which seems counterproductive, right? If you’re this producer, or you’re a mixing engineer, or you’re you design sample packs where you ghost produce for producers, or maybe you help producers market their music, why would you want to do free work? It’s very counterproductive if you’re wanting to go full time, right? There’s this idea that you have this goal, this dream, you want to go full time you want to support yourself off of this thing that you do. So why do free work for others? Well, there’s a number of reasons why someone might do free work for others, usually like one that the number one reasons why someone would want to approach ads, how someone should approach free work and why someone would want to do free work, you shouldn’t obviously you shouldn’t always do free work. And when I first started envious audio, my mixing and mastering company. It was I you know, I actually didn’t even think that I was going to start a business I I sought out doing free work, not realizing what would come out of it would be a business, this thing that I love in this podcast that came out of that. So I and I think I may have told the story again. So I apologize if you’ve heard it. But I’ll say it for the folks that have not heard it before. And our new listeners, but back in I think it was 2017 or 2008. Was it 2017? Yeah, I think it was 2017. Which is crazy. Think about it. But I had gone through the producer dojo, and that’s where I really start to solidify the way I was mixing or I shouldn’t say when I was solidifying it, that’s wrong. Because I think I’ve started solidifying my mixes in the past year to getting like really honing that craft. But that was when I started to grasp the concept a lot better. And things came became a lot easier around that time when I took the course. And so I realized, you know, I do better work, I do better production and mixing work. When I’m working with others, I struggle to come up with ideas by myself. And so I was like, let me reach out to people on Reddit and offer free mixing lessons because I feel like I’m grasping a concept now and I can I can help others with that. And so I made a post on Reddit and I had
something like three to three, four, maybe five people reach out but I actually ended up working with and one of them being now my like one of my best friends that came out of that. Mike Vaughn, who’s an incredible producer, and an amazing guy, but I remember working one on one doing lessons and teaching people my mixing style and having light bulbs go off in their head and be like, Oh, okay, now I can I kind of understand this a little bit better. I know where to start with my mix and what it looks like to actually do a mix that that got the gears turning for me where I realized, oh, you know what, this actually there might be something here that you know that that might be a thing that I can do. Maybe I can provide mixing and mastering for people. And I never thought that that would be a thing. And so out of this love for working with other people I realized this could actually be a business and luckily enough I had examples right. I had samples that weren’t just my my music. It was other people’s work that I do could actually put together in a portfolio. And so come 2018 When I actually started moving forward with starting the business, what did the free work get me? Well, it got me a portfolio to get started, it helped to get my first client first couple of clients. And I was already I was now on on this path of creating this mixing and mastering business that was all started based around, helping others out for free for for no charge. And I did continue to help some people out after that for free. But then as soon as I switch over in my business became, you know, I registered my business, I was like, Okay, now I get paid for this sort of stuff. And I can’t believe how much dude, I used to charge $60 for a mix of full mix, which is crazy to think about now, because that is not at all what I charge now. And I would never charge that much ever again. That’s almost as much as I charged for mastering now. But there’s many ways that you can strategically set up free work that can really help you out. And strategic is very important. So when you’re talking about being a you know, whatever it is that you’re doing, let’s take producers, for instance, what is something that you may struggle with, you might be in my shoes, where, you know, you really struggle with creating these new ideas by yourself. And so what you might want to do is reach out to other producers to maybe not even so much as collab with them, they’ll be like, Hey, let me see your track. Let me see if I can finish it for you. Right, let me see if I can, there’s some things I could add in this that I think could help you out, you don’t need to put my name on it. Unless you want to turn this into a collab. But that’s not the point of this. A lot of the time, what you want free work to do for you is to it’s kind of like you’re playing you’re playing you are you’re planting seeds for to fruit in the future for you to pick that low hanging fruit, right? For me, it was working with these other producers, one to hone my skill to help others out. But then also what came with that is a portfolio for the future that I didn’t necessarily realize I was actually creating. In the moment, I didn’t realize that’s what I was creating. But it was I was I create a portfolio through that. Occasionally I’ll find an artist where I’m like, Oh, this person’s awesome. They’re going somewhere or, you know, if they just had, like, if they just had a little extra spice in their mix, it would be incredible. And this could go somewhere. And very rarely I’ll find those people and I like talking to him that I’ve good conversation with them. And I want to, I want to get them as a client, right, I want them as a client. And so what I’ll do is I’ll offer free mixing for them free mastering i, i Very occasionally do this, if I see something in someone where I want to plant a seed, and I want that to fruit in the future. And I want to pick that fruit. And whether or not that’s trying to get a client or doing free work for someone because they’re in talks of getting a big record deal. So I could, you know, essentially, I could use that as social credit, I’ll do that as well. There’s, there’s avenues and ways to approach free work that you shouldn’t shy away from, definitely don’t shy away from it. Going back to my example of saying, you know, if you’re a producer who is if you’re if you’re like me, and you struggle with mixing, maybe you need to start teaching others to mix. I’ve talked about this plenty of times that there’s this aspect of teaching that I get for me where
I have an idea of a concept. And sometimes this even happens with podcast episodes. And I go into podcast thinking, you know, I have no idea. If this is going to be a good, good episode, I end up recording it. I’m like, That was terrible. I start editing it, I start thinking, you know, imposter syndrome was kicking in and I start thinking, I don’t know what I’m talking about. This is ridiculous. It’s stupid, who is ever gonna get value out of this. And then I listened to the episode as I’m editing it. And I realized, you know what, this is actually good. This, there’s some good knowledge in this, someone will learn something from this, someone will take something away from it. And that’s good. And I actually, I did make sense in that I do know what I’m talking about that this is a concept that I’ve thought about that I grasp. And then I can actually explain in a in a in a detailed way. This happens to me all the time when I’m doing lessons when I’m messaging someone about a certain concept, or let’s say I’m writing an article or I’m sending an email out to my marketing list. There’s there’s certain concepts that I have in my mind that I have an idea but I haven’t fully worked them out so I’m not sure if I’m if I actually know it and when I start teaching it and I start talking about it. All of all of us Suddenly the gears start turning, my head starts working, I start processing the information I go, Oh, that is how that works. Oh, you know what I didn’t realize until I started explaining it in a certain way that it started clicking for me. And it starts to really, like ground me in this concept. And I suspect that’s, that actually happens to a lot more people than they realize. And so if you’re someone that out there that may be struggling with mixing, or you think you are, you know, maybe you’re not struggling with with mixing, but you think you are, or you’re at that cost, or, you know, maybe you’ve been, maybe you’ve been writing for three or four years, and you have some good ideas, and you have the idea of certain concepts down. But you really need to, you need to hone those skills, you need to solidify your knowledge in a specific thing I think teaching is that, that door that can open up for you that is going to allow you to really be forced to think about a concept that you may have not thought about before deeply enough, or that you feel like you don’t really know too much about and teaching it to someone is going to get those gears turning for you as well. And you’re gonna learn things about yourself, and about music in general, when you start doing some free work for others.
In free work in this in this instance, we’re talking about, you know, doing free mixing work or like we were talking about, you know, finishing other people’s songs, little concepts, little ideas that really help you hone your craft in there, there’s something about working on someone else’s stuff that changes the the playing field, right? It, you come at something from a completely different perspective. Without much I don’t know of dedication, I don’t know if dedication is the right word. Or it’s more like you have nothing to lose, right? This isn’t your piece of work that you’re going to be putting out. Now obviously, this isn’t to say you need you should, it’s okay to do a shitty job. That’s not right at all. I would never, if a client was paying me to do work on their track, I wouldn’t be like that, I wouldn’t just fuck off. I want to do good work for them. I want to make sure that they’re happy and I can get the best work for them. So it’s important to to still realize like, you know, you are coming from this at a different angle. You don’t really have anything to lose on this project. It’s it’s not really yours. But there’s a freeing aspect to that, knowing that it’s not yours knowing that like, you’re not like God dammit, I need to get something out. You know that putting that pressure on yourself. There’s no, I’m sure there’s no real pressure on you. But you’re putting pressure on yourself to get something done that you want to get done and put out into the world and have people appreciate when it’s not your thing that you’re trying to push out, the stress goes away it’s so much easier to work concepts are grasp better, it just everything works out so much, so much better. So there’s this angle to the idea of giving free work right, honing your craft honing your skills, solidifying what you know what you may not know, and how you can understand the concept from a different angle. So how else could free work help you out? Well, if you don’t care too much about planting seeds for you to pick fruit in the future. If you don’t really care about solidifying any concepts or ideas or the knowledge that you have, you could also be doing free work to trade services for something else. I’ve done this many times. In mostly with like marketing stuff, I’ll trade services not so much mixing because marketing is a much broader field where I can trade specific services, whether it’s coaching or doing systems or automation stuff. It’s much easier to trade those services with marketing rather than mixing but you as an artist, there’s different services that you can trade. For other people. There are a lot of producers out there that are in multiple fields, different fields, whether that’s, I know I know producers in website design, in marketing, in broadcasting in they own labels, they own academies, there’s there there are a lot of producers in different fields that you could probably benefit from if you want to trade services with them. And this could be as simple as yo I’ve got an amazing mastering template I can send to you I’ve got a great mixing template. I can trade mixing services, I can help you finish tracks. I can provide you with original samples if that’s something you do if you do sound design, you can provide them with a short term sounds. There’s different things, services or products that you could potentially provide in trade with other producers whether you know their website desire, you need a website done. That’s a huge, I’m sure there’s something you can find a trade with them in terms of services that, you know, maybe it’s lessons, right, maybe you need to teach, they need to learn how to do sound design, or they want to learn how to write a melody and you know how to write a melody, maybe you know, music theory, maybe you know, piano, maybe you know, guitar, and you can trade different music lessons with people in order for you to get a service out of them. So this is the other third part of free work that a lot of artists don’t really think about. And I mean, we’re talking about, is this really free free work? If you’re trading services, is any of this really free? Because you’re paying with your time, right? You’re not getting any dollars out of it, but you’re still paying with your time. And it’s, you know, it’s free, quote, unquote, free work free of monetary value, or any currency trading. But the point is, is there are, there’s massive amounts of value in giving free work to people, so long as it’s done strategically, right? That’s that’s kind of the core concept here is that you’re not just free willy nilly giving out free work, you’re actually doing it for a strategic reason, because maybe there’s something that you need from someone or a potential for picking fruit. That right.
You see some value out of giving someone something for free. That happens all the time. And it’s definitely a reasonable thing to do. So get out there. Don’t be afraid to give free work. Like I said, I do it occasionally, very rarely, you know, I may give people free mixing and mastering once, maybe twice a year. But again, it’s strategic. It’s planned out. I don’t want to say it’s planned out. But it’s there are certain things that I can see in someone or something that go you know what, this is something that I want you I definitely give more free marketing services out than anything, but I definitely have given free mixing and mastering to people for sure, and I’m sure I will in the future as well. That’s it for today’s episode, guys. I told you, it’d be pretty short, just crunching this one in before the holidays. For those of you in the US, I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, spend some time with family. And be thankful that they’re still around and you’ve got friends and people that love you. We don’t really have any show notes for today’s episode. But the book list? Yes, that’s right, there is a book list. If you don’t know this already, there’s an electronic dance money book list was all the books that I suggest everyone read both business and non business books. To make sure you can get ahead of the game, right you can come at it from a come at everything from a strategic standpoint, get educated. Grow your knowledge base and know how to play in this world of music business. So head to envious audio.com/episode 67 to check out the show notes where the where the actual book list will be. And I’ll see you guys after Thanksgiving sometime after Thanksgiving and a couple of weeks. Take it
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