How To Improve Your Online Studio Business
Why trust me? My company, Mastering The Mix has been fine-tuned to turn new visitors into loyal customers, with some months exceeding $100k in revenue. Whilst the majority of the products are digital, the same principles have worked extremely well for my mastering services.
The sections are written in the order they should be implemented and perfected. Hopefully, you’ll find several valuable insights that you can put into action in your business to improve your conversions, income, and customer satisfaction.
Mindset & Motivation
There is a lot of competition in the online studio landscape. To succeed, you’ll need more energy and determination than the other people fighting for the same thing.
Learning how to capture the attention of potential clients and convert them into loyal customers takes months if not years. If you’re not ready for the grind, then this isn’t the profession for you.
Stop Doing This:
- Waiting for your business to grow naturally.
- Making excuses about having no time.
- Blaming others or external factors for your mistakes and shortcomings.
Start Doing This:
- Make time to pro-actively grow your business.
- Identify and address areas in your business that could be improved.
- Be confident, driven, and deliver the best you can to every project.
I’ve read hundreds of business books that have helped me grow my business. Here are my MUST READ recommendations:
The Go-Giver - Bob Burg
The Compound Effect - Darren Hardy
Start With Why - Simon Sinek
To Sell Is Human - Daniel H Pink
The Secrets Of Closing The Sale - Zig Ziglar
The Ultimate Sales Machine - Chet Holmes
Skip these books at your own cost. Reading is one of the best investments you can make.
My income has increased by no less than 1000% since I started reading business books.
Skills & AbilityThere are many talented producers and audio engineers out there. To compete, you’ll have to have the knowledge and tools to deliver world-class results.
If you don’t deliver excellent results, you’ll end up with unhappy clients who will never work with you again and advise their friends to avoid your services. Any efforts on improving other aspects of your business will produce no lasting result if your service is fundamentally flawed.
How can you be sure that you’re delivering top-quality results? Comparing your finished tracks to a great-sounding reference track is a fail-safe way to judge your work. The files must be accurately level matched for a fair comparison. I Use REFERENCE to do this automatically.
Follow These Two Simple Rules:
1. Make sure you've done everything in your power to bring out the absolute best with the audio the client has sent you. (I always have their original bounce loaded in REFERENCE to make sure that my work sounds better than what they sent me. Again, level-match to be honest with yourself.)
2. Don’t send the master back to the client unless I’m 100% sure the improvement in the sound will impress them.
I don’t want to just crank up the limiter and impress them with loudness, so I empower them to conduct a fair comparison themselves…
I send the clients their files using Bounce Boss to allow the client to jump back and forth seamlessly between the original mix and master (level-matched). Hearing the improvement in sound gives them confidence in their decision to work with me, making them more likely to return.
Communications & Service
Many businesses rely on repeat customers to keep their income steady. An online studio is no different. Here are 3 incredibly effective ways to keep a client coming back time and time again:
1. Consistently deliver exceptional sound quality.
The Skills & Ability section covered delivering exceptional sound quality.
2. Overdeliver on your promise.
Here’s one simple way you can overdeliver on your promise for every project. If you can have the finished version over to your client in 3 days, tell them it will be ready in 4 days. When it arrives 24 hours earlier than expected it will be a pleasant surprise for them.
If you had told them that the finished version will be ready in 2 days and you sent it on day 3, there’s a good chance they’d be frustrated and disappointed.
You can overdeliver on your promise in all aspects of your service. If you include 2 rounds of revisions throw in the 3rd free of charge. If you charge extra for additional bounces then waive the fee. Do what you can to give clients that little bit extra to increase your repeat customer rate.
3. Maintain professionalism, without exception.
Professionalism means bringing your best to every project. It means listening to the clients needs and managing expectations. It means communicating promptly and politely. It means leaving your ego out of the conversation and never losing your cool.
99% of your projects should result in your client asking you where they can leave you a 5-star review. If that’s not the case you need to improve the quality of your work and start overdelivering.
There’s no doubt that at some point you’ll come across a difficult client that tests your patience. When this happens:
1. Keep Your Cool. If a customer is rude, responding similarly will escalate hostilities.
2. Listen. Understand their complaint fully to begin smoothing things over.
3. Own Your Mistakes. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is irrelevant. If you want them to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem.
4. Find a solution. Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, offer a solution. Ask them what they feel should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem.
This approach allows you to fully understand their goals. It can turn nightmare clients into loyal customers that you want to work with again.
Positioning, Branding & Pricing
Establish Your NicheWhen I started my online studio service, I was offering mixing, stereo mastering, stem mastering, vocal recording, production, audio restoration and anything else I could think of. While this initially broadened my scope for generating income, it didn’t position me as a specialist.
After landing a few high-profile electronic music stem mastering jobs, I doubled down on this and made it the focus of my marketing copy. The market decides your niche. If I was consistently getting hired to master Rock projects that’s the direction I would have gone in.
Presenting yourself as an expert in a niche makes it more likely that you’ll land more paid gigs. This is because potential customers think they’ll get a better result if they hire a specialist in their genre rather than a generalist, and they’re often right!
Removing the services that you rarely get hired for from your website also brings focus to people visiting your website. It reduces distraction and choice meaning you’ll convert more people.
Who Are You Serving?Your branding and message need to resonate with the people that you want as customers. A serious artist wouldn’t trust someone with no website who charges $100 for a full mix, but a hobbyist might be scared off by an impressive studio picture and high rates.
Picture your ideal client. What’s their age, income, goals, lifestyle, genre. What stage are they at in their music career? Your website should speak directly to that one customer. Follow this advice and you’ll find yourself with more clients that you want to work with.
What To Charge?Your pricing depends on your personal preference and current workload. If you want more projects, charge less. If you’re over-subscribed, it’s time to increase your rates.
It’s important to find the sweet spot range that works for your ideal customers. If you drop your price too low, you’ll lose credibility. Hike the prices up too much and you won’t get hired at all.
Stereo mastering, for example, can cost anything from $0 to $225.
I charge anything from $80-$160 for a stereo master depending on my workload.
Charging per project as opposed to per hour adds benefits to both yourself and your client. If you charge per-hour you’re incentivized to take longer as you get less money if you’re efficient. It also fixes a rate for your customer so they don’t get any surprise charges; which can lead to a loss of trust.
Becoming certified by Apple to deliver Apple Digital Masters (previously MFiT Master for iTunes) can build trust and position you as a professional mastering engineer. To become certified you’ll need to read and fully understand this document, then reach out to Apple Music For Artists team to apply.
Workflows, Systems, & Processes
When time is money, efficiency is key. Implementing systems that improve your ability to work fast, communicate effectively, and deliver a quality experience will dramatically increase your earning capabilities.
There are two tools that I (have co-created and) use every day that present me as an organized professional and ensure I deliver a world-class experience.
Managing Audio Projects Is Hard, Bounce Boss Solves It.
My clients send me their files and project details using Bounce Boss. In the email I get a visual of the waveform so I can immediately respond to any glaring issues; such as the client sending a mix with heavy limiting or compression. This allows me to message them back immediately rather than having to wait until I’m back at my desk, download the file, load it in my DAW, and THEN message them back.
We then use Bounce Boss for the entire collaboration process. Keeping the files and notes in one place means I don’t have to search for emails, texts, dropbox, download folders, etc for files and comments. It also allows the client to communicate effectively with clickable timestamps and loops. This clearer and faster way to give feedback means we finish the project with fewer revisions.
They can also jump seamlessly between the different versions of their track to ensure positive progress. When you empower your customer to make informed decisions about their music, it builds their trust in your as their go-to engineer.
Avoid ErrorsYou can also build trust by never sending a file with errors. I use EXPOSE to help catch technical issues before I send a file. It only takes 3 seconds and it saved me more times than I care to admit. Is the track clipping?
Has the audio cut out during the second half? Are there phase issues? Is it too quiet? Did I remember to disengage my speaker correction plugin? We’re all human, we make mistakes. EXPOSE makes sure your clients don’t suffer because of it.
Other Ways To Improve Your Efficiency
- Use DAW templates.
- Auto-save and backup all projects.
- Create a new version of the project at each revision stage.
- Save common email responses so you can re-use them.
- Create a to-do list with deadline dates.
- Automate time-consuming activities (i.e Accounting/Invoicing).
- Read your DAW and plugin manuals. Understand your tools so you can get results faster.
- Focus on what gives you results, don’t be busy fool changing things that don’t need to be changed.
- Delegate low-value tasks (session prep, cleaning the studio) so you can focus on the high-value tasks (mixing, mastering, reaching out to potential clients).
Traffic & LeadsMarketing yourself as an audio engineer will only yield results once you have a good handle on your mindset, ability, communication, positioning, workflows and other aspects discussed so far.
Once those essentials are in place, no matter how impressive your studio is or how great your work sounds, if no one knows you exist you’re not going to get hired. So, how can you capture peoples attention and convince them to work with you?
Give Value FreelySomeone who has never met or heard of you has no reason to give you their attention. You need to present them with a clear and enticing value proposition with no friction for them to receive it. You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
- Connect them with someone who could further their project (A great singer, A&R, Label)
- Give them a free PDF with valuable information that will help them achieve their goals.
- Complimentary mix feedback
Whether you’re giving away information, a free resource, or an online course, you want to be able to directly message them whenever you need to. Building an engaged mailing list is one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind with your customers. When they’re ready to order a service, you’ll be their first thought. Giving value in exchange for your website visitors email address is something you should put in place asap. Authenticate your email address to make sure your messages arrive. More Info here.
AuthoritySharing your best knowledge freely through social media, a blog, or YouTube will give you an authority in your subject. This will give you an incredibly competitive edge as your readers will trust in your ability to deliver results. Creating content is time-consuming, but once it’s on the web, it’s there generating you leads forever. If people like you they'll listen to you, but if they trust you they'll do business with you.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engines love trustworthy sites. They determine if a site is trustworthy by the number of quality links to it. A quality link can only come from another trustworthy site. Pitching high-quality guest blogs to trustworthy and relevant sites is the single most effective way to improve your ranking on search engines.
This one is hit and miss. Some get great results, many frivolously waste money getting zero results. It’s a rabbit hole that requires months of trial and error with no certainty of results. Retargeting adverts are more effective and less expensive than paying to generate cold leads, so this is where I recommend you start if you wanted to explore this option.
Being present in the right circles is a great way to get gigs. Whether it’s going to networking event, going to live events, conventions, or even participating in online forums or social media groups, it all helps.
The goal is to make meaningful connections that last, not to force-feed your elevator pitch to everyone you meet. People work with people they like and trust.
Soundbetter & Other Networking Platforms
soundbetter.com connects artists and service providers in the music industry. Like all good platforms, it rewards you for being a great provider. This means, if you answer messages quickly, complete jobs successfully, and get hired repeatedly by the same clients, they push you up in the search rankings.
It took me over a year to get momentum, but the energy and persistence paid off as it’s now a source that gives me a handful of leads every day, many of which I convert using the tactics in the next section.
ConversionSealing the deal is the final hurdle. The number one rule about selling is that you have to genuinely believe that it’s in your customers best interest to purchase from you. Your job is to help them understand that. How can you get more people to commit to working with you?
Keep Your Pitch SimpleBuying is an emotional thing, so focus on your pitch on what your customer wants, not what they need. Keep your pitch concise, minimize distractions, and have a clear call to action. Here’s my pitch:
ReviewsSocial proof is key in getting strangers to trust you. I use the logos of well-known artists and labels I’ve worked with, and also A LOT (not just a handful) of real customer testimonials to help people feel secure that I’ll deliver a great experience and result.
Get Quote RequestsYou can increase the number of people reaching out to you by having a quote form rather than asking them for an upfront payment. You can see mine here, though I personally lead with upfront payment as it’s preferable for my workload.
The Words You UseWhen speaking to or emailing a client, a few sales tactics can make the difference between getting the gig and losing a customer.
Avoid a tone that makes you sound even remotely desperate for the job “PLEASE HIRE ME, YOU WON’T REGRET IT!” It’s a huge turn-off for the client. Keep your cool and keep the focus on what they want: “I’ll be happy to work with you to get your track sounding it’s best for release.”
Assume the sale. Don’t tiptoe around whether they’ll commit to your services or not. Be confident (but not arrogant) when communicating.
If a decision needs to be made, don’t give ‘not buying’ as an option. “Would you like to purchase stem mastering or stereo mastering?” is stronger than “Is one of our services right for you?”.
Ask questions to understand and respond to any objections. Is your service too expensive? What are the negative effects of them not using your service or going for someone much cheaper? “The price is high, but when you add the benefits of quality, subtract the disappointment of cheapness, multiply by the pleasure of releasing great music and divide the cost over the rest of your life, the arithmetic comes out in your favor.”
Use Grammarly (it’s free) to make sure your writing is grammatically correct. Mistakes in writing could be perceived as a lack of attention to detail, an imperative quality in an audio engineer.
Buying Should Be Easy
Your customers should be able to pay as quickly and simply. The last thing you want is potential customers hiring someone else who had a more intuitive payment process.
Advanced Conversion Tip: Automatically show the currency of the customer based on their IP address, they shouldn’t have to manually switch it. If you have people coming to your website from all over the world, showing your prices in the currency that they’re familiar with will dramatically improve your conversion rate.
Super-Advanced Conversion Tip: Dynamic checkout buttons will identify your users preferred payment method (PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay) determined by their online spending and show them that button to checkout.
Keep track of all the people who reach out to you. Life can get in the way and they’ll forget to complete their order. Show that you care by reaching out in increasing intervals (24 hours after the first contact, day 3, day 10, day 24, etc). Keep following up with friendly messages until they either hire you or ask you to stop.
If they’re not quite ready to place the order, perhaps there’s an element of the production in which you can help them with. If they’re struggling to record their vocal, send over a few tips or connect them with a studio near them. Be useful, give value, and keep following up to stay in their mind as someone they can trust.
FinancesIf your music studio is a business, then treat it like a business, not a side hustle or a hobby. Be honest with yourself about the numbers, taxes, purchases and time that you spend working so your business can reach it’s fullest potential.
Know Your NumbersYou must know exactly how much money is coming in and going out. Planning for taxes, subscriptions, repairs, rainy days is only possible if you know exactly what’s available.
An unexpected large tax bill or (overspending on anything) will put a lot of pressure on your business. You’ll get desperate for work and it will come across in your communication. You’ll land fewer gigs, thus spiraling your business into failure.
Plan ahead. Know your expenses and set them aside each month. You’ll have the peace of mind to focus your energy on working on and for your business.
Time Vs MoneyBe honest with yourself about how much you’re working and how effective you’re being. Note the hours you’re at your computer every day and how much income you’re generating. Try to reduce the amount of time it takes to generate the same money without compromising the service. Focus your time on the things that have the most disproportionately positive effects on your business.
Gear and InvestmentsThe amount of paid jobs that I have got because a client was impressed by my gear is a resounding ZERO. My set-up only serves to help me get the best results possible. Invest in plugins and equipment that you’re sure will give you a good return on investment. Make sure each purchase either saves you time or genuinely improves the quality of your work. 90% of my business expenses are software subscriptions that automate tasks to help me work more efficiently.
The fastest way to grow your wealth is to live below your means. By paying off any debt, then building up your savings you empower yourself to make better choices and invest in yourself. Try setting aside at least 10% of your monthly earnings after tax to be used in emergencies or investing.
Create budgets and stick to them. Track what you spend your money on, write it down or use a card linked to an app (like Monzo or Starling). You’ll see if there are aspects of your life where you’re overspending. This will give you a mindset to analyze how you really feel about each purchase both short and long-term.
Every single good financial decision compounds over time. After just a few months you’ll have more savings in the bank, more stability, and incredible peace of mind. Once you’re on this trajectory you’ll be unstoppable.
ConclusionDon’t forget to allocate time to work ON your business as well as FOR your business. Working ON your business pays dividends as it can have exponentially positive effects in the future. Working FOR your business usually only brings in the income associated with that single service.
Not all of these tips will be right and relevant in your business. Pick and chose what you feel is right for you to improve in your business at the stage you’re at. Don't get overwhelmed. Do things in the right order to be effective. If you feel that you’re struggling with a section, look over the previous sections and look for any weaknesses. The foundations have to be right before you can move forward.
Remember, you will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.
One Thing You Can Do Right NowHaving a professional upload form on your website that automatically organizes every project for you is a great way to save yourself time and give new clients a great impression.
See the form below? You could have this on your website collecting job proposals in minutes. Grab a free trial from BounceBoss.co.uk, go this page, and paste the Client project upload embed HTML code into your website.