Work for Free, But Never Work Cheap!!!

Kenny's Tip of the Day - Work for Free, But Never Work Cheap!!!

Have you ever had a prospective client call you up and ask if you’re willing to work with their band on spec? Or at a really reduced rate? Or worse, they really want you to work at the same rate as a few other producers, mixers or engineers had worked with them before?

Don’t do it. Never work cheap. Here’s what I do instead. If I absolutely LOVE the artist and they don’t have the money, I can sign them to my production company or I will do the project for free. But I will never offer a discount or match a cheaper rate. Never.

Here’s why:

Imagine that your rate for mixing a song is $1500. And that the artist can only afford $500. Or your competitor is offering to mix the same song for $500. If you say no to this project, you have put it out to the universe (and to this artist and his or her peers) that your rate is $1500. You didn’t work with this artist at this particular time but it was because they couldn’t afford you.

While you lost the gig, you let it be known what you think you’re worth more. And if they’re unhappy with the $500 mix, they will always question whether or not they should have spent more and had it done correctly by you. Maybe even come back to you and have you re-do the work.

Now if you really love this song, and don’t mind taking a day to mix it (on your dime) you can choose to mix it for free. This again does a few things. It lets the artist know that you believe in them. You showed loyalty. If, in the future, they can afford to pay you your real rate, they’ll feel an obligation to pay you. You did them a favor. It also makes you feel good as you donated your time and effort to helping a project in need. A project you enjoy also makes you feel good. It’s not fun mixing bad music.

But what it also does (and this is pretty important) is it doesn’t change your perceived value or price. You’re still worth $1500 a mix. You’re just doing this one for free. That’s very important because if you had done the mix at $500 (or even less) than that would be your price. They would always look at you as the mixer that will mix for $500 and it will be difficult to ever get your rate again. Especially, from this artist. But also with others. If it got out that you mixed for $500 for artist A and charged $1500 to artist B, artist B is going to feel ripped off. How do you explain that discount?

There was a study done years ago where they asked practicing lawyers who usually bill at about $150 an hour how often they’d be willing to work for $30 on certain cases. Almost none of them agreed. Yet, when they asked them the same question but asked if they would do some legal work for free (pro bono) almost all of them were willing.

So as you probably get pushed for discounts on a regular basis as most professionals do, keep this in mind. It’s better to work for free than to ever work cheap. You’re worth more.

You can learn more by watching my videos at

I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia