Getting started

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/15/2003 - 17:12

ok. here's a hypothetical.

not that any of this is happening.

let's say you have a full time job, 8-5, working in audio. lots of corporate work. not exciting, but good $$$$. let's say you're definitely not getting paid what you're worth, especially in your own opinion. your skills are lining someone else's pockets, while you receive a very small percentage of that $$$$ by comparison. now, let's say that a significantly large client, through no solicitation on your own part, says that should you break away on your own, they would follow. along with other clients along the way alluding to the same in random conversations. i'm assuming that many of you are on your own as a result of going through a similar situation, and i'm curious as to how it's been handled without toes getting stepped on and bridges being burned. the industry where i am is not huge, and burned bridges could be extremely costly for someone breaking out. also, what are some tactical strategies for growing such a business (targeting corporate, location work).

again, not like any of this is REALLY happening. just a hypothetical.

I would be verrrrry cautious of this scenario. This is a trap I have seen many fall into without success. It's one thing for clients to "say" that and entirely another to get them to follow. For some reason when someone has a good thing going, peole seem to want to fu*k it up! I would consider that especially if you won't have a facillity that is as well equipped as the one you are in now. Also do not discount the fact that you say you are getting "good $$$$". There is so much more than meets the eye to running an audio business. Maintenance, tax's, insurance, more tax's, operating costs, leases, more tax's, advertising, even more tax's. I bet if you had a look at the books, you would discover you are probably making a pretty fair percentage of the profits. that's my take. Kurt

Kurt is wise, and speaks truthfully.

I can give an example. A friend, in a good economy, could not keep his most talented employee's. They said they wanted to move on to more challenging things. He pleaded with them to stay offering more salary and fringe benefits. But no, parting company on good terms, an important thing in business, they went off and landed something more exciting elsewhere.

My friend was desperate, offering a Porsche if necessary, to get new talent as good as he had, remember, in a good economy. Instead he hired talented, but less experienced employee's, and paid them very well, not top pay, but very good pay. They turned out to be loyal, reliable people, and have remained even in a good economy, even when they could have made more.

Right now, every day, someone comes in the door looking for work, including the ones who left his business before. My friend has his choice of the best, but has no open job's to hire them at this time.

In the last 3 months 500,000 people have lost their job's do to the slower economy.
Just something to consider,


thanks guys. yeah, taxes and insurance are my two biggest concerns. i already own quite a bit of the gear that i (we) use for this type of work, so additional investment is minimal. also, my target would be location work, not work out of a facility, so ongoing overhead is minimal as well. primarily working from home. i also do quite a bit of freelance work in other areas of audio/video independent of my full time job, and actually turn quite a bit of that away because of being tied to 8-5. i'm 110% confident that i can chase down several times more of that type of work than i do now, meaning i do have quite a healthy safety net built in if i decide to do this. i am aware that this could be a very touchy situation, and i absolutely will not do it if there is any doubt in my mind that it will work. i just know that my vague plan over the next couple of years is to be completely self-employed. i'm just curious as to how others have handled making the leap from working from someone else to jumping into the world of self-employment. i feel i've already hit a couple of glass ceilings in the facilities in which i have worked and feel like to really make anything happen, i'm gonna have to do it on my own at some point. i'm incredibly grateful right now to have a full time job in an industry that is difficult at best to break into even in strong economic times.

Well it sounds like you have made your mind up and far be it from me to try to convince you otherwise. Just be aware of what all the tax ramifications will be. These vary from town to town, county to county and state to state. I was flabbergasted when I learned about all the tax liabilities when I opened my studio. For example, many jurisdictions charge a tax for anything you own that you use in the operation of your business. That means if you own a vehicle that you use to get to and from your remotes, you pay a yearly tax on it. Carpet in your facility, you pay, furniture, pay.. it goes on and on. I call it "The because you got it tax". All equipment, everything you use, you pay for it every year. And you can't get your DBA without filing and letting the county know you’re there, thus being put on this tax roll. Without a DBA, you can't open a bank account. Without a bank account, you can't accept checks for deposits and payment. That limits your horizons mucho. It is not a panacea of wonderfulness. It's not as easy to do this and succeed as you would think it is. I have a saying, "If you open a small business, within two years you will be a Republican.” .... Kurt

:) Freelancer, you have thought it through, at least, that is the impression I get given your second post. You need some encouragement to act.

There are some benefits that you may or may not see now. If you are a subcontractor now, you are considered partially self employed. You should be receiving a 1099 for the gig's that are not tied to your day job.

All expenses that you have can be written off. Gas, meals, rentals, insurance, wear and tear on your vehicle, clothes, gaffers tape, batteries etc. When you go into business full time, there will be a lot of capital expenses. Kurt mentioned a bunch. I'll add CPA.

After a time, and cash flow is good, careful accounting can keep a lot of income going towards growing your business. Ohh wait, you didn't think you were going to write yourself a nice fat check after every gig, did you? Generally, starting out you should only pull from the business exactly what you need until things improve.

This will short you on Social Security contributions through these startup years, but later, when things are rolling along, you can draw more. Remember, what you draw is ordinary personal income, aside from corporate taxes. Have you done the research on the cost of doing business in your area?

I remember the city police coming into one of my studio's. He said, if you don't pay your city business taxes, of which at the time I had no clue, we will yellow tag everything, and you can't move it, sell it, or do anything with it till it's paid. Yikes, it seemed like expenses came out of the wood work. After a while, we did manage to have an understanding of these things, and proceeded to do business without too many surprises.

Whatever you do, best of luck to you!


Ohh!Ohh!Ohh! I forgot about the CPA! How could I do that? It cost a couple grand a year to tell the government I didn't owe them any money except self employment tax. At the end of the year I would take all profits and buy more gear so I wouldn't have to pay income tax. Downside, more "Because You Got It Tax". But now I have a house full of stuff I don't use! :D Oh, and wait until you try to buy medical insurance as a small busiess owner. $400 a month minimum! Kurt

thanks again, guys. kurt - in no way do i have my mind made up to do this. i'm just seriously chewing on it for now. 'tis why i'm asking for some similar stories, and you guys have given me plenty to think about. this wouldn't be a quickly enacted plan, or one that is enacted without the proper reserarch. i'm a pretty level headed guy and have been pretty good about making the right decisions at times like this. i'm not starry eyed about thinking that this will make "everything ok." i just know that it is not impossible to do, as many others have done it. of course, for all that have, i'm sure there are 2 or 3 that couldn't/didn't. at any rate, i appreciate you guys taking the time to respond. i'm still pretty far out from making the decision, and even further out from committing to that decision.

It's a shrinking market. Home recording, computer DAWs have put a serious dent in the business and it's only going to get worse in the future. Now days it has become, once again, a business for "deep pockets". Starting in the late 60's through the 90's it was something a person could do, start small and grow into a mega buck facility. But it's almost impossible to do now. Having an 8 to 5 at "good $$$" has a lot to be said for it. If I were in your position, I would start a small company on the side, with a minimum of equipment, rolling stock and fixtures an run it in the evenings and week ends for a couple of years, to get the County and City used to it before I went for broke. At that point I would get more gear and make a go on my own. This way the County and City won't hit you for a load of "Because You've Got It Taxes" and you will be established with your DBA and checking accounts etc. Keep off the radar if at all possible. This will save you a bundle and may make the difference between success and failure. Good Luck! Kurt

ok - not to beat a dead horse here, but maybe turn this into another "where's the biz going?" thread, and steer it away from my specific situation.

i have NO interest in music recording other than during off hours for the reasons mentioned in the previous post. as i partially referenced in my first post, and will briefly list here, here are a few of the remaining profitable areas of audio/video that cannot, at least not soon, be replaced by the proliferation of home based recording.

1. corporate (webcasts, recording of presentations, keynote speeches, small group presentations, conference calls, etc.) not exciting work at all, but my experience has been that these are highly profitable areas. corporate work is in demand for the purpose of dissemination of information to large numbers of people, usually internal, and just for the sake of documentation.

2. event production. some of this ties back to corporate. some is more entertainment oriented. my brother works for such a company that handles awards ceremonies/banquets for some professional sports leagues following their seasons.

3. sports. there is a surprising amount of work to be found in sports, whether it be for broadcast or for in-game entertainment. i do lots of both types of work for local pro and college sports teams.

4. broadcast. well, maybe not lots of money working at a local tv or radio station, but working in local broadcast studios is a way for many to break into broadcast and start working their way(s) up the ladder.

would you guys agree? i think it's become too competitive on several levels to seriously pursue music recording as a full time endeavor. far too many bedroom studios choking off the project studio market. and even in the world of "big" music studios, major artists now seem to be doing more (if not most) of their recordings in their personal studios. these changes will only continue, as you said, kurt, to change the landscape of music recording. time to explore other profit centers. i see a niche where i am for lots of #1 from above list. there are NO yellow page ads in my area targeting this work, and often those firms look in the yellow pages first when they don't know what they need or what they're looking for.

also, what are some other areas in which you guys have seen lots of work that are not/maybe even cannot be affected by the current and continuing trend of the recording studio?

:) Freelancer, not beating a horse to death, that's a horse of a different color, I am very familiar with that field. I worked in it as a second job, loved it. Got to travel, see different places, meet knew people. It is a technically challenging job. Lot's of variables.

We have several large company's in my area that do that, one of the most impressive is Multi Image Group in Boca Raton. These guy's are masters of all forms of communication. They turn millions.

If your market is ripe for it, go for it. I got the impression you were working for a production company, or an A/V production house, or audio studio.

You know your market best, all the pitfalls still apply. Kinda like jumping off a cliff, with the butterflies and all :d: . Kurt's idea of gradual establishment is a good one, you think you can get your clients a bite at a time, or bliz?

Maybe your present employer with feel pressured to offer a deal? Who knows? In either case, best of luck. :tu:



i work full time for an a/v production house running the audio end of things. we have a v.o. studio. i freelance out into sports work, and as i said, have to turn quite a bit of that away because of commitment to 8-5 m-f. the sports work is completely independent of the full time job. if i decide to jump ship at any point, i'll press further into sports freelance, and grow a client base for a business a bite at a time. there are specific times of the year when this would be best, as i could commit to a given sports season knowing that i at least have that much to depend on.

you mean you worked in event production? i've gotten to where i love being put on the spot to pull a production off, no retakes. can make for some pretty tense moments, but incredibly gratifying when all goes well.

Originally posted by freelancer:

you mean you worked in event production? i've gotten to where i love being put on the spot to pull a production off, no retakes. can make for some pretty tense moments, but incredibly gratifying when all goes well.

:) Yes, events, Parades, political fundraisers, weddings and party's from the upper Florida Key's to Manhattan. We were put on the spot many times. I got a bit older, and covering 2 or more events on a weekend started to wear me out. The company I worked for is very successful today, but have a more narrow focus on corporate, commercial advertising accounts, and national infomercial production and broadcasts. I settled into the educational production, engineering, and broadcasting field. We have 14 Mpeg2 digital channels, 4 analog microwave channels, 1 educational cable channel (automated by server) available this summer "The Educational Network," and 1 mobile prod/broadcast truck. We maintain, and outfit 150 closed circuit systems, 135 small production studios, and produce programming from our main facility. We are getting our feet wet on webcasting, have had fiber multidirectional broadcasting for some time, as well as dedicated T-1 2 way broadcasts, and some national uplinks. I have been with this group for 15 years. Everything I have learned in my own studio's, working in the event area, has contributed to being able to understand the in's and out's of my present job.