Originally Posted by toneguru
I only mention $10/hr as a starting point so the the OP can compete.
We are not talking about George Martin working out of Abbey Road here. We are talking about a guy with a computer and plugins and little else but the bare minimum.
Here in SF and LA, if the OP were to ask for $20/hr he would not be able to compete. He would most likely be out of business.
I have a friend in Austin who charges $20/hr and he has api 312 and Neve 1272 preamps, 1176 compressors, Manley EQ and a Bock 241 tube mic. Plus he has great ears. How can the OP compete with that? Answer, he has to charge less. There is a market for every price point.
Everything is situational and you have to start somewhere. Fantasy Land may be an option for some, but most successful engineers live in the real world.
I wish only the best for the OP and would love to hear that he is making bank with his setup... but since he asked...
Have you ever heard the phrase "All the gear, no idea" ?
It's quite prevalent in the music production industry. There are thousands of people out there with brilliant studio setups and many of them don't know how to use it properly.
Also the nature of the beast is that mixing is not an all-technical process. It's a creative process too. So people won't just pick you because you have the gear, or even the knowing-how-to-use-it, they'll pick you because they like your work and want you to impart your creativity on theirs.
Why is your friend charing $20 an hour despite a great gear list? Because he's desperate for the work. That is all. And do you know what? It's a huge myth that making yourself cheaper will get you more work. People can afford a lot more than they let on, and will always pay for the guy they want.
I mean, if you were taking a really nice girl who you were really into on a first date and you both decided you really wanted a nice big juicy steak for dinner, with nice wine etc; would you go to "REALLY CHEAP STEAKHOUSE, ALL STEAKS $4" or "Luxury Steakhouse, steaks from $50
". People are the same with their music... they don't want it whizzed all over because they can get it cheaper!
But when you look at the picture, it's also your attitude that is driving down the money sound engineers can earn. It was once a license to print money. Now, 'engineers' (I hate that word. To be a structural engineer you need to know a serious amount of stuff about structures) under-cutting each other left right and centre because they are so desperate to just get any gig they can, has led to the entire trade being paid less money because it's always cheaper elsewhere. You'll never be able to earn proper money in this job because you'll always be undercut by somebody with the "I'd rather be mixing for $10 an hour than working in Wal Mart for $10 an hour". Do you have to be an expert shelf stacker to get a job there? Do you have to buy your own shelves and your own price tags and your own trolley to start work? No... and that is why jobs where you do have to be an expert and do have to run your own facility should be paid more money.
But the fact that you settle for less is what drives the business down and that's why it might seem like you're getting a gig here and there, but in the bigger picture you'll always be a cheap guy. And thus, the pros will resent you for it - for driving down the rates in their industry; and the major clients will never be interested in you, because you are clearly not serious.
For the record I charge just over $30 an hour and I am very, very busy.