A forum member Noah Smith, asked some great questions about “going pro” on another thread. Here they are with my responses:
— 1. “How do I ever start establishing myself as a professional if I don’t get paid a reasonable fee for my work?”
Who defines what a “professional” means? Are you a professional if you are engaged to work on a project for some form of compensation? Would ownership of publishing count? Would experience count? Would getting paid $50 count?
Does doing a solid, skillful, professional-quality job make you a professional?
For whom are you trying to earn the arbitrary label of “professional”? For what purposes?
Is the label to please your parents, to make you feel good about yourself, to put on your business card, to justify something to others? What and why?
Remember, receiving a penny to score a film could technically be considered “being a professional” under some definitions. You can have that title and still just have a penny.
Look past labels.
— 2. “If I continue to take low/unpaid gigs won’t that just beget being offered more low/unpaid gigs?”
Are you currently being flooded with low/unpaid offers? If you are in that rare and highly fortunate situation then you would be in a position to pick and choose amongst the best of them. You would also be in a stronger negotiating position and could use that to increase your deals.
In reality, you will probably be offered gigs that don’t pay well until the demand for your services increases.
I would focus on the things under your control that would increase the demand for you and your music. The money follows that.
— 3. “ I don’t think it’s helpful to me to just keep composing my heart out and slaving for hours on something that will never see the light of day AND not get paid reasonably for it.”
If you are already framing composing media music as “slaving for hours” then you might want to consider a different field.
At this early point in your career you should be tripping over yourself to create, collaborate, learn, build relationships and master your craft. These things should invigorate you, not feel like you are being put upon or enslaved.
It is highly unlikely that early projects see the light of day. And in most cases, thank goodness! Everyone working on them… including the composer… are just starting out and using them to learn and start building skills, relationships and experiences.
As has been discussed frequently on this Forum, everyone has their own personal criteria for being “paid reasonably”. Some measure it in dollars, some in experience, some in opportunities. This is something you need to define for yourself.
—4. “Is there a silver lining I’m missing?”
The Silver Lining is getting to do something you adore in the hopes that it will eventually pay-off in a long-term career.
Keep in mind most people who love gardening, baking pies, and shooting hoops don’t make a living off of owning a nursery, running a restaurant or playing for the NBA.
Media composing tends to be a passion pursuit that rarely pays the bills for most, but has the potential upside of becoming something more lucrative.
— 5. “I’m just also trying to begin moving towards being more of a pro in the industry. How do I best make those moves?”
Work hard, work more frequently, create scores that get better and better, build more relationships, take risks, develop powerful communication skills, hustle to get jobs, get out socially into the industry and all the other things discussed frequently on this Forum.
Being more of a “pro” is a natural progression that works in tandem with taking these other actions.
Hope this was helpful.