My Experience with a Freelance for Hire Music Request

Recently, much to my surprise, I got an email with a custom track request from someone who found me through my AudioJungle portfolio. While my sales are growing, I’m nowhere near a top-selling author, so I have to admit I was a little surprised and unprepared for the request. It was, however, very exciting and a huge confidence booster. I quickly responded and indicated my willingness to create a custom track.

Then I was asked what my rate was… something that I had never really put much thought into. Surely I wasn’t about to charge $19 for a custom track, but I also didn’t want to scare away a potential client who’s likely used to paying around $20 for music. I settled at $45 for a 1 minute track (which I regret setting the bar so low). The client gladly accepted. They offered to pay upfront, and requested that demo tracks be sent without a watermark. I told them to pay at the end and that I would still send unwatermarked tracks, which they were very appreciative of. I figured - worst case scenario they steal my track and I just upload it to AJ and treat it like any other normal track.

The client provided me with sample track from youtube - a 2 minute epic/inspirational track with some voiceover. It was a well produced track, but nothing special. He also provided me with a one minute vocal track that would be what I created my track around. The vocal track was of excellent quality and I was excited to get started. I let him know that I would send a draft by the end of the day.

I spent an above average amount of time to produce a draft of the track. It had many of the stylistic elements from the youtube sample, as well as my own style. I have to imagine that the client listened to my portfolio and was familiar with my work. Anyways, after some polishing and lots of listening, I was very satisfied with the end result. I sent it over.

A few hours later I get an email back from the client. It was short. “This track is just okay, but I was looking for something really great. Can you start over and make something great?”

Uh… that was special. Once I got over the initial sting of rejection, I had to think practically. The track I produced was good, but not what they wanted. However, at $45, it wasn’t really worth taking the risk of producing an entirely different track just to have them hit the redo button again. I emalied the client back asking for specific elements that they wanted improved, and offered to make significant edits to the current track.

Their response: “The track you sent is a little… sad. We need something more awesome.”

Uh… okay. Well we need to define awesome. I then went back and forth in a series of 3 or 4 emails asking them to define what they meant by awesome. I asked them to point out anything in specific they liked about the youtube track they sent. Each time I just got very generic “make it more epic” or “make it have more energy” responses.

Determined to at least get $45 out of this experience, I went back and made some heavy modifications to the track, basically taking all I could from the sample track and incorporating into the new track without outright plagiarizing it.

When I sent the new copy to the client, it still wasn’t ‘awesome’ enough.

At this point, I’m done. I’ll just upload the track to AJ where I’ll likely make much more than $45 anyways. I politely tell the client that I’m unable to produce what their looking for and suggest that they search other composers on AudioJungle. They get back to me quickly, this time with a $45 payment and ask me to try again for another $45.

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I decide to try again. First draft sent. Not epic enough. And I’m done. I let the client know and that’s the last I’ve heard from them.

All in all, it was an unpleasant experience. I guess I at least got $45. The experience did teach me that I wasn’t really prepared for that kind of work. I guess I just never expected to be contacted!

Anyways, I figured I would share my experience with others here. Has anyone else had experiences with freelance composing?


I used to do a lot of music for UK Terrestrial Television and I am afraid that your experience is not uncommon. That said I have worked with very informed programme makers and are very insightful about what they require. Making something awesome or epic is really not useful to you as a musician without proper direction. With regards to your rate always ask what their budget is for music which should gauge your response. Always remember that the client will always require edits and revisions to the music supplied. I always ask for 50% upfront fee just in case of the unfortunate events such as you have noted. AJ is great as a showcase for musicians and I guess many programme makers view authors here as cheap and easy to buy. Remember that if you are contacted that they reached out to you not the other way round and so you are in control of the working relationship and never, ever do anything for free or for a nominal fee.


Great advice! Thanks for the tips.

Remember that if you are contacted that they reached out to you not the other way round and so you are in control of the working relationship

Definitely a mindset that I will have going forward.

Hi JackWinn. I have some experience with very picky clients while creating custom music for tv and radio commercials. I understand you, it can be very frustrating! I developed my own way how to deal with that and I always make 5-6 short previews ( I don’t mix them, I use template comression on the master and arrangment is quite simple. It’s good enough to listen it as a preview). In most of the cases it works. Client changes his focus from listening one track and thinking why this track is not what he wants to why this preview is better than another one. When client can’t decide which one he likes I create 3-4 more short previews. When he’ll choose one of these previews I can make full production and mix the track and talk to him about changes in the track… but of course it’s not worth 45$…


For all the other authors who might read your post and are interested in working on their first custom jobs:

You can easily start by asking for USD 450,- instead of USD 45,-!

Even though the rates dropped significantly in the last 10 years (thanks partly to low-priced places like audiojungle), USD 45,- for a custom track is still a total rip-off. You’re not doing anybody a service by working on custom jobs for rates like this.

And if the client wants exclusive rights for the track (the first thing you should ask when being contacted), at least tripple the amount…

Guys! Have some pride in what you do! :slight_smile:


I would be surprised if I was quoted anything less than $100… with $200 being a more likely minimum, and around $300 to $500 not being out of the ordinary.

I guess the fact he was happy to throw another $45 at it without hesitation, means that he would have been unlikley to turn down an initial quote of $100+. But still… always factor in revisions!


+1 for bigger price. Just like @SpaceStockFootage said.

Some of my friends are making pricing like this:

  1. If first version is accepted it costs X$
  2. If client doesn’t like it, they can make another version for another 20-50% of $

I do also like sending few previews, but it’s not working in every genre. Try to compose 5-6 previews of slowly building epic zimmerish trailer music based on dark modern sound. In a 2 days max.

Right now I try to ask for a big cash. When it comes to big money, buyers somehow are more conscious and can describe you what they want. Of course not always. But still, if I there is good price I have more patience and sometimes even I like making different versions. And sometimes effect is better.

So when you don’t know what is the problem - the money is the problem! :slight_smile:

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For me the big takeaway is that I needed to be more prepared for the request, rather than a lack of pride in my work. I think these discussions are helpful in determining the value of the services we provide.

I hope it was clear that I simply wanted to give you the self confidence to ask for (significantly) more money next time. :slight_smile:

When you start doing custom jobs it’s always hard to determine the right price. When I did my first custom job about 10 years ago I think I suggested something like EUR 100,- and the client was like “Yeah, sure!”. For the second job I had the guts to suggest EUR 3000,- and the client was like “Yeah, sure!”. That taught me a lot.

Determining the price is a tricky thing and always depends on many factors (genre, duration, exclusivity, the client’s budget, intended use, revisions, the ever-changing music market etc.). I just wanted to give you (and others who are starting out) some perspective for the scope of what’s possible and the confidence to aim high.


Thanks for the advice! :slight_smile:
Makes the $19 price at AJ seem… low.

Well, my two cents:

  1. Always send a watermarked preview track before you receive a full payment.
  2. Set your price at least twice higher than an average earnings from your tracks on AJ.
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That would be, let’s see, something like 50 bucks for the average AJ author? :wink:

Seriously though, stock and client music are two different animals and should be treated differently. Regardless of average AJ income per track everyone should shoot for realistic prices in the open market. A few hundred bucks is nothing special for providing a professional service.

The plumbing cost of unblocking a toilet will easily cost you 100$.

You need to sell two custom made tracks at your rate to have your toilet unclogged. And your client knows the plumber rates too.

Just saying :sunglasses:

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I think that there are a number of musicians who would go all out to do a freelance job so that they can start creating a credit list. I am sure many of these musicians would be prepared to go all out for a minimum return just to gain a small credit (if they are lucky). The reality is that these musicians need to experience working on a job and gain insight into working to a strict deadline and handling revision after revision which may send the musician crazy. Oh yes - right at the last minute a major re-edit because a new final cut has been made. All for $45…no chance.

This time last year a buyer asked to buy out a hallowe’en track of mine so he could own it exclusively. Of course he said that he couldn’t afford too much. So I decided I didn’t want to let it go for less than $400. When I asked for $400 he was really pleased and thanked me for being so generous! I was kicking myself, wishing I’d asked for 1000! To be fair the track only took me a few hours to put together.(he also came back later and paid me for edits)


I’ve done a few custom tracks with mixed results, but the most important part is to always ask what the budget is… If the client gives a low price or sounds like a hesitant person i usually try with a new price, that fits the project or just tell them that i can’t do the job!
In any case the jobs that I took just to have some work were not worth it!
Great tips in this thread for new authors, though!
Wishing you much success, mates!

I think this is an excellent takeaway from this thread. Thanks for the input!

Do not be upset. There are certain types of clients who really don’t know what they need and they never satisfied with what they have and always looking for something “better”, “awesome” "epic’, “great” and other similar words. Just small advice when you’ll get any further similar proposals just try to get as much info as you can from client about what he need from music he want you to compose/produce. And while discussion will goes on you’ll see who is your client.

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I second that, first get as much info as possible about the project and preferably 2-3 reference tracks. When charging a fee on a low budget project, you can always phrase yourself something like "For this kind of project my normal rate is (****), but since your budget is low, how much of that fee are you comfortable paying? So then you either scare away “bad clients” or you give good clients the feeling of getting some discount from your “higher normal rate” or best case scenario they match it.