The biggest mistake people make when trying to start their own mobile DJ business is to ignore the business side of things. You can be the best, most popular DJ in your city but if you don’t know how to run a business, you’ll eventually run into a lot of problems and maybe even some legal trouble.
That might sound a little scary but don’t get discouraged. You just need to take it one thing at a time and soon, you’ll be living the dream. Here are ## tips to help you when starting your worn mobile DJ business.
1. Learn Everything About Business
Learn everything you can about running a small business. Read books. Talk to other DJs. Join online forums. Take a class. As fun as it is being a mobile Dj, being good at spinning and keeping a crowd pumped isn’t enough to make your business successful. Do market research. How many events are there on average every year in your area? How many weddings? Anniversary parties? Proms? What is your plan to get a piece of the available market? Do you have a business checking account? A tax ID number? There’s a lot of work involved and you have to be willing to go all in. Learning the business side of things is a pain but completely necessary if you want to succeed.
2. Write a Business Plan
Seriously. It doesn’t have to be long and formal but you do need to sit down and figure out what you’re doing. At the very least, make a list of bullet points laying out the things you would like to accomplish and how you’re going to try to achieve them. It can be one page. But make sure you know what your goals are and have some idea how to get there.
3. Revise your Plan
Revise your business plan. Come back to it about once a month and make the necessary tweaks. Things are going to change. Maybe you got a big break that you weren’t expecting and it immediately changed the trajectory of your business. Or, maybe you had a rough month and have to figure out how to restructure some things until you get things moving again. Being able to sit down and say, “Okay, this happened. Now what am I going to do about it?” is so important to keep your business going.
4. Form a Legal Entity
Form a legal entity for your business. That way, if something happens, you won’t be help personally responsible. The business will. It wouldn’t hurt to consult a lawyer about this one. I certainly don’t have the legal mind to explain the ins an out of an LLC vs sole-proprietorship but I do know it’s something you should really look into eventually. This might sound a bit ominous and I don’t mean to but it’s really important to get all the legal things in place to protect yourself. Just in case.
5. Insurance? Maybe.
Decide whether or not you need insurance. Here’s a helpful hint: you do. Some people will tell you not to get it, others will insist that you can’t afford not to. Personally, I think it’s necessary if you’re trying to run a good business. While we don’t like to think about the things that can go wrong when we’re working a party, festival, or wedding, the unfortunate truth is bad things happen sometimes. What would you do if a piece of your equipment fell on someone? Or someone steals your gear? You have to be prepared for things like that or your business will be over before it starts.
6. What can you offer?
Really think about why you want to do it and what you have to offer. The truth is, modern technology allows people to pretty easily create their own playlists and hook them up to a sound system at a venue. You need to convince people why they should pay you. What do you bring to the table that makes you stand out? What are you particularly good at that potential clients need to know about?
7. Get Involved
Get involved with a professional organization. The United States Disc Jockey Association is a good one to look into. This gives you instant access to people who are in the same boat as you and can be a wealth of information and knowledge. It also adds a layer of legitimacy to your business.
8. Prepare to spend
Take into account all of your start-up costs. Do you already have all the equipment you need and a way to transport it? Have you been casually taking jobs so you’re kind of already prepared? Or are you starting from scratch? You need a good bit of cash upfront. Equipment, transportation, marketing, insurance, not to mention paying what licensing fees you need to in order to play the most popular songs legally. Are you borrowing the money? Taking out a loan? Willing to invest your life savings? These are big questions to think about before you jump in.
9. Do you need a license?
Check with local authorities to see what kind of permits or licenses you need so you’re doing everything legally. Not doing this can result in some hefty fines and legal fees, if not worse.
10. Get a contract
Develop a standard legal service contract between you and your clients. This contract should list all of the services you’re expected to provide and be very clear about the expected compensation.
11. Professionalism Goes a Long Way
Be courteous and professional to everyone you work with along the way. I can’t stress this enough. In your career, you’ll work with a lot of different industries – florists, caterers, photographers, bloggers, managers. If you’re working together at a job, like a wedding or large party, the best way to make everything go smoothly is to work together. Plus, it always helps when people think you’re easy to work with. They may even send some work your way in the future.
12. Give the People What They Want
Always work with your clients and try your best to give them what they want. This sounds pretty obvious but it’s so important, especially these days. Word travels fast, especially with social media and apps like Yelp where anyone can go online and rate and review your business. Yes, you’re going to meet people who you just aren’t going to be able to make happy over the course of your career. We’ve all seen that business on Yelp with hundreds of 4 and 5-star reviews and one random customer giving 1 star and ranting and raving about how awful the business is. The only reason you’re unlikely to give much weight to that one bad review is that there are numerous good reviews that outweigh it. You need those good reviews because, eventually, you’re probably going to get a bad one.
13. Gain Attention
Be involved in the scene. Show up at other public gigs, comment on message boards, blogs, and websites. Anything you can do to draw attention to yourself is a good thing when you’re first starting out.
14. Marketing is Important
Stay on top of marketing. If you’re just starting out, it’s likely your tackling this yourself. As you get more successful, it wouldn’t hurt to hire someone to do this part for you. A strong internet presence is important these days so make sure you at least have the basics covered with a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. Once you’re more established, a personal website is essential, too. Always have business card with you and hand them out liberally at gigs.
15. You Need Mobile Equipment
Keep your equipment as mobile as possible. You have a lot of choices when it comes to equipment. Most of it comes down to personal preference so I won’t recommend specific items but, in my opinion, the simpler the system, the easier the set up. You can use vinyl or CDs if you want but DJing with the right laptop is a great way to avoid lugging a lot of equipment around while still giving an awesome performance.
16. Stock Up on Music
You do need some basic equipment. At a minimum, you need a large library of music that you’re legally allowed to play, turntables, an amp, speakers, a mic, and cables. Possibly lights. Some people work with more, some less. If you already DJ as a hobby, the equipment you have should be enough to get your started. You don’t really need to run out and buy the highest quality equipment right away. Start with the basics. Rent or borrow what you have to. Upgrade as you become more successful.
17. Learn the venues
Scope out every venue ahead of time. Take photos, measurements, everything you need to get a real feel for the space so you know exactly what kind of equipment you need and how and where you’re going to set up. Pay special attention to acoustics. Mobile DJs can play gigs just about anywhere. You’ll play weddings in barns, holiday parties at posh clubs, and anniversary parties at community centers. Everywhere has a unique set up and you should know how to optimize every space.
18. Learn from others
Apprentice if you can. That might not be the best word for it but if you can find someone with a successful mobile DJ business, it’s not a bad idea to try to get some on the job experience. You’ll get to see real problems and how a successful business owner addresses them as well as get a little taste for some of the boring behind the scenes stuff like accounting and record keeping. In addition to getting experience, it also gets you exposure. Maybe the boss gets sick and you get to fill in one day. There are plenty of opportunities out there to learn, make sure you soak up as many of them as possible.
19. Charge what you’re worth
Be competitive but fair in your pricing. This is especially important if you’re just starting out. It’s important that you still get fair compensation for your time but it would be unwise to start out asking for the same amount of money as someone who’s been in the business for decades. As your reputation gets better and you become more popular, you can start to charge more. But you have to start off in the right place or not many people are going to be willing to give you a chance.
20. Price tables are useful for customers
Have a defined price structure. The best way to set pricing is for a block of time. Set a flat rate for a block of 3 or 4 hours then charge by the hour for any additional time. Make sure you incorporate travel into your pricing, too. Most DJs service a certain area free of charge but add on travel fees for anything that’s, say, 30 miles away or more.
21. Be Transparent
Every single dollar should be explained and accounted for and the estimate should match the final bill as closely as possible. Any additional charges should be discussed with the client as they arise. Do not wait until the end of the event and surprise the client with all kinds of extra charges. You’ll have a fight on your hands and word will get around that you’re not honest to do business with. Not a good look when you’re starting a business.
22. Weddings might not be the first option
Unless you have a lot of experience with them, don’t start with weddings. Weddings are tough. You have a wider range of people to please and your performance can basically ruin the happiest day of someone’s life. No pressure or anything. By starting with parties, festivals, proms, etc. you’ll get a feel for how to make things flow, what to do to keep the party going, and even more basic stuff like how to set up and break equipment down quickly.
23. You might need a hand
Decide whether or not you need any partners or if you really can do it yourself. I would say that it’s always better to have some help but it might be too cost prohibitive when you’re first starting to have a regular employee. It might be a good idea to find someone to help you on a job-by-job basis, even if you’re begging your friends to do it in exchange for pizza and a six-pack at the end of the night.
24. Avoid alcohol
Do not drink on the job. Even if you’re doing a wedding with an open bar or a holiday party at a brewery, don’t drink. I know it’s tempting but, honestly, it’s unprofessional and a slippery slope. There should be a clear line between your client and their guests (the people there to have fun) and you (the person there to work).
25. Dress to Impress
Dress the part. You should always look professional but don’t look out of place. What I mean is, don’t wear a tux to a picnic in a barn and don’t wear khakis and a polo to a posh club downtown.
26. Don’t get comfortable
Know when it’s time to grow. This is especially important if your DJ business is your side hustle. Is your regular job getting in the way? Are you turning down big paying gigs because of other work commitments? If you’re running your mobile DJ business as a part-time gig and it starts to take off, what is your plan? Once you commit full time, when do you decide to hire a professional manager or accountant or a second talent to really help you grow? It’s best to have some sort of strategy in place so you’re not completely overwhelmed if you have to make these decisions.
27. Work well with others
If you do bring a second DJ into the business, make sure you can work together. I mean, it’s your business. You’re the boss. But having to fire someone is awkward and can make things weird with other people in the industry. Have a clear idea of what you’re looking for when you get to this point. Do you want someone with the same taste and style as you? Or is it better to have someone completely different who can attract a different kind of clientele? No matter what you decide, remember, the person you hire is representing you. Make sure they’re professional and willing to stick to the values you have for your business.
Like I said, the most important thing to remember about starting a mobile DJ business is that you don’t forget the business side of things. There are a lot of legal things involved if you want to do it right: contracts, permits, licenses, insurance, taxes. The best thing to do is talk to other professionals and people with the know how to help you get started on the right foot.
Once you have the not-so-fun part under control, focus on growing your reputation and expanding your business. I hope some of these tips help you figure out what you need to do to carve out a place for yourself in your local market.
Soon, with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, you’ll be successful enough to hire employees and pass on what you’ve learned to a new kid on the scene who’s as anxious to learn as you were.