Becoming a music producer is a process that manifests differently for everyone who tries it. Some spent hours learning in their bedroom while others went through online music production program to learn the ins and outs of the business. Whether you’re new to the home studio environment or consider yourself a veteran of the craft, self-taught or schooled, there are tips and tricks to save time and cash and kick your game up a notch.

Never before has home music production been so accessible and affordable. For many, that low bar of entry results in a clumsy stumble into the world of self-production. This list of eight production tips might give you a fighting chance.

1. Choose your software

It doesn’t matter if you’re diving head first into this thing and dropping a small fortune on gear or you just want to record a single track for a school project. Software selection is critical. Applications like Cubaseand Logic feature subtle differences in interface that absolutely determine workflow and comfort. It’s worth testing demos in-depth and conducting research to find the right fit for you. When you’ve made your choice, purchase the version that suits your price point.

2. Create an environment

Even if you’re recording exclusively with virtual instruments and no microphones, privacy, peace and quiet are critical to getting into the zone. Soundproof a room as best as you can, using whatever materials you can get your hands on. Even a towel rolled up under the door is better than nothing.

3. Invest in a decent microphone

If you are recording vocals and/or acoustic instruments, a microphone, along with a preamp, will be one of your most important purchases. Be sure to prioritize your funds properly and skip that custom painted guitar.

4. Use electronic instruments when possible and appropriate

The greatest enemy of the home studio is noise. As you are recording music, other noise directly affects your project. You can eliminate the hum of cables and roar of jets by writing, performing, and recording some parts all within the confines of your virtual studio.

5. Stay away from unlicensed samples and remixes…for now.

The electronic music revolution has made remixing hot tracks and sampling of others all the rage. Unless you want your YouTube video identified by a record company’s automatic piracy detection algorithm, or worse, tossed to a pack of lawyers as an appetizer, create your own tracks. If you can’t do that, at least buy license-free samples from a reputable publisher. You can get into the creative theft game when you have your own team of attorneys.

6. Establish a web presence

The days of slaving away on unpopular road tours to establish a reputation are all but gone and forgotten. Don’t know WordPress? Use Blogger. Hate Facebook? Start a Twitter account. Without a significant and thoughtful web presence, you might as well not exist at all in the eyes of the general public. Once on board, release your stuff via services like SoundCloud, where social interaction can take your tracks to the viral level.

7. Just get it out there

Creative types fall in love with their art. They also fall in love with the process. Stressing over flaws has held many musicians back from releasing albums and even launching successful careers. Guess what: You’re your worst critic. Get it finished. Get it out there. Move on.

8. Be realistic

Dreams of musical stardom are like opinions—pretty much everyone has one. If your soul will be crushed by lackluster sales or complete irrelevance, you’re in the wrong business. Nothing wrong with a hobby, but recognize it for what it is. It’s important that artists don’t let the opinions of others get in their way, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore them. If your core target demographic—people who did the music you dig—thinks your music blows, there’s a chance that it really does. Who are you doing this for?