I'm not releasing CD's or putting out comercial material so I feel somewhat free to play with the idea of mastering 'ITB'.
It's been interesting to approach a recorded song from an over all sonic perspective then 'go back and fix things in the mix'
Hopefully what I end up with in Mastering is very subtle eq (if any) and soft limiting to bring down the peaks and bring up the RMS.
Thats about all I can do with the limitations of my software and monitors.
If I was to put out some commercial material I would definitely consider using a Mastering service. I feel I lose some objectivity listening
over and over (as if recording wasn't enough) to the song. My ears get bored sonically and I start to change things to create interest again.
The only other way around this is to leave the tracks alone for a few weeks and listen a fresh.
Having a deadline has its merits too. It allows you to make a decision, stick to it, put it to bed and move on.
I'd say for me, and I consider myself a beginner even after mixing now in the box for 8 years. Learning to pull better mixes is more important
than mastering. In other words, I'd rather spend time getting the mix better but home mastering IS opening my ears to better mixes.
Hope that makes sense.