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Working with Freelancers / Vendors

On the Business and Marketing forum there are innumerable posts with such catchy titles as:

"I did work for someone and now I can't get paid"


"I did a job, but didn't have a contract, and now such and such has happened"

or the all time favorite

"Long time client has gone with some kid with a iMac and a Flip HD - bummer"

May you the reader never find yourself in such a situation. Follow the advice dispensed on the forum and you should avoid many negative situations.

What I want to talk about is how to hire and work with freelancers and/or outside vendors. I never want to find myself on the receiving end of a rant on the Business and Marketing forum - and neither should you.

Some of the COW audience seems to be independent operators and small business owners. There are certainly plenty of pros working for studios, tv networks and larger production companies.

So this post is aimed at small business owners / employees who, like me (not the owner but in charge of such activities) find themselves in any of the following situations:

1. Need a video crew because:
A) We are fully booked

May we be so blessed at all times!

B) It is more feasible to hire a crew than ship my whole crew and kit to the location

Let's say I need to do a 3-camera shoot at a hotel on the coast and do not want to take my whole in-house crew out of the office for a week, due to other editing or shoot obligations. Find a crew nearby, preferably someone with whom I have worked before.

C) It is a job well suited for an independent operator, and more affordable than going myself

Shooting a conference, for example, can often be done with one or two cameras, and takes 1-3 days, so why not use a local resource for this. I have hired a few folks off the COW Services page for just this type

2. Need a talent that we do not employ full-time, ie Illustrations, Animation, Voice Over, Copy Editor, Graphic Designer, etc


2a. Need a talent that we do employ full-time but we need more manpower or womanpower, ie Illustrations, Animation, Voice Over, Copy Editor, Graphic Designer, etc

In both 2 and 2a, you should identify reliable contractors who do good work at a fair price.

3. Need a service provider that we do not employ full-time and/or that is event related, ie, Video Conferencing, Webcasting, Audiovisual / I-Mag, Medical Equipment, Surgical Simulators, etc.

These services are often associated with an event, such as a meeting, a course or a trade show.

4. Additional talent to support our crew on a larger project or to work with at least one of our people.

I have hired a few COWs over the years for this purpose as well.

If you have done your job right, then those you hire will do their jobs right.


So as to avoid problems with your hired guns, heed the following advice:

1. It is a buyer's market for hired crew. Thus, shop around - it keeps everyone honest about rates. You should have an idea, over time, about how much the services you are looking for should cost in an average market.

If you are like me, you have done a lot of the jobs you may be hiring out, so you should also know if you are getting a good value.

2. Once you find someone, which can be a challenge sight unseen, ask for some references. Measure twice, cut once my Uncle Ted used to say.

3. Assuming you have negotiated a rate and services to be provided, even if this has happened via email, get something in writing. Usually I will draft a 1-page contract saying how much you are paying, what you get, a deadline if applicable, payment terms and any other details best not left to chance (ie, load-in 7pm Monday, allotted breaks, travel allowance, how and when to get you the media (ie, give them your FedEx #), etc). Get both parties to sign the thing.

4. Find out how your contractor operates - independent contractor (get a signed W-9) or some type of business for which an invoice and regular payment is appropriate.

5. Confirm the week of and the day before the event (or if it is a project, like a writing assignment, make sure they are really available).

6. At the conclusion of the event or the project, followup by email and/or phone, whether you were happy with the results or not. And if you were not happy, hold the person accountable, assuming you have something in writing. This is where it can get murky however. If you say "1/2 day video shoot, interviews, b-roll" and you get that, but an elementary school version, your recourse will depend upon the professionalism of who you hired. Thus, ask around and specify in writing your expectations.

In summary, if you need to hire someone either to supplement your own resources or in lieu of the same, know who you are hiring, make sure they know your expectations, pay them fairly and in a timely manner and if you have done your homework you should not only have a good result, but you may also make friends with a professional colleague.

Thanks for hiring!

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Jun 15, 2010 at 4:29:41 pmComments (1) freelance, vendors

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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