THE CONTRACTOR’S WORK - The Basics
As I get into this, it’s apparent that each item mentioned below could be expanded to a separate post or conversation. But I have to start somewhere!
A contractor’s work is broken down to the following:
Get the job
Hire the job
Pay the musicians
That’s as simple as I can make it. It does require administrative and bookkeeping skills, so if those are lacking, you might not be suited for this field (or at least need to hire an administrator or bookkeeper!)
GET THE JOB
You’ll need to know something about contracts and negotiating the pricing. I start with the bid phase. This can often have more than one option. If you get the schedule and instrumentation and notice a problem, you’ll want to alert the client. Perhaps there’s a huge conflict that takes out a bunch of freelancers. Then you’ll want to see if the schedule can be tweaked for when people are more available. When it’s firm, that’s it. Then you price it out. I don’t assume that it’ll be accepted. Wait for acceptance of the bid and issue a contract. Then you can move to the next phase.
HIRE THE JOB
Keeping up with the Workforce: Are you good at keeping up your database? I suggest using Contacts or another database that will allow you to do quick searches. This comes in handy when you have thousands of folks with whom to keep up. In the database, you’ll want to put in all of the instruments that each person plays and which organizations where they perform. I’ve found it handy to collect schedules of various orchestras.
When I offer someone a job, my word is my bond. I don’t ask multiple people for the same position and grab the 1st person that responds, which is called the Cattle Call. That would be like offering 3 or more contracts for the same position. When someone gets back to me, they know that that job is there for them. Details such as location, dress code, what to bring, etc., will be covered in another post.
TIP: Avoid Cattle Calls. It immediately gives you away that you are not a professional contractor.
COLLECT PAYMENT FROM THE CLIENT
You’ll want to make sure that you have received full payment before or the day of the event. Anything else is trouble. For a lot of events, you’ll want a 50% deposit (weddings, especially). Most churches pay in full at the rehearsal or mail in advance.
PAY THE MUSICIANS
Pay the musicians on the last day of the event. There’s a psychological reason for this. I like to pay at the beginning of the last service. Then you don’t have nervous musicians wondering if they are going to be paid. And most like to quickly leave as soon as it’s over, so you don’t hold them up. My business is run where I cut the checks to all contract labor through a company.
IMPORTANT: You have to report earnings to the IRS in a 1096 form, due at the end of February. And you have to send out a 1099 to anyone that you paid over $600 in a calendar year, due at the end of January. W2s are also due at the end of January if you run federal payroll. There are lots of tax laws that change annually.
STOP: If you ever run federal payroll, I strongly suggest a conversation with your CPA! Very few freelance contractors are required to run federal payroll. But there are many things to understand about withholding, collecting documents from employees, and changing tax laws. Avoid trouble! (They are not contract labor on these jobs.)
GOOD FINANCIAL RESOURCE FOR MUSICIANS:
Scott Stratton is based in Dallas.
If there’s a particular area that you’d like for me to cover in a future post, you may include that in a comment below.