When Time Is Money...

At some point during the year, usually during the really busy times, you'll inevitably have to hire some new freelance technicians to work on shows. You'll make a last minute decision to bring in some new freelance muscle to help with those big shows during the very busy weeks. There are some simple but effective tips to preparing and supervising freelancers who are relatively new to the AV industry, as well as freelance techs who are experienced but just haven't specifically worked for your company. Not only have I hired and employed many new freelancers, but I've been one too, so I speak from both sides of the issue.

You've been reviewing the show details in your head for weeks, if not months now, so you know the show inside and out. Take a step back and look at the show from the perspective of the new guys. Not only were they not involved in the planning process for the show, but they barely know the name of their supervisor. They're totally clueless about the entire scene that they're stepping into. I'm not suggesting that you should coddle them and hold their hand for the whole day, but a little special treatment in the beginning of the day will streamline things later, when it gets very busy and time is money.

You'll be able to get your new freelancers up to speed faster, and cut down on some wasted labor costs for you. Everyone has seen that new tech just wandering the show site aimlessly looking for his next task. You need to eliminate that from happening. Try employing these tactics:

1) Attire and tools: Before new freelancers arrive on site or at your office, make it extremely clear to them what your attire requirements are and what, if any, tools they need to bring with them. An inappropriately dressed or under prepared tech can really make for a bad day right from the beginning. If they're working a split shift for set and strike only, always have them bring a suit or proper show attire. You never know when you'll get into a pinch and have to ask them to stay and tech the show.

2) Supervisors: Make it very clear to the new techs who they should report to for the day. When the new freelancers arrive for their call time, their direct supervisor for the day needs to be the first person to meet them. If the new people meet another tech first, they'll most likely latch onto that tech for the day and look to them for guidance. That will slow both of those techs down.

3) Information: Providing your new freelancers with some basic paperwork in the beginning of the day usually eliminates many general questions over the course of the day. You might know everyone working the job, but they don't. Give them a simple list of the staff working the job, their job titles/duties, and cell phone numbers for everyone. Creating and distributing a general itinerary of the day's events and staff breaks will usually stop the constant "when do the doors open?" or "when does this show end?" types of questions. Keep in mind that you know where every mic stand and fast fold screen will be placed, but they don't know any details about this show. Providing the techs with a general set up diagram for the show will prevent a new tech from standing there wondering where they can grab power from.

4) Customer service skills: Review proper customer service skills with them, incase they have direct contact with the client. Since every company is different, you never want to assume that new techs will deal with customer service issues exactly the way you want them to. Since they're new, they might be overly eager to help the client themselves, rather than refer them to the project manager or sales rep. They always need to know exactly who to refer the client to. Always make sure you have the name of the project manager or sales rep on the staff list that you gave to the tech. You don't want the client knowing the tech is a total rookie because they can't remember who their boss is for the day!

You can't expect to throw new freelance techs right into the mix like you can with your regulars. Taking the time up front to train and prepare your new freelancers is an investment that will definitely pay off, and before you know it, you'll have a solid crew of regular, well-trained freelancer technicians. Using these simple tactics will start your new freelancers off on the right foot, make your day much easier, and even save you some money in the long run.