What Happens When You Get Too Busy-Hiring Crew Members

By Stuart Sweetow of Audio Visual Consultants ©2002

Originally published in Camcorder & Computer Video Magazine Camcorder & Computer Home Video Magazine Logo

When a videographer gets an eye injury, he needs immediate medical attention. When that videographer is your employee, you need to take him to the hospital, help him fill out a Workers Compensation insurance claim, file a report yourself and maybe even make modifications to your workplace to avoid future injuries. This is exactly the predicament
Steve Martin of Omni Productions, Inc. (Orlando Florida) found himself in. When a wood chip flew into an employee’s eye when he was building an editing table, Martin made sure another employee accompanied the injured one to the hospital. Fortunately, the videographer made a quick recovery.

State and federal government agencies are strict on employee safety as well as such other employee concerns as overtime, meal breaks and proper hiring and firing procedures. You have much more latitude when hiring freelancers, because they are in business for themselves, just like you. The government expects them to take care of their own insurance and to take the initiative to charge extra for overtime.

Employees or Contractors?

George Alford of Professional Video Services of Delaware uses both freelancers and employees. He has a full-time editor as an employee, and hires freelancers to shoot weddings and corporate videos. “When you have employees, you have to generate enough work to justify the wages that you are paying,” says Alford. “You have to think about benefits, holidays and vacations. That affects the true cost of having employees.

“With a freelancer you know exactly what you are paying for. They handle all the nuisance stuff, like payroll and taxes.” But freelancers charge considerably more for this convenience. Alford pays $25-30 per hour for some freelancers, and for his top videographer he pays $300 day–and that’s using Alford’s equipment.

For each job that a freelancer performs for the company, Alford lists the equipment required to do the job and bills the freelancer for it. The freelancer invoices Alford a larger amount, and Alford writes that charge off his business taxes as an expense. The freelancer then shows the rental fee as income. They both bill each other, and in the end this freelancer nets the $300 per day.

This arrangement allows Alford’s company to cover the insurance for equipment, but more importantly, Alford knows his own equipment will work and doesn’t have to rely on someone else’s gear. Each freelancer carrys his or her own Workers’ Compensation insurance, and they carry city business licenses.

Some of the ways Federal regulations require that independent contractors demonstrate that they are not employees is by seeking work from other clients, having their own invoices and business cards and maintaining a place to conduct their business.

Furthermore, independent contractors, as opposed to employees are expected to perform the jobs without direct supervision of the client, but of course, you are allowed to be on the job site and to explain to them the outcomes you expect of them. For more information on the federal independent contractor requirements see the sidebar.

Asked what disadvantages Alford sees in hiring freelancers instead employees, he says “you have to pay them enough to keep them.” The good freelance videographers may be in high demand; you have to schedule them far ahead. If you are doing corporate work, you may not have enough advance notice to get the videographer you want. Additionally, a less than honorable freelance videographer might not resist the temptation to serve your client at a lower fee than you charge. One way to avoid such a problem is to make sure the freelancer gives out your business cards to your clients, not his own.

Six Full-time and Three Part-time Staff

Omni’s Steve Martin hires freelancer shooters for many of his productions, but decided to hire editors, technicians and office staff on an employee basis. When we caught up with Martin he was at home with his 3-year old, while two of his staff technicians and three freelancers were on a corporate shoot. Martin has six full-time and three part-time employees. He and his wife are staff members who receive a payroll check and medical and dental benefits like the others. Omni’s full-time staff includes a sales person, a production coordinator, an office manager, an editor-shooter, and a duplication and maintenance tech. Part-time staff includes another editor-shooter and a production assistant.

To simplify his life, Martin contracts with a professional employer service called Epix who legally is the employer. Epix handles all payroll, tax deposits, government reporting, Workers Compensation insurance and the other tedious chores that larger companies have human resources department for. According to Martin, “the result is that I do payroll for nine people in about 2-1/2 minutes. If anybody has employees, that’s the way I suggest you go.”

When Martin was faced with the employee accident, he simply referred to a 3-ring binder that Epix had prepared for his company; it detailed the exact procedure to follow. The binder has instructions for what to do in just about any employee situation–from hiring and firing to developing a drug-free workplace to setting up medical insurance. The company maintains a help-line for problem-solving by phone and even does background checks on applicants.

Videographers as Employees

Southern California’s Sandy Brooke chooses to hire her videographers as employees rather than as freelancers. At one time her 25-year old company would videotape up to nine events in a day. Over the years she has changed her style and raised her prices to emphasize quality over volume; her company now records only three events at a time.

Her employee roster, in addition to herself, includes one full-time and three part-time shooter-editors. Most of them are women. Brooke’s company has developed a reputation as the one with woman videographers, and she gets referrals from male videographers with clients preferring a female. Of course, she still hires men; her editor is male and “he has a heart of a woman,” according to Brooke.

On of the downsides of operating a video company with employee-videographers instead of freelancers is equipment, according to Brooke. “I am so tired of buying equipment, and maintaining it, and wondering where this missing stuff is, and fixing this when it’s broken.” She can understand why many videographers prefer to hire freelancers with their own equipment. The bottom line is that she wants people she can trust, and she can rely.

Brooke shoots with Sony DSR-250s as her main cameras and PD-150’s as backups. “We are very compact. Most of the time we are a one-person shooter, with our ‘unwomaned’ camera as a backup for the ceremony.”

Why Not Freelance

“One of the reasons we don’t go with freelancers, ” says Henry Mares of Colorado’s Mares Video Productions, Inc, “is that we have a specific style of shooting. Freelancers who come from a news reporting mentality shoot a wedding as a documentary. Our style is, hopefully, more creative. Some freelancers just don’t understand that art is acceptable or a Dutch angle is acceptable. They think different. If somebody was creating straight-forward documentary-style weddings, freelance probably would be the way to go.

Mares has three full-time and three part-time employees on the payroll. He and his spouse Lisa are two of the full-timers; they also employ a full-time editor-shooter who has been with them for two years–a long tenure in the video industry. “We found it cheaper to get employees than it is contractors. But the challenge can be in letting go and letting each person create their way” says Mares. The company also hires other part-time shooters who work mostly on the weekends; one of them edits during the week.

The Mares’ pay their employees by the project, not by the hour. Lisa handles the company’s payroll using Quickbooks software. The software deducts all taxes and insurance and prints employee’s payroll checks. Quickbooks’ website provides monthly updates in both state and federal tax changes and generates quarterly tax reports for employers. According to Mares, “it does all the corrections for you, so that when you do payroll, it is already figured out. It’s actually quite simple; you plug in the information and the software does it for you. It generates anything and everything you want, including your mother’s birthday, if she’s on payroll.” In Colorado, as well in many other states, the employer writes payroll tax checks to the bank, and the bank sends that money to the federal government.

Recruiting Employees and Freelancers

Mares recruits new employees through colleges and trade schools. “We try to hire only college-degreed applicants. If they have their college degree, usually they have the ability to learn”, says Mares.

When recruiting videographers, Brooke looks for applicants who have a “good work ethic. I like people who really need the money. When I get people who have a husband that makes enough money so that this is like a game to them, they are just not as serious. I like to find people who have motivation, always show up on time, always look good, always treat people with respect.” Brooke gives each new hire a copy of her company mission statement (see sidebar) to help motivate them to understand the image she has of the company.

Brooke admits that she prefers to hire woman shooters. However, whether the recruit is a woman or a man, Brooke looks for someone who is “artistic and who can understand the bride and maybe even emphasize with her.”

Rather than running ads for his job openings, George Alford recruits his staff video editors from a local college or a technical high school. He says that the ones who have a degree generally stay on the job longer and require less training. Whether it a referral from a college or a general job ad, Alford says you have to carefully sift through the applicants to find those with enough skills and tenacity to stay on the job.

As an incentive Alford provides vacation and holiday benefits to his staff editor. “If you want people to stay, you have to give them the normal benefits they would get at any other job.”

Interviewing Applicants, Checking References, Payroll and Government Compliance

My own experience as an employer goes back fifteen years when I hired my first part-time employee. In order to become an employer I needed to register with the State of California. But before I could register I needed to purchase Workers Compensation insurance. My bookkeeper recommended that I hire a payroll service to handle all the tax deductions on the employee’s check and provide quarterly reports to the state and federal government. I still use that payroll service, and for only $30 per month, I have peace of mind. The employee’s get their checks, W-2 forms and whatever else they need, and should we ever be audited, we have printouts to justify everything.

When the first employee moved on, I realized that recruiting, hiring and managing employees would be roles I needed to learn. No longer was I simply a videographer. If I wanted to expand the business I needed to accept the added role of an employer. I took a few classes in small business management, got a couple books and started clipping out articles from the business section of the newspaper. Now I have a plan for hiring, managing and even firing employees.

During the hiring process, before bringing them in for an interview, I speak with the top candidates over the phone. Over the years I have learned not to assume anything. I ask if they are available for full-time work during the days (some think they will squeeze in the 40 hours during nights and weekends). I ask if they intend to be hired as an employee (some are getting unemployment and want to work as an independent contractor). I ask if they have plans to go to school or move out of the area in the next few months. Only after those first qualifying questions are out of the way, will I ask questions about their video experience.

During the phone interview and personal interview you need to be careful not to ask questions about their age, marital status and other potentially discriminating facts. The Small Business Administration has booklets and website information for new employers that outline these issues, and your state government probably provides that information, too. You might consider picking up a book on small business management that includes chapters on hiring and firing, so you can develop some good interview questions for yourself.

When the candidates come to my office for a personal interview, not only am I seeking answers to my questions, I observe how well they listen to me. I pretend that I am a customer; I want to make sure the new hire will communicate with customers appropriately. The interview questions I ask include what he or she really wants to do with video, what particular qualities he/she would bring to my company, an example of a problem solved and his/her strengths and weaknesses. Prior to that last question, I discuss my mission for the company and share with the candidate a work habit of mine that needs improvement. Then I explain how I am working on that issue and ask if he or she will share a similar behavior of theirs that I should know about.

When I ask for references, I tell the candidates to notify these people that I will be calling and that I will be suspicious of only positive remarks. I want to know the candidate as a whole person and will expect to have a frank discussion with the reference people. When you call references, especially those from large companies, you may never get anything more than a confirmation of dates of employment. Some organizations these days don’t want to expose themselves to litigation. That’s where you can do a little investigation. Ask the candidate for names of individuals with whom he worked at the company, especially supervisors, and try to get their home phone numbers. Also, when you speak with one reference person, ask him for the name of another who might know the applicant. When you call others who were not on the candidate’s list, you may be able to dig a little deeper to learn more about this person.

On the first day on the job, you need to have the employee fill out an IRS W-4 statement that gives you the employee’s Social Security number and the number of exemptions he will claim on income tax. The payroll service needs this information to prepare the check with appropriate federal and state income tax deductions. The payroll service automatically deducts Social Security, State Disability Insurance, Unemployment Compensation Insurance and employee contributions to health insurance. Each quarter the payroll service tells how much of a check to write to the federal and state governments. Some payroll services write the checks themselves and make the deposits. We chose the option where we write a check, payable to our bank and label it as a tax deposit.

One of the benefits of being an employer is that you can cover yourself with medical and dental insurance through your company. Our insurance agent recognizes as few as two employees (one assistant and myself) as a “group” to qualify for the group insurance options he offers. We pay about half of the premium, and the employee pays the other half. The employee may choose from several plans and insurance companies. The program we are in also covers vision, chiropractic and acupuncture. Our Workers Compensation insurance company provides us with a poster where we write the name and address of the nearest hospital, should there be an accident. We also obtained posters from the state Employment office notifying employees about minimum wage, unemployment and disability benefits. I believe employers are required to post them in California.

Handling Insurance Claims and Firing Employees

When a part-time employee said he fell and hurt his knee on a shoot, I first asked him if he needed immediate medical attention. Had that been the case, I would have taken him to the nearest hospital emergency room. I found claim forms the Workers Compensation insurance company had provided us with; they needed to be completed within 24 hours of the accident.

Shortly after his accident, this employee moved out of the area. Several months later a process server came to my office and handed me papers notifying me that I was being sued by the employee for his accident. So I phoned the Workers Compensation insurance company, and they took care of everything. Now I don’t fuss when I have to make those premium payments.

That particular employee had not been working out too well, but, with the advice of a colleague, I did not fire him after his insurance claim as I wanted to. That would have set me up for an even bigger lawsuit.

Several years later another employee was performing poorly, and I needed to fire him. Since I had never fired anyone before, I hesitated, hoping to help him improve. I shouldn’t have stalled. In that time he managed to make more mistakes with our largest client’s jobs and get into an argument with the client. The client called me one day to inform me they no longer needed our services. Had I fired the employee in time, I might still have that client.

So I had a good reason to fire the employee, but didn’t know how. I found a book on small business that had a good chapter on firing employees and followed their plan. I kept track of the verbal warnings I had given him, and I had a copy of at least one written warning. I decided I didn’t want to give him a customary two-week notice, but would give him two weeks of severance pay. The payroll service prepared a check for that amount plus anything that was due him up to the day of his termination. I decided I would tell him in the morning, give him time to gather his belongings and ask him to leave that day.

Nervous about this firing procedure, I rehearsed what I would say and even wrote out a copy for he and I to read. On the appointed day I told him that while he had tried to improve his performance, he was still not performing to our standards. I reminded him of the verbal and written warnings and told him I would have to let him go. I gave him his severance check, and that helped soften the blow. I told him he would probably succeed in a job that would make better use of his creative talents and wished him well. He surprised me with a “thank you” and a handshake. He told me he was sorry we lost the client, and said he appreciated all I had done for him. Then he told me of his blossoming freelance business and said he might even need my services some day. The next two times I had to fire someone, I was far less emotional about it.

Sandy Brooke has learned how to spot a problem employee early on. When a videographer who was working for her needed money, she loaned her $900. Shortly after that, the videographer’s work started slipping. When the employee edited a wedding video together she failed to use any “B” roll. Brooke recognized that this person wasn’t working out. Rather than keep her on until she could repay the loan, Brooke felt she would save money in the long run and fired the employee.

Over the years she has learned to cut her losses early and terminate an employee as soon as she sees that person is not going to work out. She starts employees working part-time because if they are not performing well it is easier to reduce their hours than to fire a full-time worker.

Training New Recruits

When she offers an applicant a job, Brooke tells them the worst aspects of being a videographer. “You are a mule, a tech and a psychologist. If you don’t like serving people, go now,” she says. Brooke adds that waitresses make good videographers. They can carry heavy items and serve with a smile.

Great Video Productions’ Lee Hopper (Phoenix, Arizona) hires a crew of freelancers to help him shoot marching band videos and duplicate them on site. His crew has worked together for over three years, and each tech knows his task. In addition to four cameras and a host of mikes, Hopper and his crew set up as many as 30 VHS dupe decks on site plus a few DVD and CD burners. His company offers on-site duplication and they sell the videos in all three media directly to the event attendees.

His techs previously were college students who had been in marching bands. They know what to look for and are accustomed to receiving directions as part of a team. “We have taught them how to use the cameras and other equipment,” says Hopper. “None of them had any camera experience, but they know the music.” Hopper lets each new recruit bring home one of the Elite Video training tapes to learn camera moves. He shows them the finished videos his company makes.

Hopper threw away the manufacturers’ equipment operation manuals and printed his own laminated instruction sheets for each piece of gear. The sheets walk the tech through the important operations of the camera, mixer etc. and show the key settings of each. The tech “may not know what the entire mixer if for, but at least they know the general settings,” says Hopper.

He shows each tech the operations of the camera–basic steps, basic settings and how to operate different functions. He loans the tech a consumer-grade camera to take home and practice with. Hopper also printed his “Twelve Commandments,” a do’s and don’ts guide with such directions as “the camera moves only when you want it to move,” and “maintain focus unless you intentionally want them out of focus.”

Employee Retention

Retaining employees is always tricky, particularly in an artistic business. One reason Brooke has managed to keep her full-time employee for 11 years is that she pays 100% of the medical insurance premium. Rather than offering a paid vacation, Brooke also offers bonuses at the end of the year.

How does Brooke develop loyalty among the videographers working for her? “I pay them well.” She buys the training videos sold by WEVA and others and has a training program where each videographer progresses through six phases to achieving “brilliance.” As the trainee moves to a higher phase, he or she is paid more. Throughout the training program, Brooke has them do everything from holding the camera on their shoulders for extended periods of time to wearing battery belts. She wants them to decide early on if they are willing to make the commitment to her standards of performance.

Henry Mares learned his employee management skills when he worked at Fed Ex. Mares said that Fed Ex operates as if the employees on the front line were in charge. “It’s those employees who make decisions, because they know what’s going on,” says Mares. His company has adopted that way of thinking. “Let’s let the employees be creative. Let’s let them do what they are best at doing. In doing that we get a better video.

“If people want to succeed, use the Fed Ex model. The philosophy is people-service-profit. You treat your people right, they in turn will give the customer a tremendous service, which in turn will create a profit.”

The Mares’ full-time editor-shooter has been with them for two years, one part-timer has been with the company for three years and two of their part-timers have each been with the company for 2-1/2 years. Asked what he does to retain employees, Mares replied, “it’s called having a wonderful wife who knows how to put out the fires. She is phenomenal at managing people. She is a phenomenal communicator. She’s a lovely woman; she’s just wonderful working with people. That’s probably the key to keeping people. It’s not money that keeps people, although it helps, but it’s constant challenges and a wonderful manager, and she is it.”

According to Steve Martin, event videographers have an advantage over TV stations in hiring recent college grads with radio-TV degrees. “They see working for a high-end or mid-grade wedding videographer as a great opportunity, because they learn fast. A big production company or TV station sticks them in a shoebox. ‘Your job is to get me coffee. Your job is to log these tapes.’ Basically shit jobs. You go to work for a wedding videography company, and you learn how to shoot, to edit, to talk with clients–basically everything, and fast.” One concern when hiring shooters and editors, according to Martin, is that they see a big discrepancy between the bill rate and their salaries. “After a while they get burned out because they don’t see any real future in it. You have to be prepared to be constantly in training mode to bring new folks on.”

Frequently staff videographers start get bored shooting and editing weddings. Their creativity starts to wane. “That’s when you have to start pulling out creativity techniques to hold retention,” says Martin. To motivate the employee he might suggest that he or she re-do their opening graphics and spend a couple days playing with After Effects. Martin will tell them, “play with blending modes, play with different filters. You need to get some new filters? You need to get some eye candy? Okay, we can get that for you.”

Martin makes an investment in tools and time to give his employees the sense that they are learning something new. “When they stop learning new, they get bored. Take the employees to WEVA. We did that. They get their batteries recharged just as you do. It means something to them. They get to increase their skills on your time.” Martin feels the costs for the employee’s salary and expenses to go to WEVA are far lower than recruiting and training a new employee.

“You have to treat them well,” says Martin. “You have to care as much about them as you want them to care about your company. You have to care about what motivates them and what’s important to them and do your best to try to mold things around that. Most books will tell you that employees don’t stay with employers because of the money. It’s about respect, it’s about constant challenge. It’s about giving them the liberty to create and choose, and just giving them the power.”

Hopper says, “there are kids out there that if you know your job and you teach them what you know, they will learn it. I love to get in arguments with guys who say, ‘I have to do everything myself.’ Do you think Steven Spielberg is doing everything on those movies? Rather than thinking you have to be the shooter, the director and the gaffer. You got to think Steven Spielberg.”


Post-script 1

(Note: This comes from the IRS website. It is designed to help employers know when to classify a worker as an employee or an independent contractor.)

Employee or Independent Contractor?

An employer must generally withhold income taxes, withhold and pay social
security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an
employee. An employer does not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.

Common-Law Rules

To determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent
contractor under the common law, the relationship of the worker and the
business must be examined. All evidence of control and independence must be considered. In any employee-independent contractor determination, all
information that provides evidence of the degree of control and the degree
of independence must be considered.

Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories: behavioral control, financial control, and the type of relationship of the parties as shown below.

Behavioral control. Facts that show whether the business has a right to
direct and control how the worker does the task for which the worker is hired include the type and degree of–

Instructions the business gives the worker. An employee is generally subject to the business’ instructions about when, where, and how to work.
All of the following are examples of types of instructions about how to do work:

* When and where to do the work
* What tools or equipment to use
* What workers to hire or to assist with the work
* Where to purchase supplies and services
* What work must be performed by a specified individual
* What order or sequence to follow

The amount of instruction needed varies among different jobs. Even if no instructions are given, sufficient behavioral control may exist if the employer has the right to control how the work results are achieved. A business may lack the knowledge to instruct some highly specialized professionals; in other cases, the task may require little or no instruction. The key consideration is whether the business has retained the right to control the details of a worker’s performance or instead has given up that right.

Training the business gives the worker. An employee may be trained to perform services in a particular manner. Independent contractors ordinarily use their own methods.

Financial control. Facts that show whether the business has a right to control the business aspects of the worker’s job include:

The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed business expenses.
Independent contractors are more likely to have unreimbursed expenses than are employees. Fixed ongoing costs that are incurred regardless of whether work is currently being performed are especially important. However, employees may also incur unreimbursed expenses in connection with the services they perform for their business.

The extent of the worker’s investment. An independent contractor often has
a significant investment in the facilities he or she uses in performing services for someone else. However, a significant investment is not necessary for independent contractor status.

The extent to which the worker makes services available to the relevant market. An independent contractor is generally free to seek out business opportunities. Independent contractors often advertise, maintain a visible business location, and are available to work in the relevant market.

How the business pays the worker. An employee is generally guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly, or other period of time. This usually indicates that a worker is an employee, even when the wage or salary is supplemented by a commission. An independent contractor is usually paid by a flat fee for the job. However, it is common in some professions, such as law, to pay independent contractors hourly.

The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or loss. An independent contractor can make a profit or loss.

Type of relationship. Facts that show the parties’ type of relationship include:

Written contracts describing the relationship the parties intended to create.

Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such
as insurance, a pension plan, vacation pay, or sick pay.

The permanency of the relationship. If you engage a worker with the expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely, rather than for a specific project or period, this is generally considered evidence that your intent was to create an employer-employee relationship.

The extent to which services performed by the worker is a key aspect of the regular business of the company. If a worker provides services that are a key aspect of your regular business activity, it is more likely that you will have the right to direct and control his or her activities. For example, if a law firm hires an attorney, it is likely that it will present the attorney’s work as its own and would have the right to control or direct that work. This would indicate an employer-employee relationship.

IRS help. If you want the IRS to determine whether a worker is an employee, file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, with the IRS.

Industry Examples

The following examples may help you properly classify your workers.

Building and Construction Industry

Example 1. Jerry Jones has an agreement with Wilma White to supervise the remodeling of her house. She did not advance funds to help him carry on the work. She makes direct payments to the suppliers for all necessary materials. She carries liability and workers’ compensation insurance covering Jerry and others he engaged to assist him. She pays them an hourly rate and exercises almost constant supervision over the work. Jerry is not free to transfer his assistants to other jobs. He may not work on other jobs while working for Wilma. He assumes no responsibility to complete the work and will incur no contractual liability if he fails to do so. He and his assistants perform personal services for hourly wages. They are employees of Wilma White.

Example 2. Milton Manning, an experienced tilesetter, orally agreed with a corporation to perform full-time services at construction sites. He uses his own tools and performs services in the order designated by the corporation and according to its specifications. The corporation supplies all materials, makes frequent inspections of his work, pays him on a piecework basis, and carries workers’ compensation insurance on him. He does not have a place of business or hold himself out to perform similar services for others. Either party can end the services at any time. Milton Manning is an employee of the corporation.

Example 3. Wallace Black agreed with the Sawdust Co. to supply the construction labor for a group of houses. The company agreed to pay all construction costs. However, he supplies all the tools and equipment. He performs personal services as a carpenter and mechanic for an hourly wage.
He also acts as superintendent and foreman and engages other individuals to assist him. The company has the right to select, approve, or discharge any helper. A company representative makes frequent inspections of the construction site. When a house is finished, Wallace is paid a certain percentage of its costs. He is not responsible for faults, defects of construction, or wasteful operation. At the end of each week, he presents the company with a statement of the amount he has spent, including the payroll. The company gives him a check for that amount from which he pays the assistants, although he is not personally liable for their wages.
Wallace Black and his assistants are employees of the Sawdust Co.

Example 4. Bill Plum contracted with Elm Corporation to complete the roofing on a housing complex. A signed contract established a flat amount for the services rendered by Bill Plum. Bill is a licensed roofer and carries workers’ compensation and liability insurance under the business name, Plum Roofing. He hires his own roofers who are treated as employees for Federal employment tax purposes. If there is a problem with the roofing work, Plum Roofing is responsible for paying for any repairs. Bill Plum, doing business as Plum Roofing, is an independent contractor.

Example 5. Vera Elm, an electrician, submitted a job estimate to a housing complex for electrical work at $16 per hour for 400 hours. She is to receive $1,280 every 2 weeks for the next 10 weeks. This is not considered payment by the hour. Even if she works more or less than 400 hours to complete the work, Vera Elm will receive $6,400. She also performs additional electrical installations under contracts with other companies, which she obtained through advertisements. Vera is an independent contractor.

Trucking Industry

Example. Rose Trucking contracts to deliver material for Forest Inc. at $140 per ton. Rose Trucking is not paid for any articles that are not delivered. At times, Jan Rose, who operates as Rose Trucking, may also lease another truck and engage a driver to complete the contract. All operating expenses, including insurance coverage, are paid by Jan Rose. All equipment is owned or rented by Jan, and she is responsible for all maintenance. None of the drivers are provided by Forest Inc. Jan Rose, operating as Rose Trucking, is an independent contractor.

Computer Industry

Example. Steve Smith, a computer programmer, is laid off when Megabyte Inc. downsizes. Megabyte agrees to pay Steve a flat amount to complete a one-time project to create a certain product. It is not clear how long it will take to complete the project, and Steve is not guaranteed any minimum payment for the hours spent on the program. Megabyte provides Steve with no instructions beyond the specifications for the product itself. Steve and Megabyte have a written contract, which provides that Steve is considered to be an independent contractor, is required to pay Federal and state taxes, and receives no benefits from Megabyte. Megabyte will file a Form
1099-MISC. Steve does the work on a new high-end computer which cost him $7,000. Steve works at home and is not expected or allowed to attend meetings of the software development group. Steve is an independent contractor.

Automobile Industry

Example 1. Donna Lee is a salesperson employed on a full-time basis by Bob Blue, an auto dealer. She works 6 days a week and is on duty in Bob’s insurance and group-term life insurance for Donna. Donna is an employee of
Bob Blue.

Example 2. Sam Sparks performs auto repair services in the repair department of an auto sales company. He works regular hours and is paid on a percentage basis. He has no investment in the repair department. The sales company supplies all facilities, repair parts, and supplies; issues instructions on the amounts to be charged, parts to be used, and the time for completion of each job; and checks all estimates and repair orders. Sam is an employee of the sales company.

Example 3. An auto sales agency furnishes space for Helen Bach to perform auto repair services. She provides her own tools, equipment, and supplies.
She seeks out business from insurance adjusters and other individuals and does all the body and paint work that comes to the agency. She hires and discharges her own helpers, determines her own and her helpers’ working hours, quotes prices for repair work, makes all necessary adjustments, assumes all losses from uncollectible accounts, and receives, as compensation for her services, a large percentage of the gross collections from the auto repair shop. Helen is an independent contractor and the helpers are her employees.


Example. Donna Yuma is a sole practitioner who rents office space and pays for the following items: telephone, computer, on-line legal research linkup, fax machine, and photocopier. Donna buys office supplies and pays bar dues and membership dues for three other professional organizations.
Donna has a part-time receptionist who also does the bookkeeping. She pays the receptionist, withholds and pays Federal and state employment taxes, and files a Form W-2 each year. For the past 2 years, Donna has had only three clients, corporations with which there have been longstanding relationships. Donna charges the corporations an hourly rate for her services, sending monthly bills detailing the work performed for the prior month. The bills include charges for long distance calls, on-line research time, fax charges, photocopies, postage, and travel, costs for which the corporations have agreed to reimburse her. Donna is an independent contractor.

Taxicab Driver

Example. Tom Spruce rents a cab from Taft Cab Co. for $150 per day. He pays the costs of maintaining and operating the cab. Tom Spruce keeps all fares he receives from customers. Although he receives the benefit of Taft’s two-way radio communication equipment, dispatcher, and advertising, these items benefit both Taft and Tom Spruce. Tom Spruce is an independent contractor.


To determine whether salespersons are employees under the usual common-law rules, you must evaluate each individual case. If a salesperson who works for you does not meet the tests for a common-law employee, discussed earlier, you do not have to withhold income tax from his or her pay. However, even if a salesperson is not an employee under the usual common-law rules, his or her pay may still be subject to social security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes. To determine whether a salesperson is an employee for social security, Medicare, and FUTA tax purposes, the salesperson must meet all eight elements of the statutory employee test. A salesperson is an employee for social security, Medicare, and FUTA tax purposes if he or she:

1. Works full time for one person or company except, possibly, for
sideline sales activities on behalf of some other person,
2. Sells on behalf of, and turns his or her orders over to, the person or
company for which he or she works,
3. Sells to wholesalers, retailers, contractors, or operators of hotels,
restaurants, or similar establishments,
4. Sells merchandise for resale, or supplies for use in the customer’s
5. Agrees to do substantially all of this work personally,
6. Has no substantial investment in the facilities used to do the work,
other than in facilities for transportation,
7. Maintains a continuing relationship with the person or company for
which he or she works, and
8. Is not an employee under common-law rules.


Post-script 2

Brooke Video Mission Statement

The goal at Brooke Video is to give our customers the most Superior Video we are capable of producing, with a constant eye on new video trends and an Ernest sincerity and compassion toward our customers’ needs and sensitivities.

Videographers’ Goals

First and Foremost to have a true passion for capturing memories and making beautiful images, which means you study your craft. The most obvious place to begin is to ALWAYS watch your tape right after you shoot it. Then it’s really fresh in your mind; you remember those risks you took and whether they worked or not. That’s how I learned. I didn’t have the benefit of someone to help me look at my work and criticize m. Watch instructional tapes OFTEN. Know the shots by name. Know your camera inside and out. Always be ready for an emergency.

Always be early. Look professional. Hair must be tame–preferably pulled back and very neat. Tux shirts must be ironed. Wear black, tailored pants–no tights, corduroys or jean fabrics. Wear black tennis shoes and a bow tie. You do not have to wear your jacket when you are setting up or pre-ceremony, but when the guests start arriving to the ceremony, you must wear a Black jacket. I suggest two pairs of shoulder pads in the right shoulder.

At Brooke Video, videographers will treat guests and our client with the utmost respect. Unless they have given you permission to call them by their first names, parents will be referred to as Mr and Mrs. We will wait patiently when needing to talk to our clients at the event, and then when getting their attention, will phrase our questions clearly, precisely, quickly and all at once so as not to bother them very much. Then we will go about our jobs not missing one important moment and getting beautiful images that can be edited into a tape that they will treasure forever. Keep in mind we are always unobtrusive, Sensitive, Gracious, AWARE and Polite but firm. (And that only comes from know your job inside and out.)


The job of recording the most precious moments in people’s lives is an awesome responsibility, and one we don’t take lightly at Brooke Video. We consider it a challenge to take what might be a difficult or delicate situation and make it into a true thing of beauty. Without making a Hollywood set out of their event. But most importantly we feel privileged to be entrusted with one of the most important days in their lives. We consider it an honor and we treat our Customers that way from day one until the day they receive their Work of Art.


We are in the service business and you need to have an attitude of service. So, if you don’t want to serve, don’t work here. Our response to customers is, “My Pleasure.” In the office, no customer is left on hold longer than 30 seconds, or we will get their number and call them back. All calls will be returned the day they come in. Filling our the message slips completely and legibly, and making sure that the customer is taken care of is of uppermost importance. Notes will be made as to the date calls were returned; put them on the bottom of the message.

At Brooke Video we want to be distinctively different than the service you get at most places, which is basically no service. When a video is promised by a certain date, we go out of our way to make sure that happens. We create a beautiful cover that is uniquely different than they can get anywhere else. We want our customers to leave with a good feeling that are doing business with Brooke Video.

Post-script 3

Southern California’s Sandy Brooke had developed a training program where new videographers gradually learn her production techniques.

Phase 1: Trainees attend a wedding on their own time, wearing a battery belt for the duration, to see “if this is the work for you.” They read training materials Brooke has written, view training tape and view a finished wedding video. They get familiar with equipment. Payment is minimum wage.

Phase 2: Shoot “perfect interviews” to demonstrate framing, lighting and continuity. Shoot second camera smoothly. Payment: $7.00 per hour.

Phase 3: Handheld shooting, demonstrate concept of “cut and move,” tell a story with pans, zooms, transitions, etc. Payment: $10.00 per hour.

Phase 4: Shoot a reception by themselves. Demonstrate that you follow her formula.
Payment: $15.00 per hour

Phase 5: “You’re a shooter now!!” Shoot a ceremony and reception. Aim for perfection in videography and with people skills with the wedding party and guests. Payment: $25.00 per hour.

Phase 6: Brilliance. Payment: $40.00 per hour.


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