Success is a wonderful thing. It means you can continue to do what you want to do (make videos) while
profiting by your labor. But when you get to the point where you’re always working nights and weekends
just to keep up, and you’re making enough profit to justify the move, it may be time for you to get some
When is the correct moment to hire? A rule of thumb that has worked for this writer is: when you can no
longer avoid it. If you can hire a freelancer now and then to work for a day, do so. If you can get a
temporary clerical worker to get you past a particularly busy time, do so.
Don’t hire a full-time worker for anything less than full-time work. This obviously means that a full-
time employee has to generate enough profit to cover his or her paycheck. But consider that an employee
also causes you to spend extra time with paperwork like IRS forms and Social Security payments. Dealing
with these headaches takes time. Time is money. Your money.
You have to show an employee what to do, like how to use your internal systems (job numbers, tape
labeling etiquette, etc.). It is unlikely that you simply will bring a person in and turn him loose. He or she
will follow you around for quite a while getting a feel for your business. Training takes time (which
equates to your money).
Do you have a particular way that you have set up your tape library? Probably. Have you written down
how this system works so that your new employee can refer to it? Probably not. Unless you put this
procedure in writing, you can expect a little friction while the new employee learns your way of
Finding prospective employees takes time. Interviewing prospective employees takes time. Deciding which
prospective employee to hire takes time. Employees are expensive and troublesome. But good employees
are worth it. There is no question about this. Good employees make you money. Bad employees, on the
other hand, can bleed you white with surprising efficiency. So remember: hire slow, fire fast.
Find the person who seems best for the job. Check references and background, and don’t be afraid to
interview this person more than once. If your gut and brain agree that the person is right, hire him or her.
But afterwards, if he can’t do the job, let the axe fall quickly and as painlessly as possible. That’s business.
Like it or not, if you create video for money, you are in business. It ain’t always pretty.
The Book of Job
The first step in hiring an employee is to clarify in your own mind what this person is going to do. You
may be looking for someone with a good working knowledge of video production. You also may want her
to make sales calls for new clients and perhaps take out the trash once in a while (hey, the boss has to do
But what if you hire someone without discussing his job duties? Maybe you hadn’t given the matter
much thought. If you now inform him that he will need to make sales calls, your new hire might say,
“Sorry, boss. No can do. I have a bad case of athlete’s ear.” You can avoid this type of misunderstanding
by creating a job description for the position you want to fill. The job description for your new video
assistant might look like this:
Job title: Video assistant
Summary: Responsible for loading and unloading the production van to make sure that all
necessary equipment and supplies (raw tape, etc.) are in the van. Responsible during shoots to run audio,
assist with lighting, etc. The assistant will contact potential customers and learn these customers’ possible
needs for video production. When the trash cans are full, the assistant will empty them.
Job Specifications: Education: High school graduate. College or technical school a plus.
Experience: Video production, in school or professional.
Skills: Camera operation, lighting, audio production, editing, sales.
Now you know what your new employee will be doing. Should you put the job description on your
front door along with a “help wanted” sign? Sure, go ahead. The chances that the person you want will
walk in off the street are (let’s check the calculator) about nil, but you never know.
Employment agencies come in two flavors: those that charge you or your employee a fee, and those that do
not. The agency will recruit and screen applicants and send you the ones who might have the skills you
If you’re the gregarious type, and want to talk to a whole bunch of people who may or may not know
anything about video, then put a help wanted ad in your local newspaper. You will become very
Placement centers at colleges and high schools can sometimes hook you up with an enthusiastic student
or graduate. These people often lack experience but have potential.
Do you belong to any groups or clubs, such as the International Television Association (ITVA)? When
you attend the next meeting, ask your fellow video dudes and dudettes if they have any recommendations.
Perhaps a freelancer in the group is ready for a steady paycheck.
When prospective employees come to call, you want to get some paperwork started. Ask for a resume
and have the person fill out an application form, but be careful: focus on the person’s ability to do the
work. Federal law prohibits discriminating against someone on the basis of race, sex, religion, color or
national origin. You also can’t refuse to hire someone because of his or her age or physical handicap.
All this applies to the interviewing process as well. Keep the questions in the area of video production,
which is the only real consideration anyway. During an interview, you talk, the applicant talks and a third
party also speaks. This third party is your gut.
Listen to your gut. As the interview proceeds, your gut may say, “This guy only cares about money. He
doesn’t have any real interest in video.” Your gut may base this on non-verbal clues that you might not
even be able to articulate. Your gut is smart; your gut also is sometimes wrong.
To Tell the Truth
Even if you think you have found the perfect specimen and your gut is smiling and patting you on the back
(or maybe it’s the flu), don’t stop investigating. Before you offer the job, call the people listed as references
on the resume. Even better, ask for the name and phone number of the applicant’s former boss.
Make sure that the applicant really did the things that are listed on a resume. Call the college and make
sure he or she really graduated. If there are inaccuracies, it may be a simple mistake. But as difficult as it is
for honest people to believe, there are people out there who do not tell the truth. If a person lies on
a resume, how trustworthy will he or she be when working for you?
It takes some effort to call former employers and references, but it will pay you back in the long run.
Hiring an employee is expensive. If you have to let your first choice go and find someone else to fill that
position, the process can be very expensive.
The Match Game
My hope is that you find your perfect employee on the first try. This will make your life easier and your
business more profitable. But if you don’t find this person, and the person you hire is not doing the job–is
being rude to your clients, is showing up late and leaving early–then you know what you have to do. Fire
Document your complaints and keep a file. File as much information about the reasons for termination
as possible and, when you do let the person go, use this information to conduct an exit interview. Make
sure you have just cause, and make sure the person understands the reasons he is being fired.
Are you ready to be a boss? Bringing in help doesn’t mean that you will be less busy; it means that the
type of work you do will change. Supervision is not easy, especially if you aren’t used to giving orders. Do
you really need a full-time employee? Are you willing to do the associated paperwork? Will an extra set of
hands bring in more money?
Again, the rule of thumb is: when you are sure that another person on the payroll will mean better
service to your clients and more money in your pocket, it’s time to hire. And get ready for a whole new
way of being in business.