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Old September 8th, 2004, 08:21 AM   #1
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Volunteers vs employment.

Hi everyone,

I was just wondering if it's better to employ people or seek volunteers?

I know it seems like a simple question, but, it seems a little too easy to do and I wonder if there's laws regulating when and how to use volunteers and when to hire. I am eventually going commercial with my media company, but I am running low budgets on projects that give no returns (for now).

When would it be a good situation to find volunteers or to hire people? (other than experienced help vs. little experienced help)

Also, when you recruit volunteers, how high of a bar do you use for criteria to take people on? I usually use the bare minimum and aim it towards a learning experience rather than just ordering people around.

Anyway, looking forward to any opinions or experiences. Thanks.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 12:11 PM   #2
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Hello Kaleem,
You were not very precise in stating the context of your question. Your remarks suggest that you want to build a small video business but that you've not yet made the jump from avocational to vocational status.

Until you have confidence that your business will be a going concern that produces a revenue stream it makes no sense to hire employees. Here in the U.S. employment of people brings with it taxation and reporting obligations. I suspect the same is true in Canada.

If you have projects that compensate you why not pay people on a project-by-project basis? You can gradually line up a regular crew that you might eventually want to hire if you ever establish a true business. Volunteers might be fine for 1-off efforts but they may not feel the obligation to fulfill their responsibilities if something else (paying or more fun) comes along.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 12:39 PM   #3
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That's what I figured.

That's excactly what I've been doing up to now. Basically pubically offering a chance for experience (as a volunteer) or hire people whenever needed. I'm under the sole proprietorship class, so my business income would be tacked on to my person income. (that is, if I had any income)

Another thing I'm always concerned about is safety. I doubt I'll ever have a situation when something will sponaneously explode in front of our faces since I haven't ventured out in doing stunts or operating equipment that takes a lot of power.

But... just for food of thought, what sort of liabilities do I face whenever I recuit volunteers or hire people and how would I keep myself out of harms way or at least minimize the risk?

The venue at one of my non-profit projects actually had a power failure during a bad storm and if something bad happened, well, needless to say I didn't have insurance to cover any incidents if it involved any of my volunteers.

Thanks.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 01:02 PM   #4
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Volunteering can pay big dividends!

I volunteered with my department for six years between movies, TV shows and commercials. It was very rewarding for everyone involved. I had never touched a video camera, I worked strictly film and they had never had "real world" experienced shooter. Win-Win!

Today, I run the unit. The unit consists of eight people and operates over one million dollars in broadcast grade equipment. Although I never even thought about coming on full time while volunteering, things just worked out that way.

I hired my partner away from a local TV station where he was shooting sports and doing features. I met him when he volunteered with us and duly impressed us with his work.

The tough part of using volunteers is the level of experience that comes along with the person. We can always use the extra help but do not have the time to train someone who has absolutely no experience. If that person, on the other hand, has no problem tagging along to help on shoots and learn in the process, they are always welcome.

Volunteering also helps someone who is starting out to begin building a resume.

The liability part is something you may want to consider. You don't have to be blowing things up to get someone hurt. Just being in your studio exposes you to liability in case of an accident.

You could do what we do...have them fill out a "Hold Harmless" agreement, although they are not worth the paper they are printed on if something really serious happens.

Good luck,

RB
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Old September 8th, 2004, 01:42 PM   #5
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You need to consult a Canadian attorney on matters concerning your exposure to liability suits. I am not an attorney and can't offer any guidance.

As a lay-person, however, I can say with complete confidence that insurance companies don't sustain their obscenely generous profit margins by paying silly claims. If property is damaged or someone is hurt and significant claims are filed you can bet that the insurers will be looking at how they can get their money back. Whether or not they can find pockets deep enough to make a civil suit worthwhile will likely determine whether or not they press the matter. But they have endless armies of little clerks and in-house counsels they can launch against such investigations...for years.

So I recommend that you do your homework (not on Internet boards like this) and be careful in your endeavors. I would pass the same recommendation along to anyone considering volunteering for a project. As Rick noted, that can be a great way to leverage into a good career. But, in Rick's case the Miami Police Department was his sponsoring organization and the City of Miami likely absorbed any liability considerations. In your case -you- would be the sponsor.

Good luck.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 03:35 PM   #6
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Mike Rehmus, one of our moderators, has a great series of posts about having your crew members register with a temp agency and hiring temps through the agency. He avoids workmen's comp issue and other liability issues.
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Old September 8th, 2004, 04:17 PM   #7
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Sounds like an idea though again, I would I guess it's costly (having to pay a temp agency). Can you post a link for me?
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