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Freelance Lighting Programmer Paperwork

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by Dkick, Sep 4, 2016.

  1. Dkick

    Dkick Member

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    Occupation:
    Lighting Apprentice At VER
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    So what do freelance lighting programmers need to have as far as paperwork?

    Do they have their own personal W-9 form, Liability form, banking info?

    What paperwork do you need to have to become a freelancer?

    Thanks.
     
  2. TuckerD

    TuckerD Active Member

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    Occupation:
    Student, Intern
    Location:
    Billings, MT
    I don't have any particular advice about what is required to be a freelance lighting designer, but I have looked pretty extensively into being a freelance software developer and I'm about 90% sure that tax wise and legally they are the same. How to attract clients and run a business? That's the different part that I can't help with.

    The term "freelancer" probably means "self-employed" and your legal requirements are pretty simple, as far as I can tell. I am not a lawyer and you should consider finding one to help you if you are going to make your entire living this way. You definitely don't want to end up in trouble because you miss-filed paper work or followed an internet strangers advice.

    As a self-employed person you still have to pay income taxes AND self-employment tax AND follow any state regulations and taxes on self employment. The IRS website is actually pretty helpful in figuring out what that means. https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/self-employed-individuals-tax-center

    I could sum up what I think that page says, but since you definitely don't want to follow my legal / tax advice you should probably just read it yourself.

    Then you will need to file paperwork in your state of employment. I live in MT so I will describe what I would be required to do if I wanted to start my own business and pay my own taxes. Because there is no professional liscensure requirement as a software developer (like there is for lawyers, electricians, contractors, gunsmiths, etc...) it's actually as easy as following the federal requirements here.

    When I was actually looking at doing that I did talk to a real business person / tax professional and they were going to help me do some other things like file articles of organisation to form an LLC (which means that I would pay my taxes slightly differently and not be personally liable for damages caused by software I wrote). In MT it costs $140 to file articles of organisation for an LLC. I don't know what it would cost in your state and like I've said:

    You should really consult a tax professional or CPA who is familiar with the laws in your area, you definitely don't want to screw this up. It could cost you a lot of money if you don't pay taxes correctly or are found at fault for damages caused by your work.

    You should talk to a tax professional or CPA or lawyer or some otherwise businessy educated person who is familiar with the laws in your area.

    The good news is that there are probably lots of small business owners in your area and almost all cities and towns have organisations set up to help people who want to start a business. There are lots of resources available that will offer your more specific and legally sound advice about how to become self employed. There is even a branch of the government who's job it is to help you do that. It's called the small business administration: https://www.sba.gov/

    Good luck, you should definitely talk to a real business professional. I don't think I could repeat that enough. But it's not scary, once I started looking into it for my own business I realized it's actually pretty simple.
     
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  3. ScottT

    ScottT Eos Programmer

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    Honestly it depends. Forming an LLC is a good way to go if you're classified as an IC - though if you are, you're probably being misclassified.

    For my IA work I typically work under a pink contract, sometimes non IA theatres want me on as an employee. Same deal as working any other job: I9, W4, and any other appropriate paperwork.
     
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  4. TuckerD

    TuckerD Active Member

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    Occupation:
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    Location:
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    @ScottT makes a really great point. My advice is only good if you know you are actually an independent contractor and not just being taken advantage of. @Dkick, why do you want to be an IC?

    Also, ScottT I'd love to hear more about your work and the mechanics of your contracts.
     
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  5. Dkick

    Dkick Member

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    Occupation:
    Lighting Apprentice At VER
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    I'm wanting to program for Concert Tours & Music Festivals, etc. And I know a lot of those are people are often IC 's, so I'm just looking into what I need for that.

    BTW thanks for your reply! That really helped me out.
     
  6. DuckJordan

    DuckJordan Well-Known Member

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    Doesnt matter
    Not as much as you'd think many of the work for a larger company and are sent out to shows.

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk
     
  7. chawalang

    chawalang Active Member

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    Occupation:
    Entertainment Design and Management
    Location:
    Texas
    Try 1 of 2 things.

    1. Try to get picked up as an over hire with an I.A.T.S.E local and prove to them that you can program and LD some stuff, hopefully they have a relationship with PSAV and Freeman. You can start going as far as corporate trade show work, it is really good money, I have done it a long time. You also need to ask them what consoles are in demand, you may be in a market where they need you to know a Grand MA, Hog or Eos. If the market just needs all Hog programers because that is the gear the companies have Eos knowledge will not do you much.

    2. Try to start working in some shops shlepping cable, I know most rock and roll people get going working in a shop then work their way up. The rock industry is very very word of mouth and who you know, more so than theatre. a lot of these people are hired out of the shops that provide the support for the tour. I knew a guy who toured with Weird al and The postal Service for a few years because the shop that supported the tours was the one he worked for, so he went out as a lighting director for them.

    Before you even think about filling as an LLC you need to ask yourself do you have the clientele to justify it? Getting to that point just doesn't happen over night, it takes years of work and trust building between you and clients. You should be in a place where you are not looking for gigs, the gigs come to you. A good portion of it is your hard skill set but really most of it is your business knowledge. If someone knows you are ignorant of something they will exploit that time and time again. I have worked with Joe Cabrera and Patrick Dearson on gigs and they are two people who are pretty much programmers for a lot of big rock shows and big events. They also have over 15 years of client relationships, the work comes to them.

    As far as filling as an IC this has proven to be very tricky and potentially illegal.

    http://www.iatse-intl.org/sites/default/files/bulletin650.pdf

    Look on page 44-45 it is a good article on Independent Contractors, it simplifies a lot of the language used by the IRS.

    I am not saying to not go IC but there are things you need to know and think about when going that route.
     
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  8. cbrandt

    cbrandt Active Member

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    The big things working as an IC is to get all the above proper paperwork filled out, and to GET INSURANCE. When my freelancers work for me, they are full employees, and so are under my insurance. When I hire an IC sort, they are not covered by my insurance, and all the appropriate payroll and tax things are not handled by my accounting department. As an employer, it is great. Less complicated, and when you charge me a day rate, that's all I have to pay. However, it means there are a *lot* of costs that you have to consider and cover personally. I agree that you should try and work for a while, and build up a client base before you take the big jump. Unless you've already got work lined up that will pay all your bills, work 'for the man' for a while, and try and pick the brain of the guys around you that have been doing this for longer.
     
  9. Evans Poulos

    Evans Poulos Member

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    Occupation:
    TD Skokie Park District
    Location:
    Chicago area
    No one works in my space without either being an employee on my payroll or submitting proof of liablilty insurance.
     
  10. len

    len Well-Known Member

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    You can get a w-9 online, and make a pdf. All the documents that my clients normally want are ready to go in a folder, sharable through my phone, if need be. Carrying liability probably depends on the types of work you do. Getting a corporate identity is a question for your lawyer and accountant.
     

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