Freelance/Contract Work

Discussion in 'Professional Fireworks' started by B19_TLG, Nov 11, 2018.

  1. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    sorry if this has been asked before.

    I’m wondering if anyone here either as a company owner or as a firer has considered freelance Firers.

    To date I’ve fired on a companies payroll but there is an expectation to fire solely for them.

    Has anyone ever set themselves up as a firer for hire? Whereby you say how much you want for the work and you either help crew shows with in house Firers or potentially work on behalf of those companies for that show?

    And in that instance what is the going day rate these days. I’ve only ever worked for 2 companies and that’s only because one bought the other. Admittedly a massive company but I am somewhat blinkered by the whole firing employment piece and feel I’d be better offering firing services (come with my own PPE and equipment including - hopefully - a cobra firing system etc). With the experience my crew and I have, I’d imagine we could help out companies who perhaps have shortages or issues. But how much would one charge for their day rate? Bearing in mind firing fireworks is the priorit as opposed to the financials.

    Any input on this would be gratefully received.

  2. Jon

    Jon Pro Firer/Crew

    Interesting question.

    First thing is that you would need your own liability insurance if you are contracted in, not really a deal breaker.

    You may have to juggle a bit as each company would expect you to be loyal to them only which is why this can be an issue. It's a bit of an unwritten law in firework etiquette.

    I suppose it really depends if you can find companies that would allow it. Sometimes companies feel they want to know you well so that's why they like you to do a season with them.

    Pay rate is very difficult and I have had a large range over the years, often depends if you are the senior/display manager on site or just the labourer. For one day buyout probably between £150-300 depending on show size and management level. I also used to receive a show bonus if I fired x number of displays for that company which increased per show.
    B19_TLG likes this.
  3. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    Nice comprehensive answer. So once the taxman takes his cut, my one day show pay is probably around £40–50 per show. That’s with a company firing 50 or so shows during bonfire season.

    I was aiming to go down the £100 per show route own PPE provided. But offer any potential display companies a chance to see how I work either for free or cut price if they then book us.

    Using an online diary availability is always up to date.

    The challenge I think is the loyalty piece and not knowing me as a firer. I do come with several Firers all of 10+ years experience and with current or previous BPA cert.

    It wouldn’t be a business as such. Just a service offered that if I’m not firing with my primary company, any gaps in the diary could be utilised by others seeking help during silly season.

    I suppose I’d have to view it as an advert for help and not invest anything into it and treat it as a “person for hire” on a first come first served basis.

    There’s a few companies local to me who are limited on the number of displays they can accommodate due to lack of credible Firers. Maybe a duo of BPA Firers with own kit for £200-£300 would be worth it to book a £1500+ display.

    I’ll see what comes of local discussions as I think the way you approach this sort of thing is more important than the concept itself.

    We shall see.

    Nothing ventured nothing gained and all that.

    Jon likes this.
  4. Dodgey

    Dodgey Pro Firer/Crew

    I know plenty of firers who work for many companies. They tend to have loyalty to one company for November, and that makes sense, but any other time, as long as they are free, they get paid £100 and invoice me. A bit more for managing a team.

    The difference between regulars I use exclusively and "freelancers" is that freelancers generally turn up with their own tools, heat torch, gloves etc. No need for PPE - all e-fired.

    £50 a show after tax is pretty low.
  5. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    So this is my thinking. Offer exclusivity to the company who have got me where I am in this regard for November. Rest of the year first come first served. Again all own kit etc.

    I think as long as it’s not designed to be a get rich full time job (which lets be honest is most unlikely in this industry anyway) then it could work well.

    Just need to make sure we’re a marketable bunch.
  6. AtomFireworks

    AtomFireworks Pro Firer/Crew

    The insurance costs vs profit will be your biggest issue, for what you are looking to do you would need a 5 million policy, I would imagine thats going to be over 1k at least.

    As a company owner I would not let you on my sites alone without knowing you very well, you would have to have read in detail our policies and been through our training manual then signed off.

    A peice of paper is a peice of paper regaurdless if it has " BPA" on it or not, actual experience and proof by demonstation is far more important to me.

    Not putting a downer on your ambitions, just putting across my view from " this side of the fence"

    Pyro Ed and Georgeh like this.
  7. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    I suspect this is the sensible and frankly expected response I would get from many. And actually I completely understand it. I’d be precisely the same if I were a display company. Trust and experience is worth far more than any exam. Especially an exam you can realistically finish in 10 minutes with near full marks. It’s not a true acid test of competence.

    As someone who values safety id also rather fire with people I have worked with and trust as well. So on both sides there is that trepidation and nervousness about who you’re working with. Perhaps overcome with a sensible approach to building trust and relationships in the industry but naturally saying you can fire fireworks is different to having fired them. And the only people who can really vouch for me and my ten year history is those I’ve fired with previously. So it’s definitely a tricky one. And I fully appreciate candid and sensible takes on this. Predominantly from company bosses actually as it’s a true idea of how viable the approach would be.
  8. AtomFireworks

    AtomFireworks Pro Firer/Crew

    It really does boil down to trust, and you only gain that by working with people. That has to begin somewhere so although it may not hit the road running you could build up relationships over time and then it will start to pay off.

    The idea of being able to draft in experienced and trusted crews is inviting to me as I am always struggling for crew around the silly season. Not only that but when running at maximum capacity if a member of staff has no option but to let us down it would be really good to be able to draft in help ( kind of like agency dtaff in most other industries).

    The bottom line I think is that you could make it work if you really wanted it to over a period of time.

    B19_TLG likes this.
  9. Arthur

    Arthur Pro Firer/Crew

    The deal breaker is the insurance. A minimum premium would be £1000 pa. You'd need a lot of shows well paid to cover that. As a casual employee, you are covered by your employer's insurance.
  10. Bucksend

    Bucksend Supports UKFR

    It sounds like you need an 'agency' of firers, very much like temp employees.

    You could then keep track of which firers have fired with and been 'signed off' by which companies and send the right firers to the right job. That or go it alone - then you can build a relationship with different companies and grow your potential customer base slowly over time.

    Coming with PPE is an obvious advantage ass long as it complies with the companies policy/insurance.

    Coming with a firing system and full team sounds complicated, who designs the show? Who rights the script? etc.
  11. Bucksend

    Bucksend Supports UKFR

    Doesn't sound like a deal breaker to me, one show a month(average of course) could cover that, and OP isn't setting out to make big bucks, just a little side earner. Just needs to be accounted for
  12. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    This may sound utterly ridiculous. But I’m almost inclined to cover such insurance fees and not be too worried about making it back. I think the enjoyment of a wider variety of shows and audiences. Different take on show designs etc. That would all be pretty exciting so I think it’s a cost that could be mitigated by non financial benefits too.

    It may also mean that by having the insurance appropriately set up, we could create and fire our own cat3 displays under our own brand. Having seen some of the displays done using cat 3 arguably some are better than cat 4 I’ve been part of. Done right it could be a slow burner that gradually gets better and bigger.

    I certainly do not consider this to be an excuse to leave a good 9-5 job. In fact more of a “just for fun” and “because life’s too short” kind of thing.

    I could just carry on firing for the display company I’m with and do my quota of shows per year that I already do. But it’s rinse and repeat all the time. I see other displays and think “why didn’t we do it that way”. So for me it’s Much more about being balls deep in fireworks and entertaining crowds than it is possibly making a small amount of money extra.

    I like the suggestion of having it run almost like an agency. Pair Firers with companies they already have built a trust with.

    My first “product/service” will be an offer to have myself and any of the Firers come to a show you’ve got full quota of crew for. Take a look around. Meet the team. Observe rigging techniques used. Etc. For a cut price/free price to help build trust. It’s also helpful for us as Firers. We may not want to fire for everyone. For every company that seems to do things well. There are probably some that don’t. So it’s also a chance for us to rule out working for certain companies too.

    The idea being that we partner with a handful of really well considered companies rather than anyone who wants us. That way the trust model is the priority.

    Loving the collective inputs here. Really helpful.
    Bucksend likes this.
  13. Bucksend

    Bucksend Supports UKFR

    Sounds like you could be onto something, particularly with the attitude...
    I am getting excited for you haha!

    Do it! Write a full list of initial costs so you know what you're getting into and a list of 'products' such as 'Initial Show Visit', '1 Firer', '2 Firers' etc. and their prices and see what you would have to do to break even.

    Good Luck!
    B19_TLG likes this.
  14. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    Thankfully I’ve had experience with running businesses (well helping run business really) and I can knock up websites. Not bad at marketing/imaging. Plenty of contacts for stationery and attire. So lots of the finicky business tasks are pretty much sorted. And because I genuinely love fireworks to the point I can rattle off compositions, fusing techniques and so on. Like so many of us can. It’s just easy to get excited about. I’ve always wanted a business of my own but never been that excited about opportunities in the past. But fireworks is the one thing I never move away from. Other hobbies come and go but I could sit in a shed fusing fireworks or making lancework or even tidying up the yard all day. Just to be close to it.

    Plus I’m lucky to have a work from home 9-5 so I have a bit of freedom to work on it as a project whilst doing my normal job. Ssssh don’t tell my boss lol.
    Bucksend likes this.
  15. Jon

    Jon Pro Firer/Crew

    Be very careful with the idea of profiting from supplying cat3 displays, this has been discussed many times on here and the problem is always that you are paying a premium for cat3 over cat4. You could pay £30 for one rocket or £3 for one 2.5" shell for example.
  16. Pyro Ed

    Pyro Ed Pro Firer/Crew

    Where are you Tom?
  17. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    South west. Predominantly in Gloucestershire but often in and around Bristol.
  18. Oblivion FX

    Oblivion FX Pro Firer/Crew

    I have been in the same boat as yourself . I stared by doing my own cat 3 displays. Chosen well. It's very easy to put on a good display. I.e Celtic now do the strobes .... You can get cat 3 slices. And some of Celtics cakes are very well priced and unbelievable quality. You need to speak to a retailer get in close with them. Only buy stock from them... And then may you get your cat 3 at a good price . Enough to make a profit. Unless you have buckets of money.... It's the only way to start off.
    Bucksend and B19_TLG like this.
  19. luke

    luke Pro Firer/Crew

    One downside I can see is your non availability during silly season.

    I’ve touted my wares around the country for a few years now.
    I work on a first come first served basis and stick to it, even if that meant a small wedding gig rather than a multi day booking, this happened a couple years back I agreed to crew a wedding then a little while later was offered three days of work which I turned down due to having the wedding.
    paul s and B19_TLG like this.
  20. B19_TLG

    B19_TLG Pro Firer/Crew Supports UKFR

    Yeah and having pyro envy is nasty too. Having to not do a fairly big show in favour of a previously booked smaller show is something many of us may have done and that little green monster comes in hard sometimes.

    But I guess that’s part of it. My biggest challenge right now is the website lol.