Freelancer Hold System

Posted on July 14, 2015

I’ve worked in the Los Angeles media business since 2004, with several years as a vfx producer and motion graphics producer and one thing that seems to still confound newcomers as well as people outside our business is the Freelancer Hold System.

There are two sides to the interaction – a Company and a Freelancer. The Company usually contacts a Freelancer to check on “availability” which just means they want to know if the Freelancer has been “booked” anywhere or is “on hold” or is “available”.

Being “booked” is pretty obvious, it means that a Company has agreed to pay for the Freelancer to work for a certain portion of time, usually a day. At this point, as long as the Freelancer is willing to work that day, he will be paid. Let’s say the project that he was booked for dies or goes away. The Freelancer still gets paid, unless he agrees to a “kill fee” which is just an amount of money that the Company will pay him in exchange for not having to pay the full cost of the booking. For example, let’s say a Company books a Freelancer for a week at $1000 a day for a project. The Friday before the project is to begin, the Company’s client calls and says the project has been canceled. The Freelancer is still entitled to that $1000 a day booking as long as he comes in ready to work. However, the Company might ask the Freelancer if he’ll be willing to take a “kill fee” of $2000 for not working. If the Freelancer has another Company looking to book him for that week, or would like to take the week off and still make some money, he might be better off than if he forced the booking. Usually, one has to think about the relationship as well.

Being “on hold” is a little less obvious. If a Company thinks they might have a need for a Freelancer, but doesn’t feel like they can commit at the present time, they can ask the Freelancer to be “on hold”, which just means that the Freelancer agrees to be available to that Company on those dates. The first Company that asks for a hold gets a “1st hold”, the second Company gets a “2nd hold” and so on. A Company with a “1st hold” has higher priority than a Company with a “2nd hold”. So if a Company with a “2nd hold” wants to book a Freelancer, they must “challenge” the 1st hold, which means that the Freelancer contacts the Company with the 1st hold and asks them to either book for the dates or “release” the hold so that the Freelancer can be booked by the Company with the second hold.

What if a Freelancer has a 1st hold for the first week of August with one Company and a second Company comes forward and wants to challenge for the entire month of August. This is a grey area. Some people operate such that the Company with the 1st hold gets priority the first week and could book just that one week, while others operate such that the 1st Company would need to book the entire month of August, and if they do, they would get 1st priority. I’m in the latter camp on this. One way around this is that a lot of Freelancers claim to already have a first hold whenever a Company asks for a hold, so they can always “book” themselves to keep the relationship intact if it is advantageous to do so.