Why is a free-lance artist like a locum tenens doctor?

The worst ones will lie and they’ll steal

I said to my bro at a meal

    But the great ones are pros    

   And bargain well I suppose

And everyone wins in the deal.

In the east for my wife’s family gathering, I called in New York on one my brothers and one of my sisters.

There are seven of us, we span 35 years and both coasts.  We are all intelligent and dyslexic with way  off-the-beaten-track senses of humor.  The other six (not me) possess great artistic talent.

You’ve seen my brother’s artwork in It’s a Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, and Cars.  Currently he’s doing story boarding and working on his MFA in painting.

I talked to my brother about dealing with the locum tenens agencies (there are more than eighty; I’ve personally talked with about twenty-five), observing that the three parameters of professionalism, honesty, and flakiness shake out to a bell-shaped distribution.

“Listen,” he said, “Take it from me, and remember I’ve been free-lancing for decades, don’t deal with agencies, go directly to the employer.”

My brother should know; he sent out mailings of his portfolio on a regular basis for quite a while, and has first hand experience dealing with a dishonest agent.

I said, “I tried.  I called and mailed twenty health-care sites in central Nebraska and didn’t get a single call back.”

“Oh…Well they probably just want to deal with agencies,” he said.  “Then what you need to do is just deal with the best agencies.”

“That’s a great idea.” I said, “As part of this experience I wanted to deal with some good recruiters and some bad.  But if I was going to be doing this for very long I already know which agencies, there are two of them, that I’d go with.  The rest aren’t worth it.”

“How do you mean?”

“I’ve said yes to fifteen jobs so far and three have come through.  Sometimes it was poor communication, but I expect good communication from a recruiter, after all, that’s they do.  Sometimes they just out-and-out barefaced lied when they tried to do a bait-and-switch.”

He shuddered.

“And there’s this one recruiter,” I went on, “over the phone she sounds breathless and blond but she is a pro, an absolute professional.”  One of his eyebrows went up.  “Right after I agreed to a placement she had me specify six parameters for reimbursement…”  Both eyebrows went up.  “She wanted to know,” I explained, “How much I wanted for straight time, overtime, carrying a beeper, getting called, getting called in, and holidays.  Well, I had never thought of those things because no recruiter had ever asked me.”

“No?” my brother asked.

“Not one.  And I suspect that she’s a top-notch negotiator because she can get people to underestimate her.  She just got me a better deal than I asked for, and I’m pretty sure the folks she talked with would work with her again.  And that’s the mark of a good agent, getting the best deal for both parties.”


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