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Discussion Starter #1
I was recently asked by a board member from a local organization if I would be willing to put together and operate a haunted house for them. My first reaction was to holler "Hell Yeah". But then I actually thought about all that's involved with a haunt... And that is where the anxiety kicks in!
For the last three years I've done a home haunt for friends and family. I've built on it each year. So I've amassed a pretty good arsenal of props. This last year I had a total of 5 rooms and an open cemetery, with 9 scare-actors. I spent nearly every day working on new props from June to October 31st. It was without a doubt my best year yet. In saying all that, I haven't touched a prop since the day I put them away last halloween. I had decided that I wouldn't be doing our annual party/haunt this year. Money constraints, such as they are, just was not going to make it fees-able this year. So I go from months of knowing I wouldn't be haunting this year to being propositioned for a dream job. It feels like maybe it's meant to be. But seriously?! Only 3 months to prep? Their board meets on Monday and they've asked me to come and discuss the haunts possibility. One of the questions they've posed to me is what would I charge them to do this.. Well my first instinct is to say "nothing, this is awesome!" But the practical part of my brain jumps in and tells me, I do in fact have a family to tend to and my time is valuable. The board has also proposed "renting" my existing props to use as well.

So my question to y'all. What would you charge to put together a haunt? A percentage of profits. Or a flat rate?

I know one thing we're going to discuss is their budget.. I can't fork out money for any building supplies needed and wait to be reimbursed after it's over. It's just not an option for me at this time.
They are supplying the building. And they'll take care of all advertising. We live in a small town. The city's population is about 3,000 and county wide about 30,000. Not to mention surrounding cities and counties. We have to drive an hour to get to any form of haunt in our vicinity during the season. So I think it'll be a good draw.
My other concern, is what if I put so much time and effort(blood, sweat, and tears) into this and make it extraordinary and next year they decide to take "my" hard work and run along without me? I know that may sound crazy, but if I'm the one to bring this thing off the ground, then I don't want to get pushed out.
Please y'all. I need advice! Has any one here been propositioned for the same?
 

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I've been down this road.

I now occasionally work as a consultant, but no longer offer to operate a haunt. It just wasn't fun for me to deal with the money side and employee issues. I'm sure Gym is going to come in here, and he's done it 'right' in that he lives in his, and operates year round, and has limited employees, but these situations as you describe have headaches attached all over the place. If you can live with them, it can be rewarding.

First things first. In general, Haunted Houses are NOT a get rich quick scenario. First year, your goal should be to break even. Sad truth of the matter. This gets the word out for the following year, when you've already got a lot of the bases covered, you're not needing to consturct from the ground up in year 2. Point two: First year, especially, undercut the competition. 200 people at $5 dollars a piece is better than 100 people at $10. Sure, it's $1000 either way, but twice as many might tell a friend in one scenario...I try to make this point every time I consult, those that listen have a markedly better success rate.

There are two HUGE differences between home haunting and professional haunting.

1: Insurance.
2: Inspections.

You're going to need to get the building inspected and passed for safety and fire. This often means wheelchair width access on all paths, emergency exit plans and doors, fire retardent on all props, sprinklers situated properly, and your maze not obstructing those. If you have pneumatic props, your typical garage compressor might come under scrutiny, tripping hazards need to be non-existent, extension chords come under scrutiny, adequate parking and permits need to be secured, and that's just top of my head. Yeah, you can pull plans to build insert big prop here off the monster list or something, but they are typically not rated for commercial use, and the inspectors often scoff at such things. Do it right the first time. Fog machines and fire systems often don't like each other much. Just sayin.

GET WITH THE INSPECTOR ASAP, run the floor plan by him BEFORE construction, get him involved at each stage. Easier than having to modify things later. Speaking of, do these guys expect you to modify the existing building? Or are they envisioning something they put up in October and tear down the rest of the year?

On the insurance front: Event insurance for patrons, liability possibly needed for the parking, employee insurance for your actors.


RENTING ITEMS:

I've been there, done that too. My advice is do not rent anything you are not willing to lose. I've got about a 50-50 record of it returning or not. I had a much better success renting a more or less plug and play entire display than individual props.


What to charge? Ask for their business plan.

Seriously. What's their budget, how many do they project, are they committed to more years, how many employees do they envision, how much reconstruction is going to be involved. There are SO MANY questions outstanding, it's impossible to guage how big this job is right now.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you for your reply UnOrthodox. I agree 100% with you take on admissions. I myself would prefer a cheaper admissions to draw more of a crowd. It's not about the money to me. Yes, I feel I should be compensated for my time, but my main goal is to entertain the crowd.
The building that the organization is planning to use is our local recreation center owned by the city. They use it only for little league basketball.<~~ which is another question I need to pose to the board. Little league basketball is during October here locally. I wonder if they're planning for me to get in there and out within just a few weeks. That is NOT possible, as all of y'all know.
I like your idea of just being a consultant, I think it'd be a lot less hassle. *sigh* I fear I'm talking myself out of doing it. I love creating and designing all things halloween. I don't want to be overwhelmed while I do it though.
I hadn't even thought about possible theft or even really damage to my props in the hands of others. I guess that's just the mind of a home haunter who's had extremely good patrons in my haunt.
Thank you so much for your info. It does give me good for thought for sure. I've started a list of questions to ask the board. Especially whether they'd require me to supply the insurance and for me to have the inspections done.
 
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