How to Become a Rigger

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 19,000 riggers work in the US. Most work for general contractors, but some riggers also work in the theater and film industries and earn considerable income. Are you trying to answer exactly how do I become a rigger? Keep reading to discover necessary steps like getting the proper training and acquiring suitable rigger insurance.

How to Become a Rigger

Do you want to learn how to become a rigger? Follow these steps to get started with your career:


Become an Apprentice

How do you become a rigger? One step to becoming a rigger is to be employed as a rigging apprentice. As a rigging apprentice, you will work alongside experienced and certified riggers to learn essential skills like hand signals to communicate with other workers. You also need to learn other rigging basics, like the function of different construction equipment and the proper way to rig them. This experience will prepare you for your business and help you get certified.


Get Your License

Getting a rigger license is not legally required to provide rigging services. However, many companies will only do rigging work with certified riggers. You must become certified to ensure you meet the qualifications for the clients you want to work for. The most popular rigging certification clients seek is a license from the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO). Are you wondering how long does it take to become a rigger with a certification? The NCCCO applicant has to have at least 1,000 hours of experience, which can take months.


Decide Your Business Name

When starting a rigging business, choose a name that describes what it does and how your business benefits customers. For example, you might choose a name that relates to the area you are working in, like “Full-Service Chicago Rigging”. Look up names on your secretary of state’s website to see which ones are already taken. Your name should be simple, memorable, and easy to spell. You want customers to be able to quickly find you should they be interested in the services you provide.


Register Your Business Legally

Once you have settled on a name, it’s time to decide how to legally structure your business. Some common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is one of the simplest business forms. You are the business’s sole owner and receive all the profits. Remember, a sole proprietorship does not protect you from business liability.

  • Corporation: A corporation is a business owned by shareholders. As a shareholder, you get paid in dividends, which the government taxes. Since the government also taxes business profits, you are essentially taxed twice. A corporation allows you to have liability protection from business debts.

  • Limited liability company: An LLC offers liability protection for your business but without the complication of starting a corporation. With an LLC, you also don’t have to worry about being taxed on a corporate level through dividends.


Get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS

An employer identification number (EIN) is how the IRS identifies your business. You must have an EIN to hire employees or open a bank account for your business. To get an EIN, you must apply with the IRS. You can file this application online, by fax, or by phone. This application is free and will require that you have already legally registered your business.


Open a Business Bank Account

A business bank account is critical to legitimacy in customers’ eyes. They won’t make checks and payments to your name but your business name. With a business bank account, you can separate your finances to make tax filing and paying bills easier. With a bank account, it is easier to get a loan to help fund your business expenses. If you open a business savings account, you can deposit money and earn interest over time. Should you allow customers to pay with a credit card, you will need a merchant account to process those transactions.


Create a Website

A website is an important step to creating your own rigging business. With a business website, you can advertise to potential customers 24/7. Customers searching for services in their area will likely be directed to your site, where you can convince them you are the right pick for them. To create a website, you need a domain name, a web host, and a design method. A domain name can be obtained from a domain registrar or service like Google Domains. You can use a service like GoDaddy to host your website. A web host manages your web traffic and stores all your web data on their servers. To design a website, you can use a website builder like Wix or hire an independent web designer.


Hire Employees

As your business operations grow, you must hire additional employees to help you complete client projects. You should hire hand signalers to help workers communicate at the job site. If working as a stage rigger, you should hire spotters who can see different angles of the stage to ensure rigs are working properly. Consider hiring a bookkeeper to help you keep track of business expenditures.

Speaking of employees, consider using CRM software and payroll automation software. A CRM allows you to track projects, store customer information, track income, and more.  We recommend Bloom for a trusty CRM.  Bloom allows you to track projects, sign legal papers, and do other important matters for business growth. This doesn’t cost much. The best part is that Bloom offers a 1-month free trial and by clicking here and signing up, you’re also able to start a free trial and then have 15% off your first 12 months! 

On the other hand, a payroll software enables you to pay salaries on time with minimal errors. One software we recommend for payroll automation is OnPay. OnPay helps you process payroll and tax filings easily. You only pay $40 per month for this handy tool. By clicking here, you can try it out for free for one month!

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How to Become a Stage Rigger

Are you interested in learning how to become a stage rigger? To become a stage rigger, you must take courses, learn safety procedures, and choose which certification you want:


Get Experience

Getting on-the-job experience with an experienced stage rigger is critical to properly learn the mechanics of rigging systems like pulleys, ropes, counterweights, and more. Stage riggers utilize complicated systems to hoist curtains, people, lights, and other objects. With enough experience, you will know all the red flag warning signs to help you prevent accidents like a light fixture or faulty rig system causing bodily harm or property damage.


Master Safety Procedures

When rigging for lights, cameras, and people during entertainment shows, you must diligently reduce the chance of accidents. When learning to become a stage rigger, you should adhere to safety rules from the Professional Lighting and Sound Association, called the International Code of Practice for Entertainment Rigging. Some of these rules include:

  • Inspect equipment: As a stage rigger, you must routinely inspect all equipment to ensure that it performs properly and has no visible signs of wear.

  • Rescue plan: Develop a rescue plan so medical services can quickly be on the scene in case of an accident.

  • Scene changes: Scene changes must be rehearsed beforehand to ensure everyone knows their roles and what they should be doing.

  • Experienced riggers only: Rigging should only be done by professionals with adequate training.

  • Secondary suspensions: A secondary suspension that supports a primary suspension must be able to bear the same or greater load as the primary suspension.

  • Spotters: Employing spotters is a must so you have eyes on every angle of your rigging.

  • Load monitoring: You should watch your rig with load monitoring equipment every time it is used.


Meet Eligibility Requirements

Entertainment riggers for stages, arenas, and theaters have similar standards for work experience compared to construction riggers. For example, entertainment riggers certified by the Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP) require over 1,000 hours of work experience and an employment history form to be filed to verify that experience. 

Every 100 hours of work experience grants you one point needed for your required 30 points. If that work experience is through an internship or apprenticeship, you get points at a quicker rate of 200 hours per point and 100 hours per point, respectively. 

ETCP-certified stage riggers must be at least 21 years old and have an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree. See below for a comparison of how to earn points for this certification.

Experience Points Awarded
Any work experience 1 per 100 hours
Internship 1 per 200 hours
Apprenticeship 1 per 100 hours
Any associates degree 2
Any undergraduate degree 3
Any graduate degree 1
Entertainment technology associate’s degree 3
Entertainment technology undergraduate degree 7
Entertainment technology graduate degree 3


Arena Certification

To get a certification for arena work, you must pass an exam that tests your knowledge of chain hoists and truss systems. These devices ensure any people or objects stay in the air when they are supposed to. Arena stage riggers have to work in less traditional venues like convention centers and other open areas.


Theatre Certification

The other type of certification offered by the ETCP is a theatrical rigging certification. This is a more traditional entertainment rigging certification. Theatres tend to use rigging like counterweights and hydraulic systems. When theatre rigging systems are used in tandem, they are also called fly systems.

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How to Become a Master Rigger

Do you want to take things a step further and learn how to become a master rigger? To become a higher-level rigger, you must be physically competent and develop a deeper understanding of rigging concepts:


Develop the Right Physical Prerequisites

Not everyone can be a rigger. You must have the physical endurance necessary to operate different equipment with ease. You must also have good eyesight. Without eyesight that can pick out details at a construction site, you will have trouble judging the distance between objects. As a rigger, you must also be physically able to move heavy objects and keep limbs outstretched.


Have an Advanced Understanding of Rigging

As a master rigger, you can take on more complicated work for your clients.  Master riggers are responsible for supervising construction sites and will be essential in creating the rigging design for a project. You must have an intimate knowledge of rigging mechanics to know how to suspend objects and where to place attachment points. Some certifications require you to have at least three years of advanced rigging experience to be applicable for consideration.


Take Courses to Prepare You for Certification

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a course on advanced rigging that helps you learn about safety standards for crane operation, improper rigging, rope hooks, load manipulation, and synthetic rope. Some course providers like Industrial Training International recommend having at least two years of rigging experience before you attempt a master rigger course.


Master Different Types of Equipment

As a master rigger, you must have extensive experience with the following equipment.

  • Cranes: Cranes are critical pieces of construction equipment that move heavy objects, equipment, and materials around the construction site. They are also essential for lifting things to higher levels.

  • Turnbuckles: A rigger uses a turnbuckle to gain control over the tension of a rigging medium like a wire, rope, or cable.

  • Wire ropes: Wire ropes are attached to cranes to help move heavy objects. It is composed of multiple metallic wire strands braided together.

  • Jacks: A jack is a hydraulic machine that can be raised or lowered while carrying a load.

  • Pulleys: Rigging pulleys are used to redistribute the weight of a load to ensure that the overall stress on a rig pull is lessened. A pulley is a force multiplier, meaning the more pulleys you use, the less force is necessary to pull a load.


Get Your Master Rigger Certification

You can get a master rigger certification from several different training institutes and companies. Industrial Training International has a master rigging course that, upon completion, you are qualified as a master rigger for five years. The highest rigger certification from the NCCCO is a level two rigger. To become a level two rigger, you must pass both a written and practical exam.


How to Become a Certified Rigger

Are you curious about how to become a certified rigger? Certification is a lengthy process that takes months to train for, pass exams, and finally get your certification. Here are the steps:


Decide Your Desired Certification Level

To become a certified rigger, you must at least possess an NCCCO level one certification. Level one certificated riggers have a working knowledge of rig inspection, hand signals, and basic applications of rigging equipment. However, you can also apply to eventually be a certified level two rigger and work your way to becoming a master rigger. Level two NCCCO-certified riggers can perform unsupervised rigging work and advanced tasks. They understand enough about rigging mechanics to design projects and decide the right places for lift points.


OHSA Training

When preparing to be a certified rigger, it is essential that you get an OHSA safety certification. This requires taking a course and correctly answering questions to demonstrate your knowledge of rigging safety procedures.


Crane Rigging Training

Do you want to know how to become a crane rigger? Taking a crane rigging course can be an excellent way to prepare for your NCCCO certification. One place you can go to get crane rigging training courses is American Crane & Safety. They offer online courses to teach you the basics and safety procedures for theater, arena, and construction riggers.


Pass a Written Exam

To become NCCCO certified, you will pass a written exam with multiple choice questions. A level one exam has 60 questions and 60 minutes to complete them. If you take the level two exam, you have 50 questions and 50 minutes to complete them. These questions are all multiple-choice.


Pass a Practical Exam

The practical exam for level one and level two rigger certification applicants consists of a field test of load rigging. You are scored based on your ability to load a level lift successfully and how well you can manage to rotate the load. The NCCCO gives applicants a 12-month time limit to pass both exams, or they must retake them. Your NCCCO certification lasts for five years.


Funding Options for a Rigging Business

After a few years of working as a rigger for a company, you might think about starting your own rigging business. Having your own rigging company establishes a very trusty source of income. Here are some funding options in case you need to raise capital quickly:


Crowdfunding Platforms

Use crowdfunding platforms to raise the capital from multiple investors. Raising the capital might take some time, but it is still easier than working and accumulating the money yourself. We recommend you use EquityNet, which helps entrepreneurs raise anywhere from $10,000 to $10,000,000 to start their new businesses


SBA 7 (a) Loans

The 7 (a) loans from the Small Business Administration is also an option. The SBA commits itself to helping founders find capital with the minimum financial risks involved. Approach the SBA now and choose any of its 7 (a) loan programs offering $350,000 to $5 million. 


Online Business Loans

Online lenders are now granting business loans faster than banks and other related brick-and-mortar financial institutions. All you have to do is visit their website and provide the necessary information. Approval happens the same day you apply for a business loan. Try Uplyft that can help you get up to $5 million dollars of funding extremely fast (as little as 4 hours!!!): Apply for loan now.

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Purchase a Business Owner’s Policy Now 

Without proper insurance protection, your rigging business may be doomed to an unexpected lawsuit or damage to your equipment. Lawsuits can cost your business thousands of dollars and can potentially bankrupt you. Consider purchasing a business owner’s policy (BOP) from NEXT.  A business owner’s policy allows you to bundle multiple insurance policies at a discounted rate. Here are the common inclusions in a business owner’s policy:

  • General liability insurance for riggers: General liability insurance provides third-party protection from bodily injury, property damage, and advertising injury claims. 

  • Professional liability insurance for riggers: Professional liability insurance covers events related to your business mistakes. This could be negligence, missed deadlines, violation of good faith, and other related offenses. 

  • Commercial property insurance: A commercial property policy protects your building, equipment, tools, and materials from damage. You get protection from events like fires, wind, vandalism, theft, explosions, and water damage. 

  • Business interruption insurance: Business interruption insurance covers operational expenses if you have to suspend business operations when fire, theft, vandalism, and other covered perils happen.

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