Like so many things, there must always be a set of rules that will allow potential clients to guarantee a positive Santa Claus experience, and obviously your humble Elf Without Jingles is no exception to that truth. So here are my rules for a winning gig with Santa’s New York City Representative! (Sorry about a lot of this being overly legalese; most of you know how it is, I’m sure.)

The Client (that’s you) shall pay the seller of goods (that’s me) immediately upon arrival. Once funds are secured by the seller (U.S. funds only), the seller will proceed with the intended performance. Afterwards, and only if the client agrees, the seller will depart from the venue, using either public transportation and/or via taxi (with funds for the latter to be paid by the client).

Translated into plain, simple English, the deal is: the client pays me in U.S. funds when I show up at the event and/or party; I’ll only stay at the said event and/or party if the client so chooses (whether you need me for 2 1/2 hours or an entire day, I’m flexible); and when I’m done, and when it’s time for me to leave, I’ll either depart, using public transportation or a taxi. If it’s a taxi, the client will need to pay for that as well.

Here now are tips for a successful photo op and/or meet-n’-greet with the Elf Without Jingles:

Never place the Throne in front of a fireplace or other hot areas. Some folks prefer to have air conditioning available in those areas where Santa usually holds court.

Sometimes, Santa will need a sturdy chair without arms. Most of the time, a straight-backed dining chair can be usable for this purpose. Make sure you leave a whole lotta room for multiple family photos whenever possible.

Digital or otherwise, it’s always important that your cameras are fully charged up and ready to go. Avoid “backlit” background areas for photos, such as a window during the daytime, or your average white wall. It’s those kinds of things that can ruin a good Santa photo. And if you have a traditional Christmas tree available, well, so much the better! Many Santas through the years have loved to be photographed with Christmas trees.

Now, if you’re gonna be passing gifts to the kids, make sure that they’re in packages that’ll be easy for Santa to read. And there’s nothing like a Helper who can call out every child’s name (first names only, please; because, as they say, friendships usually start with first names). Each gift should fit into a 32-gallon trash bag (sizes may vary) which Santa can easily wield. If, on the other hand, there are more presents than bags, Santa can usually provide an additional bag for the Helper to carry.

Never smoke in the presence of kids when Santa is on the set. For starters, it stinks. The fans don’t like smelly, stinky Santas. Period.

In the event that Santa will need to take a break, these tips are a must:

Firstly, and depending on how long Santa’s visit will take, he usually needs from approximately 10 or 15 minutes (or sometimes a full hour) to breathe for a bit. You might wish to predetermine a place away from the set, where Santa can, if he wishes, change out of his otherwise heavy coat, or take a moment to guzzle down some water (Poland Spring or Dasani are Santa’s favorite types of bottled water; but, if history has taught us anything about Santa’s preferred beverages, nothing beats beloved and glorious Coca-Cola Classic [unless it’s Diet Coke and/or Cherry Coke — bottom line, so long as it bears the hallmarks of The Coca-Cola Company, Elf Without Jingles is fine with the lot of them!]), or even locate a restroom away from the public.

Assign the Helper to control both the crowd and the line. And also it might be imperative to have each child’s hands checked for sticky and/or messy areas. Hand sanitizer is these days the accessory of choice in this instance.

And one other thing: Please, no ‘wild goose chase situations’! One thing I’ve learned during my many journeys is, you can’t just go off on a mad dash to find one Santa gig. If you do, chances are, you’ll either wind up getting lost or not be able to contact the person that hired you. That’s why I prefer to set up a lot of my appearances in person, unless otherwise unable to do so by way of phone, e-mail, etc.

Well, again, sorry about the legalese, folks, but it was important to me that you learn about what to do if you’d like to hire me for a gig! To explore these guidelines in further detail, go to http://www.facebook.com/ElfWithoutJingles !