Resources for Freelancers

by Philip Brewer on 10 November 2009 5 comments

Changes in the economy have pushed more and more people into part-time, temporary, and freelance work, as more and more companies cut back on traditional, long-term, full-time employees. Recently the Newshour on PBS had a report by Paul Solman on the problems faced by freelancers in a tough economy — and pointers to some useful resources.

The key resource that Paul pointed to in the segment was the Freelancers Union, an organization that exists to help freelancers buy for themselves the sort of benefits that an employer might offer, such as group health, dental, disability, and life insurance, and a 401(k) plan. I haven't looked over their plans and don't know if they're good deals, but they're certainly worth comparing to your other options.

The group also acts as an advocate, pushing the government to expand the support that employees get to cover freelancers as well. Among their issues:

  • Estimated taxes It's not so tough to file your estimated taxes if your income is spread evenly over the course of the year. If your income is variable, though, the estimated tax paperwork is a nightmare — and the penalties for getting it wrong are pretty high. (I wrote a post on this last year: Taxes on irregular income.)
  • Self-employment taxes If you're self-employed, you have to pay both halves of the Social Security tax. The Freelancers Union isn't sure that double the tax is a fair burden — and is pushing to get Congress to see it their way.
  • Unpaid wages Pretty much every state has a department of labor that will come down hard on an employer who doesn't make payroll — but the state does nothing for freelancers who don't get paid.
  • Unemployment insurance Employees who lose their jobs can collect unemployment insurance, while freelancers get nothing.

They've also got some cool posters.
 

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Guest's picture

My husband previous base salary plus benefits and commissions sales position has just been cut to pay him only the commissions. Now we are on our own to cover medical insurance.

Thanks for this information. I am going to look into whether we can get our $1000+ medical insurance bill cut by joining.

Guest's picture
alienation

The best deals seem to be for NYC members. Still, it's a good organization to join, because joining costs nothing. (I've joined.)

The most important thing they do, in my estimation, is political lobbying. That is something you can't really do alone. (I mean, you can, but, that really gives the politician the upper hand in deciding what's really right for you. You need organized voters to make them pay attention.)

Guest's picture
Deborah

Thank you so much for this post. I didn't know that there were any free freelance organizations out there. I thought I'd be saving up for a membership fee or something. Again, thank you!

Sierra Black's picture

Thanks for pointing this out. I was aware of unions and professional organizations for writers, but not one for freelancers in general. This will come in handy for a lot of the creative types I know.

 

Sierra Black - embracing the wild heart of parenting at www.childwild.com

Jennifer Holder's picture

Super helpful!