Tag Archives: Freelance

Sign the Freelance Isn’t Free Petition!

31 Aug

Legislation has been introduced to the New York City Council that would make it easier for independent contractors to collect from deadbeat clients. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, (NYC Council Bill 1017-A) was introduced by Councilmember Brad Lander,  who represents Brooklyn’s 39th District. This first of its kind legislation is endorsed by The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Freshbooks, The Graphic Artists Guild, and others, and it would protect independent workers against nonpayment and late payment. It’s poised to pass, but Freelancers Union needs one final push to hold deadbeat clients accountable for bad business practices in the City of New York. Sign the petition and join Freelancers Union in a Labor Day Thunderclap campaign to let the world know that #FreelanceIsntFree!



Advantage: Freelancers

2 May

Freelancers’ Stock Rises on Madison Avenue, by Rupal Parekh, Agency Editor of Advertising Age, affirms a trend that I’ve been seeing as the economy improves: if you’re a good freelancer, you’re in demand. She observes, “With clients’ marketing budgets rallying after a recession that led to the layoff of thousands of full-time staffers, freelancers are shouldering much of the workload.” I have two pieces of advice for anyone freelancing right now: don’t be afraid to let your capitalist flag fly, and ride the wave while it lasts.

After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, [a colleague] told me, ‘it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.'”

Freelancers are valuable right now. Many businesses that let staff go during the recession aren’t re-hiring workers as we emerge from it. Instead, they’re using a rotating pool of temps who are almost always sent packing and replaced before they work enough hours to earn benefits and overtime pay. Sure, this gives the freelance market a nice shot in the arm, but it also gives companies a source of labor that doesn’t come with the overhead of having a full-time staff.

As the recovery builds, corporations are facing the reality that they can no longer have their cake and eat it, too, and are conceding that talent costs money. This is certainly true in my industry, publishing. During the recession, freelance rates were low because work was scarce and employers had the upper hand in terms of compensation. Salaries were slashed for the staff jobs that still existed, and independent workers were accepting rates that people turned down when I first began my career, twenty years ago. Now, with tablet publishing creating a market that needs a new set of skills, supply and demand are giving independents much more leverage. One manager at a major national consumer magazine pays good freelancers $60-$75/hour to work on the iPad and tablet editions. After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, another told me, “it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.”

Mind you, what goes up must come down, and the recent economic crisis certainly won’t be the last. So, while the going is good, smart freelancers will work on paying down debt, and stashing some cash for the next rainy day. Some options for doing this are a business savings account and a retirement plan. ING Direct, which pays higher interest rates than many other institutions, offers business and retirement products, and Freelancers Union, where I sit on the Board of Directors, has a 401k plan for qualified members.

Indy workers always have value, but the high demand for freelancers in the current economy empowers us to earn more and invest in our futures. It’s a perfect time to proudly take a seat at the table as a skilled professional, and avoid the “I’m just a freelancer” trap.

NYC Wants You to Spend $6 Million

16 Mar

The City of New York is about to spend $6 million of taxpayers’ money, but this time, there’s a twist: taxpayers get to tell them how. If you’re a member of Freelancers Union (I’m on the Board of Directors) and came to the October and March Monthly Member Meetings, you heard me speak about Participatory Budgeting, an experiment that only one other US city (Chicago) has tried. In a nutshell, it gives people the power to decide how a certain amount of public funds will be spent. This month, voters in four New York City Council Districts will vote on which capital projects will be funded from a total budget of about $6 million, and by doing so will provide support for their neighbors and communities, an idea that Freelancers Union Members call New Mutualism.

Participatory Budgeting in New York City started last fall, when several assemblies were held for people who lived and worked in each of the Districts involved. Attendees broke into groups, brainstormed ideas, chose their top 3, and presented them to everyone. Over the following few months, volunteers and Council Members’ staffs researched the suggestions, determined their feasibility, and developed a selection to be put on the ballot. Now, the chance to choose which projects get funded is here.

Voting will take place from March 25 through April 1 in each Borough except Staten Island (click for specific dates, times, and locations):

While Participatory Budgeting isn’t limited to Freelancers Union Members, it’s an important chance for independent workers to interact with the New York City Council, which is taking notice of us. Last month, Speaker Christine Quinn mentioned Freelancers Union and Sara Horowitz in her 2012 State of the City Address, and the Council has pledged to contribute $100,000 in funding for a health clinic that will bring low-cost care to Freelancers Union Members.

On the Ballot in the 39th District are freelancer-friendly projects like a Carroll Gardens Library community space, where your networking group can meet, body weight fitness equipment in Prospect Park, so you can work off some stress caused by that big looming project, and bus countdown clocks to help get you to your next meeting on time.

So, practice a little New Mutualism this month by spending your own money: cast your ballot in the Participatory Budget Vote. Your community, your neighbors, and you will all be better off.

You’re Not the Boss of Me! 10 Ways to Help Start a Freelance Career

4 Feb

College seniors, the unemployed, and even some employed workersare job hunting, with resumes in hand, shoes shined, and answers prepared for the HR generalist’s favorite question, “tell me why I should hire you.” Some seekers, however, may not have—or want—the option of getting a staff position, and instead, will pursue a freelance career. Over 30 percent of the American workforce is independent, and today’s workers need to be prepared for the possibility of being their own boss. So, how can you prepare for this new world? Here are some tips to help you get your freelance on.

1. Understand that you won’t get a steady paycheck. Money in the bank—yes, you can put it in, too, not just take it out—will give you a lot of peace of mind. The magic number is to have at least 3-6 months of expenses in cash. Especially for students, who have loan payments looming, that may be a tall order, but be honest with yourself as to what you can really afford. If you’re already in the workforce, try to put money in the bank every paycheck: set up automatic transfers through your bank, and you won’t have to worry about it. To find that extra cash, consider roommates, learn to cook for yourself, and go easy on the lattes and credit cards.

2. Realize that there’s a lot of opportunity in freelancing. An employer has to invest time and money into hiring a full-time staffer, but by bringing in a temporary freelancer with good references and skills, each side can try out the other, with fewer risks involved. Part company on good terms, and you’ll go to the top of the list to be invited back if another project comes up. If one doesn’t, you’ve still got new contacts for your network.

3. Which brings me to the biggie: network, network, network! If in school, your professors are the first opportunity for doing this. Impress them, talk to them, and ask them if they can give you contacts for informational interviews while you’re still a student. Working pros should start with managers and colleagues that they collaborate well with, not to mention alumni, friends, and family. A last-minute project will likely go to a known quantity, so get to know potential clients before you ask them for work, and take the initiative to stay in touch. LinkedIn is a great tool for this.

4. Join Freelancers Union. It’s free, you’ll get discounts, find support resources, and be part of a national advocacy group for indy workers. (Full disclosure: I’m on the Board of Directors.) Members in NY who qualify can get Health & Dental insurance. (We love the other 49 States, but only NY Law permits this, right now.) The good news is that under the Affordable Care Act, you can remain on your parents’ plan until you’re 26.

5. Don’t wait until you need work to look for it. Keep in touch with your network, let them know what you’re up to, and when you’ll be available to take on new projects. Social media is perfect for this. Update your Facebook status with the results of a project you’re happy with, use Twitter to follow and tweet about your latest great client, and blog about the process you went through to land a gig. Just be careful: don’t share anything negative, or confidential. As tempting as it may be, I guarantee it’ll come back to bite you on the behind.

6. Think like a business owner: what you earn is income, not salary. Look at the big picture, and review your finances quarterly, when you’ll owe estimated income tax. This part is not for the faint of heart, so get a good accountant who’s familiar with the needs of a freelancer.  A financial advisor who can help you meet investment goals and plan for retirement (yes, freelancers need to save for that, too) is also a good idea. Fees for these services will be well worth the money, and are likely to be tax-deductible.

7. Speaking of tax deductions, don’t leave money on the table. Keep your receipts for everything: if you buy supplies, attend work-related events, and especially if you meet for a bite to talk shop (see tips #3 & #8). Note that for business meals, you’ll need to have careful documentation: the person’s name and title, and the meeting’s time and location and purpose. (John Doe, President, XYZ Corp: 12:00 pm, Max’s Café to discuss Fall Catalog). For more info, see IRS Publication 334: Tax Guide for Small Business.

8. Give, don’t just take. Sure, it’s fine to ask your network for advice and help, but make sure to return the favor, or at the very least, thank them. Everyone loves a free lunch, so scheduling one & picking up the tab is sure to go over well. Definitely send a note saying how much you appreciate their time and advice (see tip #9). You’ll get much more out of your network by making sure it’s on a two-way street.

9. Communicate well, and respond quickly. Follow up on meetings and respond to e-mails within a day, and no typos, please. As my colleague Angela Riechers always says, “use spell check, it’s free.” If you really want to impress, send hand-written notes, whenever you can. I never fully appreciated their power until I received them, myself. It’s a good idea to write them electronically in a word processor, which you can use to check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and then copy them by hand on nice stationery.

10. You’ve got a gig! Show up, act like a grown-up, and do the work. Believe it or not, this will set you apart from the pack. Just because you’re not a staffer, you can’t slack off. Be professional, easy to work with, and skilled: they’ll love you, and re-hire you.

Use these pointers and your freelance career will be off to a strong start. Working independently is an important option for job seekers to consider. Doing it right is all about making a good impression, seeing the big picture, and staying connected. Welcome to the new work world, and good luck!

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