Working as a freelancer comes with a unique set of perks and challenges that full-time employees don’t experience. Upsides include the ability to choose your own hours, your own workspace, your own projects. What’s not to like? Well, the major downside, which is the struggle to get paid in a timely way–or get paid at all. That chronic problem was brought home earlier this month by a Gothamist story that reported a litany of complaints from freelancers about laggard payments from Brooklyn’s Northside Media, publisher of Brooklyn magazine and producer of the Northside Festival.
Brooklyn freelancers, however, have ready access to two locally-grown resources that can help them. One is the Freelancers Union, which provides advocacy and benefits for more than 375,000 members. The other is the city’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, a first-of-its-kind-law which went into effect last year to provide legal protections for freelancers, as well as penalties of up to $25,000 for employers who violate the law.
Both the union and the law address a serious issue. “We found that 71% of our members said that at some point they had issues getting paid by a client,” says Caitlin Pearce, the union’s executive director. On average, the members with payment problems were owed $6,000.
Until the law was passed, freelancers had little recourse besides going to small-claims court. Now, however, “hiring parties working with freelancers for over $800 must use a contract. And if they don’t pay their freelancers within either 30 days or whatever date is stipulated in the contract, then they face penalties,” says Pearce.
But freelancers can look out for themselves, too, by following certain procedures that help insure they get paid. Pearce offered these five points of advice: