Angela Ivana knows about the trials and tribulations of being a freelancer. As a makeup artist for media productions, she has faced both discrimination and isolation. “We need support and we need resources so that we can fight for our rights, so that we can protect our work, and so that we can sustain our livelihoods,” she said today, speaking for freelancers everywhere. “This is why I’m really thrilled to be here today.”
Ivana was taking part in the launch announcement for the Freelancers Hub, a new space for workers in the creative fields. The hub, to open in October, will be housed in the Made in NY Media Center in Dumbo as a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the Brooklyn-based Freelancers Union, and the Independent Filmmakers Project (IFP), which runs the media center.
The hub, which will cost the city about $500,000 a year, will address a crying need as the traditional workplace recedes. “The number of freelance workers has grown by 27% more than payroll employees over the last two decades,” said Julie Menin, the mayor’s commissioner of media and entertainment.
At least 400,000 workers in the five boroughs are full-time freelancers, according to the Department of Consumer Affairs. In the greater metropolitan area, the number of people doing freelance work is about 4 million, says the Freelancers Union.
While that sounds like a formidable army, individual freelancers are often taken advantage of, said Caitlin Pearce, the Freelance Union’s executive director. “Seventy-one percent of freelancers say that unpredictable income has been a major barrier for them saving. And over one in five is uninsured. Adding to that uncertainty, we know that 7 out 10 freelancers are struggling to get paid on time and losing $6,000 annually,” said Pearce at the event.
“This is a huge problem that we organized, rallied behind, and have been working with the city to address,” she continued. “And we’re really excited about how we will be able to leverage this hub to continue help freelancers exercise their rights under the law.”
The introduction of the Freelancers Hub is an important step forward in making sure that the city’s freelancers are provided with free support and resources, said the officials. The hub will include networking space and free monthly meet-ups called SPARK for Creatives, which will foster networking and information sharing.
Other services will include Freelance 101 workshops (expert-led workshops on building and managing a freelance business), Your Safety Net consultations on health insurance and other benefits programs, and legal clinics on contracts, intellectual property, payment disputes, and other issues.
Another function will be to collect data. “One of the things that the hub is going to do is report on the size of the freelance workforce in New York. Right now, we don’t have a lot of great data on that,” Pearce told The Bridge.
While the new hub will focus on the creative community, its organizers see it as a model of community-building for all sectors of freelance workers. “If we get this right, it begins to become the movement,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor of housing and economic development. “And then it’s not just for people in the entertainment sector–it’s people in the food sector, it’s people in the legal sector, it’s people in the services sector. This is a really important proof of concept for us.”
Among the speakers at the event were three freelancers, including Ivana, who spoke about their experiences and their needs. “Unfortunately without protection, too many freelancers are faced with harassment and discrimination, with few paths for recourse,” she said. “And freelancing can be isolating. It can be very difficult, which is why a larger community is so important. We can’t do this on our own. We need a space to be able to come together, to share our stories, to build our skills, and to organize for a brighter future.”