By Frances Chaves
If you are considering freelancing—often called consulting—you are not alone.
NPR recently reported that more than 30 percent of U.S. workers, an estimated 13 million Americans, are now freelancers (http://www.npr.org/2012/04/10/150286116/for-freelancers-landing-a-workspace-gets- harder). So-called “nontraditional office workers”—telecommuters, freelancers and contractors—are expected to number 1.3 billion worldwide by 2015.
The benefits of freelancing are the increasing availability of work, flexibility, not having to dress for work, a home office…. The down side: no overtime, paying for your own health insurance, retirement, life insurance, holidays, and payroll taxes.
The best source I have found for freelancing/consulting best practices is the Freelancers Union in New York at http://www.freelancersunion.org/. Founded by Sara Horowitz “to build a support system to help the growing independent workforce thrive,” membership is free and provides solidarity, benefits, community, and a political voice.
Freelancers Union members can buy into stable and long-term benefits at a group rate at https://be.freelancersunion.org/benefits/ Unfortunately, New Jersey’s insurance laws make it impossible for New Jersey residents to buy into the health insurance plan but dental, disability, and term life and retirement insurance are available to us at competitive rates.
The Freelancers Union’s Resources Guide at http://www.freelancersunion.org/resources/index.html provides information on avoiding many of the pitfalls inherent in the uncertain business of being self- employed, including:
- Contract Creator – A template for creating a legally binding contract with your prospective employer. Establishing clear expectations before beginning work with a client will help you avoid conflicts and get paid.
- Get Paid, Not Played – Tips on how to prevent non-payment or late payment and how to deal with deadbeat employers.
- Client Scorecard – Freelancers’ rate their experiences with companies hiring freelancers.
- Tax Help – Assistance with how to file taxes as a freelancer.
- Financial Help – Resources to help with handling money coming in and going out.
Freelancing and consulting can be a great way to keep active, continue to build your resume and explore new opportunities. Good luck!