Freelance Isn't Free Act

Being a freelancer shouldn’t mean working double duty as a collections agency. Nearly all freelancers and self-employed workers have encountered clients who refuse to pay. Sadly, late-paying clients are extremely commonplace.

But what if a piece of legislation could establish protections for freelancers similar to those larger companies enjoy?

A new bill under consideration in New York, called the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, would protect freelancers from deadbeat clients.

What Is The Freelance Isn’t Free Act?

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act, introduced by City Councilmember Brad Lander, offers enhanced protections for New York’s hundreds of thousands of freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs. Once enacted, the bill would require a written contract that covers payments and payment deadlines for all work valued over $200. Employers will be required to pay no more than 30 days after the contract deadline.

In addition, if a freelancer has to take a client to court and wins, the client is responsible for attorney fees and double damages. Most importantly (and helpful for resource-stretched freelancers), the proposed legislation creates an administrative enforcement process with the Department of Consumer Affairs which either offers mediation or civil penalties.

Freelancers Shouldn’t Double As Collection Agencies

One of the biggest challenges freelancers face when dealing with clients is that they aren’t a business with multiple employees. If a company with multiple employees has a client that’s not paying on time, they have an employee who can take time out to pursue the missing funds. But freelancers find their resources stretched when there’s a deadbeat client.

Just as importantly, the legislation gives freelancers leverage. The bill is heavily promoted by the Freelancers Union, an organization in New York that represents self-employed workers.

You might not know it, but small businesses, multinational corporations, and all sorts of different industries have their own trade associations and lobbying groups looking out for their interests on Capitol Hill and in state capitals around the country. Freelancers can use similar representation in front of politicians as well.

The New Freelancer Economy

And here’s the thing… The number of Americans who freelance is steadily increasing. One 2014 study found that 53 million Americans freelance to one degree or another. That’s a lot of workers doing self-employed labor, whether it’s a teenager mowing lawns for their neighbors, Uber drivers, or graphic designers doing work on Fiverr.

Additional legal protections for freelancers that help ensure fair payment for labor are a great thing–and I won’t be surprised if we see this in more cities soon.