Being a freelance writer can be daunting. Between sourcing clients, meeting deadlines, and all the other things that come with the territory, freelance writers tend to be alone when it comes to steering their business in uncharted waters. This is especially true when looking out for your interests—where can you turn if something goes wrong? What are your options for health insurance and retirement? Luckily enough, there may be a solution for you: The Freelancers Union.
Curious to know more? In this article, we’ll look at all you need to know about the Freelancers Union, and even some criticisms just to balance your decision. Let’s begin.
What is the Freelancers Union?
The Freelancers Union is a non-profit organization that provides advocacy, health insurance, and a community of freelancers—including temps, consultants, part-time workers, contingent workers, independent contractors.
In their own words,
“Freelancers Union gives independent workers a powerful voice through political action, research, and thought leadership. We aim to ensure that independent contractors receive adequate rights, protections and professional benefits.
Members of Freelancers Union play an active role in leading community initiatives and advocacy campaigns. We’re a community that looks out for one another – and we’re only as strong as our members.”
Let’s take a look at the benefits of belonging to the Freelancers Union.
What are the Benefits of the Freelancers Union?
The Freelancers Union does offer many benefits to its members.
First, it facilitates access to health insurance, dental insurance, term-life policies, retirement, and other coverage through its National Benefits Program. The Freelancers Union argues that its collective insurance policies are more competitive than individuals seeking coverage by themselves, as the overhead for insurers (i.e. administrative costs) and criteria for preexisting conditions can be obstacles for the lone freelancer.
There are also many discounts available for members. Discounts range on useful freelancer-oriented services like CoLab and Cowork Jax, to gym memberships, reduced ZipCar rates, and even 5% off the daily rates at a Hyatt-affiliated hotel.
For client nonpayment, the Freelancers Union offers a number of templates and guides to assist you in the process. This includes a checklist for your small claims case, licensing contract templates, and others.
As any freelancer knows, taxes are a big concern. That’s why the Freelancers Union also offers a bunch of useful information on paying your taxes, including a “First-Time Freelancers Guide to Taxes” and a list of items that are deductible.
One big aspect of the Freelancers Union is its dedication to advocacy. Now that freelancers account for more than 35% of the workforce in America, the timing has never been better for those in the gig-economy to band together for better treatment. On their advocacy page, you can get the latest news and movements within the freelancing community. There are also invitations to get involved in on-going initiatives to change things for the better.
There’s also the Freelancers Member Directory, where you can create a profile and increase your professional image. This is a boon for freelancers that are looking for certifications on other public profiles, including LinkedIn.
Finally, the Freelancers Union offers a way of staying connected with members in a number of ways. First, there’s Hives, where freelancers can ask questions, share tips, or even get connected to other workers in a variety of industries. There’s also the Freelancers Union’s Sparks, an in-person networking opportunity to meet freelancers set in larger cities (i.e. Philadelphia, Miami, Brooklyn) on the first Wednesday of every month.
So how do you sign up?
Sign-up to the Freelancers Union
The sign-up process is a cinch—and it’s FREE to become a member. Start here and begin filling in your information (first name, last name, email, password, and location). Once you’ve completed that, you’re done. Congrats, you’re now a member of the Freelancers Union. Now you can receive emails and newsletters keeping you up to date on the organization, as well as reminders for local events in your area.
Criticism of the Freelancers Union
For all of the benefits that the Freelancers Union offers, it should be noted that not everyone is in agreement as to what they have to offer. Here are a few key points to consider before joining:
Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act—otherwise known as Obamacare—membership to the Freelancers Union may have become obsolete. While it may have been useful in years prior as one of the few ways for freelancers to obtain affordable health insurance, Obamacare allows freelancers the ability to pick and choose their insurance providers.
The name is also a bit of a misnomer, as the Freelancers Union functions more as an association rather than the true definition of a union. This is because of federal restrictions that limit their abilities of collective negotiation. It can be a bit off-putting to those who may have worked for unions in the past to realize that they don’t enjoy the same benefits as unions offer (like, wage negotiation, sick days, working conditions, etc.).
The Freelancers Union’s Yelp page doesn’t paint a bright picture, either. Many disgruntled freelancers have vented their frustrations, particularly about the type of health care coverage they received, as well as the support from the Freelancers Union.
So, the decision is ultimately up to you. It does take a fair deal of investigation to determine whether joining is for you. However, registration is free and there are no member fees. So, basically, you don’t have anything to lose.
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Working as a freelancer is hard enough as it is. The Freelancers Union is one prominent resource out there in a land of digital anonymity. Consider all of the benefits for joining—there are many—and weigh them against your needs as an independent worker. Even if you have your own insurance coverage and simply want to be part of a larger organization making changes in the “industry,” there a few justifications NOT to join. While Groucho Marx may have stated that he wouldn’t have wanted to belong to a club that would have him as a member, the Freelancers Union may become a valid part of your working life.