When Sara Horowitz was hired as a lawyer, she was made an independent contractor and wasn’t given any benefits. Since then, she’s created Working Today, a nonprofit for uniting freelancers; Freelancers Union, an organization that promotes the needs of independent workers; and Freelancers Insurance Company, which provides health insurance. She also authored the recently released Freelancer’s Bible, a practical guide for the self-employed.
In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Horowitz talks about the best and worst parts of freelancing, and gives advice on networking, budgeting and getting ahead. Here’s an excerpt:
The Freelancer’s Union was the fire behind the pioneering Payment Protection Act, which helps freelancers in New York “get paid, not played.” How does the burden of chasing paychecks affect freelancers specifically and the media industry as a whole?
One of the typical things that freelancers face, obviously, is not getting paid — not the full amount or the total amount. And there’s no place to go but small claims court. We wanted them to be able to go to the Department of Labor, and we came within a hair’s breadth of that. Now [the act] is pending in both New York and New Jersey. I think the media industry tends to treat freelancers like invoices, like receivables, so they say ‘OK, you’ll get paid 30, 60, 90 days out.’ This gives them a lot of float, because they’re holding on to that money for that time, and, if you want to get paid within two weeks, you get paid $0.96 on the dollar. You lost 4 percent. If you were a traditional employee in New York right now, that would be illegal. This is bad practice and something we’re going to be looking at in the next year.