The Freelance Isn’t Free Act: 3 tips to leverage this NYC opportunity

3 tips to take advantage of getting paid as a freelancer in the wake of the NYC Freelance Ain't Free Act

I’m still in shock.  The New York City Council recently passed the nation’s first bill that protects freelancers who are not paid on time.

Yesssss!!  This is a game changer.

The bill will protect New York City based freelancers who are not paid by their clients.  Highlights include:

  • Freelancers can require payment within 30 days
  • If they are not paid, they can make a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs
  • If they win the complaint, they can sue for damages plus the original fee

The bill still needs to be signed by Mayor DeBlasio.  But all signs look good.

In the interim, check out City Council member, Brad Lander’s website.  As well, you can google, Freelance Isn’t Free, for more deets.

(And for those of you outside of NYC, stop sulking.  Start talking to your local politicians about the importance.  And check out FreelancersUnion.com.  They are pushing for nationwide acceptance).

This is a game changer.  But consider if your business is ready to take advantage of this major opportunity.   Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

You are running a business.
Put on your big girl panties and stop acting like it’s a toddler in diapers.

Stop thinking you are JUST freelancing.  It is a business.  An entity that can generate revenue higher than any one individual can earn as an employee.  Give it the soil, tools and roots to grow.

  1. Do you review your finances every year?  Yes, taxes are important.  But do you understand your numbers?  As painful or exciting as that may be.
  2. Do you have business bank accounts?  Or are you co-mingling your personal and business funds waiting for the Revolution?  There are low cost options that don’t kill you with fees.  Check out credit unions and regional banks.
  3. Do you have an invoicing system?  You can’t complain if you don’t know who owes you.  Consider online options like Freshbooks, Intuit Quickbooks online, and Xero.  Or use an old school spreadsheet followed up by calendar reminders.
  4. Do you have business insurance?  Talk to a few agents.  A general liability policy is a good place to start.
  5. Do you have a sales and marketing strategy?  If you have weak spots, hire experts to help you and invest some personal resources.  The more new sales you have coming in, the less you are dependent on any one clients who stiffs you.

There are dozens of other  standard practices that you’ll want to consider.  Talk to several thriving entrepreneurs who started their business several years ago.  Find out what business practices are their non-negotiables.  Ask why.  And consider those for your business.

Your business will NOT organically grow on its own

Please respect why the NYC City Council took a strong stance on this issue.

I love that they are tackling the issues that affect those outside of the 1%.  But be clear why they would support this Act.

  • Taxes
  • Jobs
  • More money spent

It’s not pure altruism.  They want you to grow your business, pay more in taxes, and start hiring other freelancers.  Which is not a bad place to be in at all.

It means that your business is earning more money.  A LOT more money.

So don’t think small minded.  Challenge yourself to create a business model.  How are you going to grow  your company so that you aren’t earning peanuts in the next five years?  What are you doing so that you can help more clients with the work you love AND charge more?

It doesn’t happen by accident.  Or your good looks.  And honey, you do look good!

Get the support of a mentor.  Hire a business coach.  Get a plan.  A strategy that works for you and your clients.

Are you running a business or a charity operation?

Have you ever been asked to give someone the “hook-up”?  Aka free services because they did you a favor?

  • Like hooking you up with a job interview
  • Helping you find clients
  • Or changing your dirty diaper

It’s common that freelancers are asked to do favors for friends and family.  People need services and you need testimonials and examples of clients you’ve worked with.

Plus, you have a heart and finally some power to choose who you want to work with.

And besides, Aunt Mae threatened to ban you from the mac and cheese at Thanksgiving if you don’t help her.

It’s not easy to say no.

Nor should you.  There are benefits to doing free or reduced work.

I recommend that you set a standard or policy for how you handle requests.  Perhaps you limit the number of hours per month.  Or the dollar amount of the job you’ll handle.

Maybe the contact has to provide you a detailed testimonial.  Something more involved than “Jenny was great”.

Or perhaps you offer 25-50% off your usual rates.  The friend is getting a real bargain but also will value your work.

Make sure it is a win-win agreement for both of you.

So before you start dancing in the streets waiting for the money to rain down, make sure your own back yard is set up well.  You need a plan in place to start generating revenue at the level of your talent.  You need a business model that respects your mission and gives you the structure that you need to grow.

When consider these ideas, it will be much easier to take advantage of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act.  You won’t be waiting for the phone to ring once you submit the case.  You’ll be on your way to working with other clients and resting easy at night.