New York City officials just took a huge step toward formally supporting freelance workers. During a press conference at the Made in NY Media Center in Brooklyn, Julie Menin, the mayor’s office commissioner of media entertainment, announced plans to launch a government-funded Freelancer Hub for writers and creatives this fall.
The Hub, which will be the first of its kind in America, is the latest indication of how important freelancing has become for the U.S. workforce.
“With more than a third of our workforce operating as freelancers, New York’s economy depends on independent workers,” said deputy mayor of housing and economic development Alicia Glen. “With the workers protections in the Freelance Isn’t Free Act and the establishment of the Freelancers Hub, we’re creating a national model for how cities can support workers in the freelance economy.”
Most of Hub’s programming will come from Freelancers Union. The Union will lead freelance workshops in personal brand marketing, accounting and finance management, and tax assistance. Members will also offer “safety net” consultations on tricky subjects like insurance, disability, and paid leave. Most notably, legal assistance will be available for freelancers who choose to pursue non-paying clients in court.
The announcement held personal significance for at least one city official: Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, whose son is a freelance documentary filmmaker. “Our visionaries shouldn’t have to worry about insurance or tracking down payment,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to ask, how do I hold onto my dream while holding onto my apartment?
#Freelancers often ask themselves: How do I hold onto my dream while holding onto my apartment? I know this so well. My son’s a documentarian, and he knows that #freelanceisntfree. At the @NYMediaCenter’s new #FreelancersHub, we’ll support our independent creators #inBrooklyn. pic.twitter.com/5EA9v0Bu0n
— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) August 22, 2018
Freelancer Jalen Vasquez, one of the founding members of Freelancers Union’s SPARK network meet-ups, told me, “I think the most useful part of the Freelancer Hub will be the resources they will provide for taxes and insurance. There’s a lot that people don’t understand. They’re not sure what can be written off or if they’re filing correctly. Not everyone can afford a CPA.”
Attendees I spoke to were optimistic about the movement to empower freelancers, beginning with the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which became New York State law in 2016. The law establishes key protections for freelancers around payments and contracts. As Cowell explained, “It shifts the perception of freelancers from that of isolated creatives living hand to mouth and chasing down clients for payment, to one of a community of diverse, creative thinkers who are actively thriving, doing what they love.”