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What is the Freelancers Union and Do You Need To Join?

By Alyssa Gregory

freelancers unionI’ve been in the self-employed world for a number of years, yet I just recently discovered something called the Freelancers Union. If this is new for you as well (and if you’re U.S.-based), it might be of interest.

What is the Freelancers Union?

From their website, “Freelancers Union is a nonprofit organization that represents the needs of America’s independent workforce though advocacy, information, and service.” They are basically an advocacy group in the U.S. (based in New York), that conducts a number of activities to support freelancers, consultants, and the otherwise self-employed. Some of the services they provide include:

  • Negotiate insurance rates on behalf of freelancers
  • Offer health insurance to freelancers in 31 states
  • Provide dental, life, and disability insurance nationwide
  • Supply an outlet for networking, collaboration, and sharing knowledge
  • Research the independent workforce, educate policy makers and lobby for change
  • Offer events, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics
  • Provide a job board for freelancers

Freelancers Union currently has 100,000 members nationwide. It is free to join and participate in the Union’s forums, job board, yellow pages listing, and receive membership discounts on a number of services. Events require a fee for participation.

Why join?

Freelancer’s Union does offer freelancers a lot of benefits, although most are not unique or different from other freelancer sites and organizations. By far, the biggest draw for joining Freelancers Union is the insurance benefits. As independent workers, insurance can be one of the most costly and difficult needs to fulfill, especially if you don’t have a spouse or domestic partner who has insurance you can benefit from. You can get insurance at more affordable rates through the Union, and that can help you continue to stay in business for yourself.

Why NOT join?

Freelancers Union developed quite a consumer uprising in 2008, when they switched to more expensive coverage without giving members much of a heads up. Then, Freelancers Union started their own insurance company in November, which introduced another set of potential issues for members. A message on the Freelancers Union blog from Sara Horowitz, executive director, talks about why they started their own company and what they hope to accomplish. There’s some additional information on the new company on The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, but it seems that because the Freelancers Union’s insurance company is so new, the real value (and cost) to members is not yet apparent.

What’s Your Take?

The cost of finding insurance coverage on your own is astronomical, not to mention the effort required to apply and get accepted into a plan as a freelancer, so this concept is certainly food for thought. I am very fortunate not to need independent health insurance, as I am a dependent on my husband’s plan. But if I were not in this situation, I would likely consider the coverage offered through Freelancers Union.

Do you belong to the Freelancer’s Union, and if you’re outside the U.S., do you have a similar group where you live that facilitates health insurance for you? What do you do as a freelancer to manage health care?

  • Jim

    The Freelancers Union strikes me as more of an insurance agent or broker (and now I guess, insurance company), and less of a union in the traditional sense. I don’t know if that’s evil, benign, no big deal, or what. But it does seem misleading.

  • Anonymously

    Wow… I would NOT touch that offer with a ten-foot pool!!!

    Freelancers Union forced it’s members to join a for-profit venture. If the member have not yet they should file a class-action lawsuit against the Freelancers Union and it’s board. It’d be one thing for a non-profit to start another non-profit, but for a non-profit organization to start a for-profit company based on the leverage they yield over there members smells of conflict of interest.

    Secondly, can’t believe sitepoint would post something like this without a comparison to other options.

    WoW !!!

  • eight

    Hey ‘Anonymous,’

    Do you have links to any other similar options? I agree that the for-profit switcheroo is not so cool.

  • freelancers mom

    My son will be hopefully working in an audio career as a freelancer someday. He’s graduating from college this year and of course job options are very scarce. We’ll keep an eye on this for his benefit and hopefully by the time he’s in the workforce as a freelance sound mixer or audio engineer, the Freelancer’s Union may be an option for him. Right now, we’re not so sure. Any comments?

  • C. Bernstein

    Freelancers Union provides a wealth of information for a wide range of consultants.

    BUT DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF SIGNING UP FOR THEIR HEALTH CARE INSURANCE. Their billing department is unbelievably disorganized. You will find yourself paying your monthly dues, and receiving monthly termination notices indicating that they never received your payments. Yes, shockingly, they take your money and cancel your plans. And don’t expect anyone to call or email you back. Sadly, this is not an exaggerated claim:

    https://be.freelancersunion.org/forum/topic.php?id=713&replies=39

  • DG

    I agree Freelancers Union sucks and Sara Horowitz should be ashamed of herself for seeming to be on the side of freelancers but in fact biting them in the backside.

    She needs to walk the talk. She is a disappointment and so is their insurance company.

    They seem to treat their members like shit and do not really care. Might as well go to a regular insurance company where you don’t have to deal with the pretense.

    Argh… i have thought about going to their office and just barging in and talking to them.

    God….what a facade and making fools of us freelancers. They shouldnt be allowed to use that word.

    I am ashamed to be a member.

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