Entrepreneur - - By Alyssa Gregory

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

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?

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