VO freelancer, do you know about Freelancers Union?

Edge Studio

SAG-AFTRA, Equity, and other unions are important to many actors. As a voice actor, you should at least be aware of them. And as a freelancer, you should also be aware of Freelancers Union (freelancersunion.org). A non-profit organization founded in 1995 as “Working Today,” it now has reportedly more than 300,000 members nationwide. And it states its goal as to benefit the almost 54 million independent workers in America, by making “freelancing better now and in the future through joint benefits, live member events, expert guides, and online networking opportunities.”

Working Today morphed into Freelancers Union in 2001 (by the way, there’s no apostrophe in the name), to provide group healthcare insurance to people who didn’t have access to employer-based insurance. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, Freelancers Union no longer has group plans but does have a private exchange that offers some individual healthcare coverages through major suppliers in most states.

The organization continues to offer various other coverages, including Dental, Term Life, Liability, and Disability. They also have a Retirement Plan. (We don’t necessarily endorse these or any specific Freelance Union program or proposal. You might find better or more economical plans elsewhere. But they are worth considering.)

Membership in Freelancers Union is free. The only fee connected with enrollment is optional if you enroll in an insurance program.

There are other benefits to joining, including a Member Directory, discounts on products and services used by freelancers, member-to-member discounts, connections to services, a newsletter/blog, social networking online and through meetups, guides and templates, and legal advocacy.

That last item is of unique interest. Currently, the organization conducts a lobbying campaign called “Freelance Isn’t Free,” saying that “everyone deserves to get paid” and greater protection is needed against nonpayment to independent contractors. According to a Freelancers Union statement, a freelancer (among all types) typically loses $6,000 in income due to client nonpayment.

Being considered by New York City’s City Council, the nationwide effort has been endorsed by dozens of organizations and by President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Whether the proposal’s requirement that clients execute a written contract would make life more secure or more complicated for voice talent remains to be seen.

(A side note: Voice actor, lawyer and EdgeStudio.com contributor Rob Sciglimpaglia, in his book “Voice Over Legal,” advises that contracts vary, suggesting that talent should at least exchange basic understandings in an email, and a more formal contract in the case of ongoing or larger jobs:

“Due to the often fast-paced nature of the voice over business, written contracts are not always practical. If that is the case, then, at a minimum, emails should be exchanged between the client and talent …. Of course, for larger jobs … a more detailed contract should be signed …..”)

Freelancers Union has also supported an amendment to New York City’s anti-discrimination Human Rights Law to include freelance and contract workers.

To encourage various legislative measures, Freelancers Union has even bussed members to meet with legislators, relating personal experiences and dramatizing the need for passage.

Whatever lessons learned from Freelancers Union, or resources available, if you have any question regarding how to tailor them to your needs as a voice-over professional, Edge Studio also offers VO business guidance, and you’ll find many free business-related resources at EdgeStudio.com.

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