(WXYZ) - When you're a freelance worker, it's easy to feel "on your own." In reality, you're part of a nation of millions! Now, "free agents" are learning there’s power in numbers, making a power play for things like health insurance, guaranteed pay, and v-i-p discounts.
It’s estimated one of every three workers is a free-lancer or independent worker, and that number is expected to grow, because since the recession, people have been piecing together projects and jobs.
For freelancer Joshua Warren, finding a steady stream of income wasn't always easy.
"It was very hit or miss; it was a lot of word of mouth," Warren says.
This is a common problem for the 42 million independent workers in this country. Another problem, getting stiffed. That’s why the Freelancer’s Union has started a campaign… “Get paid, not played!” They’ve launched The World’s Longest Invoice … an online counter where freelancers can add the amount they’ve been stiffed to a running national total. It’s already over $
The Freelancers Union is trying to pass legislation first in New York (where they’re based) that would give freelancers the same protections that traditional workers get from the department of labor. It’s hoped it would become a national model. The Union currently has over a thousand members in Michigan. Members can receive benefits and discounts on dental, disability and term life insurance.
There's are also an increasing number of other organizations and web sites offering perks and resources to freelancers.
“They could also go to their Chamber of Commerce and see, are there any kinds of group plans," Sara Horowitz from the Freelancers Union suggests.
If you're job searching, a growing number of sites not only advertise freelance gigs, but help you build a profile. Many, like o-desk, also have feedback systems in place.
"After each job they'll get rated based on skills, quality, deadlines, communication, and cooperation, enabling them to build an online reputation," explains Gary Swart, the CEO of odesk.com.
It helped Joshua Warren.
"I started out on odesk.com at $15 an hour, and now its up to $95 an hour. And that is directly driven by the demand."
These sites also act as virtual workspaces, complete with things like time sheets, status reports and digital to-do lists. Some even guarantee you’ll get paid. Other perks you can find include tax help, networking webinars, and product discounts.
"Everything from gym memberships to office supplies to car rentals,” Horowitz says.
Web sites like o-desk and e-lance do take a small cut of the money that you earn.
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