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NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers

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Craig SeemanNYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 2, 2016 at 12:46:43 am

Interesting attempt to provide more protections for freelancers against late pay, none paying clients.

NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To Help Screwed-Over Freelancers

"Over one million freelancers live in New York City. Late payment or no payment is a common story. Video editor and animator Chris Maue started the year owed $10,000. City Councilmember Ben Kallos is still owed $6,000 from his days as a freelancer."
"A survey by the Freelancers Union found that 71% of freelancers have had difficulty getting paid and that the average loss per freelancer is approximately $6,000."
"Under the bill, freelance work valued at over $200 would require a written contract that spells out terms like payment and payment deadline. The employer would be required to pay no later than 30 days after the contract deadline."
Deputy Commissioner Amit Bagga warned against assuming that a written contract will always benefit freelancers, noting that “plain language” is nearly impossible to assess and that non-paying clients can still dispute whether work was completed, when it was completed, and whether the work was satisfactory."

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Bob ZelinRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 2, 2016 at 4:13:48 am

oh my God - what a bunch of babies. These "freelancers" don't want to accept that they are in BUSINESS, and in BUSINESS, you don't have a job, you are running a company (just like I did in NY from 1986 to 1998), and guess what - clients don't like to pay you, so you have to KEEP AFTER THEM. And it's not just "freelancers" - it's any business, doing any activity. You have to work hard to find jobs (it's called sales and marketing), and then after you work hard doing the job, you have to work hard to COLLECT YOUR MONEY. Some companies are nice, but plenty of BIG AD AGENCIES (for example) take over 90 days to pay you. Chase Manhattan Bank was my client in the early years, and they ultimately took 6 months to pay me. WELCOME TO RUNING A BUSINESS. This is not a job when you get your paycheck at the end of the week. It's brutal getting paid, but it's part of running a BUSINESS. This is what employees never understand. "How come the boss makes so much money, and we have this crappy little job, and he gets to rip us off". Not only does he have to FIND the work that you do, but he has to GET PAID from his clients that don't want to pay him, AND meet not only your SALARY, but the employers contribution to social security, your disability insurance, your unemployment taxes, sales tax, and everything else (you know, like rent and owning the equipment).

At the end of the day, the employee says "wow, you are a freelancer, you make SO MUCH MONEY". No one understands that a successful freelancer is constantly working to FIND WORK, and GET PAID, as well as keeping up with his technical ability. The ONLY reward is that you make MORE MONEY that the person "working for a living" at the ad agency or production company. But that "more money" is all that anyone ever sees.

Don't like these rules - then GET A JOB. I have no sympathy for these people. You don't get paid, you go into your clients office, and you threaten them. I know what it's like to work freelance in NY City - it makes you crazy (just look at me !). There is that wonderful expression - "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". This ain't no Bernie Sanders "it should be fair for everyone". Business is not fair. Business owners are often s#$%bags, and you have to constantly fight. Don't like it - get a job.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Craig SeemanRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 2, 2016 at 4:53:12 am

Perhaps you think it's just the freelancers who are complaining

"These late and lower payments have often prevented Harmon from paying both her rent and tuition at her son’s private school on time. Four years ago, she had to pull her son, now twelve, from private school and place him in public school.

Drama critic and writer Randy Gener is owed payment from several publications. After being assaulted in January 2014, he had to undergo four surgeries and extensive hospitalization. Lack of payment means that he cannot pay for those surgeries or ambulance fees of over $3,700."

Wanna bet it's the landlords, utility companies, hospitals and banks who are doing the complaining and probably having an even bigger political influence.

If a city has one million people who can't pay their bills it's the people THEY pay that aren't collecting. You think the politicians care about the freelancers? Nope, they're making sure the bill collectors get paid by passing this.

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Mark SuszkoRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 2, 2016 at 4:10:30 pm

It's not clear to me from reading this, how the contract requirement will be enforced: is the enforcement onus on the Freelancer, or on the clients. If there's a violation, which side does the state go after for the penalties? The cynical side of me also wonders if this isn't really a way to get more of these lower-level transactions on the radar of the state and federal IRS: a million freelancers, doing jobs for a couple of grand a pop, I bet quite a few are doing it as a cash transaction without paperwork and leaving Uncle Sugar without his cut.

To take an uncharacteristically Libertarian view (for me) of this, freelancers shouldn't need the prodding of a law to do what is a logical and self-interested business practice, i.e. GETTING IT IN WRITING. You should be doing that because it's smart business and protects you if you need to go to court.

If I had a hand in writing the legislation, I'd add in that the state would take over collections on behalf of the freelancer, trading it's collection muscle for the tax revenue, so you don't have to do as Bob has had to, and be your own leg-breaker.

I doubt the legislation gets as far as a vote. Too many business interests like the idea of a pliant, easily-intimidated freelance workforce that can be goaded to bid against itself, keeping human resource costs low. A freelancers' union sounds like a good idea. But it also sounds like herding cats, in terms of getting them to stick to a set rate for services and not break ranks to underbid each other at the first opportunity.

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Bob ZelinRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 2, 2016 at 5:03:25 pm

again - this is just life. what about an employeer that has a business (let's say it's a post facility in NY) - and he has a loan out for his 6 AVID's and ISIS shared storage system, and 3 Maya workstations. So he employ's 9 people. And he is paying rent in Manhattan. And now BBDO or Gray Advertising does not pay him. Not only does HIS medical insurance bill show up, his rent shows up, and his NINE employees need to get paid. What does he do ? Who can he sue ? Well, he can sue the ad agencies (because they have not paid him in over 60 days) - but if he sues, they will never hire him again.

Gee - what a dilemma. I know EXCACTLY what it is like to live in NY City. I ran a "successful" freelance business there with 2 employees. ITS F#$%ing expensive. And while I spent my whole life there (until about Age 42), and ran my business from Queens, and FINALLY was able to afford to move into Manhattan, within 3 years, I realized that every penny I was making was going into the business, my employees, and my COST OF LIVING for living on 25th and Madison Ave. And I eventually said "this is crazy, I have to get out of here". And I did.

So are you saying "it's not fair to the people that live and work in Manhattan - they have to get paid so they can pay their medical bills, rent, insurance, bank loans, etc". THATS LIFE. If you can't afford to live in NY City, and you decide to get an apartment that is too expensive, and eat out in expensive restaurnats all the time, and then you get sick, and you have credit card debt, and all you do is say "hey this is not fair - I worked hard on that graphics job, and my idiot client is not paying me in time" - well TOUGH LUCK. And WELCOME TO NY CITY. It's a hard live in NY on a day to day basis. You make more money in NY than anywhere else, but you suffer more there than in any other city in the US, even more than LA (a lot more than LA).

I had a warrant out for my arrest for NY City Income Tax Evasion (I had paid my taxes), and a bench warrant was issued for me (via the mail). I had to deal with that nightmare - no one cared that I was a hard working honest guy, who paid my bills. THIS IS LIFE - and in NY it's hard. I spent a lot of money with an expensive top accountant getting that nightmare resolved, and that expense cut into my other "day to day" like paying my other bills. Don't like this fact - move out of NY. I eventually did.

There are countless people of all walks of life that get themselves into debt. A lot of this can unfortunately be attributed to unexpected medical expenses (as you pointed out by your example of Randy Gerner). Why didn't he have medical insurance (you don't need to tell me how insanely expensive it is - it's a lot more than $3700 a year).

Life is hard. Life is a struggle. Move into NY City, and it's even worse. And if you cry "I can't afford to live here" - well, I guess you can't afford to live there, even if you are happy there. Time to move out. These "laws" are not going to force anyone to pay their bills on time. And when someone gives you a contract for $50,000 to do a production for them - you are not going to turn it down because they will not sign a promisory note stating that you will get your 50 grand in 30 days or less. You will take the job, and if it takes 3 - 4 months you will just bare that aggravation. And if you won't, someone else will.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Bob ZelinRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 2, 2016 at 5:11:39 pm

I am SO angry by this thread.

There is a well known story from about 3 years ago, when Life of Pi was made, made a billion dollars, and Rhythm and Hues in LA declared bankruptcy, and ALL the freelancers who worked on that award winning film got screwed (I met many of them at NAB that year). And at the Academy Awards show, these very freelancers protested outside the Academy Awards.

But they went into bankruptcy - right ?

Well, they JUST won another technical Oscar at this years Academy Awards -

how is this fair ? The company made a fortune, declares bankruptcy, stays in business, and continues to find NEW employees, and make lots of money, and win awards. Why are these people not in jail.
Why do NEW employees even agree to work for them.

Again = - welcome to the real world. It ain't pretty. And it ain't fair.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 3, 2016 at 12:20:06 am
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Mar 3, 2016 at 12:22:12 am

I feel your pain, Bob, and you're not wrong. It's a treadmill existence on the Coasts, for sure, and I've never been bold enough to try my luck on either one.

To be able to survive this kind of up-and-down life, a freelancer should probably begin with a large enough sum of money in a bank line of credit that he or she can tap that to cover the missed payments and cost of the credit line. Easy enough to say, sure; harder to DO, yep. Wanna make a million in the video freelance business? Start with two million:-) But I can't imagine how a freelancer under these kind of market conditions can operate WITHOUT a cushion in place, in advance. My impression is, most folks don't; they just never had the level of savings to back this kind of operation and they are rolling the dice, and when it comes up box cars, they just have to quit the business.

People in it for the Long Game have to have that line of credit, at a minimum, plus some kind of rainy-day fund, or partners that can absorb losses and sustain you until the payment arrives, one way or another, because billing and living hand-to-mouth, counting on everybody and everything to always work out right, you just can't get ahead enough to have anything to show for the effort over time. Another reason freelancers have to charge more than a person on salary: making enough to lay a bit away beyond profit, and build up those cash reserves, for just such payment timing problems. Hard to do, when you're willing to drop the price below another guy who's already low-balled it, just to get the gig. A single freelancer these days would be hard pressed to make a living. As part of a large enough collective, maybe it could work, because you spread the risk across more people's shared assets. You trade fast gains for stability.

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Herb SevushRe: NYC May Pass "Freelance Isn't Free Act" To H*lp Screwed-Over Freelancers
by on Mar 28, 2016 at 4:41:49 pm

[Mark Suszko] " I can't imagine how a freelancer under these kind of market conditions can operate WITHOUT a cushion in place, in advance."

Be married to someone with a steady income that can make your nut, and then the roller coaster ride of a freelancer's life can be sustained. Find a partner happy to always vacation in off-season, to never make reservations for anything, and who does not have any bi-polar issues. Or follow my mother's advice and be sure to marry rich. Unfortunately I never listened to mom.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf

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