The Freelance Isn't Free Act is more important than ever — no matter where you are

May 15, 2020

Today is the third anniversary of New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act, the first law in the country that protects freelancers against nonpayment. We fought long and hard for its passage because we know that client nonpayment is one of the most common — and most frustrating — hazards of the freelance life.

The Freelance Isn’t Free Act is a robust set of protections that require clients to use a contract every time they hire freelancers for $800 worth of work (the amount can be accumulated over a four-month period), requires payment within 30 days, and provides legal assistance and an easy claim process managed by the city.

In essence, the law places the financial risk on clients, rather than freelancers. If you do the work you were hired to do, clients must pay. It’s that simple. If they don’t, they can be held liable for double the amount of your invoice, plus legal fees, and fines for chronic nonpayers.

More than ever, we’re hearing from members who are owed money by delinquent clients. While many small businesses are genuinely struggling during the coronavirus crisis, too many large, well-funded companies are using it as an excuse to avoid paying freelancers what they’re owed. Read more about why the most common coronavirus-related excuses don’t hold up under the Act here.

What if I’m in NYC but my client isn’t? The Act may still apply to you, depending on the overall circumstances of the work, including whether some portion of the work was performed in New York City (which is likely if you live and work in NYC), whether you were hired in New York City, and whether the hiring party has any operations within New York City. You should file a claim.

What if I’m not in NYC but my client is? The Act applies to you! If the hiring party is based in NYC, they fall under NYC jurisdiction and must abide by all city laws. You can file a claim remotely.

What if neither of us is in NYC? It’s our goal to introduce Freelance Isn’t Free legislation across the country — no freelancer should feel helpless when a client refuses to pay them what they’re owed. If you want to get involved in the fight to bring Freelance Isn’t Free to your city, email

Want more inspiration? Check out these Freelance Isn’t Free success stories:

To learn more about Freelance Isn't Free and share your own success story, join us on Instagram Live starting at noon EDT on Friday, May 15. Freelancers Union President Rafael Espinal will be talking with a series of special guests about the law, including freelancers like you who used the law to get paid.