Freelancers Union was created to serve the interests of independent workers, and member participation is critical to shaping the future of the organization. We need you, the Freelancers Union members, to help decide on the next Member Representative to join our board.
The Member Representative will have the same responsibilities as all other board members, playing an integral role in developing our organization’s strategy for the future. Check out the four candidates for the next Member Representative below, and vote here:
Candidates will be chosen by a ranked-choice ballot.
A former teacher, Laura Briggs started her freelance career in 2012 as a side hustle. She scaled her freelance writing, project management, and digital marketing business to a six-figure company a year later and has now worked with over 400 clients all around the world. She’s also completed everything but her dissertation for a PhD in Public Policy from Virginia Tech.
Through her weekly Advanced Freelancing podcast, her two TEDx talks, and other resources, Laura helps other freelancers work towards starting and scaling a digital freelance business. Laura is the founder of Operation Freelance, a national 501(c)3 organization providing free virtual training to military spouses looking to break into freelance work.
Laura has authored five books, including The Six Figure Freelancer (2020) and the Author Elite Award “Best in Business” winner How to Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business (2019).
Laura K. Wise
Laura K. Wise is the founder and lead consultant for Content Wise Communications (CWC), a boutique communications agency that works with brands to build communication strategies and tell brand stories in a digital world.
Having lived and worked domestically and abroad, Laura has a diverse professional background spanning design, communications, corporate social responsibility, diversity, equity and inclusion, and fundraising. She has a unique perspective on how to make social impact work as shown through her partnerships with brands including Planned Parenthood, MUFG, Catalent, and Denny's, as well as through her work creating content across the U.S., Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. For the last 11 years, Laura has also been a freelance writer.
Laura is the founder of The Black Female Freelance Network (The BFF Network), a growing community of Black women freelancers sharing tips, tools, resources, and stories—but most importantly, creating a hiring pipeline.
When Robyn Steely launched her freelancing business in 2015, she immediately joined the Freelancers Union. Robyn is a relationship- and values-based trainer and facilitator. She works with local, regional, and national nonprofits, NGOs, and social justice, mission-based, and advocacy organizations. She supports them as they grow, make decisions, share their expertise, and change our communities and the world.
Before freelancing, Robyn served for 10 years as the Executive Director of a nonprofit providing community-building writing workshops in hospitals, schools, prisons, shelters, and social service agencies. In Missouri and Oregon, she worked in progressive electoral and legislative politics at the local, state, and federal levels; in issue advocacy and coalition building; and in the labor movement. Her roles included Political and Communications Director, Program Director, and Organizer.
Robyn volunteers with a statewide criminal justice reform organization and is a weekly volunteer at a residential addiction treatment facility for men who are on probation and parole. She holds a degree in African-American Studies with a minor in Art History from Washington University in St. Louis. A Midwesterner by birth and at heart, Robyn writes, runs, reads, and cheers on the Trailblazers in Portland, Oregon.
Tristan Kneschke is a full-time freelancer who works as a video editor, musician, instructor, and journalist. He first joined the freelance force 15 years ago as an assistant video editor before advancing to a full-time editor several years later. Today, he specializes in video coloring and also provides music composition among his post-production services, focusing on fashion and beauty work. He teaches a class in color grading at the School of Visual Arts and has given multiple seminars on the discipline.
Tristan has written about video for several industry sites, and as an experimental electronic music devotee, has extensively covered the scene for a host of online publications and several academic journals. He records as Metamyther, a dark electronic music project that explores three-movement song structures.
Tristan has drafted a policy proposal called “Net-7: Fairness for Freelancers” that aims to shorten payment schedules from archaic net-30 terms, mandates contracts from employers, and provides accountability with a portal via New York’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. Read the proposal here.
What is your vision for the Union?
Laura Briggs: I would like to see the Union become even more inclusive, extending the reach, support, and voice of freelancers of all types in a bigger way. From big cities to rural freelancers to digital nomads and beyond, there’s never been more variability and opportunity with freelancing. There is so much room for freelancers of all backgrounds to start and thrive with this business style and I believe the Union can be an important way to share valuable information to those audiences while also representing the needs of these business owners on a national level.
I also want to see the Union help share the story of what freelancing is (and isn’t) especially as legislators pay more attention to the independent contractor economy.
Laura K. Wise: My vision for the Union is community growth through digital media.
Freelancers Union has been an incredible resource for me on my freelance journey. I stumbled across this community while looking for help on how to manage my freelance business. I kept coming back because I quickly saw that the Union was the only one-stop-shop that provided tools, resources, a community, and was spearheading legislation to protect the rights of freelancers everywhere.
Our industry is growing and growing quickly! According to a DDIY report, over the next few years, 52% of the U.S. adult workforce is expected to work as a freelancer or have experience working as an independent contractors. That means a ton of new freelancers will have questions about how to secure healthcare, how to make sure that they are paid on time and in full, and how to manage their finances as freelancers.
The Union has a resource for each of these questions and many more. A forward-thinking digital strategy will give us the opportunity to reach more people, provide more resources, and grow our community.
Robyn Steely: Whether we come to this work by choice, necessity, or circumstance, freelancing can give us flexibility, creativity, a worklife, and opportunities that we don’t find in traditional employment. But we lack a safety net. My work in the labor movement showed me that we can’t change policy or systems on our own, even if—and especially if—we work solo.
There are 57 million freelancers, nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce. As our sector steadily grows, so do our opportunities and challenges. FU is positioned to build on our successes and strengthen our collective voice and power by: 1) growing our membership and reach, 2) increasing our education and offerings, and 3) expanding our advocacy work for freelancers’ rights and protections across the country.
Tristan Kneschke: One of the biggest challenges for freelancers is getting paid on time. While the Freelancers Union has made significant legislative strides with the Freelance Isn’t Free Act (which I have used against several negligent clients), this is only the first step toward equitable treatment for the tens of thousands of freelancers that comprise the modern workforce.
My crusade is my “Net-7” policy proposal. Particularly at the onset of the pandemic, I saw how many freelancers were impacted by the sudden drought of work, making it that much more crucial for pay to be delivered promptly for work completed. Paying freelancers on a schedule most staff workers find commonplace would have alleviated some financial burden during an already extremely difficult time.
What do you love most about freelancing?
Laura Briggs: Flexibility. As a military spouse, I moved nine times in ten years for my husband’s career. Being a freelancer was one of the only ways for me to keep my career front and center while working remotely. Today, millions of freelancers build their business around their lives due to family needs, chronic conditions, or simply their desire for work-life balance. It’s one of the few businesses that offers this level of flexibility to implement your vision.
Laura K. Wise: I love that freelancing gives me the freedom and flexibility to design a life that I love. That looks like last-minute travel if a cool opportunity pops up. That looks like being available to help my family when they need me. And that looks like prioritizing my mental health when I need to—like putting my work down to take a walk if I need fresh air, reading a book to clear my head, or popping into a mid-day exercise class to blow off some steam.
Robyn Steely: Freelancing allows me to work on my own while supporting communities and issues I care about. In any given week, I may be training climate change activists in community organizing, creating a strategic plan with a food justice organization, facilitating a national meeting about a pressing social issue, writing training curriculum for women running for office, or coaching an emerging leader. Every day, I’m grateful to make a living based in relationship-building and learning.
Tristan Kneschke: Freelancing allows me to create my career destiny. I have the freedom to design my schedule and pursue clients who provide meaningful work. I feel heard and respected on each job, specifically hired to express my opinions and expertise. Since the pandemic, I’ve also loved working from home, which is much more efficient than traveling to an office every day.
Describe how you have worked to support freelancers in the past
Laura Briggs: It’s been one of the greatest joys in my business to speak out as a freelancer and on behalf of freelancers. I’ve worked with hundreds of other freelancers and have my own team of freelancers running my business, too. For two years, I mentored military spouses one on one to help them launch their own digital businesses. Eventually, that process outgrew me and became the nonprofit Operation Freelance.
In 2019, I had the chance to deliver two TEDx talks on how freelancing is changing the workforce and desires of solopreneurs.
As the host of a weekly podcast and email newsletter with advice for other freelancers, I’m passionate about how we can help welcome more people into the freelance generation.
Laura K. Wise: I'm the founder of The Black Female Freelance Network. We are a community of Black women freelancers sharing tips, tools, resources, and stories—but most importantly, creating a hiring pipeline. At The BFF Network, our goal is to support Black women freelancers by 1) providing job opportunities and 2) providing the training and resources needed to help build profitable freelance businesses. Through The BFF Network, dozens of Black women have been connected to freelance opportunities, and we're just getting started!
Robyn Steely: I urge fellow freelancers and contractors to join the Freelancers Union! I encourage them to access the FU resources and guidance for creating fair contracts, getting paid on time, saving up for taxes, drumming up business, and securing insurance. I participate in FU’s surveys and advocacy campaigns and ask people to join me. And, just as others generously did for me, I support new freelancers with advice and encouragement for building and sustaining their solo businesses. I’m eager to expand my involvement and leadership in our movement, and I would be honored for your vote to serve on the Board.
Tristan Kneschke: I worked with the Freelancers Union to vet New York City Council candidates for the 2021 election cycle. It was crucial for these candidates to hear from actual freelancers about the issues that mattered most to them, since as elected officials they would make decisions affecting the entire freelance constituency.
More recently, I’ve been working with the Fashion Workers Initiative, an organization allied with the Freelancers Union that strives for equitable treatment of fashion workers. I regularly give advice and encouragement to staff workers newly becoming freelance, and in my School of Visual Arts class, I have created a module discussing the benefits of working as a freelancer with the undergraduate students.