• Advocacy

Freelance Isn’t Free Takes Effect In Illinois

The Freelance Worker Protection Act, an iteration of “Freelance Isn’t Free”, went into effect on July 1st, 2024. This legislation provides protections for independent contractors who create products or services in Illinois or who work for a hiring entity located in Illinois. 

This law will safeguard freelance workers' rights and address the prevalent issue of non-payment, reflecting a growing recognition of the importance of protecting this vital workforce sector. Freelancing represents a rapidly expanding and vital segment of the economy. In 2022, 60 million Americans freelanced, constituting 39% of the workforce and contributing $1.35 trillion to the national economy.

However, most freelancers lack basic labor protections, particularly timely payment. According to studies conducted by Freelancers Union, 71% of freelancers experienced late or non-payment, with 59% living paycheck to paycheck. Furthermore, the majority operate without written contracts, as only 25% consistently have them.

The Freelance Worker Protection Act provides basic protections when the value of the freelance work is equal to or greater than $500 in a 120-day period, including:

  • A written contract outlining the products and services to be provided, the dates by which services are to be performed, and the rate and method of compensation (sample available online, and free Union contract templates available
  • 30-day payment terms, unless otherwise specified in the contract.
  • Protection against coercion for faster payment.
  • Anti-retaliation measures against freelancers pursuing payment.
  • Double damages for non-payment, covering costs and attorney's fees.

"The Freelance Worker Protection Act establishes a framework of understandable and transparent expectations for independent workers in Illinois, to better protect their work, and compensation," said Illinois Department of Labor Director Jane Flanagan.

The law only applies to freelance contracts taking effect after July 1, 2024. It does not apply to individuals performing construction services, nor does it apply to employees of an employer. Employees owed back wages from their employer may file a wage claim with the Department of Labor here.

"Freelance workers, like all workers, deserve to have basic protections like timely pay and the right to a written contract," said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago). "Many freelancers say they live check to check; these protections ensure there are clear expectations for the workers and hiring entities."

Frequently asked questions and a sample freelance worker contract (which is available in multiple commonly-spoken languages) can be found at the Department's website:

In 2017, New York City pioneered the 'Freelance Isn't Free Act,' allowing freelancers to recover unpaid wages. Since then, freelancers in New York have reclaimed over $2.5 million in unpaid invoices, yet this amount represents only a fraction of what is owed. We are looking forward to seeing similar success with the Freelance Worker Protection Act in Illinois, and will continue to work to expand these protections nationwide.

Freelancers Union Creating a better future for all independent workers across the United States.

View Website