Do you need an agreement to work as a freelancer?

Giselle Ayala Mateus, Esq.
In the bustling city of New York, freelancing has become a popular choice for many. It offers flexibility and the opportunity to work on diverse projects. But one question that often arises is: do you need an agreement to work as a freelancer in New York?
Yes, having a written agreement is not only a prudent business practice but also a legal requirement under the Freelance Isn’t Free Act (FIFA) in New York City. FIFA was enacted to safeguard the rights of independent professionals who often encounter challenges in receiving payment or having their rights acknowledged.
FIFA provides strong safeguards for freelance workers, ensuring that they have certain fundamental rights:
  1. Written Contract: Freelancers are entitled to a written contract, which helps establish clear expectations and protects their interests.
  2. Timely and Full Payment: Freelancers have the right to receive their payment promptly and in full for the work they have completed. This ensures that they are not left waiting or shortchanged.
  3. Protection from Retaliation: The law also shields freelancers from any form of retaliation for asserting their rights. This ensures that they can speak up without fear of negative consequences.
To enforce these rights, the law imposes penalties on those who violate them. These penalties include:
  • Statutory Damages: Violators may be required to pay a specified amount of damages as determined by the law.
  • Double Damages: In cases where violations are particularly severe, the law allows for double the amount of damages to be awarded.
  • Injunctive Relief: Freelancers can seek court orders to stop ongoing violations and prevent further harm.
  • Attorney’s Fees: If freelancers need to take legal action to protect their rights, the law allows them to recover their attorney’s fees, ensuring access to justice.
Individual claims will be resolved in state court, providing a fair and impartial forum for freelancers to seek redress. Furthermore, if there is evidence of a repeated pattern of violations, the Corporation Counsel has the authority to initiate a civil action to recover a civil penalty of up to $25,000. This provision serves as a deterrent against persistent violations and reinforces the importance of compliance with the law.

Why is an Agreement Necessary?

An agreement or contract outlines the terms and conditions of the work to be done. It provides clarity on what is expected from both parties – the freelancer and the client. This includes details about the scope of work, deadlines, payment terms, and more.
Under FIFA freelancers are entitled to receive a written contract if the service agreement with the hiring party is worth $800 or more. This applies to both individual agreements and all services provided within the last 120 days.
Here, it is worth noting that having an agreement in place can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes down the line. It ensures that they are protected and have legal recourse if things don’t go as planned.

What Should Be Included in the Agreement?

According to FIFA, the contract must include at least the following:
  • The name and address of both the freelancer and the hiring party.
  • An itemized list of services to be provided by the freelancer.
  • The value of the services to be provided and the rate and method of compensation.
  • The date of payment or the mechanism by which such date will be determined.
If the hiring party fails to provide a written contract, they could face penalties.

What does FIFA says about payment the due date?

FIFA mandates that the hiring party must pay the freelancer on or before the designated payment date. If the contract does not specify a payment date, the hiring party is obligated to make payment within 30 days after the completion of the freelancer’s work. Furthermore, once the freelancer has commenced the contracted work, the hiring party cannot demand a lower payment than what was agreed upon.

Need Help?

If you’re considering embarking on a freelancing journey in the bustling city of New York, it is crucial to prioritize the establishment of a written agreement. This not only demonstrates astute business acumen but also fulfills a legal obligation. It is imperative to bear in mind that taking precautionary measures is always preferable to facing potential regrets later on. So, ensure that you have a well-documented agreement in place before commencing any freelance work in New York.
Don’t hesitate to reach out! If you’re seeking legal counsel on issues related to the Freelance isn’t Free Act, G.A.M. LAW OFFICE P.C. is here for you. Their team of experienced professionals is ready to guide you through every step of the process. They understand the complexities of this law and are committed to providing you with the best possible advice and representation. Contact them today to discuss your situation and learn how they can assist you.

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