Please follow and like us:


On April 18, 2023 the Circle hosted a webinar featuring Rafael Espinal, Executive Director of the Freelancers Union. Before joining the Union in 2020, Mr. Espinal was a member of the New York City council for 8 years where he represented the 37th district in Brooklyn. During his tenure, he co-sponsored the “Freelance Isn’t Free” legislation that gave freelancers protection from nonpayment and late payments. In addition to his City Council service, he also spent two years in the New York State Assembly.

Founded in 1995, the Freelancers Union advocates for independent workers across the US. Mr. Espinal estimates that approximately 60 million Americans are freelancers, up from 54-56 million pre-pandemic.  In addition to translators, freelancers are found in many industries where creativity is involved such as graphic designers, writers, and photographers.

Membership in the Union is free and gives members access to the Union’s website which provides a lot of information about critical issues such as:

– health and other kinds of insurance: while the Union does not currently offer its own health insurance plan, it does curate insurance offerings for its members.

– accounting topics such as how to incorporate or create an LLC.

– advice on how translators can protect themselves against and deal with issues of non-payment. The Union website contains a sample contract for freelancers who may not yet have their own version. When there is a dispute with an employer, the Union can also write a letter for the freelancer on their letterhead which may get the attention of non-payers more quickly than if the freelancer approached the non-payer independently.

– AI: Mr. Espinal made the point that AI is smart and is getting smarter. Consequently, freelance translators will have to master basic AI tools and adapt to the ever-improving technology.  For example, translators who work in post-editing will be expected to work more efficiently and faster than ever before.

The Union provides a wide variety of resources to help freelancers grow their businesses. These include community networking, seminars and training events which are offered at the Union’s co-working Hub in Industry City, Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Membership in the Union entitles the member to 8 days of free coworking space at the Hub. The Union also offers free 30-minute in-person consultations with business experts in fields such as finance, retirement planning, tech and business development.

What emerged from the presentation was that it behooves freelancers to band together to expand the safety net available to them and to advocate for laws that address their needs. The Freelancers Union appears to be an important tool in that ongoing effort.

Patricia Stumpp


Please follow and like us: