Employees have federal rights, like minimum wage, breaks and meals, Family Medical Leave options, and various other protections administered through the United States Department of Labor. Freelancers have federal rights too!
The US Department of Labor protects freelancers. Independent workers are not employees and are not subject to the same work requirements. As independent contractors, freelancers do not work set hours chosen by a client, they do not work where the client tells them to work, and clients cannot change how freelancers do their work.
Basically, freelancers are free from micromanagement! One of the things I do not miss about working in an office is having someone stand over my shoulder. I would be updating a brochure, logo, or other design and a colleague or manager would be standing next to me simply watching me re-size or color images and then commenting on my work—while I was in the middle of working! I wasn’t even done and ready to show a finished draft. (The other thing I don’t miss is having to do that nonsense from 8-5!)
Another freedom freelancers may not feel comfortable asserting is working for clients who are competitors—like creating a brochure for a beauty salon and then creating a website for another salon in the same market area. It may seem morally cloudy, but your line of work allows it. You are providing writing services for anyone to hire. According to The Freelancers Union, “Independent contractors should be able to market themselves to any client, and any existing client should not be able to specify that you work only for them or refuse to allow you to work for their competitors.”
Violations are possible. I can share a few personal experiences from my freelance career. Over the years clients have…
…requested I change my email address because it was “too long to remember.”
…asked me to use in-office computers that were over a decade old.
…required a signed 18-month non-compete agreement before starting a project.
…asked me to work specific hours during the day.
…insisted I complete all the work myself and not subcontract.
You might have a contract stating your work conditions, but even then the client/employer may be misclassifying you and subject to federal penalties. This creates tax issues. (If you are an independent contractor, you are paying estimated quarterly taxes. An unscrupulous business may try to take advantage of a freelancer and treat them like an employee, but pay them on a 1099 to avoid paying the worker’s taxes.) According to the IRS, “The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”
Assert your rights if you notice a client is overstepping their boundaries. Kindly remind them you are an independent contractor and not an employee. There’s no reason to go straight to citing statutes, but if a client keeps insisting on something that violates your independent worker rights – direct them to the government and enjoy your freedom.
NOTE: Be advised that I am not an expert in the law field and none of what appears here is intended as legal advice. Speak with an attorney for legal advisement.