Freelance Workers

Under the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, a freelance worker is any individual hired or retained as an independent contractor by a hiring party to provide services for compensation. Freelancer services may be commonly referred to as gigs, tasks, projects, side or contingent work, working on contract or spec, freelancing, contracting, subcontracting, consulting, moonlighting, entrepreneurship, alternative arrangements, self-employment, etc. Whether or not you are an “independent contractor” depends on a variety of factors and the nature of your work arrangement. You can contact DCWP if you have questions about your classification as a freelance worker, independent contractor, or employee.

A hiring party is any individual or business, other than a government entity, who hires a freelance worker.

Your Rights

You have rights regardless of your immigration status.

Written Contract
All contracts worth $800 or more must be in writing. This includes all agreements between you and the hiring party that total $800 in any 120-day period. The written contract must spell out the work you will perform; the pay for the work; and the date you get paid. You and the hiring party must keep a copy of the written contract.

DCWP created a model contract [English | Español (Spanish)] that includes the terms required under the law and optional terms that may apply to different work types and arrangements. Make sure you understand everything that is included in a contract and consult an attorney or workers’ rights advocate if you have any questions about what should be included or what a term means.

Timely Payment
The hiring party must pay you for all completed work. You must receive payment on or before the date that is in the contract. If the contract does not include a payment date, the hiring party must pay you within 30 days after you complete the work.

Freedom from Retaliation
It is illegal for a hiring party to penalize, threaten, blacklist, or otherwise deter workers from exercising their rights under the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. Denying a worker future work and threatening to take unwarranted legal action against a worker are also illegal. You can file a complaint with DCWP about retaliation by submitting a complaint form.

Right to File a Complaint 
You can file a complaint with DCWP.

What Happens to Your Freelance Worker Complaint?

  1. DCWP will send your complaint and any supporting documents you provided to the Hiring Party.
  2. The Hiring Party must then respond to DCWP within 20 days.
    • If the Hiring Party responds, DCWP will send you a copy.
    • If the Hiring Party does not respond, DCWP will send you a notice that they failed to respond.
  3. If your complaint is still unresolved, you can sue the Hiring Party in court. If the Hiring Party did not respond to DCWP, the court will assume the Hiring Party violated the law unless the Hiring Party can prove they did not. DCWP’s Navigators can help you find a lawyer, understand the court process, and provide other information.

    Note: If you are not timely paid for your work, you have a right to collect double the amount you weren’t paid, damages for retaliation, and payment of attorneys’ fees and costs.

If you filed a complaint but have not heard from DCWP after 10 weeks, please email or call 212-436-0380.

Note: DCWP cannot serve as your attorney or give you legal advice.

Resources for Freelance Workers

DCWP established a Navigation Program to provide assistance and information when you file complaints with DCWP; have questions about the law; or have general questions about the court process. Download the Navigation Program Guide for Freelance Workers. (Updated 03/15/2021)

Frequently Asked Questions. Read our FAQs. (Updated 05/14/2018)

5-Year Report on NYC's Freelance Isn't Free Act. Read report (November 1, 2023). Submitted pursuant to N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 20-936.

Download Protecting NYC's Freelance Workers brochure in:

Note: DCWP is a resource for workers who believe they may be misclassified; however, DCWP cannot provide legal advice to workers or hiring parties. DCWP may be able to provide a referral to an attorney for workers who believe they may be misclassified as independent contractors. Hiring parties may wish to consult an attorney to be sure that they are properly classifying workers.

Laws and Rules

New York City Administrative Code > Title 20: Consumer and Worker Protection > Chapter 10: Freelance Workers

Rules of the City of New York > Title 6: Department of Consumer and Worker Protection > Chapter 7: Office of Labor Policy and Standards > Subchapter E: Freelance Workers