Issues facing freelance writers in 2021: Liability

As a freelancer, you not only need to build your own business, but also build your own business protection. Benefits you’d have available to you if you were on staff somewhere — like health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance — are all important safeguards you should have in place. But what about liability insurance? How do you know if it’s something you need and what to look for in a policy?

To answer these questions and more, our team at Dinghy, together with Freelancers Union, recently brought together a panel of industry leaders to offer freelance writers key advice.

If you missed the event, don’t sweat. This blog series recaps our panelists’ insights. Read on for expert perspective (and also check out our blogs on rates and negotiating, copyright protection and contract standards.)

Robert Hartley, Co-Founder of Dinghy, on Freelancer Insurance

After establishing Dinghy — the world’s first insurance provider exclusively for freelancers — in the U.K. in 2017, the Dinghy team recognized a gap in the freelancer insurance market in the U.S.

They discovered many insurance companies were unwilling to offer media liability as part of their policies, leaving freelance writers to manage crucial industry-related risks, like libel, slander and copyright infringement, on their own. On top of that, the application process was arduous, often requiring manuscript reviews and taking weeks to produce a quote. Dinghy launched in the U.S. in October 2020 with a goal of offering comprehensive, affordable freelancer insurance online in a snap.

What Is Freelancer Insurance and What You Should Look for In a Policy
When shopping for freelancer insurance, Rob says there are two main coverages available to you: professional liability insurance (including media liability) and general liability insurance.

Professional Liability
“Professional liability insurance defends you against allegations that you’ve done something in your professional service or given advice that has caused a financial loss to a client,” Rob says.  “Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, someone can still allege it. Professional liability insurance can cover the legal costs to defend you, as well as settlement costs if you do happen to be at fault.”

For freelance writers, it’s very important that media liability is included as part of your professional liability coverage. This covers risks specific to writers, like libel, slander and copyright infringement, but many insurance companies do not offer this.

“Some companies may offer what they call ‘writers insurance,’ which would defend you against a financial loss to a third party — but would exclude other fundamental coverages writers really need.”

Rob notes it’s vital to do your homework to know what to look for when researching insurance options to ensure you get a comprehensive policy.

General Liability
Another good piece of coverage to have as part of your freelancer insurance policy is general liability insurance, which would cover you when you cause injury to someone else or cause damage to their property.

“If you spill coffee over a computer in a client’s office and damage that computer, that could be covered by your general liability insurance,” he says. You’d also be covered if someone slipped and fell on a wet floor in your office or tripped over your laptop cord.

What Happens When You Need to File a Claim
So, what happens when you need to file a dreaded claim with your insurance provider?

“The first thing is not to panic. It’s likely to happen at some point in your career,” says Rob. “Then reach out to your insurer. At Dinghy, we have a self-service area of our website so you can file a claim any time of day or night. It then gets picked up by our claims experts. The worst thing is to think you can just manage it yourself…or pass it to a friendly lawyer you know. If they’re not experts, you’ll end up regretting it.”

Rob says it’s best not to acknowledge the claim yourself, but rather to pass it straight to your insurance carrier and let them start talking directly with your claimant.

“Because they have the experience, they know the questions to ask and will make sure you’re not admitting to any liability unless you’ve actually done something wrong,” he adds.

As a freelancer, you often need to put yourself forward as the expert or figure it out yourself, but when it comes to protecting your business, it’s best to let the professionals handle it.

Shopping for insurance can be overwhelming and confusing. The good news is that freelancer insurance — brought to you by Freelancers Union in partnership with Dinghy and NSM Insurance Group — provides the coverage you need, and it starts at less than $1/day. Learn more and get a free quote online in minutes.

To hear more from our other panelists — which include Wudan Yan, Independent Journalist and Co-founder of The Writers’ Co-op; Umair Kazi, Director of Advocacy and Policy at The Authors Guild; and Ryan Goldberg, Freelance Journalist and Organizing Committee Member of the Freelance Solidarity Project — view the recorded event.

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