Reader Q&A: Health Insurance for Freelance Writers


Wade Finnegan asks:

How do freelance writers afford health insurance? Are there group plans for freelancers?

I’ll be honest, the high cost of health insurance here in the States is one of several reasons why I keep a full-time corporate job in addition to my freelance writing business. While some freelancers have the luxury of getting insurance through a spouse, the rest are left to make some tough decisions.

Plenty of freelancers opt for high-deductible plans that really only cover them when things turn catastrophic.  Going this route can make monthly premiums manageable, but it’s not terribly helpful or reassuring.

There actually are some group plans available if you’re affiliated with the right organizations and you’re lucky enough to live in the right state.

The Freelancers Union offers some group health, dental, disability and life insurance plans. They even offer 401(k) retirement options for members. The details vary by state, though. For instance, a group health plan is not available for me in Indiana at all, and dental premiums in my state would run me more than $50 per month. That’s way more than the cost of 2 regular check-ups and x-rays if you do the math. So if I was shopping, I’d be inclined to just go without unless I was planning some major dental work. And even then, “major services are not covered for the first 12 months you are enrolled.”

Addy Dugdale (who’s not from the U.S., by the way) wrote an interesting article for Fast Company almost two years ago now about freelance health insurance. In it she interviews five different freelancers in America about the state of health care for the self-employed, each freelancer with a different perspective. So far, things haven’t changed a whole lot on the health care front, and the article is still relevant on so many levels.

It’s a frustrating situation for a lot of freelance writers, and it’s one more reason why setting the right fees for our work is so important.

If you’re a freelancer, how do you handle the health insurance conundrum?

Reader Q & A: Is This Freelance Writing Job Legit?

Stacia asks for some freelance writing advice about a job ad that caught her eye. Submit your own question.


A freelancing question, because I’ve been trying hard to get somewhere (anywhere) with making some money on the side.

How do you feel about this kind of gig?

“The rate of pay starts at 50 cents for every 100 words, or $1.00 per 1k characters. An average order could be 5 to 15 posts, with 100 words each describing photo galleries, site or product reviews, profiles, and product descriptions.”

In this case, I turned it down because a) I feel like I’m worth more than that and b) it was writing primarily adult content and c) I want to build a portfolio and this was all anonymous work, which is probably just as well since it’s adult content.

Have you addressed this on your blog (or elsewhere)? I wasn’t able to find anything. I thought that selfishly, I’d ask because it benefits me, but also it might be something your readers might be interested in hearing about.

Thanks – this freelancing thing is tough. My husband uttered the words “seasonal retail” and I’m finding myself really frustrated with what seems to be out there. I’m planning to reread your freelancing series from the start next week. Thanks!

Stacia @ girlyfight

About Crummy Pay

My first reaction is to beg you to please, please, please never accept pay like that. First, it undermines rates industry wide. Second, I’m familiar with your writing, and you’re right to think you’re worth more than that. To call it demeaning is an understatement.

To put it in perspective let’s think about this pay scheme in terms of an hourly wage. Let’s say you were able to write 500 words in an hour (and many writers would consider that a real stretch!), you’d be making $2.50 per hour. Would you work as a janitor for $2.50 an hour? Would you work as a cashier for $2.50 an hour? Would you work as a graphic designer for $2.50 an hour?

Despite my gut reaction to your question, I can’t judge anyone for accepting a job like this one. We all do what we have to so we can make ends meet or break into a new field. If you were excited about this opportunity, I’d encourage you to pursue it. But you’re clearly not, and that speaks volumes. So I’ll just make a few points about the other issues you raised for future reference.

On Writing Adult Content

As for adult content, I’ve never written it. Mostly because I know my limits, and erotica is so not my thing. But I’m liberal enough that I can’t imagine telling someone not take a gig just because it’s adult content. My reservation about writing it stems from the fact that you can never be too sure who will appreciate seeing adult writing samples–aside from other adult content curators, anyway.

Ghostwriting and Your Portfolio

Finally, I just want to clear up any misconceptions that new writers might have about using anonymous or ghostwritten material for writing samples. While it’s a pretty bad idea to plaster that kind of content on your website’s portfolio page, you may still be able to claim it as your work. (You’ll have to work out these details with your client.) Assuming it’s a go, you can simply list it as a writing credit on your resume or you can send the writing sample privately as an email attachment or link explaining that it was ghostwritten for another client. To back up your claims, simply ask your client to serve as a professional reference should the potential client ask for verification.


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