Financial Freefall Tips Papers Toward Reliance on Freelancers

Rob joined a panel discussion titled From Full-Time to Freelance: Has Cost Cutting Provided More Freedom With Writers and Photographers? at the annual New England Newspaper and Press Association Convention held this past winter. Rob offered the legal perspective concerning the increased use of freelancers vs. full-time employees, the laws governing part-timers and independent contractors and the distinction between an independent contractor and an employee. Although the language of the law differs in each state, Rob stated that an independent contractor is mainly defined as someone who has the authority to set his or her own working parameters.

“It mainly comes down to the question: Do you have the right to control how the worker does the work?” Bertsche said. “If you are telling them what to do, where to do it, how to do it, giving them the tools to do it … that sounds like an employee. If you are giving them a general assignment or saying, ‘Go and see what’s out there,’ … then it’s sounding more like an independent contractor.”

Rob acknowledged, however, that the practice of hiring freelancers differs from the “letter of the law” in the real world of a newspaper. “The law is not the most important thing,” he said. “The relationships that you develop with those freelancers are the most important thing … having some kind of verbal contract, and established trust – that’s what will really keep the potential legal consequences at bay.”