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Unions and professional services for writers

As writers, most of us will be freelance and self-employed. That can be a very lonely state of affairs, but when you add in problems with cashflow, late payment and legal advice, being a writer can seem like a daunting task. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself and help secure your rights.

Inscribe

Inscribe offers support and advice to writers of African and Asian descent in the UK, even if you're not one of our contracted writers. Contracted writers get discounted workshops and masterclasses, contract vetting, and free personalised continuing professional development. You can also check our FB and Twitter for opportunities suitable for writers of all backgrounds, and you can subscribe to our newsletter too.

We only select a small number of writers to work with for each Arts Council funding period, but we hope to make a positive difference to all BAME writers in the UK.

Indy.Cube Community

Indy.Cube Community is the first UK-based union for the self-employed. Membership is currently free until April 2018 (and thereafter it's £10 a month) and includes invoice factoring, legal advice, motor assistant and fantastic discounts, including access to an NUS Extra Card, cheap cinema tickets and discounts on Apple products.

Factoring is the biggest deal here. For just 2.15% of your total invoice, Indy.Cube Community partners Factor 21 will manage all elements of payment, and ensure you get paid on time whether the client pays or not. If the client doesn't pay, they'll do the collections for you - so you need never worry about being paid late (or not at all) ever again.

Think about it. You have a public sector client with a contract for £10,000. Normally, public sector clients can take 60 days or longer to pay. But with factoring, you invoice them on a 14-day term, and Factor 21 will pop the whole amount (minus their 2.15% commission) in your bank account exactly when it falls due. Those pesky clients who never pay, or who pay sporadically, will become a thing of the past. That's truly revolutionary for freelance artists - it's usually only large businesses with sizeable turnovers that can take advantage of factoring.

The legal advice also means you can avoid getting into trouble further down the line. This is available as soon as you sign up. You're also covered for the first portion of any legal costs if you have to go to court.

When to join: Now. It's free until April 2018 and the benefits kick in immediately. The factoring is the most useful benefit.

The Freelancers Union

In the USA, you can join The Freelancers Union, which is also currently free. The Freelancers Union has some great discounts too, and a wealth of resources for ensuring payment. However, unlike IndyCube.Community, it doesn't offer invoice factoring - so you'll still have to do your own credit control, invoicing and collections. The Freelancers Union does, however, offer free templates for freelance contracts and invoices, which can be handy for writers anywhere in the world. I joined just to make use of these tools (the contracts can be edited to fit UK law).

The Freelancers Union also has a helpful app to help you manage all areas of your work. You can join the Union from anywhere in the world, although the benefits are most useful for American freelancers.

When to join: Now. It's free and the tools and app will be useful even if you're not based in the USA. But do be aware that some legal advice and contracts may need to be adapted to UK law. The contract generator is the most useful tool.

NAWE

The National Association of Writers in Education can support you with a range of resources (mentoring agreeements, teaching tools, a regular magazine and a weekly email bulletin), as well as offering you inclusive public liability insurance (essential for any self-employed artist working with the public) with up to £10 million cover. For a small fee (£58), they can also arrange for DBS checks (formerly CRB checks), which is great if you have to work in schools or prisons. However, a DBS check is not needed if you're working for fewer than 30 days with young people (but teachers should never leave you alone with young people or vulnerable adults anyway - you're not a supply teacher).

NAWE professional fees are £75 for full membership, £30 for associate or student membership, and from £225 for institutional membership.

When to join: If you work with the public (workshops, for example) or in the education sector, then join up now. Otherwise, NAWE membership can wait until you require public liability insurance. The PLI and weekly bulletin are the most useful benefits.

The Writers' Guild

The Writers' Guild of Great Britain primarily supports writers of TV, film, radio and theatre, but also supports poets and writers of online drama, fiction and video games. There is a pension plan, which is useful if you are receiving payment from TV production companies as they pay contributions on top of the author's own. There are also a number of discounts available for members.

Members of The Writers ' Guild may also get free membership to The Writers Guild of America East and West, and may apply to the members' Welfare Fund for emergency financial support.

The Writers' Guild will also vet writing contracts for members. Membership starts at £198 and scales up depending on your earnings from writing.

When to join: Before any paid contractual work with a theatre, TV/film production company, or radio production company, or if you're considering a career in any of these areas. The pension scheme and contract vetting are the most useful benefits.

The Society of Authors

The Society of Authors offers professional advice, a tax helpline, contract vetting, discounts and access to guides and resources. Unlike NAWE, however, public liability insurance isn't covered.

The Society of Authors also has a number of grants, including a hardship fund, which are open to non-members as well as members. Likewise, you needn't be a member to access their useful guides on fees, appearances and festivals. Prices start at £97 for full membership (£69 for the low-waged and for young writers).

When to join: If you need advice for tax or legal purposes, or want discounted access to certain SoA events. The contract vetting and tax helpline are the most useful benefits.

NEST

NEST is a Government-backed pension scheme for small businesses and the self-employed. You can ask for an employer to make contributions to your pension pot or you can be the sole contributor if self-employed. Because the Government supports it, it's probably more secure than other schemes for the self-employed.

When to join: As soon as you can afford to. If you're working for a small business, you might also ask your employer to contribute to your NEST pot too.

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