Can I Get Unemployment if I Work Freelance?

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During economic downturns, freelance work becomes more readily available as companies try to run leaner to save money. Unemployment also rises during economic downturns. However, freelancers often can’t collect unemployment benefits because they can’t meet the financial eligibility requirements the state has instituted for unemployment claims.

Freelance Work

Freelance work is just independent contract work as opposed to working directly for an employer. While almost any type of independent contractor could be called a freelancer, it’s more likely to refer to someone working in the creative arts, such as writers or designers. Freelancers are self-employed and receive a Form 1099 tax form from the businesses and individuals they provide work for each year.

Financial Eligibility

To receive unemployment benefits you must meet your state’s financial eligibility requirement. This is the minimum amount of wages you must earn in your base period to collect benefits. In most cases, your base period is the first four of the last five full calendar quarters before you file your claim. So if you filed for your benefits in September 2011, your base period would be April 2010 through March 2011.

Insured Wages

Not only must you earn a minimum amount of wages during your base period to qualify for benefits, they also must be insured wages. Insured wages are the ones that you earn from work covered under the state’s unemployment insurance laws. While most employment is covered, self-employed like freelancing is not.

Could You Still Get It?

Although freelance work won’t count toward your financial eligibility, you may still be eligible for payments. Freelance work is often piecemeal and sometimes freelancers take on other jobs to make ends meet. If you worked in covered employment during your base period, you may have earned enough money outside of your freelance work to collect benefits.