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I have not been able to find any freelancer's association or union to join in the country where I am currently residing in, Indonesia.

This means that I have been freelancing since forever without enjoying the benefit of networking, perks, health and dental insurance coverage, discounts and possible expansion, access to legal advise, as well as freebies and goodies that come with being a member of a freelancer's association.

Throughout my 10+ years freelancing, I have worked with people all over the world, India, the States, Germany, Brazil, China, and many more. They have all found me by word-or-mouth or personal recommendations. Still, I feel like I am missing out a lot without a union or association with other freelancers.

Are there international associations or unions for freelancers that I can join?

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This really depends on the type of work you do. There are organizations for general fields:

AIGA American Institute for Graphic Design

IWPA International Web Association

AITP Association of IT Professionals

You'd focus on an organization based upon your work, not merely the fact you freelance.

Whether or not it is beneficial to be a member any of these organizations is for you to determine. In most cases, they come with a monthly fee for "dues" and then provide some items for it's members. In my experience, the dues are well beyond any benefit for being a member, so I've never found them very useful. But your opinion may be different. One thing is for certain, they would offer a "hub" to connect with others in the field. But then again, there are generally conferences which offer networking as well (without dues).

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None of the perks you mention are actually free; they're all paid for in some way.

To me, part of being a freelancer is having the right and obligation to construct the package of perks you want for yourself. Personally, I choose to attend 3-4 conferences a year.

Regarding the networking, (at least in Denmark) one could work out of a shared office instead of at home. In addition, one could use sites like Meetup.com to find or organize networking.

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I would strongly suggest that you see this as an opportunity to start your own organization. You can base it off the many models that are available but you would make it free to join at first. Once you have a few members you can start listing recommended services, such as the 'perks' you mention, from a good dedicated supplier that you could potentially arrange a discount with for members of your club.

I would try to make membership free if I were you, but move towards a paid membership in the future.

If I were doing this, I would start with a website. Then find a couple of other freelancers to meet with once a month just for a chat about business etc. Then start actively recruiting more members in your local area.

It could be beneficial for you as a member of a community, once up and running you could join or affiliate with a larger international organization. It could also be financially rewarding if you can begin to organize talks from guest speakers, proper solid membership benefits, and start charging for membership.

This is after all how all organizations start. I do not think it would initially be too much of a time burden, but would look great on your CV too.

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Basically what you are describing is the trade off you make when turning freelancer. None of those things are provided by default, but all can be obtained if you choose to do so. Networking is done by visiting conferences, seminars or other events. Insurance can be arranged by simply getting some, the same goes for legal advice.

A union for freelancers wouldn't be useful. For one, unions' main function is negotiating with employers and helping employees. Freelancers don't have employers but clients and they are free to negotiate the terms of the engagement. Neither are freelancers employees, so there are no employee rights to be defended. Associations for freelancers do exist (although usually per sector, not for freelancers as a group), at least where I'm from in Europe, but I have never actually felt the need to be a part of those.

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