When I made the leap into full-time freelancing a few years back, one mission-critical thing I needed to look into was how to financially protect myself in case of the unexpected. Though it’s not the most exciting thing to think about, self-employed folks need to assess their insurance needs.
And while I had some insurance plans, I knew I had to purchase new policies and make tweaks to existing ones. Without sufficient coverage, I would be at risk for financial ruin. Here are six essential types of insurance for self-employed people:
- Short-term disability
- Travel medical
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1. Health Insurance
When you take the leap into self-employment, you need to take care of your health insurance. As a freelancer, you’ll need to shop around for the insurance plan that works best for you. This includes taking a close look at all of the costs — not just the monthly premium. These costs range from prescription drugs to copays to lab work.
Getting myself into crippling medical debt was a real concern. In fact, according to a joint survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times, about one in five adults in the U.S. say that they or someone in their household has struggled with paying off medical debt in the past 12 months.
While health insurance doesn’t necessarily provide a total safeguard against medical debt, you would pay a lot more out of pocket without it.
If money is tight, consider a high deductible premium that covers catastrophic illness at a minimum.
2. Dental Insurance
While not legally mandatory, dental insurance could save you money down the road.
It has an annual dollar maximum, which means there’s a cap as to how much the insurance company will pay each year. You’ll want to see if there’s a deductible, as well. Also look at which services are 100 percent covered, and which ones have a copay.
I did the math and figured out that my total monthly premiums for a year added up to two teeth cleanings and X-rays each year. If I ever needed more intensive dental work, it would save me some dough.
Generally, dental insurance covers between $1,000 and $2,000 of work per year outside of preventive cleaning. What’s more, some even cover a small part of orthodontics.
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3. Short-Term Disability Insurance
Short-term disability insurance was something I hopped on earlier this year. If you suffer from an accident or get sick and can’t work, short-term disability pays a percentage of your income for a short period of time. Depending on your coverage, short-term disability will pay for anywhere from nine weeks to a year.
Right now, only five states and one territory provide — or require employers to provide — short-term disability: California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico. Even then, the state regulations don’t always apply to freelancers. And even though I live in Los Angeles, I wanted to look into short-term disability to supplement what I would receive from the state government.
I’m single and don’t have a second income to fall back on, so I knew I needed short-term disability insurance.
But after doing some searching online, I experienced sticker shock. I discovered that policies for someone in my age bracket cost $350 a month! I finally landed on an affordable self-employed insurance plan through the Freelancers Union, and I now pay about $22 a month for $2,500 a month in coverage.
4. Renter’s Insurance
Renter’s insurance will replace any belongings that you lose due to a burglary, accident, or disaster. It usually also covers liability in the event that you accidentally damage someone else’s property, as well as the cost of having to stay elsewhere if you’re temporarily unable to stay in your apartment.
It typically covers belongings such as furniture, electronics, and clothes. However, if you work from home and want to cover business equipment, you’ll need to purchase a rider or add-on.
Some companies like Lemonade offer both renter's and homeowners insurance at affordable prices, so you can get covered, no matter what your living situation is.
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5. Liability Insurance
Liability insurance can provide protection against high-cost lawsuits. Otherwise, you could end up in the poorhouse. There are several types of liability insurance that are useful for self-employed people.
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance protects your business from third-party claims for bodily injury, associated medical costs, and damage to someone else’s property. This could protect your business if you’re, say … a personal trainer, event planner, or IT professional.
Professional Liability Insurance
Professional liability insurance is also known as errors-and-omissions insurance. It protects you and your business from claims that have to do with any negligent performance of your professional services. This might come in handy if you run a service or advice-based business, such as a school psychology company or a law consultant agency.
Media Liability Insurance
This is another type of errors-and-omissions insurance. It’s designed to protect those who work in broadcast, publishing, journalism, advertising, and marketing against errors, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and plagiarism claims.
6. Travel Medical Insurance
Not to be confused with travel insurance, which typically protects you if your flight is delayed or canceled, travel medical insurance is in case of medical emergencies while outside of the U.S. only.
If you’re a digital nomad and travel abroad quite frequently, then you’ll want to look into this type of insurance. Many policies, offer it for single trips, multiple trips, or long-term trips abroad. Note that travel medical insurance doesn’t replace regular health insurance. In fact, it sometimes requires that you have primary health insurance before you can purchase it.
The Bottom Line on Insurance for Self-Employed People
Different kinds of freelancers may need different types of insurance. For instance, media liability insurance may be essential for a journalist, but not so much an IT professional. Make sure to do your research to see what policies best suit your needs. After all, you don’t want to end up wasting money on a policy that doesn’t meet your needs, or to find yourself in a pickle when you realize too late that you’re underinsured.