On April Fools Day in 2011, I got the call that no one wants to get: The lump in my left breast was cancer.
I had a 10-year-old daughter, a loving husband, and a beautiful life. For more than a year of that life, I dealt with surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, Herceptin treatments, and recovery to remove the cancer we could see and kill that which we could not.
Fortunately, I had begun working as a freelance writer and editor in 2002, after my daughter was born. Over the years, I grew my business to more than a dozen clients who gave me regular work that I do in my home office. I could work on a story about veterans who became entrepreneurs in the morning and take my daughter to soccer practice in the afternoon. I had the flexibility to make every school concert and basketball tournament and was still able to work for some of the most well-known publishers in the world. My income was and is significantly higher than what I could earn working full-time as a writer and editor.
While it’s true that my husband—an independent real estate appraiser—and I had to purchase our own health insurance, the benefits of self-employment far outweighed that fact. I was able to tailor my work schedule around my treatments and surgeries. When I felt good, I wanted to work. It was a wonderful distraction and made me feel like more than just “a cancer patient.” It didn’t matter that I didn’t have hair or couldn’t be exposed to crowds because of my chemo-weakened immune system during treatment or for weeks afterward. (The photo accompanying this story is of me a few months after my hair started to grow back.)
Freelancing gave me the freedom I needed to get better and support my family. I could do interviews and write stories remotely and only when I wanted to do so, picking and choosing to work when I felt like it. Had I been working as an employee in an office, I would not have had that flexibility and would likely have had to take unpaid leave during the course of at least some of my treatment, hurting my family’s income.
These bills will change all of that. The way that they are written, if I even go on-site to my clients’ offices a couple of times per year for meetings, I would be out of compliance. What if each of my now 20+ clients needed to hire me as an employee? Imagine having 20 part-time jobs! More likely, they would drop me, as is happening in California. Even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t qualify to contribute to any retirement plan, including my SEP. And I would lose ownership of my copyrights, with are part of a writer’s stock in trade.
I hope that the legislators will realize that the problem is not with the bills, but with the language in the bills. Please rewrite S863 (formerly S4204 and A5936) to allow freelancers like me to continue to work!