Editor, Writer

Rachel Kramer Bussel

I work two days a week as a copywriter at the offices of a retail company, and the rest of the time I’m a freelance writer for various national and regional publications, largely focusing on sexuality, dating, and culture, as well as personal essays. I also edit 2-3 short story anthologies per year, teach erotica writing classes and consult about writing with private clients. I generally work anywhere from 30-50 hours per week, and my S-Corp business has grossed six figures for the last three years. I was laid off from my full-time magazine editor job in 2011 and have worked for myself ever since then. My current business brings in over twice the rate of my previous full-time salary.

The two biggest reasons freelance work is important to me are that full-time media jobs are few and far between, given the increasingly volatile nature of the news business, and that I’m able to bring in a far greater income than I would otherwise. Additionally, I’ve chosen not to drive for the last 15 years, and working from home or within walking distance of my home enables me to avoid a long and costly commute while maximizing my time. Instead of commuting during rush hour, I’m working. I’m more productive as a freelance worker because I’m not beholden to a strict 9 to 5 schedule, and that flexibility has enabled me to write for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, O, The Oprah Magazine and others during the course of my time as a full-time freelancer.

Why I’m Worried: What worries me most about S4204 and A5936 is that I would lose my livelihood and be forced to either move out of the state or rely on my boyfriend’s income, while I looked for likely minimum wage work on a full-time employee basis. As someone who grew up in Bergen County through age 17 and has lived in New Jersey again for the past six years, I’d be dismayed to have to leave my home state in order to make a living at my chosen career.

What Legislators Need to Know: I’d like them to be aware that in both my role as a copywriter and my work with my publisher and writing clients, I’m required to meet with the people I do business with. I should not be penalized for doing so in the name of protecting exploited workers, who I fully agree should be treated and compensated fairly under the law. I have far greater earning potential and flexibility as a freelancer than I ever could as a full-time employee, and am far from exploited. This overly broad legislation would impede my ability to engage in the only career I’ve had in my adult life. I’ve spent the last 20 years building up my name and professional profile so that I could contribute to top tier publications and become known in my field. These bills threaten that status. Furthermore, if I’m unable to earn a decent living in New Jersey, my household will have far less money to spend in our community, as we will be scraping by.

Content strategist, Editor, Writer

Ellen Sheng

I’m a freelance writer, editor and content strategist. I love the flexibility of the way I choose to work. I can take on assignments that interest me and turn down ones that don’t (or that don’t pay well). I can make my own schedule. I can also advance my career while caring for my two young children. As a freelancer, I am able to have the kind of work/life balance that suits me and my family.

Why I’m worried about S863 (formerly S4204/A5936): If this legislation becomes law, then more and more companies will discriminate against New Jersey-based independent contractors. This kind of discrimination would devastate my business and my family, who depend on my income.

What I want lawmakers to do: Please slow down and take time to consider the unintended consequences of this bill.

Editor, Writer

Diane M. Byrne

I’m the owner of RedHedInk LLC, which provides freelance writing and editing services. Magazines and websites hire me to write and edit based on my more than 20 years of experience, and I commission freelance articles and other freelance content for another company, Superyacht Storytellers LLC, which I co-own.

Why I want to remain an independent contractor: It affords me the freedom (including financial freedom) that I did not have in the corporate world. I left my job as a full-time magazine staff editor in August 2008. Less than one month later, that same magazine eliminated one-third of the editorial staff, including the editor who had taken my place, in a cost-cutting move. That would have been me if I had stayed, and given that the recession was just starting to take hold, decimating newsrooms and magazine offices, it would have been challenging at best to find a full-time replacement job. As a freelancer, I have a rotating roster of clients who actually make me feel more financially secure than I would back in the full-time workforce.

Furthermore, as an independent business owner and co-owner, I rely on independent contractors to provide writing, photography, website design, troubleshooting and graphic design services, among others. My businesses do not require rosters of full-time employees, nor can they afford to bring on full-time employees.

What will happen if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: It will put me out of business. Period.

Lawmakers need to realize: You are not only about to destroy the careers and personal lives of those of us who choose to be independent contractors, but you also are acting in complete ignorance of common sense. The federal government, via the IRS, has had a longstanding checklist to use in evaluating who’s an employee and who’s an independent contractor. There was, and remains, no need for the ABC test that is written into S863 (formerly S4204/A5936), or for “codifying” that test (as Senator Steve Sweeney is so fond of saying).

For proof, look at all of the exemptions you and your fellow legislators are making for real estate professionals, accountants, travel agents and more. If none of us had any reason to be concerned, then why would all of these exemptions exist?

What I want lawmakers to do: The right thing. Toss out this poorly written legislation and go back to the drawing board with the IRS regulations. Equally important: Stop rushing this legislation through. The sense of urgency is completely manufactured.

Church choir director, Editor, Virtual assistant

Susan Schneider

My freelance jobs are varied. I work as a virtual assistant, transcribing interviews for medical-device journalists, and I’m a church choir director. I also do some word processing and editing.

I have metastatic breast cancer and would find it impossible to work in an office. Making my own hours and working at home is the only viable way for me to function. I am also 63 years old, and no company is going to hire me, other than on a consulting basis.

My husband also has a business that functions as a consultant to a large company, and he is paid commission only. They would not take on the extra expense of hiring him. We literally would lose our home and our health insurance if our businesses were no longer viable.

What I want lawmakers to know: Don’t ram S863 through the legislature. Understand what it would mean to millions of people. If you want more taxes, figure out how to raise that money without putting us out of business.

Content strategist, Editor, Writer

Brittany Risher

I’m a freelance content strategist, editor, and writer specializing in health and wellness content. I do a combination of writing and editing for publications and websites, as well as for brands (usually on their blogs). I also create and manage the editorial strategy for websites and brands, which means managing their editorial calendars, assigning freelance writers, editing and loading content, analyzing the performance of content, and refining the strategy accordingly.

Why I’m a freelancer: First, let me be clear about something: I chose to go freelance. I left my last full-time job of my own will. I wanted to be able to do a variety of work rather than just one thing. I also needed the flexibility to be able to manage a long-term eating disorder and see my doctor, therapist and dietitian. (I’m very happy to report that, in part because of the flexibility freelancing gives me, I am the healthiest I have been in more than 20 years.)

Another reason I’m freelance is that, despite the constant hustle and paying for my own health insurance and having no employer 401(k) plan, I make more money. This allows me to save more for my future family.

Going freelance simply made me happier and reduced my anxiety incredibly.

Why I’m so worried about S863 (formerly S4204/A5936): Media companies continue to merge, fold and fire full-time employees. I am deeply worried that I will not be able to find a full-time job should this legislation pass. And even if I can, I know that working set hours in an office environment will trigger my anxiety, which could in turn trigger my anorexia and put me back into a very unhealthy place physically and mentally. This additional stress could affect my relationship with my boyfriend, while we are on the verge of marriage.

What I want lawmakers to know: Please revise the language of this legislation to allow people like me–people who choose to freelance—to do the work that we want to do. I’ve already heard way too many stories from freelance journalists in California, where similar legislation recently passed, about how nobody will hire them now. This could happen to me and my colleagues in New Jersey if the language of this bill is not clear.

Shouldn’t everyone be able to live the life they want to live? Please do not keep us from living out our dreams.

Editor, Proofreader

Vivian Fransen

I am a self-employed editor and proofreader, and this package of bills in its current form will kill my business model and force me to move out of New Jersey.

After three downsizings, I’ve found more work security in having a dozen clients who use my services on an as-needed basis, instead of having only one employer. I am not some sort of free-spirit moonlighter; this is how I make a living so I can afford to live in New Jersey.

What S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) will do to me: Discourage clients from using my services as a pair of fresh proofreading eyes for their documents. My clients do business with me precisely because I offer flexibility to work on an as-needed basis, and because I’m not part of their head count. I am in compliance with all laws now in effect and pay all required taxes in a timely manner. By the way, I also pay out-of-pocket for my health care insurance coverage for a two-person household. There is no free ride for me as an independent contractor and LLC.

How this legislation makes me feel: I’m worried sick about the impact of this fast-tracked legislation without adequate attention to those of us working as independent contractors who are already paying all required taxes in a timely manner, and who make enough income so we can afford to live in New Jersey.

Please let me continue to work as a self-employed editor and proofreader

Editor, Writer

Kim Kavin

In July 1996, as I was coming home from work on the night shift as an editor at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, a man I’d never met followed me into the vestibule of my apartment building. I didn’t know it at the time, but he’d spent the past 20 years of his life wrestling with the demons of paranoid schizophrenia. On that night, he was off his meds, on probation for hitting a police officer, and hearing voices talking to him about women drowning in pools of blood.

I don’t remember all of what happened next. I know that at some point, he was choking me, because a few days later, I had a string of bruises around my neck like a pearl necklace. And at some point, I was knocked unconscious, because when I came to, I was on the ground. And the kitchen knife he stabbed me with was serrated; that one, I only know because the police told me later.

The diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder came fast, and at first, it was acute and severe. I was fortunate to have good lawyers and a good psychologist, and though I live with the remnants of PTSD today, I’m one of the lucky victims of violent crime who was able to go on and have a life. I did have to leave my dream job as a daily newspaper editor behind—you can’t get your blood pressure down and stop the panic attacks completely if you’re sitting under a police scanner at a metro desk editing obituaries and crime reports—but I found my way to the slower pace of boating magazines, and then to freelance writing and editing primarily for them.

Since 2003, I’ve been able to work for those boating magazines and more as a freelancer from home, where I completely control my environment: all the sights, sounds, smells, people coming and going, pretty much anything that could possibly trigger the PTSD. I rarely have an episode anymore, and I’ve enjoyed major success in my career. I even get to do some freelance newspaper reporting now and again. Today, people can read my byline everywhere from Yachting magazine to The Washington Post. In 2019, I won the Donald Robinson Prize for Investigative Journalism. Not too shabby for somebody who, at one point in her life, couldn’t stop her own hands from shaking.

Some of us, like me, become freelancers by choice. We love our lives. We love our independence. We love the control over our environment. We love the money we can make if we work hard. And we love the fact that, if we have a bad night of dreams about a guy with a knife, we can sleep in a little and make up the time later that day, because we get to set our own hours.

For me, being a freelancer has been a life-changing career choice. I know how to fight for my life, and I won’t let any misguided lawmakers take it away from me. Vote no on S863.