Marketing consultant, Social media consultant, Video Editor, Writer

Elizabeth Uss Barry

My typical workday begins at 8:30 a.m., as soon as my 3-year-old son with special needs leaves for preschool on the school bus. I work on various projects for my clients: planning social media calendars, writing blogs posts and editing video to share. Sometimes, I go to their offices for planning meetings or to go over what is working and what isn’t, in order to change the strategy, or to take photos and video “behind the scenes.” My workday concludes when my son steps off the school bus at 3:30 p.m. I also work on weekends when my husband is home to take care of our son.

Why I want to remain an independent contractor: I’ve always been a freelancer. I was a freelance television producer for 20 years prior to my current consulting role, and now, because I need to be home with my son and take him to therapy appointments after school, remaining a freelancer is the only way that I can still use my skills and help pay the bills. I could not work as an employee because I cannot keep 9-to-5 hours, plus commuting hours.

What’s wrong with S863 (formerly S4204/A5936): B-prong of the ABC test that this legislation intends to codify would force my clients to choose between making me an employee or finding someone else to do the work that I’m already doing well, and that I enjoy doing. And even if one client did make me an employee, I would not be able to accept the position. I just could not work regular business hours.

Lawmakers, please understand: I appreciate the sentiment behind this legislation, because there are many companies that do take advantage of independent contractors. (I used to work for one!) but S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) is not the answer. It would seriously curtail my ability to work at all.

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.

Writer

Lisa Yakomin

I got my start as a freelance writer when I was 20 years old, as a way to help me pay for college while I was a full-time student. After graduation, when I was a full-time salaried employee, I continued freelancing to make ends meet. As I grew older, being a freelance writer was the only way that I could afford to stay at home with my daughters after they were born. Freelancing gave me the flexibility to work on my own schedule. Being a freelancer also prevented me from having a gap on my resume once my children were older and I could return to a more steady work schedule.

I’ve had several full-time jobs during the past 32 years, but the one constant has always been my ability to freelance. Freelancing has given me peace of mind because I know that I can earn a living no matter what. When my father was dying, I had the flexibility I needed to go see him in the intensive care unit every day. I could be available when my children got sick and couldn’t go to school. I was able to miss a day of work without repercussions.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: Companies that use independent contractors will choose not to work with those of us who live in New Jersey. It’s just too big a risk, and with the way the gig economy has exploded across the United States, they have plenty of choices.

What I want lawmakers to do: Devote the time and effort required to get this kind of legislation right, without unintended consequences like the ones we’re seeing unfold in California after a similar law was enacted there. If we’re not actually changing existing law in New Jersey, the way the sponsors of S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) claim, then what’s the rush?

Instructor, Writer

Tara Nurin

I’m a freelance journalist, author and adjunct instructor. When I’m writing, I primarily cover drinks, dining and destinations for publications like Forbes, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast and NJ Monthly. I specialize in beer and spirits, and I co-host a weekly beer TV show in South Jersey. I also teach a for-credit beer course at Wilmington University in Delaware, run a beer-events firm, and serve frequently as a beer expert, judge and speaker. I’m also publishing the world’s first comprehensive history of women and beer.

I love the flexibility to set my schedule, work from home and choose my assignments. Also: Have laptop, will travel.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: To my great dismay, I’ll be forced to move to Philadelphia. This is not an idle threat. I have a dear friend who just moved to Alaska from Los Angeles to avoid being punished by California’s version of this draconian bill. I won’t give up my freelance career, which brings me joy, flexibility and the ability to travel the globe to pursue stories. I’ll give up on New Jersey instead.

Lawmakers, please listen: Please stop dismissing our educated arguments that this will affect us. There is no chance this bill will serve its intended purpose in the media business. No entity is going to bring us on as employees in the current economic landscape … not that we even want to work full-time for one employer.

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.

Writer

Christine Duval

I work as a freelance copywriter predominantly for the real estate industry. I am also a published author of two young adult novels. I am a single mother of two teenagers. I work from home unless I am meeting real estate clients at listing appointments. This flexibility has allowed me to make raising my kids a top priority.

I enjoy the autonomy of freelancing. My daughter has epilepsy and it has afforded me the opportunity to be present for her neurology appointments and manage her seizures. It also allows me to work at home and work at all hours of the day. My best writing is first thing in the morning before anyone has woken up. If I had to go into an office and write on demand, I don’t think I’d be as productive as I am at 5 am in a quiet house. Working as a freelance writer actually makes me better at what I do.

Why I’m Worried: This will be the nail in the coffin of my business. Real estate companies outsource most of their business. They just aren’t in a position to bring on writers, floor planners, photographers, etc., as full-time employees when their business fluctuates from year to year. I fear they will just tell their agents to write their own copy and bios and I will have to find another line of work.

What Legislators Need to Know: I think they need to re-evaluate the wording of the bill. I am all for workers’ rights but this is crushing the ability of entrepreneurs and creatives to work in the state. New Jersey is already an incredibly expensive place to live in. I pay exorbitant property taxes. I pay high income taxes. The state is already experiencing “flight” by people who just cannot afford to be here anymore. If they take away my ability to make a living, I won’t be able to stay either. It’s really a shame because I like living here and my son has 3 years left of high school. Creative work is by nature freelance work. It’s project work. It varies year to year. And that is what makes it exciting for entrepreneurs like me. Please rework the wording of the bill to allow people like me in the “gig economy” as it is called to continue to work autonomously.

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.

Writer

Laurie Tarkan

I’m a longtime freelance journalist who has written regularly for The New York Times, many women’s and consumer magazines, and tons of websites. I became a freelance writer because most magazine articles were outsourced to freelancers rather than being written in-house by employees. When my kids were born, writing as a freelancer became a perfect way to balance work and family while reducing child-care costs.

One of my children has suffered from chronic migraines, and it has been extremely helpful for me to be available at home during the day. She had to miss many, many days of school, and it would have been hard to manage that situation had I been working in New York City at a full-time job.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: Having been out of the traditional workplace for many years, it would be incredibly difficult for me to get an on-staff job. I know because I’ve tried. Employers are afraid to take a risk on hiring a freelancer, despite my depth of experience. And I wouldn’t want a staff job anyway: The ones that are available pay only about two-thirds of my current income as an independent contractor.

I am a divorced mother of two children, with one in college and the other soon to be in college, and there is no way that I could support our financial needs without my work.

What I want lawmakers to know: You are hurting older women, single women, and those caring for children. You are failing to recognize that these types of laws hurt small business owners who spent a lifetime building a reputation and a business, and who are choosing to bank on themselves to succeed.

What you are doing to freelance journalists is akin to closing a well-known, successful restaurant and telling the owner to go get a job somewhere else.

Writer

Lisa Fields

I’m a freelance writer who focuses on health, nutrition, fitness and psychology content. I’ve done this work for more than 13 years. I write articles for traditional journalistic publications, as well as related content for companies. I start my day a little before 9 a.m., after my son gets on the school bus, and I work until 3 p.m., when my daughter gets home from school. I then spend some time with my kids (driving them to activities, helping them with homework) and work a few more hours in the evening, after they go to bed.

Why I want to remain an independent contractor: I’m a single mom, and the freelance lifestyle allows me to be present for my children. I can write at noon or midnight, and nobody cares as long as I meet my deadlines (which I always do).

My career choice has recently been lumped in with the gig economy, the buzzy term that’s been used to describe anyone who does work as an independent contractor. But my career predates all of the current buzz about side hustles and gig workers. It’s a model that works for me and allows me to single-handedly support my household.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) is enacted: The way the bill was written originally, I would have been put out of business, and I have no other income. Other independent contractors have said that they would be forced to move out of New Jersey, but my children’s father lives nearby, and they see him often. I would be forced to find full-time employment, which would be less than ideal. I wouldn’t earn as much money. I would miss the flexibility to be present for my children. And my children would miss my presence.

What I want lawmakers to do: Please consider shelving this bill altogether, since it will affect the lives of thousands upon thousands of independent contractors who are not the intended target. If you do decide to move forward, then please choose your words very carefully, so that they do not have unintended consequences.

I’ve worked hard to establish myself during the past decade-plus, and I am well regarded in my field. It would be tragic if I were forced to abandon my business model because of this legislation.

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.