Writer

Krystle Dodge

I am the primary breadwinner in my family, and as the mom of a toddler, I love the work-life balance of being a freelance writer. I really enjoy the autonomy and freedom to take on new assignments (or to skip offers). I also love the variety of the work I do.

If I could no longer work as a freelancer, then I would have to find a traditional job (which would mean paying more for child care, having less time with my family and, in my industry, making considerably less money) or I would have to move out of New Jersey (which I would hate to do, because our family and friends are here and we just bought what we consider our forever home).

What I want lawmakers to know: Please think carefully before limiting the career options of those who choose to be self-employed. The state should not infringe on the right of individuals to work as they choose. Vote no on S863.

Writer

Caren Chesler

I love coming up with story ideas. I love pitching those ideas. I love talking to people, and I love writing. I also love the creative process in which I do all that, and I find doing it autonomously, all of those tasks, makes them more enjoyable. I write what I want when I want and for whom I want.

Why I’m so afraid of S863 (formerly S4204/A5936): My career will be decimated. No one is going to hire me as an employee just to have me write a story for them. It would be too costly. So I would be forced to either leave my career—one I have built up and honed for 32 years—or I will have to pick up my husband and 8-year-old son and move out of New Jersey. It’s a terrible choice, and I’m sure my son isn’t going to like moving.

What I want lawmakers to know: I imagine you’re trying to help people who are being taken advantage of, but I’m not one of them. Please look at the unintended consequences of your legislation. As the bill currently stands, it’s going to decimate a career I worked 32 years to create. There has to be a way to let me keep what I’ve worked so long and hard to create, and for you to help the people you want to help. Perhaps an explicit carve-out for freelance journalists.

I’ve been happy. I’ve loved my life and my career. And I’ve worked hard, really hard, to get where I am today in my career. I don’t want to lose all that. I’m 56, and the chance of a newspaper or magazine hiring me as a full-time employee, particularly given the state of my industry, is very small. I’d have to learn a new career at this stage of my life and not do the thing I love.

Please, don’t do this.

Strategic communications consultant, Writer

Wendy Mensch

I started freelancing in 2006 as a backup plan while looking for full-time work following a layoff. At the time, I had two young daughters (ages 6 and 10). It didn’t take long for me to realize that freelancing was a great way to earn a living while making myself available to my family.

It became even better when my younger daughter developed a chronic illness, and we had to spend five years going from doctor to doctor until we got a diagnosis and she was able to get her symptoms under control. Now, I’m an empty nester, and I work longer hours and am more open to business travel, but I still love the flexibility of being a freelancer.

I also love all the things I get to do: writing and consulting on internal communications and public-relations materials, crafting intranet articles, creating email communications and presentations, and providing editorial support on communications strategy.

What lawmakers need to know: S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) could put me out of business. I have a kid in college and one in graduate school. I don’t think it will be easy for me to find full-time permanent employment; I’m in my late 50s. Despite my many years of experience, who will want to hire me now?

Writer

Gwen Moran

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!

Writer

Deborah Abrams Kaplan

After graduating college, it never occurred to me that some day I would be self-employed and loving it. I wrote for my college newspaper, but found a full-time job after graduation investigating medical malpractice cases for an insurance company. Later, I was a project manager at a health-care technology start-up. I was paid every two weeks like clockwork, and got health and dental insurance and a company-matched retirement plan. Pregnant with my daughter, I quit my job, and my husband and I moved across the country for his work. I learned that it’s hard to find a job when you’re six months pregnant.

Everyone says to sleep when the baby sleeps, but I was itching to earn some money and I missed the intellectual stimulation work provides. During nap time, I wrote occasional articles for local business papers, and then travel articles for newspapers across the country. The internet made working from home possible.

Two years later, my son was born and I continued adding to my portfolio. It was the early days of blogging, and to learn something new, I started my own blog about family-friendly things to do in the area, founding one of the first local parenting blogs. I sold advertising, joined affiliate marketing programs, and learned about search engine optimization. Not only did my blog bring in advertising income, but other companies hired me to write for their blogs. Suddenly this stay-at-home mom was able to pay for family vacations and contribute to the kids’ college funds.

As my kids started preschool and then elementary school, my writing time expanded. My insurance and medical background was a great bridge to writing about those industries. At some point, my income exceeded the salary I earned at my last full-time job, even though I was working part-time during school hours.

My kids are now in high school and college, and my career growth tracked with their growth. I’ve been referred for jobs that would require me to go into an office. I don’t want to commute, but at this point in my life, I also don’t want to be an employee. I value the freedom of working for myself. In the past few years, my income exceeded what I thought was possible for a freelancer writer. While I still have a 401(k) from my full-time employee years, I’ve been contributing each year to an individual 401(k). I love my work, and I love being self-employed.

As a work-at-home mom, I walked my kids to and from school for seven years, until they were in middle school and walking them to school was no longer socially acceptable (to them). I’ve been room parent more times than I can count, planning Valentine’s Day and end-of-year parties. I never needed to ask my employer for time off for school field trips or the Halloween parade. As the parent robotics coach for our high school teams, I go to after-school meetings multiple times a month, because I work from home and control my schedule. I don’t have to ration my vacation days to see if I have enough for religious holidays, spring break and a summer vacation. Instead, I take six to seven weeks off a year, and don’t worry about finding backup to watch my kids on their days off or figure out who will stay home with them when they’re sick. My kids know that when they walk in the door after school, I stop working so we can talk about their days. My son actually thanked me multiple times for being there for him after school. Not all parents have this luxury, and I do not take it for granted.  

My income and work flexibility allow me to provide for my family and still be there for my kids. If I wanted the benefits an employed status provided, I would get a job with those benefits. Forcing companies to hire me as a part-time employee would lower my income because they’d have to pay additional taxes and the overhead that goes with employment. I would either get paid less or, more likely, they would no longer use my services. As an employee, I would likely have to sign a non-compete agreement, which would limit my income as well, since I write for multiple companies and publications within the same niches.

I’m asking that New Jersey support its independent contractors who want to continue working in this model, and let work-at-home parents continue contributing to our communities and our state.

Lisa Milbrand
Digital Content Strategist, Writer

Lisa Milbrand

Why I’m an Independent Contractor: I started part-time freelancing before I even graduated college. But I took the leap into full-time freelancing when we adopted my oldest daughter. It was the best decision we ever made. I’m able to have the flexibility to be there for my daughters, be their class mom and cover sick days and days off. I enjoy the hustle, the opportunity to write about topics I’m passionate about, and getting to learn something new every single day. And through the past 14 years of hard work, I’ve built up a steady stable of clients that keep me very busy.

Why I’m Worried: The media industry is in upheaval, which has made it difficult to even find full-time work, and my friends are regularly subjected to layoffs. Because I have a variety of clients and avenues of work, it’s rare that I have more than a week or two off—unless I plan a vacation. I would make less, and lose the flexibility I currently have to be here for my family. While some of my clients are larger and pay me in a traditional W2 arrangement, my 1099 income is what gets us through between larger engagements. I would likely lose my 1099 clients to writers in more freelance-friendly states. 

What Lawmakers Need to Understand: Most independent contractors are doing this by choice and we love what we do. We enjoy the freedom of freelancing and the stability that comes from having multiple clients. We turn down work that doesn’t meet our standards for pay and schedule. 

Writer

Michele C. Hollow

I’ve been a freelance journalist for almost 30 years. I have always enjoyed having my independence. Also, my son, who will be 19 at the end of this month, has autism; my schedule has allowed me to take him to therapy, pick him up from school when he’s had a meltdown, and take him to see doctors and other programs.

Why I’m worried about S863 (formerly S4204/A5936): It’s a version of the AB5 independent contractor law that just got passed in California, and freelancers there have lost work. New Jersey’s proposed version seems stricter. I don’t want to lose clients. I just turned 62, and there’s a lot of ageism in my field. No one will hire me for a full-time, in-office position. I’ll lose my livelihood and will be forced to move.

What I want lawmakers to know: Please, consider how this legislation will hurt freelancers, moms, older freelancers and disabled people.

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.