Who We Are

Doctor

Kathleen Lomax

I’m a doctor of medicine in the pharmaceutical industry. I recently created an LLC to take on contract jobs. I want to control my hours and travel for leisure after more than 17 years of working in a variety of full-time pharmaceutical jobs. Being an independent contractor will allow me to be at home for my kids when I need to be there, yet still use my medical training to earn an income.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: I will be forced to do another long commute, and my kids will be stuck at the library for hours until someone can pick them up.

What I want lawmakers to do: Stop causing so many people so much unneeded stress. Use surgical precision in combating the problematic business practices of companies like Uber and Lyft without ruining every other independent contractor’s livelihood.

PowerPoint specialist, Presentation designer

Cathy Smith

I have been in presentation graphics since 1982, working sales, training and support for Autographix, a turnkey slide system. When my daughter was born in 1990, I decided to strike out as a freelancer with all the companies that I helped sell the systems to. In 1993, when turnkey went the way of the dinosaur, I was introduced to PowerPoint. It has been paying the rent for me as an independent contractor ever since.

Clients from across the country and around the world come to me by word of mouth. I create, reformat and polish PowerPoint decks for them from the comfort of my home office. I have worked with C-suite executives in all kinds of industries: pharmaceutical, prestige cosmetics, medical education, insurance, fashion, telecom, food and finance.

Why I want to remain an independent contractor: Working in the late ’70s and early ’80s as a full-time employee, with all of the commutes, bosses, co-workers, evaluations and corporate culture, made me crazy. I was lucky to find a way out. Autonomy is everything! I love what I do, and I am really good at it.

And, at this point, age discrimination would most certainly get in the way of me returning to a full-time job. No one would pay me what I make as an independent contractor, if they would hire me at all, given that I am well past traditional retirement age.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: I would be forced to move out of New Jersey. I am a digital nomad who can work anywhere.

What I want lawmakers to know: It has taken me almost 30 years to evolve my business to where it is today. Keep your nose out of my business. Vote no on S4204/A5936.

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.

Change management and communications consultant

Mary Barna

I’m a change management and communications consultant, which means I help clients all across the United States solve specific challenges related to changes they are implementing in their organizations. I work as an independent contractor myself, and I hire other independent contractors to provide specialized services such as graphic design, proofreading, website development and video production.

My choice to do this work as an independent contractor was careful and intentional. Previously, I was a partner in a large consulting company for many years. I worked long hours. When my mother became terminally ill, I thought a lot about how I wanted to spend my time, and I realized that I wanted to be able to choose my own clients, projects and hours. It took me 10 years to build the consulting business that I have now, and I love the work that I do, as well as the flexibility and control that I have over my own life.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: I worry that I will lose my clients. With no clients, I have no business and no income. All the independent contractors that I hire would lose their income, too.

I will not go back to being a full-time employee. I chose years ago to pursue a different career path. Instead, I’ll move to Pennsylvania so I can continue operating my business.

Why the mere threat of S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becoming law is a problem for my business: I’m worried not only about what will happen if this legislation passes, but also about what’s happening now. Clients who hear about this legislation may sever the business that they do with New Jersey-based independent contractors just to be safe and avoid any legal issues or bad PR.

What I want lawmakers to do: Either vote no on S863 (formerly S4204/A5936), or update its language to reflect the realities of the modern-day workplace. Take care of gig economy workers who are being exploited, but don’t hurt professional independent contractors who are making a great living.

Sign language interpreter

Laura Seidelmann

I am a sign language interpreter. I mainly work for a school to help a fourth-grader, but during the summers when school is out, I work freelance on various interpreting jobs. All summer long, I choose the jobs that best match my schedule with my children, as well as their activities.

Why I want to remain an independent contractor: I love everything about freelancing: making my own schedule, being my own boss, the flexibility. I never have to ask an employer if I can take a day off to go to my child’s school. I just don’t take a job that day. As a freelancer, I am in control.

What will happen if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: I’m worried not only about how this legislation will affect my family financially, but I’m also worried about how it will affect my industry. The deaf community will be hurt. There are already so many jobs that go without interpreters that deaf people need, and this legislation would force even more deaf people to live without interpreters.

What I want lawmakers to do: Vote no on S863 (formerly S4204/A5936).

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.

Instructional designer

Tiana Rosen

I am an instructional designer, responsible for designing, building, and often writing course content, from online self-study courses, to instructor-led virtual classes and live instruction delivered in brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Typical tasks of the day vary greatly depending on the point in time in the course production cycle. On any given day, I may be interviewing subject matter experts (typically also freelancers) to identify crucial content for inclusion in the course; designing course templates, layouts, and games for online interaction and media (regardless of subject); writing actual content or assessments; and various other ad-hoc tasks, such as drafting specs documentation, reviewing existing materials for potential updates or course/media refreshes, editing, and basic image creation.

I invoice monthly and am in complete control of my hours, working often from just the guideline of a project delivery deadline. It is up to me to work backwards from that date, create a delivery proposal and course specs, and manage and edit my own schedule as time progresses. That may mean I have a week where I only work a couple hours a day, or I might be working 10-14 hour days in the final crunch time. In either scenario, it is because of my own choosing and the ability to juggle work and life tasks as needed.

This choice is a crucial and deliberate one for me. For the first 16 years of my career, I was a full-time salaried employee working on-site. While I loved the work, the cause (K-12 education) and my team, it was a true pressure cooker environment where I went from delivering just a couple courses a year to well over 10. There was no overtime compensation for extra hours worked, the turnover of employees was high, morale was low, there was reluctance by management to divide up my upper-middle-management role (even upon my request), and the number of courses to be published increased every year. Instead of being given a raise in recognition for my work, I often was promoted instead. Normally that would be a good thing because it did come with a slight raise, but this also meant taking on even more responsibility and stress. Add into the mix an aging mother who lived with me due to physical disabilities and was starting to show signs of the onset of dementia made me realize I couldn’t keep the status quo going much longer.

I waited until my latest cycle of courses was delivered and I tendered my resignation. I did not have another job prospect lined up. I won’t lie. The transition was a bit rough, but I soon found enough freelance work to pay for my bills and get a taste of a better life.

I found that I could perform a mere 20 hours of freelance work a week and make the equivalent of what I had before. That’s 20 hours a week compared to the 60 I had worked but wasn’t being compensated overtime for. No migraines, no cracked molars from grinding my teeth, no guilt on leaving my mother unattended for too long. I now work an average of about 20-30 hours a week and have an income of well over $100K.

This move has changed everything. I can take my mom to specialists and doctor appointments. I can take time in the middle of a traditional work day to sit and talk with her and cook her favorite meal. I was able to provide the best end-of-life care I could for a high-needs senior dog that lost his ability to walk in his final month. When he passed, my mother, sister, and I we were able to visit the animal shelter a month later and adopt a gray-muzzled dog who was deemed “high-needs” enough to have his adoption fee waived due to stress at being at the animal shelter for 2 months. I knew what that type of stress felt like and felt a kinship to him. It’s only one month later and he has since settled into such a sweet and loving soul here with us at home, and he’s enjoying his new role as my full-time sidekick.

I am able to contribute more of both my money and time to charitable causes. I am able to carve out time for the holidays and take my family on vacation rental getaways, just so we can leave my apartment at times and enjoy a home with a bigger kitchen, view, or a pool. The rationale — to carve out protected time to sit back, slow down, and enjoy the time leading up to the holidays together. Wrap presents, prepare old family recipes, bake cookies, and walk the dog down the road searching for squirrels. The irony of this all is, if I didn’t make that change, I wouldn’t be able to physically care for my mother (my office was in Philly), nor would I have been able to afford her care at a memory care facility. Now that is not so much an issue, but I am blessed to be able to have the life flexibility needed to keep her as long by my side here at our home as possible. She deserves that. Don’t we all?

What worries me about S4204: This bill carries truly life-changing ramifications. My client couldn’t take me on as her employee (too much money overall for the ups and downs of cyclical work, as well as special treatment for one of a handful of her contractors). To be honest, I live only 12 miles from the state border, so it would be a very easy decision to move before I give up this lifestyle. The tradeoff there would be that my 84-year-old mother’s network of doctors, specialists, and hospitals would likely need to change. I’ve kept some of her specialists for decades and they are experts in her patient history. It’s still worth it in the end, though, if the move allows us to keep this lifestyle further. And again, the odd part is that the portion of state taxes NJ has seen from my business is higher now in the new regime than the old.

What legislators need to know: I believe their intentions were good with this bill, and there are some whom it will help. But it will be to a detriment of a great many others as well. It’s tempting to “dig in” because so much time has already been spent in debate and revision. Believe me, I know what that’s like: I’ve had courses go back to the drawing board several times, for varying reasons. But sometimes you need to take a fresh look and realize that the target audience isn’t always being served by the design.