Who We Are

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?

Anne Ferara against S4204
Organization Development/Training Consultant

Anne Ferara

For 12 years, I’ve provided project-based consulting services (mostly related to sales), or instructional design or training facilitation to clients through training companies. I manage all aspects of the project from making a recommendation to preparing the deliverables.

The only direction I get is a budget and usually a time frame for the completion of the project. My clients have internal staff that will finalize the final project output. Right now I have two primary clients and then do projects for their clients. I’ve had up to 4 or 5 clients at a time over the years. I set my own schedule, I have a Master Services agreement and pay a significant amount of taxes, both state and federal. My clients provide no equipment or resources.

I chose self-employment for autonomy—for the ability to set my own schedule, work in my own space in the manner I choose. While it can be stressful and hard at times, I know I’m getting paid for all the hours I work. As an exempt employee many, many times I worked significantly more than 40 hours a week. Now I at least get compensated for the efforts I put in.

What will happen to me if S4204/A5936 becomes law: I think it may mean the closing of 12 years of business and relocating out of the state where my whole family lives. I have already started the search because I have little faith the people of NJ will be heard.

What I want lawmakers to know: I would like to think that your intentions are good but you have no sense of the people who will be impacted by this poorly written bill. If I wanted to be an employee I would look for a job and not incur the significant expenses in insurance, taxes, etc., that I experience as an independent business. There has to be a better way to track and ensure that everyone is paying their fair share of taxes and an employer that is truly abusing the assignment of status is addressed. I think your gap is in enforcement, NOT in language. Please don’t ruin the businesses that thousands have built in this state.

Online ESL Teacher

Christina Crea

I love the flexibility of teaching English as a second language to students over the Internet. It allows me to do what I love and be present for my family.

How do I work? I log in at 4 a.m. and teach until it’s time to get my kids ready for school. I can teach one class a week or 50 classes a week, and I adjust my schedule to my family’s needs. If my kids are sick, I don’t have to stress about the consequences of taking time off care for them. If there are activities at my kids’ school, I am available to volunteer.

I can do all these things and work because I choose to be an independent contractor.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: Our family will have major financial problems. My husband’s salary pays for our mortgage, and my income pays for just about everything else. My kids’ school district lost a significant amount of funding, so I also supplement their enrichment and extracurricular activities with my income.

I don’t know what we’ll do if I’m unable to keep working as an independent contractor. We may have to consider leaving the state.

What I want lawmakers to do: Stop looking only at the big fish involved. Look at all the countless industries and people like me that S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) will affect. You’re supposed to be fighting for us, not working against us.

Culinary researcher, Food media expert, Recipe developer and tester

Liz Tarpy

I do a variety of things in food media, including being a recipe developer, recipe tester, recipe editor and culinary researcher. The variety is one of the reasons I enjoy freelancing. One day, I could be developing recipes for a food brand in my home kitchen, and the next day, I could be assisting a food stylist for a video being filmed in a New York City studio or on location in New York or New Jersey. I also edit recipes for food media outlets, test recipes for cookbook authors and food TV shows, and work in various capacities for food TV shows.

The way I choose to work as an independent contractor is perfect for me. I am “allergic” to corporate settings. I prefer being independent and having freedom.

Working as a freelancer also gives me the flexibility I need to visit my mother, who is in an assisted living facility with dementia. Oftentimes, I take my work with me to do between visits with her, something that most full-time employers would not allow.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: My ability to find new clients, especially one-offs or clients that only need my services sporadically throughout the year, will be severely harmed. They’ll look to work with people like me in other states instead.

What I want New Jersey’s lawmakers to do: Please slow this legislation down and take the time to fully understand the impact it’s going to have on all kinds of people. Tell the truth: Until right now, did you even know that independent contractor work like mine exists?

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.

Online ESL Teacher, Teacher

Matthew Grogaard

Three years ago, my wife was laid off while on maternity leave with our first son. Then, we found out that we were expecting our second baby. This was quite a surprise after suffering infertility for years. With two kids younger than 2 years old, we knew we could not afford day care.

I decided to start teaching online weekdays and weekends, waking up at 4:30 every morning to teach English as a second language to children in China. Then, I go to my brick-and-mortar special education teaching job on the weekdays. I also teach online Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30 to 10 p.m.

How working as an independent contractor has changed my life: It has allowed my wife to stay home with our boys. Two years and a third baby later, I make enough money to support that lifestyle, and to keep our budget on track during the summers when school is not in session.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) becomes law: Our middle son has global apraxia, a neurological disorder that requires daily therapy. He would no longer be able to get that therapy because my wife would have to go back to work.

Additionally, his therapists are independent contractors too. We are terrified about losing them, as they are such a valuable part of our lives.

What I want lawmakers to do: Slow down and really examine what you are doing. There is no need to rush this legislation when it will affect so many working people in New Jersey.

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.