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

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.