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.

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.

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!