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.

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.

Writer

Lisa Fields

I’m a freelance writer who focuses on health, nutrition, fitness and psychology content. I’ve done this work for more than 13 years. I write articles for traditional journalistic publications, as well as related content for companies. I start my day a little before 9 a.m., after my son gets on the school bus, and I work until 3 p.m., when my daughter gets home from school. I then spend some time with my kids (driving them to activities, helping them with homework) and work a few more hours in the evening, after they go to bed.

Why I want to remain an independent contractor: I’m a single mom, and the freelance lifestyle allows me to be present for my children. I can write at noon or midnight, and nobody cares as long as I meet my deadlines (which I always do).

My career choice has recently been lumped in with the gig economy, the buzzy term that’s been used to describe anyone who does work as an independent contractor. But my career predates all of the current buzz about side hustles and gig workers. It’s a model that works for me and allows me to single-handedly support my household.

What will happen to me if S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) is enacted: The way the bill was written originally, I would have been put out of business, and I have no other income. Other independent contractors have said that they would be forced to move out of New Jersey, but my children’s father lives nearby, and they see him often. I would be forced to find full-time employment, which would be less than ideal. I wouldn’t earn as much money. I would miss the flexibility to be present for my children. And my children would miss my presence.

What I want lawmakers to do: Please consider shelving this bill altogether, since it will affect the lives of thousands upon thousands of independent contractors who are not the intended target. If you do decide to move forward, then please choose your words very carefully, so that they do not have unintended consequences.

I’ve worked hard to establish myself during the past decade-plus, and I am well regarded in my field. It would be tragic if I were forced to abandon my business model because of this legislation.

Executive, leadership and life coach

Julie Ketover

I chose the entrepreneurial path after many years of working in the legal industry, as a lawyer and business professional. After having my second child, I grew weary of my full-time corporate job and began to think about ways in which I could do work I loved, make money and balance the demands of parenting and maintaining a household.

Gradually, I shed the remaining vestiges of legal work. Today, I am an executive, leadership and life coach. In the past six months, I have worked on my own business-building efforts in my private practice and have taken on independent contractor work with multiple employers.

I relish the flexibility of this professional path I’ve chosen. It enables me to make my own schedule, take care of my children and be there for them as they grow up. It also allows me not to be solely responsible for client generation.

Why I’m worried about S863 (formerly S4204/A5936): I choose to work as an independent contractor, and my revenue streams could disappear, harming my family. Many of the people whose lives would be hurt have chosen the freelance path for personal reasons. We want to be independent contractors. Many of us are working moms.

What lawmakers need to know: The legislative intent of S863 (formerly S4204/A5936) is to ensure that workers are properly classified. I understand that a malfeasance likely needs to be addressed, but I don’t see why a person in my situation should be caught in the crosshairs. The sweeping nature of the language in these bills is overly restrictive and threatens the livelihoods and choices of so many people in this state.

Be reasonable. Be deliberate. Be thoughtful. If legislation is truly needed, then craft it to address the wrong—but to go no further.

Online ESL Teacher

Moira Larrea

Why I’m an Independent Contractor: Every morning, Monday through Saturday, I get up before dawn to connect with and teach English to children in China, through an online app. I teach up to six 25-minute classes each morning. I’ve been doing this for two years and I love it. It’s my dream job.

I choose to be an independent contractor for several reasons. I like the flexibility of choosing my own schedule and the ability to work from home with no long commute. My hourly pay rate is better as an independent contractor than it was as a salaried employee.  

It’s also better for my health and well-being. I have chronic Lyme disease, which comes with chronic pain, lowered immunity, and fatigue. At my salaried, brick and mortar job, because of limited sick time,  I was forced to go to work when I was ill. I would end up being treated for bronchitis multiple times a year and had severe asthma flare ups. Because I work shorter hours from home, when the fatigue from my illness overcomes me, I have the flexibility to get the rest my body needs. My hours and flexible schedule also allows me to focus on caring for my family and home. Because I only work three hours in the mornings, I have the energy to keep my home in order.

Why I’m Worried: The company I contract to has already stopped hiring independent contractors in California, and they will not continue to hire independent contractors in New Jersey if this bill passes! My family will lose my income. My husband and I just bought our first house. We rely on my income to help pay our bills, including my student loans. 

What Lawmakers Need to Understand: S863 will cause thousands of New Jersey residents to lose their incomes. Many of the people who are independent contractors don’t have the option or want to be “employees.”

Small-business owner

Ron Adams

I started my advertising agency as a freelancer in 2011 and boot-strapped everything. My wife even went back to teaching to provide medical benefits for our family. Just this year, my team and I moved into an office where we are finally able to offer W2s, a 401(k), and even profit sharing. It has taken all of these years to make this a reality.

My advertising agency works with all types of media, such as video, audio, social, search, traditional and digital. In addition to our W2 staff, we use 1099 freelancers for projects or ongoing work not handled by our day-to-day employees. Much of the work is done off-site (home-based), at a client’s place of business, or during an occasional in-person meeting at our offices.

As a business owner, it is critically important to me to be able to hire freelancers to offer a service to meet a specific client’s need. Example: a video crew for a commercial shoot at a client’s retail store. These requirements change with each customer and can come and go in a moment’s notice. If I had to hire all of my freelancers as W2s, I would not be able to continue my business in New Jersey and would ultimately move out of state (Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida come to mind).

What lawmakers need to know: Starting a business from scratch is an extremely stressful undertaking. In addition to sales, I am responsible for state and federal regulations, IT, human resources, operations and even janitorial if needed. If this legislation had been in place in 2011, my company would not exist. Clients took a leap of faith in me, always as a 1099. With this opportunity, I was able to open a business, pay more taxes (both state and federal) than ever, and remain in New Jersey.

New Jersey is not known to be a business-friendly state, and this proposed legislation is certainly living up to the reputation. If you ever hope to attract more entrepreneurs, families and taxpaying, law-abiding citizens, then I truly hope you will reconsider this overreaching legislation.

Strategic communications consultant

Juli Mandel Sloves

I started working as a consultant four years ago. I then incorporated my business as an LLC and have been going strong ever since. I work from home most days, an average of five hours each day—typically about 30 hours per week, for several clients.

After years in Corporate America, I didn’t realize my dream job would be working right out of my house. I can provide strategic counsel and support to one client while crafting social media posts for another, all while having a flexible schedule. This flexibility has allowed me to stop paying for child care and be there more for my kids, who are now teens, after school. I think this presence in their lives is invaluable. I can see them play in their lacrosse games, pick them up from school for medical appointments, and help them with their homework (or make sure they are doing their homework).

The value of this flexible work life was never more evident than last spring, when my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer. I didn’t miss one medical appointment or chemo session. I was there to care for him while still working for my clients. It wasn’t easy, but it would have been impossible if I was employed full time outside the home.

What lawmakers need to know: I choose to be an independent contractor, and it’s working for me and for my family. I am the primary breadwinner in our household, not because my husband was sick, but because I work hard every day and make a good living. I choose my schedule and work when I need to (nights and weekends) to get the job done. I pay a significant amount in quarterly taxes, and have had to purchase several types of business insurance, but it’s worth it to have the flexibility and the opportunity to do what I do best every day for clients who appreciate the contributions I bring to their business.

If S863 (formerly S4204 and A5963) becomes law: I am concerned that I will be forced back in to the traditional work force. I am over 50, and that limits my opportunities in the types of fields that I traditionally support (internal communications, public relations and social media). Few, if any, companies will hire me for the salary that I can command in my own business. I would make half as much, if I’m lucky.

I also worry that I will lose all flexibility and likely have to pay for people to pick up my kids from school or practices; or use vacation time to take my kids to medical appointments.

I worry that if my husband’s cancer comes back, which is a sad reality for metastatic disease, that I won’t have the ability to be there with him as I need to be without taking family leave.

Moving to a less restrictive state would be a sad consideration, but one that could be a real option. I have lived in South Jersey for nearly all of my life. I would hate to uproot myself and my family because of the unintended consequences of these bills.

Lawmakers, if you’re listening: Slow down and consider the unintended consequences of these restrictive bills, which will in effect kill the gig economy in New Jersey. Do you really want to crush women-owned, small businesses like mine? I pay taxes and insurance, and I have created an LLC to protect my business. My LLC status provides legitimacy for my clients. So, too, it should qualify me as a legitimate business in eyes of legislators.

Many independent contractors like me choose to have this flexible business. We are willingly taking a risk, understanding that our income may not always be steady, because we are confident that we have the talent and ability and expertise that our clients want. Many of my clients hire me on a project basis—they are not looking for full- or even part-time head count. The are looking for a certain level of expertise to supplement their existing teams for a period of time. If this legislation were to restrict my ability to work with them, they would simply source their talent from another state that doesn’t have these restrictions.