Stories from Independent Workers on the Harms of Attacking Entrepreneurship

In recent years, there has been a combination of harmful legislation and regulatory action threatening entrepreneurship and independent work in America. At this time of economic uncertainty and high inflation, workers need every tool at their disposal to support themselves and their families. Instead of making it easier to earn a living, start a business, or get extra cash through a side hustle, some existing laws and proposed rules are making it harder by taking away these options. Below are real stories of independent workers and freelancers who stand to lose- or have already lost- the opportunity to work for themselves because of misguided labor policies.

Marisa Palmieri Shugrue, Freelance Writer and Editor (Ohio)

Marisa Palmieri Shugrue is a Cleveland-based freelance writer and editor, and also wife to an Ohio Army National Guardsman. She chose to become an independent contractor in 2018 for the flexibility and freedom to be available when her daughters got home from school and because her family needs and household responsibilities change greatly when her husband is deployed.

Lisa Terry, Freelance Writer, California

Lisa Terry is a California-based independent contractor writing content for technology companies and business-to-business media. Thirty years ago, Lisa turned to freelancing to accommodate the demands of motherhood, increase her wages beyond what she could make in staff positions, and gain greater control over her hours and projects.

Sarah Sharkey, Freelance Writer, Florida

Transitioning from freelance writer into the role of a small business owner has transformed Sarah Sharkey's life for the better. She loves the freedom to set her own hours and rates. If she doesn’t enjoy working with a particular client, she can find another that values her skills. 

Michelle Fair, Freelance Writer, New Mexico

Michelle left an unfulfilling full-time job and decided to pursue her dreams of writing as a viable, profitable business. Because Michelle is a successful freelancer, she and her husband were able to uproot to a new state and purchase a home without having to worry about finding a new job. 

Shane Johnson, Freelance Illustrator, Washington 

For the past twenty years Shane Johnson has worked as a freelance commercial illustrator. For Shane, his career is not a gig, or a side hustle to be dictated by a bureaucracy, but a successful business that has supported himself and his family for years.

Alvalyn Lundgren, Freelance Designer

As a solo business owner, Alvalyn is not dependent on any one client for revenue and enjoys working on a variety of clients and projects. Because she established her own pricing structure and business policies, she can be selective about who she works with, and is not relegated to working for minimum wage, by the hour, or for the staff designer rates that are common in the design fields.

Lila Stromer, Freelance Copyeditor, New York

Lila Stromer is a 63-year-old copyeditor who has owned her own freelance business for the past 11 years. When her W2 job as the managing editor of an academic journal ended, she only wanted another “good” W2 job. But after freelancing for six months and finding no one wanted to hire an older woman, she realized she loved freelancing.

Shelby Givan, Teacher and Mother

Shelby Givan is a dedicated teacher and mother who was determined to make time in her life for both profession and parenthood. But after AB5 passed, Shelby’s family was faced with several decisions, including her potentially having to return to full-time work and leave her son in someone else’s care. Read more.

Valerie Fausone, Animal Welfare Specialist

Valerie is an animal welfare specialist, who consults with animal shelters, helping them implement no-kill policies and connecting them directly with members of their communities to increase live releases. After the passage of AB5, Valerie was notified by the shelters that they were no longer able to pay her or utilize her services as a contractor. Read more.

Lilly Walters, Face Painting Artist

Lilly Walters owned a thriving face-painting business in California--so thriving, in fact, that she often subcontracted with other artists to meet the demand of her clients. But after the passage of AB5, Lilly went from routinely entertaining at corporate family events where she would subcontract with six other artists—to struggling to book jobs. Read more.

Brian Butler, Owner of Big Bear Cabin Check

Brian Butler and his wife established Big Bear Cabin Check, a service that provided property checks and maintenance for rental properties. As the demand for their services grew, they began hiring independent contractors to help maintain the properties. After AB5 passed, they were told that they had to hire their contractors as full-time employees, which they couldn't do. Read more.

Liam Murphy, Freelance Architectural Designer

Freelancing as an architectural designer gave Liam the flexibility to prepare for his licensing exams, earn money, and manage a family design project- and was beneficial for his employer to have an experienced, trusted contractor without the training investment and overhead costs. Unfortunately, Liam’s contract was placed on indefinite hiatus because of AB5. Read more.

Margarita Reyes, Actor and Film Producer

Margarita, along with hundreds of other actors and producers, works as an independent contractor for indie filmmakers. Freelancing afforded Margarita an income and the flexibility to pursue her passion on her own terms. But the indie film industry has been decimated by AB5 and Margartia hasn't signed a contract since the law was passed. Read more.

Monica Fontes, Over-the-phone Interpreter

Monica Fontes is an over-the-phone interpreter AND a cancer survivor. Her contract role gave her the flexibility to take breaks as needed to manage the pain accompanied with chemotherapy. But when AB5 passed, she lost the one thing that kept her mind off the pain and the unknowns of cancer. Read more.

Cecily Whiteside, Writing and Marketing Expert

Cecily Whiteside was making plans to expand her successful writing business, until AB5 prevented her from hiring independent contractors to assist with writing and editing. The bill’s vague wording has also cast doubt in the mind of her clients based outside of California; some chose not to renew their contracts. Read more.

Laurie Blunk, Nurse Educator

Independent contracting was the perfect fit for Laurie―it allowed her to pursue her passion as a nurse educator while also living with a hereditary disorder that made it physically difficult for her to work full time. But AB5 took away Laurie’s ability to contract, and with it, her ability to earn a living while managing her health. Read more.

Aimee Benavides, Freelance Translator

As a freelance translator, Aimee is able to work when she sees fit while caring for her two children. She works hard and balances it all because it benefits her family, offering flexibility that full-time employment would not give her. AB5 has threatened that flexibility and her livelihood. Read more.

Nikole Wilson-Ripsom, Special Needs Parent and Freelancer

Nikole is the parent of a special needs child. Freelancing gave her the flexibility to be present for the more than 20 hours per week of behavioral and occupational therapy that her son requires and pay for his nutritional supplements. AB5 eliminated her ability to serve as an independent contractor and forced her to make tough decisions about her son's treatment. Read more.

Special thanks to the California Policy Center for helping to locate many of the freelancers and independent contractors on this page.
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