How AB5 changed freelance writing in CA

I wrote this a year ago, when the disaster and arbitrary bill AB 5 passed in California. It was aimed at Uber and Lyft drivers but hit a bunch of other people as well including freelance writers and musicians. Last month a fix was signed into law by the governor called AB 2257. My opinion is if you have to “carve out” 75 exceptions why not junk the bill and start over? Meanwhile on the ballot November 3 is prop 22 that exempts the Lyft and Uber drivers from AB 5. Here’s my post from last October:

beautiful view from window

The view from my freelance writer’s life.

I am a freelance writer. Obviously, I’m not writing to get rich. I’m doing it because I love it. I don’t need the state of California to dictate who I submit articles to nor how often. But in a new bill, AB 5 that will be law in January, they are destroying the freelance writing business.

In an article by Katie Kilkenny in The Hollywood Reporter called “Everybody Is Freaking Out”: Freelance Writers Scramble to Make Sense of New California Law, she spells out some of the confusion and frustration over AB 5. The real intent of AB 5 was to get rid of the gig economy — in particular Lyft and Uber drivers — and force people to join unions. That’s the bottom line.

A new bill that caps freelance submissions may make writing financially unsustainable for many workers even though the legislator behind the law insists that the goal is “to create new good jobs and a livable, sustainable wage job.”

California-based freelance writer Arianna Jeret recently learned about Assembly Bill 5 and is now concerned she and her colleagues in CA may soon be speaking about their jobs in the past tense.

Jeret, who contributes to relationship websites YourTango.com and The Good Men Project, says freelance writing has helped support her two children and handle their different school schedules. Her current gigs — covering mental health, lifestyle and entertainment — allow her to work from home, from the office and even from her children’s various appointments. “There were just all of these benefits for my ability to still be an active parent in my kids’ lives and also support us financially that I just couldn’t find anywhere in a steady job with anybody,” she says.

Jeret is now coming to terms with how her lifestyle will change come Jan. 1, when AB 5, California legislation aimed directly at the gig economy that was signed into law Sept. 18, will go into effect.

The bill, which cracks down on companies — like ride-sharing giants Lyft and Uber — that misclassify would-be employees as independent contractors, has been percolating through the California legislative system for nearly a year. It codifies the 2018 Dynamex decision by the State Supreme Court while carving out some exemptions for specific professions.

I worked at jobs with benefits for years before deciding to stay home and work as a contract employee. I did this when I became a mother. My husband had benefits from his job, so I no longer had to worry about health insurance, etc. I had the freedom to stay home and write. I’ve written for PR firms, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and worked on non fiction and fiction manuscripts. I’ve had enormous freedom in my writing career to juggle it with motherhood and volunteering. Sometimes writing took a back seat. And that’s okay. It was all my choice. 

Freelancers have different reasons for not being full-time or part-time employees. They know what the benefits are as well as the drawbacks. Why doesn’t the state want us to decide what fits our lives best? Why do they think they know better?

AB 5 came up with a number of 35 submissions to a single publication, or you’re considered an employee. And you have to join the union, too. So how did the State of CA come up with that number?

As for how lawmakers settled on the 35-submission figure, Gonzalez says that she and her team decided that a weekly columnist sounded like a part-time worker and so halved that worker’s yearly submissions. After protest from some freelancers, the number was bumped up to 35. “Was it a little arbitrary? Yeah. Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary,” she says.

Still, labor experts and freelancers alike are skeptical that the desired outcome of AB 5 — that newsrooms will hire California-based freelancers as part-time or full-time employees — will be achieved in the short term, especially as the news media continues to face major challenges to its business (in September, Business Insider estimated that 7,200 workers have lost their media jobs so far this year). Many publications that employ California freelancers aren’t based in the state and it’s not clear how AB 5 will affect them. Still, some are choosing to opt out entirely. Indeed, several freelance writers who spoke to THR say that various out-of-state employers — some with offices in California — have already told them they’re cutting ties with California freelancers.

What’s especially disheartening about this bill is that is was written by someone who doesn’t understand the industry at all. They have no idea how their law is going to affect the media industry.

I’d love to hear from other freelancers about their thoughts on AB 5 and the fix AB 2257.

Tips on How to Catch Typos — And My Three Worst Typos of All Time

images-3Some of my most embarrassing moments have happened with typos. I’ve been writing professionally since college graduation. I won’t mention exactly how many years that is. But, it’s plenty. Plenty of time to make a few mistakes.

1. I had a typo yesterday on SwimSwam. I left out a number on my tips.

My process begins with a small idea. Then I write a rough sloppy draft. Then I begin to hone it down into something tight and simple.  Along the way I cut out one tip that didn’t seem to fit. But, the story didn’t automatically renumber itself. Making a mistake like that on a busy forum like SwimSwam is decidedly embarrassing.

You can read that story here. 12 Parent Tips on How to Behave at Practice.

On the bright side, I got a RT by Natalie Coughlin. I was super excited about that, so the story still worked even if it was not perfect.

Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin

2. My second worst typo was in the 80s. I worked for a PR and advertising firm and I wrote eight newsletters a month, plus three or four press releases daily. It was a busy, intense job. I was in charge of a fundraiser for abused women which was held at a local country club. In my press release that ran just about everywhere — I mistakenly put in my own phone number instead of the club’s to RSVP! There was no taking that one back. I lived through it by hooking up an answering machine.

I felt humiliated though, when my co-workers relentlessly teased me.images-1

3. My all-time worst typo was when I had my own PR and advertising business. I had some super-duper clients including the hospital’s cancer center and a local branch of a major Wall Street firm. When the boss at the Wall Street branch was promoted to NYC to corporate headquarters, he still used me for all of his work. I was SO excited! Then I made a typo on a Power Point presentation. It was on the new logo he had me create for the Western Region of the United States of America. Ugh.

He was so angry with me, because I made him look bad. I’ll never forgive myself for that one.

imgres-2The thing with typos is your brain can trick you into seeing what you intended to be there.

My tips to catch typos are:

1. Read the piece from the bottom, sentence by sentence.

2. Read it out loud.

3. Put it away for a few days to get a fresh view.

4. Have other people proofread for you.

5. Don’t forget to proofread the title and headers. Numbers, too.

How Computers and Technology Changed My Life

Swim Practice

Swim Practice

It was my daughter’s 19th birthday this past week, and I texted her Happy Birthday, first thing in the morning. Yes, I talked to her later, but I knew she’d be at swim practice early and couldn’t talk to me right away. I wanted a nice message for her whenever she had a chance to glance at her phone.

photo (1)My birthday last year was filled with FB wishes. Twenty years ago, I’d get phone calls. It was a big deal, because I‘d hear from people that I’d lost touch with for years. Plus, people would call “long distance!” Sometimes they left messages on my answering machine, if I was busy at work.

Remember the answering machine?

Remember the answering machine?



I used to write my mom and my best friend letters. I had moved from Washington to Southern California, and we couldn’t afford to make that many long distance phone calls. I loved getting long letters back from those close to me. A lot of news and thought was put into writing letters. It wasn’t at all like the quick posts we do on FB or our tweets today.

On the positive side, I can stay in contact with a whole lot of people thanks to social media that I’d probably lose contact with otherwise.

In my working days before the computer, I’d write my stories on a typewriter. We’d use special purple mimeograph paper to type on and then I’d walk it over to the print shop to be printed. We’d mail the stories to the local papers, except when my boss would drive timely ones straight to the editor of The Desert Sun.

My favorite typewriter. The IBM Selectric II.

My favorite typewriter. The IBM Selectric II.

My newsletters were also typed on an IBM Selectric —what a luxury that was to type on compared to other typewriters — and I knew how to do the math to figure out how many words of copy would fill a column inch. I’d drive my copy to Indio to the typesetter and a few days later drive back to pick it up. Then I’d proofread, mark it up and drive it back. No, we didn’t have fax machines back then.

The machine I used to "send copy over the wire."

The machine to “send copy over the wire.”

The closest thing I’d used to a fax was “sending a story over the wire.” I took my sheet of paper with my copy on it, and rubber banded it to a round metal cylinder. I called the newspaper’s office and we started the wire. I took the phone receiver and placed it on a cushioned base and the cylinder spun around as the words were magically transmitted. If my wire didn’t go through, I’d read my words slowly to someone transcribing them at other end of the phone.

What a difference technology and computers have done to my world. Mostly, it speeded up the process and made everything so much easier.

What differences have technology made in your life?