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Stet Blog

Since its inception in the 1980s, the IWOC monthly newsletter, Stet, has featured helpful news, tips, and information for IWOC members and the entire Chicagoland freelance writing community—including previews and recaps of IWOC meetings and events, book and service/software reviews, and advice for developing and sustaining business as an independent writer. As of January 2018, the standard monthly newsletter format has been replaced with the blog format contained on this page, which allows articles to be posted in a more timely fashion. 

Whether or not you're a member of IWOC, we invite your contributions. Our only criteria are writing quality and the usefulness of the information to writers. IWOC reserves the right to gently edit submissions. For information regarding submissions, contact the Stet editor.

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Over the years, the Stet delivery format has evolved from snail-mailed paper copy to emailed PDF/HTML file to site-hosted, aggregated blog. Stet issues in PDF/HTML and aggregated-blog format from 2002 to 2017 are available for viewing in our archives.

  • To view PDF/HTML issues of Stet (published from 2002 to 2015), click here.
  • To view Stet in its aggregated-blog format (published from 2016 to 2017), click here.

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  • 27 Dec 2023 12:09 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    This last November, I sent an e-blast to you all regarding the latest news in the fight against a US Department of Labor (USDOL) job-destroying ruling – the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize) containing the ABC Test. Its aim is to classify Independent Contractors (ICs) as employees. (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, find out here.) In that email, I mentioned that the ruling was poised to be enacted around Thanksgiving. That didn’t happen. While versions of it are currently making their way around various states (IL, MN, NJ, RI, NY, etc.) the ruling is still pending on the national level, with a possible launch in January. In the meantime, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has been taking meetings to hear both sides of the issue. 

    Our business is none of their business.

    Politicians and unelected officials should not be able to decide how we work and live. It is our constitutional right and responsibility to fight back:

    1) Contact the White House and voice your opposition to the PRO Act/ABC Test. 2) Find out where your U.S. and State Congressional Representatives stand on this ruling. If they support IC’s, thank them. If they support the PRO Act/ABC Test, set them straight. And 3) get into the business of those unelected officials in the USDOL and on the National Labor Relations Board. Let them know in no uncertain terms where you stand. 

    Make your voice heard. I have.

    On November 28, I spoke for ten minutes on behalf of IWOC and myself in a teleconference hosted by the OIRA. There were nine in attendance, representing the OIRA, the USDOL, DOL’s and OIRA’s Offices of Management and Budget, and DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. While backed with stats and facts, my statement was intensely personal. It had to be if I wished to make any impact. If you’re curious as to what I presented, my statement is posted below.  You may even relate to some of it. Or at the very least, be informed and inspired enough to contact your representatives or write an op-ed, and make your own voice heard.

    Will my voice – and that of the millions of Independent Contractors expressing their concerns – halt the enactment of this deleterious ruling? We can only hope. But to not fight and just accept what will be forced upon us...is unacceptable. 

    Stay tuned, 

    Laura Stigler

    STATEMENT FOR THE OFFICE OF INFORMATION AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS

    11-28-23

    Thank you for accepting my request for a meeting and hearing me out. My name is Laura Stigler. I’m serving my 8th term as president of Independent Writers of Chicago, speaking for myself and on behalf of our members. I’ve been a freelance writer for 34 years. Previous to that, I worked as a full-time employee for 14 years – the first 2 years in retail advertising, and the next 12 working my way up to Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson – which at the time, was the world’s largest advertising agency. For 10 of those years at J. Walter, it was glorious. The training and experience I’ve gained I wouldn’t have traded for the world. Everything I’ve learned there I continue to put to use in my freelance writing career. 

    But in the last two years working at the agency, there was a regime change, turning my days into nightmares where I experienced the kind of backstabbing that is often depicted in movies and novels about the advertising industry. I went into a deep depression, where I’d go home every night, jump in the tub and read fairy tales to escape, as I didn’t do drugs. After my boss sabotaged my work only to throw me under the bus in front of a client, I was fired. Which ended up being a blessing. I vowed never, ever to work for a jerk again. So I decided to go freelance. This was in 1989.

    Nonstop since then, I’ve been happily and successfully making my living as a freelance writer, setting my own rates, hours and picking and choosing my clients. At J. Walter, I wrote TV and radio commercials and print ads. But being a freelancer allowed me to expand my own skill sets exponentially, enabling me to offer an extensive variety of writing services that answer the different needs of a wide variety of clients. Need a website written? A blog? A video script? A press release? I do all that – and more. In doing so, I’ve developed solid, trusting relationships with my clients, in every case giving my all in providing my best work, and rewarded with being paid my hourly rate willingly, eagerly, and promptly. In the 30+ years of freelancing, not once have I been stiffed. And for the very few times payment was late, I handled it, appealing to those clients’ better angels.

    To those who believe they’re doing Independent Contractors (ICs) a favor by forcing them into being an employee, thinking that is more secure: My experience should tell you, that is simply not the case. Sure, as an employee you’re secure – that is, until you’re laid off due to budgetary concerns. Or you’re fired by a nefarious boss. Or you’re canceled because of a misspoken word. Or the company simply goes out of business. Oh, by the way, the iconic J. Walter Thompson – the world’s largest ad agency? They no longer exist. 

    According to Fiver“Over 80% of independent workers strongly or somewhat agree that having multiple sources of income provides a greater level of security than relying on a single employer, and 89% agree having control over their work life allows them to adjust to changing economic conditions rather than being tied to the decisions of an employer.” 

    Keep in mind, too, that when you lose employment, you lose your health insurance. Poof! Gone. How secure is that?  As a freelancer, even if you lose a client, you still get to keep your health insurance – as long as you keep up your premium payments. 

    That’s the thing about being independent. It teaches you responsibility. To find your own health insurance. To be proactive in paying your quarterly taxes. No, you don’t get paid vacation or paid family leave, but what you do get in return are three benefits money cannot buy: Freedom, variety and flexibility. 

    An example of flexibility:  I was able to earn a living while helping my dad take care of my mother during the four years she battled cancer. 20 years later, I was able to be the caregiver for my dad for 5 years until he passed away at the age of 99, all the while, taking on writing assignments that I’d work on in between the hours of helping my dad. As an employee, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

    Regarding freedom and variety, that is something you do not get as an employee. Oftentimes – and I speak from experience, you can end up working on the same thing, day after day, year after year. But as a freelancer, I get to be creatively stimulated – and happier – by freely working for a variety of clients on a variety of assignments. So if I were to have to work for one of my clients as an employee – assuming they’d even want to hire me as such, does that mean I’d have to give up all my other clients, and be forced into working in a way that I’ve come to find soul-crushing? Why? Just because you say so? Or because of some ill-thought-out arbitrary rule?

    I’m referring here to Factor 5 of the USDOL’s rule, the one that emulates prong B of California’s AB5 ruling that destroyed thousands of jobs and small businesses. The personal stories are heartbreaking. That factor states you will be classified as an Independent Contractor if “The service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer.” Well my business would be wiped out, because I’m in advertising and the majority of my clients have been ad agencies. 

    You say, “But they can hire you as an employee!” Fat chance. No ad agency will hire anyone my age for full-time employment. Ageism is rampant in that industry. Once you turn 50, you’re out. Happened to my husband and to my dad. But the way to beat that – is to be a freelancer. I get hired – and respected because of my expertise, my experience, and the fact that as an outsider, they count on me for bringing in fresh ideas and an out-of-the-box perspective. In total, I’ve garnered millions of dollars’ worth of business for my clients. My reward? They continue to hire me and pay me more than they would were I their employee.

    Corroborating my experience are these facts from Upwork:

    ·       85% of hiring managers say that working with independent talent allows them to access specialized skills or expertise. 

    ·   79% agree that working with independent talent has enabled their business to be more innovative. 

    ·   Nearly 80% of hiring managers who engage skilled freelancers say they are confident in their ability to find the talent they need, compared to just 63% of those who don’t engage freelancers.

    Let’s also take into consideration the fact that often, smaller businesses will hire IC’s because they simply cannot afford to take them on full time – they can’t afford the vacation pay, health insurance and countless other expenses that go with hiring full-timers. So what will happen is they’ll drop the IC’s altogether. The IC’s will lose their clients. And their clients will lose someone they’ve depended on to help their business succeed. Which in turn, has caused many small businesses to go under as well, because they’ve basically lost their work force. 

    According to MBO Partners (a job sourcing platform for ICs) and Freelancers Against AB5, there are 72.1 million Independent Contractors in the U.S. representing over 600 professions ranging from accounting, graphic artists and language translation to hair styling, physical therapy and writers of all stripes. That’s almost 45% of the nation’s workforce. The destruction these rules will do to the nation’s economy will be catastrophic. 

    But what it all basically comes down to is this: Millions of IC’s in professions across the board have been voicing their opposition to this rule. If it provided such great “protection” for freelancers, why are only unions in support of it? As it is, the NLRB is being sued for overstepping its regulatory capabilities (with franchisees) and this USDOL regulation will also be sued in court. The millions who have chosen to be Independent Contractors are living exactly how we want to live – with freedom and flexibility. As Americans, that is completely within our right to enjoy. Any ruling that impinges upon that right is a brazen infringement on our God-given unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

    And personally, I don’t want my tax dollars going towards rules that will ruin my business and that of millions of others, including the businesses of the writers my organization represents. 

    In sum, this so-called Classification of Employees and Independent Contractors Under the Fair Labor Standards Act is patently unfair. And quite frankly, un-American.

    Thank you.

    Submitted by Laura Stigler

    NOTES:

    9 people were present in the meeting: Stephen Davis, Robert Waterman -- DOL/Wage and Hour Division; Andrea Reyes, Laurel Havas --  Office of Management and Budget / OIRA; Claire Monteiro- OMB Labor Branch; Amy Hunter, Lyda Harris, Rina Majmudar DOL; Dean Romhilt – DOL/SOL  (represents Secretary of Labor)


  • 26 Nov 2023 10:28 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    You won’t find my name anymore on the list of IWOC members. After a dozen years of freelancing and IWOC (including a couple of terms as president), and about 30 years in newspapers before that, I have decided to retire. This won’t be a semi-retirement of doing a few projects here and there to keep my hand in. It’s walking away from everything all at once. 

    You see, I reached the point where I want all of my time to be my own. This past spring my wife and I took a bird-watching trip to the border country of southeastern Arizona, someplace neither of us had ever visited. Of course I had a deadline overlapping the trip, had to ask for flexibility from an editor, had to push to get ahead before we left, and had to push to finish the assignment when we returned. I decided I’d had enough of jamming my pleasures into the spaces between work. In addition, my journalism work has become more difficult in the last few years. People aren’t as cooperative — when they bother responding to interview requests at all. I don’t know why that is, and while I could speculate about the reasons, ultimately reasons don’t matter. Only the effect on my work matters.


    I will miss IWOC very much. It was invaluable in helping me master the mechanics of freelancing, but the greatest benefit was finding a group of friendly, helpful, and supportive people, and it is all of you that I will particularly miss. I don’t recognize as many member names as I used to, but that’s good because organizations need to change if they are to survive. IWOC especially needs to do that as writers face the age of artificial intelligence (as true a moniker as it could be since what it produces has little to do with actual intelligence) and business “thought leaders” (a term much like “artificial intelligence”) who see it as an easy way to generate their “content” (meaning clusters of words that have the appearance of being substantive).

    I found IWOC through a friend who worked at a Sun-Times suburban newspaper and became one of the many casualties of the post-recession newspaper economy. She saw an ad for a freelance bootcamp by this Chicago writers organization, and she wanted to go but not alone. So I took a day off from my newspaper job, and we went. What I found was people who had made a successful living from freelance writing for years. Not too long after that, when the idiocy at my corporation grew beyond my tolerance, I remembered IWOC and thought, “If they can do it, so can I.” 

    I’ll miss trips downtown for IWOC meetings, too, because downtown is downtown and always stimulating and interesting. I haven’t attended in person recently because, pandemic aside, I moved from southeastern Wisconsin to Madison where my wife has a job with an actual office. (I was walking to the train station with George Becht one night soon after joining IWOC, and he told me that after a few years of freelancing I wouldn’t want to return to an office job. He was right.) Reaching downtown Chicago is now a minor expedition — driving to Milwaukee to catch Amtrak to Union Station — instead of an easy ride on the Metra North Line. 

    You may be curious to know what my retirement plans are, other than watching birds. Well, my plan is to figure out tomorrow when tomorrow arrives. It’s another lesson learned from freelancing: adaptability. If something doesn’t work, no big deal; you do something else. It’s time for me to find something else. 

    I hope you all fare well. 

    -- David Steinkraus


  • 26 Nov 2023 9:53 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

     As is my custom, I’m taking December off. But I thought it might be a good idea to end this roller coaster of year on an up note, with a repeat of a posting bearing thoughts – and a song -- to carry us through the holiday season. And beyond.

    _______________________ 

    As I sit here in lotus position upon my mountain top (remind me to bring a pillow next time), I’ve come to contemplate something no great philosopher has ever thought of before: The Secret to Happiness. What brings happiness? Living in a country where each is free to pursuit their own, it’s no doubt different for everyone. For me, it’s being productive – especially when it has to do with creation. Whether it’s a project I just finished for a client, or having written a song – that’s the absolute best. Where I get most of my “highs.” It can also come from being productive in other ways. Making a particularly succulent beef bourguignon, for instance. (Ask me for the recipe.) Or finally cleaning up my office. (I can breathe better!) Anything, big or small, that I can accomplish to my own personal satisfaction makes me happy. Temporarily, at least. And that’s the catch.

    Creativity. Productivity. As with anything in life that isn’t permanent, it ebbs and flows, often influencing my moods. So what can sustain us in between? Keep us buoyed during the down times? Or all the time? In light of all this heavy pondering, I’d like to share the lyrics of a song I wrote recently that might provide at least one answer. 

    Picture it being sung by a guy. A real character with a twinkle in his eye. Not a spring chicken, he’s been around the block several times and after experiencing life’s ups and downs and witnessing much, has gained this bit of wisdom...

    THANKS TO GRATITUDE

    Written by Laura Stigler-Marier

    Well I may never get to Easy Street

    But I walk to town with shoes on my feet

    No, that ain’t my McMansion on the hill

    But my four walls keep out the evening chill

    And my job may not be what dreams are made of

    But at least...I ain’t been laid off


    Yeah, compared to most my troubles are few

    And the ones I got 

    With the help of God 

    I manage to get through

    Yeah happiness ain’t nothing but an attitude

    And I am one

    Happy son-of-a-gun

    Thanks to gratitude


    Ya know, Easy Street has got its share of potholes

    And what’s behind them mansion doors, God knows

    As perfect as that other side may seem

    Up close, the grass ain’t always all that green

    Rich or poor, we all got our problems

    If you’re alive...you got ‘em


    Ah, but compared to most my troubles are few

    And the ones I got 

    With the help of God 

    I manage to get through

    Yeah happiness ain’t nothing but an attitude

    And I am one

    Happy son-of-a-gun

    Thanks to gratitude


    Thankful for my friends

    For my simple life

    And thank you Lord for sending me

    My saint of a wife


    Ohhh, happiness ain’t nothing but an attitude

    And I am one 

    Happy son-of-a gun

    Yeah I am one 

    Lucky son-of-a-gun

    Thanks to gratitude

    It’s all about gratitude

    Thank you, gratitude

    Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah everyone!

    --Laura Stigler

    P.S. If you would like to hear the melody, contact me and I could send the scratch track. Trigger warning: I’m singing it acapella. 

    “Thanks to Gratitude” ã2021 Laura Stigler-Marier & Ken Marier

    -

  • 10 Nov 2023 10:50 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    When I think of the TV show "Friends," I recall the witty writing and the six talented actors who brought the script to life. Especially Matthew Perry, with his comedic timing and animated facial expressions in his portrayal of Chandler Bing. 

    "Friends" originally aired from 1994-2004, and I worked in the corporate world then. I often stayed late at the office to finish projects. One night a week, three of my coworkers would gather in a cubicle nearby at around 6pm, and spend the next hour laughing loudly.

    What were they talking about? "Friends." They were discussing, analyzing and dissecting every scene of the previous night's episode. Week after week this went on. I'd try to work, but overhear them, and find myself unable to stop laughing at the "Friends" episode all over again. 

    What might not be known, is that Perry would drop into the writers' room and contribute by pitching jokes and helping craft the scripts that we enjoyed so much. After the show ended, he harbored ambitions to write. In 2016, he wrote a dark comedy play called “The End of Longing” which premiered in London. His memoir “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing” was published in 2022 in which he shared his struggles with addiction, with the aim of helping others. 

    Thank you for the laughs, Matthew, and for your big heart. The world needs both. Please rest in peace.

    -- Sarah Klose

  • 31 Oct 2023 12:54 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)


    Harking back to our September 12 (and popular as ever) Writers’ Roundtable, let’s give a round of applause for the resounding success that it was! As is our custom, we did not record the meeting out of respect for everyone’s privacy. But that doesn’t mean those who didn’t attend should be kept in the dark. I’d like to share some of the knowledge gained during that fruitful hour just in case the issues raised happen to be what's on your mind as well.   

    Which brings me to the first topic raised by Moderator Jeff Steele. Starting the back-and-forth with a bang, Jeff asked that loaded question, “How do you find work?” From there, the questions, answers, advice and opinions went flying.

    1. How do you find work? This is the $64K perennial question that comes up in all our Roundtables – and frankly, whenever freelance writers get together. The answers offered up were multiple and all worth exploring. Here's a sampling:

    •  LinkedIn: Always a popular suggestion. The success rate varies, but there are definitely jobs to be found there – specifically, if you sign up for LinkedIn Premium. No promises but one attendee spoke of how it resulted in some very lucrative and steady gigs.
    •  Freelance Success (FLX). A membership-based website and publication, when you subscribe for a monthly or annual fee you’ll have access to a treasure trove of resources, job listings, classes and more. IWOC members who have experience with FLX swear by it.
    • Directory of AssociationsAssociations are always in need of content – for newsletters, trade magazines, press releases, etc. The directory lists associations for nearly every category imaginable – all across the country. Check it out. Then start connecting!
    • The karma of Cold Calling. This technique is as old-school as you can get, yet arguably grants you with the most tried-and-true results when dialing for clients. That personal touch goes a long way in making connections in this otherwise email- and X (formerly Twitter)-obsessed world. But there are rules, such as always starting at the get-go by succinctly identifying yourself and asking “Do you have a moment?” when a prospective clients picks up the phone. 
    Most miraculously, once you get on a cold-calling roll, don’t be surprised if a client that wasn’t even on your list comes calling you out of the blue. That’s the karma part. A very readable cold-calling guide can be found on our Member Resources Page. Scroll down to “Speaker Handouts” and click on Jim Leman’s “Cold Call Marketing.” The advice is timeless.

    2. Handy resources for content creators...

    • Help a Reporter Out (HARO) Journalists, researchers – anyone needing a source for their content will find this website invaluable.
    • Qwoted.com is where you can “find experts, guest speakers and story ideas instantly.”

    3. How do you write a CV(curriculum vitae, Latin for “course of life.”)? Much depends on who you’re writing it for. A CV includes a brief account of one’s education, qualifications and previous occupations. Similar but more detailed than a resumé, the “voice” should be appropriate to your target. Applying to an academic, research or financial institution would be more conservative in tone than if you were applying for a job at an advertising or public relations agency. Don’t be afraid to infuse it with your personality – something that surely makes you stand apart from other applicants. And there’s always Google, where you can find any number of templates and suggestions as to how to write a CV that will work double time in helping you land the job. 

    4. Just say, “Yes!” to an assignment. Even if you have no experience in the subject you’re asked to write about. You’ll surprise yourself at what you can do, and the satisfaction you’ll feel when you’ve tackled it. Plus, taking on something you’ve never done before will expand the diversity of your portfolio. That said, on the occasion you feel the assignment is way out of your wheelhouse, perhaps recommend another (IWOC) writer who may be perfect for it. (Just make sure you get their permission first!)

    Much more was covered -- and discovered in our session. Even then, it was only the tip of the iceberg. (Good reason to have another Roundtable in early spring!) But as far as this last one, if you weren’t there, wish you were. To those who did attend, thank you so much! Please feel free to mention other helpful advice that was shared around the table. Just click the dots next to the headline to comment below. 

    Till the next round...

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 01 Oct 2023 12:19 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    NOTE: The following is an update from my several postings regarding the ABC Test and pending legislation that, if passed, will affect all Independent Contractors. Like us. 


    It’s a good feeling when you can meet head-on with the opposition – lawmakers who regard their constituents as a faceless blob that can be ignored and manipulated. When you actually confront them in the flesh, showing them you are a real, three-dimensional person who would be adversely affected by their wrong-headed policies, you can see in their eyes and demeanor their arrogant confidence being shaken. When challenged with real facts, they cannot resort to the parroting of tired talking points, fake facts, and gross mis- and dis-information. Instead, they are left with mouths agape, speechless. 


    That is what happened at a roundtable I attended via Zoom on August 31, initiated by Illinois State Representative Suzanne Ness (D), whose purpose was to “elevate the voices” of those who choose to be Independent Contractors (IC) and to draw a clear distinction between what is and isn’t independent contracting. Because of my position in IWOC – and therefore representing the freelance writers of our organization, as well as having been vocal in fighting for the right for freelancers to remain freelancers, I was invited to this meeting by fellow Independent Contractor Marc Avelar (who lives in Rep. Ness’s 66th district), along with “Fight 4 Freelancers” co-founder and dynamo Kim Kavin. Attendees also included IL State Representative and Chairman of the House of Labor & Commerce Committee Marcus Evans, Jr., (D) plus other IC’s, small business owners and representatives of the AFL-CIO, Illinois Dept. of Labor, and Dept. of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.


    This is real. This is serious. 

    If you’re not familiar with the issue, this all has to do with the ABC Test -- a test used to classify employees and Independent Contractors. You probably never heard of it because the mainstream media is not covering it: 

    In a nutshell, the Biden Administration is attempting to write into national law the same ABC Test that California has used to classify Independent Contractors -- a test that resulted in the loss of livelihoods of tens of thousands of ICs in California. Illinois and other pro-union blue states are in the planning stages of enacting the same ABC Test. 

    If passed nationwide, it will affect 60 million Independent Contractors. That’s 1/3 of the entire U.S. workforce. This is a group not only comprised of writers of all stripes, but of IC’s representing over 600 fields in all, from CPA’s, lawyers, and Realtors® to truckers, caregivers, pharmacists, translators, videographers, physical therapists, hair stylists and many more. And if you’re not an IC but normally hire ICs (and who doesn’t!), they may not be able to work for you any longer – unless you hire them as your W-2 employeePlease know, this is not a partisan issue. The hundreds of thousands of IC’s who have joined in this fight range from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump voters. It can and will affect us all.

    Now back to the meeting.

    Here’s what happened that you might find rather ironic, and that encapsulates this whole situation: The aforementioned Rep. Evans is also an independent licensed real estate appraiser. He confidently mentioned that he has 18 clients, believing that that is what qualifies him as a “legitimate Independent Contractor.” Therefore, the ABC Test in Illinois (that mimics California’s) will have no effect on him. Or so he thought. Immediately Kim Kavin shot back with one stark fact of which she is thoroughly well-versed, saying: “I’m so sorry to tell you, but part B of this ABC Test will put you out of business, too. Welcome to the state of California!” The silence that fell over the room was deafening. Talk about shock and awe. It truly was awesome. Suddenly, a lawmaker is blindsided with the reality of his own policies. How do ya like ‘em now, Mr. Evans!

    FYI, Part B says that you are an Independent Contractor if you “perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” Mr. Evans appraises real estate for real estate companies. Same line of business, right? Therefore, his business relationship would be deemed illegal unless his clients hire him as an employee. 

    Among other withering points we voiced in the meeting that smashed the prejudicial notions of these Powers That Be: 

    •  The AFL-CIO rep had recently outrageously claimed that Independent Contractors were largely made up of Uber drivers, illegal immigrants, and felons. But the very presence of Ms. Kavin, Mr. Avelar, myself, and the other ICs in the meeting, plus our listing out loud numerous other fields that ICs represent  -- all made minced meat out of that stupendously ignorant claim.   
    • The Illinois Dept. of Labor rep blithely accused small businesses of hiring ICs to “cut corners” in order to undercut any competition. I could not let that stand and strongly refuted that foolish statement by giving the reasons that such businesses hire ICs: It is because maintaining full-time employees incurs countless costs that would make their businesses unviable. What they DO end up doing is providing services and goods that customers want, while concurrently enabling ICs to make a great living of their choosing. Again, no response from the IDOL rep.
    • In my opening statement, I asked point blank, “What business is it of the government to decide how Independent Contractors work? We are tax-paying citizens who choose this life/work style for the flexibility and freedom it offers. No one has the right to force us into living and working any other way. It is patently un-American.” This, too, was met with no reaction.  But here’s their dirty little secret: Sure, unions can serve a purpose. And that’s fine if that’s what one wants. But unions across the country are losing membership. Losing membership means losing dues to fund their pensions. It means losing power. And losing the quid-pro-quo support of union-friendly politicians. Therein lies the real reason for this massive effort to get us all to be W-2 employees, thus cutting off our free will to work when, how, and for whom we choose.  Independent Contractors cannot be corralled into unions. It’s easier to unionize employees.   

    To Representative Ness’s credit, she is the sponsor of Bill HR3441 that seeks to codify guidelines for Independent Contractors to align with the longstanding ABC Test that adheres to the IRS definition – one that has been used as the standard for decades and is fair for all parties involved. Says Ms. Ness, “It is also a way to ensure that those who work as Independent Contractors for a variety of reasons, can continue to do so in an unimpeded way.”  Only since California has enacted the more complex version of the ABC Test has all this chaos ensued.

    The fight for freelancers has been going on for four years. The hopeful news is: The enactment nationwide of the California-inspired ABC Test is currently being blocked in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, and in the U.S. Senate by all Republicans and AZ Senators Sinema (I) and Kelly (D) and VA Senator Warner (D). That’s a good thing – as long as they all stand their ground. In 2024, if Democrats win majorities in the House, Senate and keep the White House, expect the ABC test to rear its ugly head and be passed. Should Republicans win in all three branches, this whole issue will be dead in the water. However...

    Blue states, such as our very own Illinois, can still enact its own rules. Hence the meeting I attended. Our legislators have to know what harm they will be inflicting on nearly 2.8 million Illinois residents who are ICs. 

    So here’s the deal: IT’S IMPORTANT YOU VOICE YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE ABC TEST. With very little effort, you can make a giant impact. Choose any or all of the following for a course of action, and also to equip yourself with accurate information:

    1.  Contact (email, phone, or visit) your Illinois Senator and Representative. As Kim Kavin advises: Let them know that if they wipe out your business, you’ll see to it that they lose their job, as you will not be voting for them. Be frank. Ask them if they want to hurt you by destroying the way you choose to work. They’ll always say no, they don’t want to hurt you. It will make them see you as a real person whose life can actually be harmed by their decisions. Hopefully, they’ll have the political courage to not pass this destructive bill. Tell them to instead, support Bill HR3441.

    2.  View the very short videos at https://fightforfreelancersusa.com/videos/ They’ll tell you everything

    3. Join the Facebook group Fight for Illinois Freelancers to stay locally informed.

    4. Here’s an easy outline of what you can do.

    5. https://fightforfreelancersusa.com gives you the background of this battle, the latest news and more.

    6. Watch “Right to be Independent Contractors,” a 1-hour podcast that really lays it all out in a discussion between Kim Kavin, Karen Anderson (Freelancers Against AB5), Mike Hruby (New Jobs America), and Steve, Rideshare Rodeo podcast host.

    7.  Amicus Brief  presented by Fight For Freelancers to the National Labor Relations Board. You can go to pg. 6 to read the summary, followed by the argument.

    We are in the fight of our (freelance) lives and livelihoods. We must remain Independent Writers of Chicago. Thank you for taking action.

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 01 Oct 2023 11:56 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

          

    After the 2020 cancellation because of COVID, Lit Fest 2021 was rather lackluster. Then in 2022, the first day (Saturday) was delightful. Passers-by signed up for our email list in numbers that exceeded those for both days of some past years. But Sunday brought torrential rains that shut down the event. So we were curious to see what 2023 would bring.

    I’m happy to say...it was wonderful. This year’s Lit Fest was held on the weekend of September 9 – 10. Once again we were back under the IWPA (Illinois Woman’s Press Association) tent in the Printers Row neighborhood along Dearborn Street in the South Loop. The weather was pleasant, attendance was strong and IWOC’s table practically floated in the sea of booksellers, authors, and exhibitors.

    Not only that, but quite a few visitors lingered at our table to hear our volunteers extoll the benefits of IWOC membership. We gained several new members and a healthy number of signups for our email list —101 sign-ups in total for the two days — thanks to the contagious enthusiasm and winning spirit of our volunteers.

    Speaking of volunteers, a great big thank you to the twelve folks who joined me in promoting IWOC at Lit Fest. They were: Thomas Thorson, Joseph Wycoff, Nonku Adumetey, Jill Grant, Kathryn Occhipinti, Anne Hagerty, Jeff Steele, Laura Stigler, Dominic Calabrese, Sheila Malloy, Joanna Zuno and Lynn Wendt. We also had four IWOC authors (Thomas, Nonku, Kathryn and Joseph) display their books and enjoy sales.

    We’re now looking forward to building on the success of Lit Fest 2023. Given the high level of volunteers we had this year, I’m excited that our new coordinator, Joeseph Wycoff, will be managing IWOC’s presence at Lit Fest 2024. I’ll still be around, of course, but I’ve passed the organizing baton to Joe. 

    -- George Becht

    Photo #1: George Becht; Middle Photo: Joanna Zuno, Laura Stigler, Jeff Steele; Photo #3: Dominic Calabrese, Sheila Malloy, Lynn Wendt, Nonku Adumetey


  • 31 Aug 2023 6:45 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In last year’s review, we tipped our pink sequined hat to Sir Elton John, exclaiming in full voice that after the Covid fog had finally lifted, IWOC was indeed still standing. Today, with a debonair tip of a gray felt fedora, let us now settle back all cozy in the Pump Room’s Booth One, order up a bottle of Jack – a glass of ice on the side, light up a Chesterfield and reminisce about the year that was, Sinatra style. 


    2022-23 IWOC Programs 


    Dig this..

    He may not be Chairman of the Board, but Jeff Steele sure makes one helluva Chairman of the Program Committee. He and ace Co-chair broad Betsy Stormalong with contributions by other IWOC members, jam-packed the year with the following programs. Anyone who came and saw, came out wiser businesspeople and savvier self-marketers, loaded with ideas about adding more “value added” aspects to their writing services

    •  IWOC’S Ever-popular Annual Writers’ Roundtable, where everyone gets their say. (This is the only program not recorded, so all participants can speak freely.)
    • Self-Publish Your Book Checklist: Award-winning Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and author of numerous self-published, whimsically illustrated books, Greg Borowski took the spookiness out of self-publishing with his tried-and-true, step-by-step approach.
    • Supporting Freelance Investigative Journalism in Chicago: Eric Ferrero, Exec. Dir. of Fund for Investigative Journalism, scouted for writers who fantasize about being the next Nellie Bly.
    • The Power of Branding: Strategies to Successfully Market Your Writing Services were laid out in easy-to-follow doses by Christian Cook, author and public relations wiz.
    • Working with Adobe inDesign and inCopy: Book and magazine publishing veteran Rhonda Jackson demonstrated how even graphically challenged writers can create eye-catching visuals to accompany their content.
    • Tax & Accounting Tips for Freelancers, razor-sharp CPA Gavin Piasky engagingly provided clear, practical, law-abiding info and answers to the many taxing questions on many a freelancer’s mind.
    •  Using Storytelling to Gain More Business, IWOC Member and professional storyteller held us rapt with his own stories of how to incorporate that talent when pitching prospective clients.
    •  Feng Shui for Writing Productivity, Feng Shui practitioner Kim Downey interactively showed us the way to organize our office environment to optimize our writing productivity.
    • Price Your Work for Profit, a hands-on, how-to workshop presented most ably by business and creative coach, Jessica Abel.

    Got ideas for writing- or business-related programs? Contact Jeff. We welcome them all! 

    2022-23 IWOC Parties

    You think the Rat Pack was crazy? Oh, man, they were amateurs compared to a pack of us IWOC writers. Last December, we let it all hang out at our December Holiday Party at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! For our August Greektown wingding, we partied till the wee small hours at Athena. (Ok, it was till 8. Gimme a break.) And for the second April in a row, we celebrated the Spring Equinox at the Weber Grill. Wow-ee Wow Wow, it was good.

    IWOSC Programs

    IWOC members also attended, free of charge, programs offered by our West Coast sister outfit, Independent Writers of Southern California. This year, they were treated to:

    • Exploring Narrative Structure in Your Writing
    • Start Writing and Keep Writing with Scrivener

    IWOC and IWOSC were not the only ones who put on cool programs. We passed the word to IWOC members about these world class events:

    Promoting our members

    We’re always telling members to come blow their horn. Or we’ll blow it for them. And so we did...

    • Thomas James Thorson revealed the fourth book of his Malcom Winters Mystery series, Bad Fortune.
    • “Poet with a Guitar” Mark Fishbein produced and hosted the Afterwords Chicago Global Poetry Night, live at the After-Words Bookstore, where he and a cadre of fellow published poets read their works and signed their books "afterwards."
    • Laura Stigler’s prose entry, “Requiem for a Piano Bench,” won the honor of being published in the 2023 Anthology produced by the esteemed TallGrass Writers Guild
    • Cindy Bertram announced the airing of her weekly TV show “Good Ship Happens” and her new website going live, Good Ship Happens.
    • Kathryn Occhipinti’s new audio book Caterina Travels to Italy was nominated for the "Cover of the Month" contest on AllAuthor.com. 
    • Jeff Steele celebrated his one-third century anniversary as a freelance writer.
    • Jay Schwartz had just published his short story, Car-Pain Diemon Amazon.
    • And as we do every year, IWOC participated in the Printers Row LitFest, displaying and selling our author members’ books at our table while talking to thousands of passers-by on the virtues of IWOC and how we help freelance writers of every stripe succeed in their careers. (Volunteer to help staff the table and join the fun at this year’s LitFest on the weekend of September 9 & 10. Contact organizer George Becht.)

    Perk alert

    Associate Members can now access the Job Board and Job Sites page. (Upgrade to Professional Level and have your Specialties and Areas of Expertise displayed on the Online Directory – the better potential for clients to hire you!)

    So, set ‘em up, Joe

    Yeah, yeah, the year went by all too fast. But hey, before we close down this joint for the night, let’s have one more round of whatever suits your zoot as we toast the coming year. If you’re an IWOC member, hold on to your fedora. Some pretty wild stuff is coming down the pike. If you’re not a member, quit your dilly-dallying and join already to get in on it all. 

    IWOC. We’re your kind of group, baby!

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 01 Aug 2023 11:43 AM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In the past few years, a number of venerable Chicago writers organizations have bit the dust. Among them: Chicago Women in Publishing and Midwest Writers Association. How could this happen? Simply put, it was a lack of volunteers. The good news: IWOC is still standing tall. And not by accident. To keep this organization going, it has taken people who volunteer either to serve on the Board of Directors or on a Committee because they understand the vital role IWOC plays in Chicago’s community of writers -- and in the success of their own careers. 

    But the unvarnished truth is, volunteers are becoming harder and harder to come by. For the last several years, it’s largely been the same group of volunteers who have been willingly and gallantly serving. To my great relief, they’re going to continue to do so. But it’s neither fair to them nor to IWOC to keep depending upon the “usual suspects.” It would be wonderful if new people volunteered along with them, bringing in fresh ideas of their own. The beauty of this is, the more people who volunteer, the easier it is for everyone. And the more beneficial to IWOC – and you. 

    1)  TO MEMBERS: Nominate a candidate for the Board of Directors. Submit names to the Nominating Committeeby Tuesday, August 22. Who would you like to see on the Board of Directors? Among IWOC members, whose ideas, energy, and all-around get-along personality do you believe would serve IWOC well? If you know someone, do tell. If that happens to be you, that would be the best of all! 

    2)  Run for the Board of Directors. Serving on the Board is not time-consuming. It’s actually fun. The time commitment is nominal. We meet for one hour a month on Zoom. Plus, you’ve got the bully pulpit for presenting your ideas, bringing them to fruition, and creating the IWOC “of your dreams” – which could help your own career as well as those of your fellow IWOC’ers. To qualify as a candidate, you must be an IWOC member who also appreciates the value in IWOC and has the desire and viable ideas to make it even better.

    Or...

    3) Join a Committee. Committees are what keep IWOC going strong! Choose one that jibes with your interests, skills, or desires. The Program Committee is always in need of members who can generate ideas for our monthly programs. Those programs are IWOC’s educational engines that help members like yourself succeed as freelancers and as writers. Interested in serving on this all-important Committee? Contact Program Co-chairs Jeff Steele or Betsy Storm. Other Committees:  MembershipPublic RelationsStet NewsletterSocial Media. Getting involved in this way will boost your confidence, polish your skills, and add cachet to your résumé. I speak from experience.

    We all have a stake in this organization. There are reasons you joined IWOC (or may want to), whether it’s to get more work, learn more about the business and craft of writing, find networking ops, or venture out of your writer’s lair to meet new like-minded friends. But keeping IWOC beneficial, relevant, and vibrant doesn’t happen by magic. It needs members getting involved. Please do.

    If you’ve questions about any of the above, please contact me at president@iwoc.org.

    Not a member? Become one! And start taking advantage of all the benefits that members enjoy.

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 31 Jul 2023 7:43 PM | Sarah Klose (Administrator)

    Ok, so Dirk was about to experience the worst, most disappointing day of his life. But he was clueless when he awoke bright and early on a warm sunny day, that he’d be traveling full speed into an insurmountable pile of challenges. He rolled over, kissed his frisky Tinder date good morning, and poured her a cup of Java Jive. After she left for work, he made his way downtown in his $500,000 limited edition Lamborghini and entered the parking garage. He gradually worked his way up to the trading floor, where his assistant presented the day’s market digest. By all accounts, his positions looked good and afforded opportunities for lucrative market corrections. However, all was not rosy in Dodge that day. By the opening bell it dawned on him that something went seriously astray, & that his short positions, taken to make him a fortune, would soon lead him to dire straights. In just the 1st 10 minutes he cringed while his portfolio tanked down to zero! In plain English: he was up the creek without a paddle.


    His upbeat assessment of the day’s promise quickly morphed into horror and disbelief. He couldn’t recall doing this much damage to himself since he was a young boy, when he threw some stones so close to his father’s Chevy that the actually shattered the entire windshield! He envisioned that day, and the sly pride he had that he could do so much destruction with so little effort! It was a boy’s career defining accomplishment. And, when he woke his dad up from his nap to update him on what had happened, all he could muster was: “Ddaadd, that windshield?” “Yes, son, what about it,” flashing some perceptible sign of concern. “Well, Dad, it’s just not very good!” His father replied, “ok, now that you’ve awoken me from my slumber, let’s go out to see just how 'not very good’ my trusty windshield is! “ Upon seeing the scope of the disaster, his father’s jaw dropped, he turned both white and red at the same time, and promised his son a spanking! 


    He, his mom, and little sister were fighting back chuckles the next day when Dad pulled out of the driveway with a windshield less car, imagining how many bugs would find a home in his teeth during the journey to work! Ah, the memories! Not to mention the savings each week from his meager allowance to pay for the new windshield. He had sworn then that someday he’d have money handy the next time an unforeseen expense happened upon him. Well, dear old Dad decided then to pave the driveway, so that it would be gravel free and and no longer tempting for his precocious son to practice pitching with a pile of stones.


    After this memory began to fade, it slowly sunk in that he had lost his entire bankroll in that series of trades, lock, stock and barrel. After being assisted to the office by his clerks, he then became aware that he’d had an accident, and that it was difficult to hide in khaki trousers. He now couldn’t fathom the future. How would he pay his bills? Where would he live? Could he even afford to keep his Tinder account? After changing, he slumped into his chair, stared out the window, then slowly walked to the garage. That’s when it hit him: he’d now have to live in his car! Can you imagine trying to pack all of your possessions into the equivalent of a coupe sports car? But, 1st things 1st. It was time to hit the bar and strategize. He ordered the usual: a dry vodka martini with hot peppers and a twist of lime. And, as if this wasn’t sufficient, he ordered his favorite double cheese burger with everything, and a side of beans, and chased it down with a big pint of beer. By now, he was looking forward to the challenge of slaloming home in his car, and it wasn’t even noon. After half a block, he felt suddenly nauseous, and quickly pulled over. Before he could exit, he felt tectonic shifts in his innards, and heaved violently into his dashboard. When he was all through, he nearly marveled at the Jackson Pollock like appearance and the puke covered rear view mirror. Not to mention, the stench was so rancid, it was no help even opening the windows. This luxury car now smelled worse than a frat house on a Sunday morning. Oh yes, the vents on his state of the art sportster were now caked with vomit, and he feared this malodorous odor would require special attention to remedy it...

    ** To read the remainder of the story, go to Amazon at amzn.to/3Yid9Y3 where it is available for purchase. Or, if you are an IWOC member and wish to read it for free, contact Jay at js2575@icloud.net

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