Menu
Log in

Independent Writers
of Chicago

Log in

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.

ViSIT THE Stet ARCHIVES

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.

  • 30 Jun 2023 7:05 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In the month when America celebrates her independence, it’s more than appropriate to celebrate the independent way in which we freelancers have chosen to work and live our lives. With the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we are guaranteed the right to pursue happiness any which way we can. Freelancing is one of those ways. But unlike the American revolutionaries who have fought before us over two centuries ago – and won, Independent Contractors are finding ourselves still having to fight. For our own freedoms. And way of life. 

    If you’ve followed any of my previous articles, you’re aware that Independent Contractors are in the crosshairs. Illinois Governor Pritzker has the deceptively named “Freelance Worker Protection” Bill on his desk, poised for him to sign into law. I’ve contacted him, as have others in IWOC and in other groups and organizations. According to a recent article in The Center Square (which quoted my letter), apparently the opposition is growing. Will it give the Governor second thoughts? We can only hope. 

    But as the saying goes, freedom doesn’t come free. It's a never-ending battle because there are always those who want to take that freedom away and wield power over you. So if you haven’t already, please join in the good fight. It’s not all that complicated. You can write Gov. Pritzker hereOr call hereYou can even copy and paste the letter I wrote, making the appropriate changes so it applies to you. I sent the letter to all our members and contacts on June 18. Check your past emails. Or contact me if you would like a copy. 

    For more background that also contains informative links, please click on any of my President’s Posts with the following titles:

    1. The ABC Wolf is at Our Door
    2. Fight for Your Right to Work
    3. Update: Is Your Freelancing Life in Danger?
    4. Also, calling for reinforcements! Please join the Fight for Illinois Freelancers Facebook page to help shore up our cause. 
    This is not a scare tactic. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is real. 

    Thank you for acting. 

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 25 May 2023 3:33 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    If you’ve read any of my past Stet posts on the war against Independent Contractors -- the group in which most of us writers belong -- you may be interested to know that in Illinois, the Freelance Worker Protection bill has passed both houses of the Illinois State Legislature. It isn’t a stretch to say that Governor Pritzker will most likely sign it into law. 

    This does not bode well for freelancers, given that it sets the table for passing some form of the ABC Test (which is based on California’s destructive AB5 law). While “Freelance Worker Protection” sounds benign, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that can negatively affect Independent Contractors of every stripe, as well as the businesses that hire us. It adds rules upon needless rules that we’ll all potentially have to obey – never mind that the majority of us freelancers have been fully capable of successfully managing our own careers and the business relationships with those who hire us.


    If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I invite you to read any one of my previous postings:

    Fight for Your Right to Work (May 2023) 

    Update: Is Your Freelancing Life in Danger? (March 2023) 

    Is Your Freelancing Life in Danger? (November 2022) 

    For this June Stet, I was planning on asking you all to contact your IL representatives and express your opposition to the Freelance Worker Protection bill and the looming ABC Test. Now that that point is moot, perhaps contacting the Governor should be the next step. While it may be futile, it may communicate to Mr. Pritzker that this matter is not going unnoticed, and provide some hint as to why Illinois is hemorrhaging businesses, big and small.

    If there are effective next steps we all can take, I will inform you either in an email or the next Stet.

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 05 May 2023 2:00 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    On April 24, I sent out a letter to our members, 700+ contacts and the media about a vote on the 26th regarding the nomination of Julie Su for Labor Secretary. Working off of information I was given, I mistakenly said the nomination was up for a vote by the U.S. Senate. Rather, it was being voted on by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. My apologies for the error. Nevertheless,  the Committee voted along party lines to advance Ms. Su’s nomination. Not good. And if you continue to read, you’ll see why. 

     The more hopeful news is, the U.S. Senate will have the last word and there’s still a chance to make your voices heard. If you’ve already done that, thank you. But if not, I cannot stress enough how important it is to contact the Senators mentioned below. The AB5 law in California, which Julie Su championed, has been decimating thousands of small businesses and the livelihoods of Independent Contractors. The AB5 law is now being considered by the current Administration to apply nationwide, which will devastate the economy. No doubt Ms. Su will be in full support.


    Think of it: There are 60 million Independent Contractors representing over 600 professions (including writers of all stripes). Even if your job(s) won't be affected personally, this can affect you in more ways than you realize, given the likelihood that many people you may hire (or one day need) are Independent Contractors. CPAs, Realtors, lawyers, architects, caregivers, videographers, hair stylists, housekeepers, childcare professionals, pet sitters, yoga instructors, transcribers, interpreters, wedding planners, face painters, the spa and wellness community, graphic designers, truckers, landscapers, nurses -- the list is near endless. What’s more, many of the small businesses you may patronize will be forced to hire their Independent Contractors as full-fledged employees or face a crippling fine. In CA, this has wreaked havoc on small businesses, putting untold numbers out of business altogether. 

    To get clear, first-hand knowledge of the destructiveness that AB5 has caused in CA, if you do nothing else, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHUI6B61OIA. Go to the :16:43 point of the video, which is when the hearing starts with opening overview statements from U.S. Representatives Kevin Kiley (R-CA) and Alma Adams (D-NC). Please pay particular attention to the 6 witnesses who spoke for 5 minutes each, including a member of Freelancers Against AB5 (at :34:15 in the video) and two members of Fight for Freelancers (at :39:21 and :59:46.) 

    CALL TO ACTION

    • Contact your U.S. Senators via the Senate website asking them to oppose this nomination.
    • Make special calls to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA), Sen. Angus King (I-ME), and Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-AZ). Also call Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), who claims he doesn’t yet know how he’ll vote on Su. It doesn’t matter if you’re not from their states. They’re voting on a nominee that will affect all freelancers, and that includes you.
    • Fight for Freelancers has put out a press release related to this, and they offer it as language you can use/massage or as a link to include in your contact.
    • More info at https://fightforfreelancersusa.com/ 

    Democrats, Republicans, Independents, this can and will affect everyone -- and the economic health of the U.S. over all. Please. Take action. Your voice can help make a difference.

     -- Laura Stigler

     

  • 05 May 2023 1:58 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)


    With sadness, Independent Writers of Chicago acknowledges the passing of legendary IWOC member Richard Eastline. A member of IWOC for decades, Richard serve the group in many capacities, including as a long-time board member and unofficial photographer.

    96 years young at the time of his passing, Eastline was known for regaling members about his career in advertising, which launched in June of 1950 and spanned the industry's classic "Mad Men" era.

    In his energetic 20s, Richard would cab to Chicago's Northwestern Station on a Sunday evening, leap into a berth on the overnight Empire Builder and wake refreshed in the Twin Cities the next morning for his 9 a.m. client meeting. A patron of the arts, Eastline also served for many years in The Cliff Dwellers, a private club for members who are professionally engaged in the major arts or one of the allied arts.

    We'll miss you Richard. Rest in peace and thanks for all you gave to IWOC.

    -- Jeff Steele

  • 29 Mar 2023 7:13 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    What makes a star? To my mind, it’s someone who you may never have heard of. Never have even seen before. Yet no matter your age, 5 or 95, upon the first time seeing them perform, something about them pulls you in. An ineffable magnetism. And you’re a goner. A fan for life. 

     

    This will be dating me for sure, but that happened to me at the age of 5. Family and visiting relatives were gathered around the television on Sunday night, about to witness some singer on the Ed Sullivan Show who apparently was taking the country by storm. Ed introduces the “young man,” the crowd starts screaming, and from the moment Elvis appeared on screen (shown only from his waist up), I forgot myself. Forgot any inhibitions I may have harbored. I sprung up and started to dance. Wildly. Frenetically. “Dance, Laura, dance!” my family egged on. My parents bought me the 45 vinyl of “Love Me Tender,” which on my little red record player, I played over and over and over again. Even more times than “Teddy Bear Picnic.”

     

    Elvis. Never before or ever since has anyone sounded like him. Moved like him. Looked like him. And let’s face it. Elvis exuded pure, raw sexuality that could be felt whether you stood next to him, saw him approaching from blocks away, or just stared at him in a photograph, mesmerized. He had “the kavorka.” (Seinfeld fans, you know what I’m talking about. Google it if you don't.) 

    I remember Elvis’s face appearing in full color on the cover of one of the Sunday supplements of the newspaper. His image filled the entire page. I leaned in close, able to make out the pores on his inimitably sculpted cheeks. I leaned even closer to kiss it, inhaling the scent of the paper. An intoxicating scent that still has the power to make me feel lovesick at its very recollection.  

    So it was with those memories buried deep in my subconscious and out of curiosity that I decided to rent the recently heralded “Elvis,” a movie directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Austin Butler in the title role, and Tom Hanks as the infamous Colonel Parker. Tom, to his great credit, disappeared in a character that bordered on the villainous. But Austin. 

    Going in, I had my doubts. Would I be convinced that he was Elvis? It’s always difficult when an actor takes on the role of a cultural icon. You’re always comparing them to the original. No one, no matter how great the actress, can quite capture the incandescence of Marilyn. But as for Elvis, who I’ll be bold and say that he is indisputably the biggest cultural icon this country – and the world has ever seen – how do you even dare approach playing such a man? But after seeing the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Dreaming of it. While not quite the same in looks (who is?), still, I was overcome. Austin captured the embodiment of Elvis, to the point of unearthing emotions in me that have laid dormant for decades.

    Among all the impressions that I am left with from this movie, one thing stuck out and has stayed with me: That, while Elvis’s life was so transformative for music, for our culture, uplifting and inspiring millions upon millions worldwide, in the end became so tragic. For if there is one thing that is unforgivable in my book, it’s to hamstring the creative spirit. As what the Colonel tried desperately to do to Elvis. 

    At the start of their relationship, the Colonel promised Elvis he will make him fly. At that notion, a smile spread across Elvis’s lips. He felt that he found someone who understood him and could take him to that next level. Yes. He was meant to and ready to fly. So while it was the Colonel who put Elvis not just on the map, but had the promotional prowess to put his image on every object imaginable, from bed sheets to bobbleheads, it was the ultimate irony when the Colonel, after initial tremendous success, tried unrelentingly, selfishly, to turn Elvis into something he absolutely. was. not.  It was like binding the wings of an eagle.

    It is almost quaint to think how in the 1950’s, Elvis’s physical gyrations were considered beyond the pale. Far too vulgar for the delicate sensibilities of the American audience. Television execs were adamant. They wanted him to stop moving. Cold. Elvis’s response: “When I sing, I have to move.” It was that basic. That inbred. He had to move. That’s how I felt when he sang. I and millions of others. Seeing Elvis’s story unfold in the movie, it became clear how that instinctive “motion seed” was planted. 

    When he was a kid, growing up in the downtrodden town of Tupelo, Mississippi, he’d be lured by the sounds of black revival meetings emanating from the distance. The clear, powerful voices. The contagious beat. Gospel music. He’d scurry off full speed to peek into the tents, where he spied pastor and parishioners singing full-throated to the rafters, gyrating, quivering, overcome with a spirituality that seemed to overtake every fiber of their being. Enthralled, the young Elvis couldn’t hold back. Something within him swept him into the tent, into the crowd where churchgoers swooped him up and supported him in a circle of loving arms. In the throes of what could only be described as a holy spirit, the energy, the music overtook him. Together, they all shook, rattled and rolled. 

    And isn’t that what we all do when we watch or listen to Elvis? In the movie, as the camera panned his audiences, everyone seemed almost possessed. Meek-looking women in babushkas or with hair in tight curls would shoot up from their seats, screaming uncontrollably. Tears streamed down faces. Arms were outstretched across the stage, hoping to touch his shoe, his pant cuff. Any part of him just to satisfy what their hearts cried out for. It dawned on me: His concerts weren’t concerts. They were revival meetings, rock ‘n’ roll style.

    Elvis was the first to claim that he was not the inventor of rock. He gave all credit to its roots: the black gospel and blues singers that came before him or were his contemporaries, inspired by the likes of B.B. King. Little Richard. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Big Mama Thornton. Into the mix of influences, add Jimmie Rodgers (“The Father of Country Music”) and “The King of Cool,” Dean Martin. Elvis absorbed the genres, and imbuing them with his own unique soul, his moves, his voice, his looks, was able to spread the gospel of rock all across the South. Then the North. Then the world, crashing through all barriers of race, religion, age, gender, culture. Elvis was the right messenger at the right time.

    I could go on. About the roller coaster ride that was Elvis’s career. The good movies. The bad. The Vegas extravaganzas and television specials that resurrected his career. But through much of it, it became a tug-of-war between what Elvis and what the Colonel wanted. Elvis, in his heart, knew who he was and where he was meant to be. More than anything, he was born to perform. To feel that exalted love and electrifying energy with live audiences not just in the U.S., but across the world. Yet he never toured outside the country. The Colonel nixed it. 

    Imagine. A superstar known the world over who never got the opportunity to know that world. I think of how he would have thrilled them in England. Germany. France. Singapore. Australia. Oh, what they all missed! 

    At first it was the banning of his movements. He broke through. Then it was about the clothes he wore. He broke through again. And finally, it was the stifling of his greater ambitions, of further fulfilling his true self. Once more, his wings were bound. It was asphyxiating.

    A lesson for us all. Never let anyone stop you, no matter how good you think their intentions may be. Follow your own heart, your own dreams, your own true self. 

    Never, ever let anyone stop you from soaring. Like an eagle.

     -- Laura Stigler

     

  • 28 Feb 2023 5:27 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    As you may recall, in my October 2022 blog I sounded the alarm about the ABC Test and AB5 laws that have disastrously affected the livelihoods of millions of freelancers and small businesses in California. Proposals of copycat laws have been taken up in states nationwide, including right here in Illinois. This is not good. 


    To (re)familiarize yourself with an overview of the situation, I invite (urge) you to read the October blog. Here are a few more things I’m inviting (urging) you to do to get a feel for the real impact of these laws and what they could mean for your business — and that of your clients’. These are the easy-to-do actions suggested by Lila Stromer, a New York-based self-employed editor who has been deeply involved in fighting this issue and has been my main source for getting the correct information to you. From her weekly newsletters:

    1. If you do nothing else, take 9 minutes to view this video of Rep. Kevin Kiley  (R-CA), chair of the subcommittee on Workforce Protections in the U.S. House of Representatives. He “takes on the USDOL (U.S. Dept. of Labor) and the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act,” mentioning “many of the fields that have been harmed” due to California’s AB5 Act and the PRO Act — facsimiles thereof that are attempting to move through the U.S. Congress.  

    2. Read H. RES. 72, a one-page, very digestible resolution proposed by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-48).  Summed up as Recognizing the contributions of independent workers and contractors to the American economy,” it gets what freelancers are all about.

    3. From Lila’s newsletter: “Good interview on how AB5/ABC Test destroyed/is destroying freelancer businesses across hundreds of fields. Use the examples listed when making noise to legislators. It also makes clear how many fields were damaged in California by AB5, and what could happen to freelancers if similar bills pass in other states or at the federal level. It also includes excellent advice on what noise to make right now. It’s an interview on YouTube and just about 10 minutes long. Well worth your time!

    4. Express your opposition to any bill in Illinois based on the AB5, ABC Test and PRO Act, all of which infringe on the working rights of Independent Contractors and small business owners. Contact bill sponsors IL Rep. Will Guzzardi (D- 39th District) and IL Rep. Marcus Evans (D-33rd District)

    5. CALL TO ACTIONCall the HELP Committee members to tell them why the PRO Act with the ABC Test is so harmful for freelancers across the nation (since you will probably be speaking to someone who isn’t your senator).

    When contacting legislators, you can briefly mention how and why you’ve chosen the freelance life. In essence, no politician has the right to tell us freelancers how we choose to work and live. 

    This is our fight. Have at it.

    -- Laura Stigler 


  • 01 Feb 2023 6:36 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    Brace yourself. I’ll be the first to admit this is about a first world problem. Knock wood, it wasn’t tragic. Not life or death. As far as real problems go on a scale from 1 to 10, this one rates about a minus 12. Nevertheless, first world problems can be irksome. Irksome to the point of crazed obsession. Such was mine.

    The one I’m referring to started when I happened to be browsing on Etsy and came across a bracelet. Not an expensive one at all – on sale for $12.00! – but truly delicate and lovely. Seven lapis lazuli stones strung in an intricate silver setting. I had to have it. Had to. I ordered. Two weeks later, it arrived from India. I opened it and it was just as lovely as had been pictured. However, the clasp was of the toggle variety. A tricky little thing that could make putting on a bracelet more complicated than necessary. Oh, well. The bracelet was still too pretty to pass up.

    I attempted to put it on. 15 minutes later, I was still attempting. It was becoming a ridiculous, expletive-ridden struggle. I wanted my money back, and wrote to the seller telling him so. He could only offer 50% refund and told me to keep the bracelet. Deal. But I could not rest. After all, toggles have been fastening jewelry for millennia. Surely Cleopatra knew how to work it. Why couldn’t I? There had to be an answer. 

    Seeking wisdom, I visited the Dalai Lama of modern life’s mysteries: I went to YouTube. Sure enough, there was a demonstration unlocking the secret of this enigmatic doo-dad: “Let gravity do its work.” Aha! I carefully followed the pointers when...Eureka! I did it! I solved the mystery! I was overjoyed. I immediately wrote the seller, telling him to forget the refund. “I LOVE THIS BRACELET!!!” I told him, just to make him happy. “Very good, Kind Buyer,” he replied. “Now I could retire.”

    But that wasn't the end of it. Oh, noooo. Like “A Christmas Story’s” Ralphie with his Red Ryder bb gun, I couldn’t wait to play with the bracelet. Over and over, I practiced The Toggle. It kept working like a charm. Finally I put it away, and went about my business for the rest of the day. Then, right before I went to bed, I wanted to play with the bracelet just one more time, ignoring one of my husband Ken’s oft repeated axioms, “Never do anything technical after 8:00pm.” (One night, after 8pm, I upgraded the software on my iPhone. Big mistake.) This wasn’t a technical matter per se, but the axiom still applied. Nevertheless, I put the bracelet on. Nice! I then proceeded to take it off, when...oh, no. The toggle wouldn’t budge. Wait, what??? It went on so easily! Why can’t I unlock it? I pushed. I pulled. I twisted. I started breaking into a sweat. 

    It is now 2:00 am. Alone in the living room, working under a 60 watt bulb for the last hour, I managed to contort my hand into a claw-like pincer and was able to roll the bracelet off, providing a bit of relief. But still, I couldn’t unlock the blasted thing. Imagine an anchor being caught between two parallel iron bars. It seemed near impossible to undo. I was beside myself.

    The whole thing started taking on a symbolism of nonsensical proportions. All night I was tossing and turning. It’s stuck. I’m stuck. In my dreams. In the city. In a lyric. In life. Every time I look at another piece of jewelry, I’ll forever be reminded of how stupid I was, not leaving a good thing alone. I had to keep playing with the bracelet after hours, didn’t I. When I should have just gone to bed. I’m such an idiot. 

    Naturally, Ken is getting the brunt of all this. But sage that he is, he remained calm, simply stating, “Let it go. It’ll happen. It’s geometry.” It’s true, I thought. The hypotenuse of it, or whatever, will somehow work itself out. I started to make peace with the situation. At least I could roll the bracelet on and off and, wanting to put a good spin on it, thought maybe the fact that the lock was so intertwined, symbolized our marriage. Us. Together. Intertwined -- in a good way. I could live with that.

    Two more days pass. In the wee hours of the second night, I woke up with a start. For some reason unknown, I decided to fiddle with the bracelet one more time. I took the bracelet out of my jewelry box, went to the living room, turned on the lamp and started to push the toggle. I’ve no idea of what I did differently or how it happened, but suddenly the lock released, and snakelike, the bracelet cascaded down into one straight, glorious strand. My jaw, quite literally, dropped. Staring at it in disbelief, I was utterly in shock. Geometry! It was like witnessing Houdini suddenly break loose from his labyrinth of chains. It was magical. 

    The impossible was possible after all.

    Believe it or not, I somehow knew this would turn out right. Because in some way, looking back, the whole incident was kind of like the process of writing, when we get stuck sometimes. We become obsessed and overwrought. How do we get out of it? Three lessons:

    1. Let it go. Talk a walk. Take a nap. Walk the dog. Wash the dishes. When you least suspect it, without knowing how or why, the answer will cascade down from the heavens. 

    2. Calmly say to yourself, “It will happen.” Then leave it at that. That simple phrase puts a positive wave out there, opening the path for your mind, your gift to come through. Always. 

    3. Never do anything technical after 8:00pm.

    Bracelets. Writing. It’s all magical.

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 01 Feb 2023 4:24 PM | Sarah Klose (Administrator)

    Summer in the streets. Garland Jeffreys onstage at Square Roots Festival. Songwriter and singer of blues/soul/rock/reggae. I want to hear him croon Wild in the Streets, Matador, 96 Tears  and more. Sure enough, Garland sings them all, belting out the lyrics. I joyfully sing and dance along.

    Lin Brehmer, the wonderful disc jockey at WXRT, loved to play the rousing song  R.O.C.K. by Garland Jeffreys. I’ve listened to XRT forever -- at home, in the car, wherever, whenever -- and always enjoyed Brehmer broadcasts. I loved hearing Lin exclaim, “It’s great to be alive.” Loved hearing him blast songs over the airwaves and share witty insights. His comforting voice was like that of a friend. He’d say, “This is Lin Brehmer. Your best friend in the whole world.”

    Lin also wrote creative, thoughtful personal essays and read them on the air. This was to answer listener’s questions, such as “Do You Ever Listen to Vinyl?” and “Have You Ever Chopped Down Your Own Christmas Tree?” I enjoyed how he made listeners laugh, think -- and feel good about life.

    Then, a little over a week ago, Lin Brehmer died of cancer. Oh no! Like other long-time Chicago listeners, I don’t know how to mourn a loss that feels so personal. To try to process this, I‘ve done the following:

    - Listened to XRT’s 4-hour tribute twice: live the first time, on the Audacy app the second time (it’s posted there, I believe through Feb 5). There are some great nuggets on there, such as how Lin could quote from Shakespeare as easily as from Animal House.

    - Thought about being at Yakzie’s for the XRT live broadcasts on Cubs opening day. Lin Brehmer with Terri Hemmert, the Regular Guy, rock bands, blues bands, song spoof singers -- all there live, in person, to entertain us. And they did!

    - Searched my photos until I found it: the one from Heaven on Seven, taken on a Fat Tuesday. I was surprised to see Lin Brehmer there. We chatted -- such a friendly guy -- and he posed for a picture with me. I didn’t know he liked that restaurant so much, until XRT said so recently.

    Then I think back...when did I see Garland Jeffreys sing outdoors near the Old Town School of Folk Music? I find a review of the show online. A photo shows him singing into the microphone, wearing a purple shirt like I remember. The text says Garland thanked XRT for playing his music more than they do in New York, where he comes from. The concert was on July 20, 2012. I think, that long ago?

    Lin Brehmer once wrote a beautiful essay about time passing, perhaps titled “What Is Time?” I crank up R.O.C.K., which Lin considered his personal anthem, and sing along.

    R.O.C.K. by Garland Jeffreys

    All of the kids where I come from
    Tell the same old story
    They want to be in a rock 'n' roll band
    Get them a piece of the glory

    You can feel it in a heartbeat
    You can feel it like a soul beat
    You can hear it in the bass line
    You can feel it in the backbeat

    R.O.C.K. rock
    It's sweeping across the nation
    R.O.C.K. rock
    It's coming from my generation
    R.O.C.K. rock
    It's giving me a great sensation
    R.O.C.K. rock
    Wanna hear it on the radio station

    It rescued me from a fate
    That's worse than death
    Just like a destiny
    It gives me new breath

    You can feel it... R.O.C.K. rock...

    Turn it up

    Songwriter: Garland Jeffreys

    R.O.C.K. lyrics © Black & White Alike Inc., Black & White Alike Inc

    -- Sarah Klose

  • 28 Nov 2022 3:32 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    No, this may not be the cheeriest of Holiday messages, but in the spirit of giving, I thought I might give some advice you can use not just during the Holiday Season (when scams tend to increase), but all year long. It has to do with security – keeping your computer, personal data (bank info, etc.), even your very identity safe from those who wish to do you harm. 


    Actually, this is an updated version of a Stet article I wrote in 2020. I thought much of the info was worth repeating (along with adding a few more really good tips) because recently I was approached by a member who was almost taken in by a scam, and wondered what to do. In this case, it involved the infamous “Apraxia scam.” Google that term to find out all about it. That same scam was tried on IWOC members last year from a different sender. Both times the email’s content was exactly the same, right down to the “Warm regards” signature. Both times the emails contained some of the telltale signs I mention later in this article.

    Harking back to another case in 2020, a member confessed he was contacted for a fabulous writing assignment from Biogen -- a legitimate biotech company. After filling out numerous forms and providing some rather private information, a giant red flag sprung up when he was asked to deposit money in a bank account. He then ceased communication and luckily suffered no harm – other than wasted time and remorse for having been so trusting. 

    How did this all happen? Is it just to IWOC members? Hardly. It could have been that their emails were “scraped” – a process where spammers obtain email lists from other spammers. If you’ve ever provided your email address online, you’re vulnerable.

    So here are 7 of my security tips (plus a bonus tip), some from personal experience, some from what I’ve heard. While they aren’t guaranteed to keep you scam-proof, hopefully they could help prevent such occurrences. 

    1Approached for a prospective job? The person contacting you will most often have their company, their position in the company, street address, email, phone and website in their signatureCheck out the company website. First, to see if the company exists. Secondly, to see if the person contacting you is on their roster. If you come up empty on the company or person, search for the person on LinkedIn and/or Facebook. Any info you’re able to gather will help you determine the legitimacy of the job offer.

    2. If your gut is hinting “Scam!”, Google the company name or subject matter, followed by the word “scam.” Such as “Biogen Scam.” Or “Apraxia Scam.” In both those cases, the scam came right up. 

    3. Sender’s email is weird. Whether it’s seemingly from a prospective client, your bank, credit card company or any company you may have dealt with, if the sender is telling you to click on a link, DON’T! DON’T CLICK ON ANY LINKSLook at the sender’s email address. It’s not Kosher if the address is totally different from the company it claims it’s from. For instance...

    I received an email supposedly from my email provider, with their logo in the message area. Looked good! But uh-oh. They told me that my account “is about to be disconnected, so CLICK HERE TO REACTIVATE!!!” Considering their email address had nothing to do with my provider’s name, plus knowing there was no reason to deactivate my account, I immediately marked it as spam and trashed it. 

    4. But even if the sender’s email address does have the “correct” name, it often can include some nonsensical figures, such as in the Biogen email address, which was followed with a grouping of odd letters after the word “Biogen.” A dead giveaway. That being the case, trash it immediately or relegate it to “Spam” or “Junk.” You can also block suspicious emails. 

    5. What if the email does look totally legit? Closely examine the message area. It might look like a genuine logo or banner. But there most ALWAYS is a tell. Misspellings. Grammatical errors. Poor wording. Two cases in point: 

    a) The Apraxia scam contained this oddity: It was signed, “Warm regards,” and instead of a name, “signed” it with a telephone number. No company name. No website. Nothing. Bizarre. 

    b) Normally I get alerts from USPS when a package is being delivered. The other day I got a so-called alert from tracking@usps.net. That email address sure looked like it was from USPS. But the legitimate alerts are always from “auto-reply@usps.com” (Note: not “.net”) Also, within the message, “USPS” (all uppercase) was spelled as “Usps.” Again, dead giveaway. Plus, the info in the message was unlike the usual messaging. Into “Junk” it went. 

    6)  Do not engage. Be it work-related or not, if after taking any of the above into consideration and something smells fishy, do not engage the sender. Don’t ask questions. Don’t ask them to clarify anything. Once you show interest, they’ll feel they have a “live one.” And you may find yourself going down a pretty dark rabbit hole.

    7) When providing your email address online, consider replacing the @ with “at”.  So it looks like:  “Alice at gmail.com”  I’ve even seen: “Alice at gmail dot com”  Looks illiterate, but supposedly these obfuscations have some degree of success in foiling the scrapers. One drawback is that it may be annoying to business prospects. So this method is up to you. I highly advise to click here to get more opinions on it.

    8) Here's a good link with more tips specifically related to bogus job offers.

    Bonus tip:  Buying or donating online? Before you enter your credit card data, make sure you see the little “lock” image next to the URL. That will tell you if the site is secure. Or not.

    These are just a few of the warning signs that when not heeded, can open you up to computer viruses and worse.  Be vigilant. The best rule of thumb is: Don’t click on anything or respond to anything that looks the slightest bit suspicious. Check it out by doing the Google thing. Or simply call the company that supposedly sent you the email. If it’s legit – or not – it’s safe to say, they’ll tell you so. 

    May your Christmas be Merry, your Chanukah Happy, and may you stay safe and healthy throughout!

    -- Laura Stigler

  • 25 Oct 2022 2:50 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)

    In March of 2020, I wrote a Stet article regarding the future of freelancing and AB5, an unpopular bill that was passed in California with the possibility of “copycat bills” spreading to other states. Turns out, that possibility may now be coming to fruition. It all has to do with pretty much eliminating the category of Independent Contractors, from Uber drivers to real estate agents to graphic artists, consultants, photographers to – wait for it  -- writers of all stripes – journalists, copywriters, editors, etc., making it mandatory that clients administer what’s called the ABC Test to determine the classification of the indie contractor(s) they hire. 

    If the Independent Contractor doesn't pass the 3-prong ABC that would classify them as a freelancer, the client must hire them as a full-time employee -- whether or not the client can afford it. Nor will there be any consideration for the Independent Contractor, who may not want to give up their business and become an employee. Should the client-cum-employer incorrectly classify them as Independent Contractors, they could face penalties and a fine. This will not only crush (and in CA, has crushed) the businesses of freelancers, but of small businesses as well. In CA, numerous carve-outs had to be made. It remains a confusing mess.

    The Mandate

    Most recently, the Biden Administration is aiming to mandate the ABC Test nationwide via the "Protecting the Right to Organize Act" (PRO Act). The legislation containing the ABC Test has passed the House of Representatives and now sits in the Senate, awaiting a vote. At the state-level where the ABC Test has been proposed, (NJ, NY), there was a tremendous uproar, as it threatened the livelihoods of millions of freelancers and small business owners. As a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal pointed out, the ABC Test is a job killer. 

    If the ABC Test ruling doesn’t sit well with you, I urge you to contact your U.S. Senators, telling them to oppose the ABC Test in the pending PRO Act.

    Additionally, please register your opposition to a pending U.S. Department of Labor regulation that would have the same effect on our freelance business. You can comment at https://www.regulations.gov/

    The pending US Department of Labor regulation contains 6 factors, that would also end our choice to work as freelancers. 

    The deadline for commenting is December 13.

    Spread the word

    In short, the attack on freelancers is occurring at the legislative (Congress) and executive branches (USDOL) of the federal government and in states around the country. The 3-prong ABC Test and the 6 factors in the USDOL regulation are designed to do the same thing: make it too hard to remain a freelancer.

    Freelance writing is the life we all have purposefully chosen. We do so fully cognizant of the pitfalls, but none of them are enough to have us give up the way in which we wish to make a living: with the freedom and flexibility that best fits our lifestyle, and that is completely within our rights to enjoy. Any laws or regulations that impinge upon that right deserve to be summarily sent to the trash heap. Or we just may have to change our name to Dependent Writers of Chicago.

    Sources:

    Fight for Freelancers USA

    Fight for Freelancers USA Press Release

    What is the ABC Test?

       -- Laura Stigler

    Disclaimer: While IWOC in general is opposed to legislative and regulatory actions that are unfavorable to Independent Contractor business operations and that are the antithesis of our mission of helping freelancers succeed, the above article is the opinion of IWOC President Laura Stigler and does not necessarily reflect the stance of all IWOC members.


    -- Laura Stigler

Copyright 2011–2024, Independent Writers of Chicago
332 S. Michigan Avenue, #121–W686
Chicago, IL 60604-4434

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software