With the New Year upon us, the freedom to freelance will surely be under attack in 2024 just as it has been throughout the Biden reign on a variety of fronts—be it the impending regulatory restrictions soon to be imposed by the U.S. Department of Labor, or prospective bills seeking to limit independent contracting in states like Minnesota and Michigan.

Meanwhile, the ongoing destruction of the independent workforce in California is still unfolding in real-time, thanks to the disastrous AB5 law enacted in 2020, a law so restrictive that it has put hundreds of thousands of Californians out of business across a vast swath of professions.

Proponents of these onerous labor laws have seized on a new tactic to hijack the “flexibility” argument from those of us who advocate for self-employment. They assume that flexibility is our sole reason for desiring freelance careers—whether it’s a single mom needing to stay at home with the kids, or a person with a chronic illness unable to participate in the traditional workplace, to name a few.

While flexibility is just one factor that makes independent contracting appealing, it’s not the “be-all-end-all” for why millions of Americans choose to be in business for themselves. The anti-freelancer forces cite current work trends that began during the pandemic when employees discovered the convenience of at-home work arrangements, equating this to flexibility. But these remote-work arrangements are not the same as being your own boss. Not by a long shot. 

For freelance journalist JoBeth McDaniel, the ability to pick and choose clients is imperative, along with being able to charge top rates per project. Also important: not having to be beholden to a single employer or difficult boss.

“I choose self-employment in part due to harassment I endured as a low-level employee in my 20s,” said Daniel. “When you’re a small business, it’s a simple matter to replace one bad client with nine or more others wanting to work with you.”

Another benefit of being your own boss is the opportunity to avoid workplace discrimination, particularly for seniors like audio-visual tech Roger Zeilinski, who lost his career in California due to AB5. “No one wants to hire a senior like me as a full- or part-timer because of the added costs for healthcare, liability, and workers’ comp,” he said.

With ageism rampant in corporate America, professionals in their 50s, 60s, and 70s like Roger find themselves completely shut out of the job market in favor of younger workers. With self-employment, however, age is often not a factor. Certified Medical Transcriptionist Debbie Gosselin lets her work speak for itself: “In most instances,” she said, “my clients don’t even know my age because is irrelevant.”

For writers, journalists, cartoonists, and graphic designers, independent contracting allows an individual to retain intellectual property rights. Freelance writer/photographer Kristina Anderson posed this scenario: “Imagine a newspaper columnist wanting to compile her columns into a published book, or a still photographer who desires to sell their images to another outlet. If I were an employee, those options are off the table, as the copyright belongs to the publisher and not the original creator.”

For those who file Schedule C on their federal tax returns, deducting expenses is crucial, especially if expensive equipment is required in a particular field such as independent filmmaking. Prior to AB5, film producer Dan Cheatham could write off his office costs, vehicle usage, fuel, software, hardware, equipment, healthcare, and self-advertising. “AB5 is poison for the self-employed in California unless we are willing to just volunteer our services and turn this into art for art’s sake,” he said.

Finally, the opportunity to hone one’s craft is inherent in the freedom to freelance. Whether it’s a videographer working with different clients in different settings, a writer growing their skill sets to include photography and web design, or a wedding vendor expanding her offerings, the chance to try on different hats is one of many essential attributes of being self-employed.

According to Gail Gordon, executive director of Numi Opera in Los Angeles, an aspiring opera singer can perform as a freelancer in a mid-tier opera company in hopes of someday joining a major opera house. “Freelancing opens up new horizons and new career opportunities for up-and-coming artists,” she said. “Laws like AB5 take that all away.”

This New Year, the opportunity to freelance will be more essential than ever, be it a full-time career or a side hustle to supplement one’s income. Here’s to hoping the Biden administration will cease and desist its continued assault on legitimate, thriving independent contractors just to appease the selfish wish list of organized labor.