KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Two-Freelancer Home?

Argh. I know things will work out fine, but at the moment, I'm trying to remember to breathe. My husband, Ed, has just been laid off, and I'm thinking out loud here.

Now, he's been given 2 weeks' notice and will get 4 weeks' severance pay, and the latter is a measure of just how valuable he has been for the last 14 years to his employer, a tiny, tiny cabinetmaking firm. The company is being forced to move out of the building it has long rented for its wood shop because the new owner raised the rent sky-high. It will be moving its offices to a new, lower-rent building, but the cost of moving all of the huge, complex shop equipment--and having it all set up again and recalibrated by manufacturers' technicians--would put the company in a severe financial bind. So rather than take out a big business loan, it will stay in business, but instead of having a wood shop, it will subcontract out all of the cabinetmaking and installation.

Ed's an incredibly talented cabinetmaker* with nearly 24 years' experience and could get a job with any of many firms in Southampton, NY, home to megamillionaire movie and music stars, but the problem will be whether those firms will want to pay him the high hourly wages he's been earning. He could also become a subcontractor to his soon-to-be-former employer and to other companies in the area. He owned his own incorporated business when we first met, and he had to close it because his business skills at the time stank. But over the years, he's developed the moxie he'll need for self-employment, and he's always had the schmoozing ability. It's just that if he does go solo, I'll have to end up being his bookkeeper and job cost estimator, as he stinks at estimating how long things take him and estimating costs well enough to actually make a profit. And too, we'd be a two-freelancer family. Holy sporadic income! I'm fortunate to have a booming almost-13-year-old business, but my line of work doesn't require the expensive equipment that his does, and he'd need to update some of what we already have in our own private wood shop. I guess that's where some of the severance pay will be handy. Plus, he'd need to get licensed (no exam, just a huge fee and lots of paperwork) and, believe it or not, pay for a worker's comp policy, though worker's comp won't pay him as the proprietor if he is injured while working. Nice scam the government has there.

The big, hairy, scary thing is health insurance, once again. For years, we paid for insurance through my sole proprietorship. When we finally got priced out of that market, his employer offered us insurance. If Ed goes solo, we'll be looking for insurance ASAP. I could become his employee (handling his bookkeeping and estimating and web site), while still having my own company, so that would get us slightly cheaper insurance because U.S. insurers give better rates to companies with at least 2 employees than to sole props with no employees. But that would mean I'd be doing payroll for him too.

If he does go solo, it'd be really nice to have him around more of the day; right now, his commute is a little more than 1 hour by car each way. And generally, he'd be a happier person self-employed than employed by someone else.

If any of you are in a two-freelancer (two–sole proprietor) home, how have you made it work?


* See
this, this, this, this, this, and this.


Imperatrix said...

Yikes! Best of luck to both of you. The road will be tough, I'm sure, but you are both talented people.

Crossing my fingers for your family!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm sorry to hear this...what a scary thing. BD and I are both self-employed (more or less...more on that in a minute) and it's always feast-or-famine around here. Part of that is our own fault -- we tend to be bad at the budget, at least when it comes to making sure the kids' activities are covered.

You're right, though. The health insurance is, without any doubt, the biggest difficulty you face. After three years of struggling to pay for it through the business only to see premiums triple in that three-year period, I ended up taking a part-time job with a web company that was generous enough to give part-timers access to health insurance. Just about all of my paycheck in the beginning went to the insurance, but at least we had it.

I wish I had an answer for you on the health insurance issue. This is why I'm so passionate about it and why I believe that we have to change the system. When the CEOs of the health insurance industries make more in a year than the gross income of entire small towns something is wrong. After all, they're not making money because they're innovators, or developing new products, or some other such thing. They're making money figuring out ways to not pay claims, basically.

Okay, not wanting to turn this into a diatribe or anything, but I wish you all good luck with the health insurance and hope you'll blog your experience with lining those particular ducks in a row.

Anonymous said...

Oh, a PS. Giving up the commute was the best thing I ever did. I don't regret it for even a second.

Unknown said...

Ah, I'm sorry to hear this!

Anonymous said...

Oh, that's a bummer. But an hour long commute? I'd be almost relieved not to have to do that.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Such a long commute isn't unusual here on Long Island, giant string of suburbs to Manhattan. Plus, all the good cabinetmaking jobs are out on Long Island's east end, where all the rich folks live; we live further west, with all the middle-class folks, where it's more affordable. Back when I was employed by Manhattan publishers, my commute was 1.5 hours by train and subway. I got a heck of a lot of embroidery projects done on the Long Island Rail Road. And the LIRR was where I met my future mother-in-law, who introduced me to her good-looking single son.

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