How to Spot Bad Gigs
By now, you’ve seen the hubub over the EpiCurious “full-time freelance” gig. For those who don’t know, David Tamarkin, an editor at Epicurious, posted a full-time freelance gig on Twitter, only to be met with pushback from freelancers asking why a role like this wouldn’t come with benefits. Tamarkin originally claimed at first that the job wouldn’t come with benefits but later walked back the statement.
Not providing benefits, under current labor laws, would be fine if the job was actually a freelance gig, not a full-time job with no time to earn more money elsewhere. As Tamarkin lays out, the editorial assistant would be required to, among other duties, produce the newsletter, SEO maintenance and recipe production. The role would be around 40-hours per week.
The sad thing is “permalance” gigs are not an anomaly; they lurk throughout the media world. The rage directed at this gig came as news of New York magazine and the Intercept layoffs spread, following the bloodbaths at Vice, HuffPost and other supposed new media mavens.
At first, I thought the gig should have been labeled as contract or temporary, but upon further inspection I reached the same conclusion as everyone else: This should be a full-time job with benefits. In my experience, even full-time contract jobs through staffing agencies, for example, offer health insurance for temps.
As the industry shifts increasingly toward freelancers for underpaid labor, independent creatives need to be on the look out for roles like this. As the IRS explains in its guidelines for who’s an employee and who’s a contractor, the relationship between a worker and a company will indicate whether the worker is in fact an employee or a contractor:
What’s the nature of the relationship?
Does the employer control the execution of the work, or are you free to complete a project as you see fit based on your expertise? Are you responsible for some or all of the costs for executing the project? Are your services regularly performed and central a business’ operations? The more a company controls the execution of the work, the likelier that you are to be an employee.
Is the role essential to operations?
Usually, freelancers are brought in to work on a specific project or for a specific end date, according to Udacity. If you’re providing your services on an ongoing basis and can’t make money elsewhere because your “freelance gig” takes up too much time, you just might be misclassified as an independent contractor. Chances are your role is important to the everyday operations of the company, and you might be entitled to benefits.
First things first, take a look at your contract. The language will help you figure out whether you’re properly classified or not. I’m not at all a labor lawyer, so you should look to local labor regulatory agencies if you want further clarity or guidelines.
As the industry shifts to use more freelancers, it’s important keep an eye out for gigs that look like they should actually be jobs. If you’re entitled to benefits, get what’s yours.
Have you ever seen or been stuck in a permalance gig? What was your experience like? Tell me about it in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.