Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Things We Do to Keep a Job


A few years ago, I got a wonderful freelance job creating planners for Catholic schools .  It's a great assignment, the folks are fantastic to work with, and the pay is good.  I think this is my fifth year now, and I've been anxiously awaiting contact from them about the coming year's planners, so I was excited to see an e-mail from them.  However, it only asked if I had a business license as an independent contractor.  Turns out, they've hired a new company to take care of their payroll, and anyone who does not have a business license gets treated like any other employee.  And so began a week of jumping through more hoops than I have ever done for a job, and that includes getting into the military.

First, I had to go online and apply for the job I already have--setting up accounts, filling out an application, providing references...(I almost used my publisher at Damnation Books, but decided that since I wrote Catholic planners, that might not look the best--sorry, Kim!) 

Next, I had to go to a local lab to take a drug screening test.  (What are they going to do about employees in Colorado, where pot smoking is now perfectly legal?)  I told my son where I was going, and he gave me the fish-eye.  "That's weird.  Don't eat a poppy seed bagel before you go," he advised.  Ah, the savvy junior high student!  Drug tests are an interesting experience.  You have to follow the directions to the letter, or you have to start over again.  "Don't wash your hands or we have to start over."  "Don't flush or we have to start over."  I was so concerned about starting over, I didn't even toss my toilet paper, but carried it with me until I had permission to throw it out!  Anyway, everything went well, I was allowed to wash my hands, and--what a surprise--I was found officially Drug Free According to Any State in the Union.

Next came the paperwork.  I had to fill out a W-4.  Have any of you seen the W-4?  Usually, I fill out W9 tax forms, so this was a new and confusing experience, especially since the IRS wants me to PREDICT my withholdings for 2013.  What trickery is this?  What if I predict wrong and the W4 does not match my tax form?  Not to mention the fact that I don't do our taxes, my husband, who is in Baghdad, will do themwhen he comes home in March.  And why should I predict anything, anyway?  What really got me was tha the bottom of the second page asking for these predictions, complete with charts and instructions was "Paper Reduction Act."  Is there a Department of Irony that thinks this stuff up?  I also had to provide two forms of ID to prove I was indeed a US citizen allowed to do freelance work over the Internet in the US.

Then, I was given the employee handbook.  I filled out my emergency address form--no doubt, so my editor knows whom to call if I have a heart attack on the phone with her.  ("You want WHAT?  WHEN?!")  I also agreed to the employee policies, including conduct and behavior, and dress code.

All for a job I've been doing as a freelancer for five years.

All in all, with the reading, figuring out tax forms, and scanning-rescanning-and e-mailing, I spent about as much time as I have on some paying writing assignments.  But I do like the company and the job, and it's done now.

I just hope they don't do a surprise visit to check on the dress code.
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