Are universities just another client? Are adjuncts just like freelancers, despite what the courts and the DOL think? I made about half my living as a freelancer for many years, and yes, there are a number of similiarities. Providing my own office supplies; using my own computer; hustling for work; providing my own office supplies; using my own computer; hustling for work….
In other ways, not so much. As a freelancer, I set my own hours and billed for each one. I negotiated a contract for a reasonable amount of money and time, including all the work I had to do for a task. I got to include my overhead in that fee. I got to deduct the cost of my office space, equipment, supplies, travel, electricity, and some meals from my taxes. There are days as an adjunct when I think this would be a good thing, too, but I don’t really want to be responsible for my own retirement. There are other differences between freelancers and adjunct instructors too. I’ll let two members of the Adjunct Army explain:
Kat Jacobsen says: “The tax issues are thorny. Speaking as someone who used to make a decent living as a freelancer, you hold back approximately 30% of your income, and file taxes quarterly, or yearly at a slightly higher rate. The thing about successful freelancing is that traditional freelancers charge MORE than a butt-in-chair employee, because they have no job security, no benefits, nothing. They are welcome guests hired to solve a problem, and their time and expertise are worth money. Academia fails at all of the above. Plus, most schools have the sometimes unspoken belief that you need to treat your precarious, part-time job like a full-time employer, and pretend to be just as dedicated to the institution as those who draw salaries, can take maternity leave, can get severance. It’s colossal bullshit, and you have to walk the walk to continue to get classes. Freelance work never, ever assumes that.”
Robert Craig Baum also reminds us that, “These are the very conditions under which Hollywood and other writers worked before they created Writers Guild East (theatre) and West (television/screen). I catch shit for the guild approach all the time but I’m telling you—if the situation isn’t going to get better as it didn’t get better for studio writers in the 30s-60s—we may as well force Badmin to an agreed set of minimums.”
We’ll have more on this issue of tax deductions from Pollyanna Proffie in Part II of “What To Do If You’re Audited.” (Here’s Part I.)