Atlantic Cities

Perhaps the Biggest Losers in Today's Postal Service Announcement? Freelancers

Perhaps the Biggest Losers in Today's Postal Service Announcement? Freelancers
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The United States Postal Service announced this morning that it plans to eliminate Saturday delivery later this year, which means, for most people, that your recycling bin will no longer receive obsolete catalogs and coupons on the weekend. In today’s digital world, most of the really important stuff now travels electronically: utility bills, bank statements, threatening messages from your landlord.

There’s a small but growing segment of the population, though, that stands to suffer seriously from the move. These are the people – and I whine from years of experience here – who receive 100 percent of their income in old-fashioned paper paychecks that can’t be taken to the bank and deposited, and subsequently spent on rent and cell phone bills and bar tabs, until they turn up in the mail. They're the nation's freelancers.

These are the self-employed, the grant-writers, journalists, developers, graphic designers, photographers, accountants and contractors who live outside the glorious world of biweekly direct deposits. They’re probably the last people in America who still eagerly sprint to the mailbox every day. And as the American economy continues to shift, their ranks will only grow.

Perhaps losing Saturday service sounds like no seismic inconvenience. But it is a maddening thing to stare at the calendar on the 29th of the month, wondering when someone will pay you (and reimburse your expenses) for work you did last year. The new service schedule is slated to begin on August 1. The 31st of that month this year? A Saturday.

The Postal Service isn’t really to blame for this situation; it is, quite literally, just the messenger. But companies, websites, news outlets and other businesses that enjoy the cut-rate, payroll-tax-free work of the self-employed should ponder their role in a Saturday-less world of postal delivery: In 2013, why on earth are you still paying freelancers on printed pieces of paper?

Top image: John Panella/Shutterstock

Emily Badger is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities based in Washington, D.C. She now writes for The Washington Post. All posts »

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