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As an independent contractor, would you ever take a W2 job again?

By Why Me Worry? ·
There are both pros' and cons' of being an independent contractor or a salaried employee, but in my personal opinion, I'd rather be an independent contractor due to my unpleasant experiences working as a salaried employee and being subjected to stupid corporate politics and incompetent managers. As an independent contractor, I have no obligation to become "their corporate slave", and can bill for every hour my feet are planted at their facility. The tax benefits are also great, because I can deduct travel expenses, meals, office supplies and equipment, as well as educational material for my own professional development. The downside to being an independent contractor is the instability and having to find new sources of income once your contract is nearing its termination date, but the freedom to work on multiple projects and establish professional relationships far outweighs anything else. I don't like to play corporate politics, and as an employee, one has no choice but to deal with the corporate crap that our managers would shove upon us, or risk losing one's job for insubordination or some other lame excuse that the dopes in HR can slander us with. As an independent contractor, I have noticed that I command more respect and treated more like a professional than if I were to be some corporate slave working long hours and not getting paid for it. Yes, the demands of a consultant are far higher than a salaried employee, but the rewards and respect as a professonal are clearly visible. Why have many corporations forgotten how to act human and praise their employees for good work? In my past experiences, the only time managers would talk to us was when there was an outage and users were screaming bloody murder. Rarely would we get a pat on the back for a job well done, or commended or recognized for outstanding achievement. This reminds me of the movie "The Island" where we are all looked upon as mindless clones that are controlled by a higher authority and must not challenge or question what it is we do or why we do it. Corporate culture, in my opinion, has degraded into a finger pointing pass the buck game, where managers cover their own asses by sacrificing their subordinates and not taking the blame for their own incompetence and poor management skills.

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It is possible to do both

by tony In reply to As an independent contrac ...

I have recently joined the staff of one of my customers on a part time - 2 days per week basis. I normally spend one day (Tuesday) at the HQ site and the rest of the time is spent at remote sites, or working remotely, spread over the week.

Yes, it is a lower rate, but there are benefits to both sides

1) I get some guaranteed income - enough to pay the basic bills

2) They get more work for the money they pay out (and because of the business they are in - healthcare, in the UK - there is a tax advantage of me being an employee rather than a contractor)

3) Flexibility is agreed on both sides

4) It keeps me far enough from corporate politics, and because it is not my only income, if I really want to, I can walk away

5) I can actually do the job better - there are lots of little IT things - time to show people how to work better, for example, organising etc. that it is hard to justify if the clock is ticking at a chargeable rate. Thus I get more job satisfaction in being able to do things without worrying that it looks like I am creating work for myself.

6) The company has better continuity for its IT support - they had no in house expertise - probably no-one who could even install Windows, let alone run a server and several remote sites.

I entered into this position after supporting them for 15 months as a contractor, so both parties know the other well - both strengths and weaknesses.

Until coming to this point, I would have agreed completely with you. However, I do now have a better work/life balance and have both independence and being part of a good organisation.

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on the other hand . . .

by apotheon In reply to It is possible to do both

In the US, at least, it's pretty damned difficult to find an employer who will make such an arrangement. In my experience, there are only three options for professional, non-entry-level IT employment:

1. pure consulting work, hired for a specific project, able to pursue other projects with other employers at the same time

2. pure contract work, hired for a specific period, and probably contractually obligated to contract with nobody else during that same period

3. full time employee, salaried, contractually obligated to not only work solely for the employer but also bound by a noncompete clause in the contract that can make it difficult to get another job within a few months of leaving that employer

You lucked the **** out. Congratulations.

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Lots of businesses...

by frank.vrba In reply to It is possible to do both

want part time, contracted support. My daughter and I have a partnership that mainly supports small businesses with contracts. We have three hospitals (at which we ARE the IT dept with a total staff budget exceeding $130,000 during fiscal 2007), several schools and libraries, and other individual places. I've been asked multiple times over the years if we would take on new clients. The answer is mostly no because there's not enough competent workers for us to hire. We have 6 employees now and it seems we are always in need of someone else for a short time and if we could find a good person, we'd take on more work.

It's much more of a problem to find workers that are worth hiring then to find the work for them to do. It seems that most people think they have to work for large corporations because that's where the money is. It certainly is but small businesses have money too, and they can't justify or afford any IT employees. We have contracts that are for a specified number of days per week and some that are 'on call' or as needed. If they need something, we go. This has worked very well in small towns but I see no reason why it won't work in cities too. We have clients in Omaha, NE. We've never advertised in 10 years.

I know the work is there because we see it all the time. Most people who do this on there own think just because they are now in business everyone is going to call. Why??? With that attitude they will fail. Start up part time, talk to people and don't be afraid to tell someone what you do and ask if you can talk sometime about how you might be a fit for their situation.

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There are some good companies...

by chris_g2 In reply to It is possible to do both

out there that value their staff. I have had experience of working with both types of management. When I was a manager myself, I made a point of "catching people doing things right" and acknowledging this by sending them a letter, or giving them movie tickets or a meal voucher (depending on what I was thanking them for). My present company is very good about caring for its staff and work/home life balance.

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Your situation is just not done in the USA

by TechExec2 In reply to It is possible to do both

The kind of arrangement you describe is just not done in the USA. Corporations typically want your exclusive service for many reasons including keeping their secrets from competitors, manipulating you, and controlling you.

Example: Years ago, while doing contract work, I contacted a very large company that I found out needed some help. It was a "part time" task that would require about 25 hours per week for about 3 months. My skill set was ideal for the job. I went there, interviewed with the supervising and hiring manager, and got the job on the spot. He called me the next day. His manager overrode him and chastized him because I actually had another client at the time (fully disclosed in the meeting). His manager wanted complete and total control over all of his people, even part time temporary contractors.

This attitude is not universal but VERY typical in the USA. Many managers want to dominate you and intimidate you. That is just not possible with a contractor who has other clients.

Contracts typically contain non-compete clauses that keep you away from their competitors for 1 year. They also have non-disclosure clauses that keep you away from certain direct competitors FOREVER. And, they will SUE if you go to work for any of those and get you FIRED over it.

So, consider yourself very fortunate. You situation is NOT typical. In fact, saying "it is possible to do both" is almost braggin'! ;-)

edit: typo

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I would have told second manager to pound sand...

by Navy Moose In reply to Your situation is just no ...

Actually, I wouldn't have been that polite. If I was an independent contractor on a small project and the client attempted to tell me I couldn't work on other projects for other clients at the same time. I would have told them where to go and four or five ways to get there. I wouldn't care at that point about burning bridges.

I had a manager with a company who told me I couldn't get a part time job to supplement my income. I told him he has no business telling me what I can or can not do with my personal time.

I am currently starting a part time photography business and my manager is nothing but supportive of it. He's even offered to help with the webpage.

I firmly believe in standing your ground and not letting rogue managers run roughshod over you.

Navy Moose

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Moose: I appreciate the sentiment...

by TechExec2 In reply to I would have told second ...

I appreciate the sentiment. But, I also think you need to choose your battles carefully. You know...Not everyone who helps you is your friend...Not everyone who hurts you is your enemy. The poor manager who hired me for one day was embarrassed and every bit as much a victim as I was. I felt bad for him. I never met his boss, but I have always pictured him as a 300 pound oaf.

Best of luck on your Photography Business. The state of affairs in IT work in the USA is not good anymore. Onshore rates are going to be kept low by corporations and the congress (H-1B visas). Offshore rates are going to be too low for Americans effectively forever. Diversification like you are doing is a very smart move. Try to make it so successful that you have to quit your IT job just to have a life. It's always better to have too much work than not enough.

All the best to you.


Moose Photography -- When You Look Good, We Look Good(TM)

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I agree with you on state of affairs in IT

by Navy Moose In reply to Moose: I appreciate the s ...

I'm a SysAdmin and I'm very nervous of long term career prospects. My job can easily be outsourced to India or China with only a caretaker to push a button when the server goes down.

I have an MBA but I know I will be hard pressed to find decent work when the economy takes another nose dive.

I would like nothing better than to have enough work to work fulltime as a photographer. I have met a few people who succeeded in doing this.

I have the name of the business down to two choices, you guessed the second one :-) Thank you for your kind words.

Have a good day and good luck!

Navy Moose

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Never Again

While I would not consider myself a true consultant, I know that I would never go back to a Salaried position.

A year ago I started my own company for pay purposes, but since then I have acquired two long term contracts (+3 year) with different companies. Even though I am in the same office sitting at the same desk nearly every day I am removed from all the bull that I used to be subject to. I give them professional advice and if they choose not to follow it and their system goes belly-up, well that's not my fault!

Office politics?? Never again!

Not to even mention the Tax benefits! I get pay substantially more than I use to, but even if I was paid the same, the tax benefits really make difference.

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My own worst boss

by vtassone In reply to Never Again

I completly agree with the post. After putting up with the A$$ kissing and brown noseing in the corporate world for a number of years I am happily on my own. I fell into (what I feel) is the perfect job for me. I contract with a local dialup ISP to take the support calls from my home. I have a nice office set up. This gives me a steady income to start with. I also do PC repair in the same office. Mostly virus and spyware removal. I can work on up to 6 machines at a time. I charge a flat rate of $45.00 for machine cleanup. I know thats a low rate but I get repeat buis. and alot of referals. Not having to fill my gas tank every other day and all the tax breaks more than makes up for the "big bucks" I used to make! The only disadvantage is I don't know when to quit. I find myself working 12 to 14 hours a day. Not that I have to, It just seems to happen. I don't like watching a clock. Don't even wear a wrist watch. Oh, and the ISP customers don't even know that half the time I'm aswering the phone in my underware ;-)

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