Contracting vs Employee vs Freelance?!

July 31, 2015

I’ve always been adamant about the fact that I have only so many working years in me. Maybe another good 30 years? Maybe only 20? Maybe 40? It’s hard to say without a crystal ball to tell me my future.

In the development world there are definitely no shortage of opportunities, and with so many different directions that you can go in, it can often times leave people not knowing what they’re missing or they get comfortable doing one thing and don’t broaden their horizons. I’m talking about Contracting vs Employee vs Freelance. With having a finite number of working years, it would be best to try and see if there’s one type of employment you prefer earlier rather than later. Happiness and all, you know.

Having personally done 2 of the 3, I can say so far, they all have their pros and cons.

Employees get (usually) treated with more respect at the organizational level, but tend to make less money than say Contracting. This obviously can change if you’re able to land a decent high base salary development gig, but I’ve only encountered maybe 2-3 in the hundreds of opportunities that have been in front of me where the compensation is comparable. Most often, people don’t average their actual hours worked vs compensation and so there’s an even bigger financial loss than realized. Employees will however, usually be given different bonuses and/or perks, possible training or ownership options with a company and be able to buy possibly stock at a discount. Then you also have the ability to move up in the ranks of the company. So you end up playing more of the long game depending on your goals and ambitions.

Freelancing can be good, if you have the knack for it. I sort of did. However, I found it to be a bit stressful when clients were very late in payments or would delay projects. Not only would my scheduling get all messed up, my finances would start taking a hit too. Not too fun when you have a family to support. Freelancing on the side however, can be a great way to make some extra cash while learning some new technology or creating a new platform.

Contracting (Staff Aug. specifically) has been what I found to be the almost like a combination of both worlds. I get paid hourly while still having the flexibility to work on cutting edge stuff and having the ability to work both remote or in-office. I 99% of the time run things as Corp to Corp. so that I can at least get the tax advantages that come with having a business. You aren’t treated the same as employees, and nor should you be, but I found that if you have a good personality and ability to connect with people, as I feel I do, this can really be the best of both being almost and Employee but getting paid for every hour worked. I really enjoy when companies allow me to work more than 40 hours, just because hard hourly stops don’t make sense to me and there’s always more work to do than a simple 40 hours. I tend to prefer going between 50-70 hours per week with times of doing just 40 to doing a few months of extra hours. But when you’re passionate about development, the hours melt away like nothing. How many times have you looked up at the clock and said, “Crap! It’s already 4pm!”.

I recently saw this one web site called TopTal and decided to apply to see what it’s all about. It’s a Web Engineers Network, or at least that’s the area that I’m submitting to. It looks like an interesting approach, rather than the typical “Hey, I’m a recruiter, here’s job XYZ followed by a list of Do you know this and that.” It looks like TopTal actually technically screens candidates properly, with people who actually understand and/or are actual programmers. If anything this should make connecting with better companies much easier, as they know technically you’ve already been screened. I look forward to seeing what opportunities something like TopTal opens up should I move forward and be accepted in their system.

The take away from this, is regardless of what route you choose to go with, at least understand the pros and cons of the different employment options in this field. If you can try doing a few of the different employment options, I highly suggest it. You’ll meet new people, learn new things and most of all, you’ll get to experience some different parts of life that you may not even realize how much more you like it.

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