Re: Serious Q

Subject: Re: Serious Q
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2002 19:49:20 -0800

Kelley wrote:

I'd like the opportunity to ask you and others for your answers to these Qs: If you received a phone call asking you why you chose contracting, would you tell them that you preferred it so you could do one or more of the following:
take sabbaticals (Bruce Byfield);
because you got bored (John Posada);
because you don't fit into old economy workplaces;
because you prefer intensity which you can more readily obtain through contracting?
because contracting keeps you on the bleeding edge whereas FT doesn't offer those opps?

If I had to choose one of the above, I'd choose "because you prefer intensity" (for the record, I suggested that sabbaticals were one reason that some people like contracting. I never said that was my reason).

However, my real reason is that as a contractor, I'm treated better and have more equal relations than I do as an employee. I don't like being in hierarchies, even benevolently paternal ones, and vastly prefer consulting than giving or obeying orders. Guess I'm just your basic bourgeois anarchist.

Next Qs from the interviewer: "Tell me, why did you feel that full-time employment didn't afford you these opportunities?

Because it demonstrably doesn't. Consider:

- Sabbaticals: as a full-timer, the length of your holidays is out of your control, and you only have limited control as to when you take them. As a contractor, you're only limited by what you can afford and the completion dates of contracts.

- Boredom: I've worked on everything from scales for the printing industry and ATM video conferencing to instructional guides for CRM, pension plans, software for the securities industry, embedded systems, advertising for a book by a local author, childrens' educational software, a plug-in for video clips for MacIntosh and two Linux distributions. I've written articles, columns, newsletters, news releases, ad copy, manuals, Quick Starts, style guides, and responses to due diligence, official company statements, corporate bios, product sheets, brochures, and almost anything else you can think of.. I've planned documentation schedules and ad campaigns, negotiated bundling deals, assisted in writing licensing agreements, and managed products. What full-time job could possibly provide so much variety? (BTW, have you ever seen a tech-writer about to plunge into the eighth revision of the manual? It's not a pretty sight - and the nervous twitch in their cheek makes you look around for the nearest exit in case they get violent).

- Old Economy: I'm a generalist. The Old Economy encourages everyone to specialize. I have a few specialties,but, it I chose just one, I'd feel limited, as if I was cruising along at half-speed.

- Intensity: I'm always doing something different. I negotiate my rates and terms. I'm responsible for myself, and, at times, for sub-contractors. I know what's current in high-tech because I'm always moving around. I meet dozens of people. Full-time work simply seems slow in contrast.

- Keeping on the Bleeding Edge: No single company can keep abreast of everything. Not even IBM can be said to do so, because it's divided into different groups that, much of the time, feel like a separate company when you're working there. Probably no contractor can keep completely current, but the chance is greater.
You clearly risked financial security, so what prompted that move? What was unpleasant about FT work that you'd take that risk?"

What risk?

As several people on this list have said in the past, the main difference between contracting and full-time work is that, when you're contracting, you know when your employment is going to end. Layoffs and corporate mergers make full-time work nearly as precarious as contracting. Moreover, almost no full-time contract has any provisions that give any job security. For these reasons, any sense of security that full-timers have is illusion. All you really get in a full-time job is a set of benefits that a union negotiating its first contract would be ashamed to accept. Under these circumstances, it's less mentally exhausting to face the insecurity head on and strike out on my own.

Finally, ffar from being financially insecure, contracting has brought me greater financial security than any full-time position. Even in a bad year, I earn more than I've done as a full-timer. In a good year, I can earn over 150% more.

That's not to say that I've never taken full-time positions, or will never take another one. But I'm in no hurry to do so, either.
Meanwhile, I'm living life on my own terms. What else could I ask for? (apart from being born independently wealthy, and it's a little late for that)

Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"More truth is what I need,
Never mind if it makes me bleed."
-OysterBand, "On the Edge"

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Serious Q: From: Kelley

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