Contract or fulltime? Self-employed or pay check?

Looking from the outside in, I?ve probably got it pretty sweet at the moment. I?m contracted for a minimum of 24 hours per week in a fairly steady development job, with 4 weeks notice of termination from either party. This gives me just enough money to get by (read: service the mortgage, buy food and clothes for the family), and I can work more if I need/want to. I can also use the rest of my week to contract to other clients (fairly spotty at the moment), spend time with family, or just generally bugger about.

Contracting also allows me to do things like charge any gadgets I purchase as business expenses, and leave work at 1pm for a long lunch in a cafe if the weather is nice, or a long afternoon of Xbox if the weather is shite.

On the downside, if I take a couple of weeks off, the pay checks dry up. There?s no sick leave, and it tends to make one?s r?sum? look fairly patchy.

So yeah, I?m trying to decide whether to get back into the regular-employee world, or to stick it out at this contracting lark. Looks like a fairly easy decision on the face of it, but for some reason I have this nagging, pestering feeling that I need to ?get a haircut and get a real job?. Maybe it?s just the indoctrination of traditional society? Or is it the steady flow of large pay checks and the ever-increasing bank balance? With the current hours that I?m billing, the bank balance stays pretty steady. Sure the mortgage reduces, but that?s not quite the same.

Prior to this year of contracting, I spent four years in a fairly corporate-like role. I left thinking that I was bored with the corporate environment, and also to pursue a more purist IT career track (I was an IT manager in a financial investment firm, with only about 30% software development work). I?ve since discovered that I?m not a purebred code-monkey.

Sure, I love developing solutions to problems, and I love seeing the results of a nicely architected set of back-end objects assembled into a kick-arse, easy to maintain, modular system (as opposed to some nasty, spaghetti-code, shoved together, RAD piece of crap), but I just can?t sit in front of monitor 24/7. I need some human interaction, some debate, some enthusiasm, stimulation, argument even!

Case in point: meetings used to be the bane of my life. I hated them with a passion. Why the fruck are we sitting here talking about this when we could be doing it!? Now? Now I live for meetings. As long as there is conflict, I?m there! I love sitting back and listening to the debate for 10 minutes, then I lean forward and calmly summarise the arguments, the viewpoints, and the possible solutions. I guess it?s some kind of aural code development? Take the requirements, create a set of objects, procedures and properties, then assemble them together into a set of solutions.

I?ve gone off on a total tangent here. I was trying to sort of work around to the point that in my prior life (corporate IT guy), I seem to remember a lot of human interaction with people. Interesting people, infuriating people, dumb-but-happy people, over-my-head people, funny people, happy people.

Now it just seems to be demanding people. Don?t-do-it-that-way people, un-funny people, dumb-but-they-don?t-know-it people.

Or maybe I?m just a jaded old bugger.

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  1. Well, you did get the haircut already, so maybe it is time for the real job.

    But maybe the “real job” wouldn’t look exactly like code-monkeying. Maybe it would be more sort of human-code-monkeying. Problem-sorting. Debugging of the “let me help” variety. Y’know? Maybe all that computer and engineer training gave you the intellectual muscle to hop sideways into Something Completely Different?

    Just a random thought…

  2. I always fancied being a Vet myself. Too much James Herriot when I was a lad. Doesn’t pay as well as monkeying with code though.

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