Overrated, Certainly Not

crybabySome weeks it doesn’t pay to get out of bed, well okay it does pay but not enough. Have I ever mentioned what I do for a living?

No?

Well, if I don’t get out of bed I do not get paid, no one pays me to sit at home, not one single red cent. It would be nice if I got paid to recline, eat grapes, sip wine and otherwise indulge my decadent debauched  dissolute self-indulgent delicate sensibilities, but it doesn’t happen. For many years, six in fact I have been an independent consultant or as some of my more delicate subtle clients refer to me conslutant.

For nearly twenty years, I honed my skills at sucking up and telling clients, what they didn’t want to hear in dulcet tones and with smiles, convincing them, that yes, they really did want to do what they didn’t want to do and they wanted to pay astronomical sums of money for the privilege of doing it. Over the years, my clients bitched and moaned about the cost of my presence, whined about how much they paid just to have me darken their door. Now and then, a client would shake an invoice in my face demanding I actually read aloud the figure at the bottom and explain why I was worth all those zeros.

Finally after all those years I decided I no longer wanted to work for others, there is a story behind that decision and it isn’t pretty. Nevertheless, there is a downside for my independence. I do not get paid if I don’t roll out of bed and show up at the client side to work each day. Having a bad day, worse how about a bad week? Suck it up, really tough tits girlfriend get your azz in gear stop at Starbucks for a quad shot and shake it off before you get to the client, no one cares they are paying you for your skills and competency, not your personal drama.

Sick today, hope it is only today and not all week? If you are too sick to get out of bed this is a day you won’t earn a dime. Better hope you have money in the bank, your bank that is. Your salary is paid by you, if you don’t have enough to cover it for the next payroll, you will be short paid. Hope the bills aren’t too bad and you don’t have quarterly taxes to pay this month!

Another big downside to my world?  There is nothing like uncertainty. Oh sure, everyone has uncertainty in life and certainly in their jobs. Whether you are an employee or a contractor you face the reality of job loss, this is  the world we live in today. If you are an employee with even a little bit of tenure you will likely receive some notice or a small package in lieu of notice. You will also be eligible for unemployment, something to tide you over. Contractors on the other hand get nothing, maybe not even the courtesy of a warning shot over the bow. We sign-up for specific periods of performance (contracts) however, these can end without any notice. If we know contract is ending we begin looking for our next contract, if a contract is ended without warning we are out in the cold, no severance no unemployment.

Most of us work on Net 30 day invoicing terms, all too often when our contracts end without notice that last payment is very difficult to collect.money-lock1-300x269

I am an IT Program / Project Manager. I am independent, I have my own consulting firm and I am incorporated. I have been fortunate, I have had very little time between contracts in the nearly six years I have been independent. This doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few scary times though. I have been on a couple of contracts that ended abruptly, a couple that were long-term and great fun. I have nearly always been fortunate in those I have worked with, never had problems collecting my money.

The upside to how I live in my work life? I am independent, if I really don’t like a client I am free to end a contract. I do not have to play politics, I have only one goal I want the project I am working on to be successful and the client to be successful, this is the only dog I have in the fight. If my dog wins I will gain a client for life and a good reference.

Generally speaking, I control the hours I work and the time I spend in my work. I no longer work 60, 70 and even 80 hour weeks. This happens now and then, when it does it is justified and necessary for a very short period of time. I take at least four weeks a year of vacation, I never did this when I was someone else’s employee.

The downside to my work life? Some days, when I am having a tough day, when I don’t feel emotionally, mentally or physically up to the day I can’t call in sick. I have a greater obligation to my client than I might to an employer. I also only have myself and I don’t get paid if I don’t roll my happy ass out of bed and get to work.

Most days though, even when my life feels like it is spinning entirely out of control it is pretty dammed good to be me.

Comments

  1. One day it would be great to be more independent in work matters 🙂

  2. Self employment is awesome. I love working at home. Minimum human contact even more awesome 😉

  3. Your empowerment of being self-employed actually sounds wonderful. I just retired from “working for the man” and, although I had a wonderful job, my time was not my own. Good for you!

  4. Self employed for about 10 of my 40 working years, your post resonates for me – with one exception. Not a day goes by (or has gone by) – and this the truth – without this great drive to get up and get to work – even on my sick days. I don’t know where this discipline comes from but it is there – and I reckon it is a gift.

    I’m 58 this year and officially retired – do some consultancy work but mostly into writing novels etc as you know. I start at about 8.00 AM and work till 9.00 PM or so, five days a week – and enjoying it. In fact, I’ve enjoyed every single job I’ve had/done – even when I worked as a labourer and as a flea market peddler.

    I can’t understand what drives me and don’t hope for anyone else to, as well.

    Sick days pisses me off as it means I can’t give of my best.

    Maybe, I am sick – period!

    • I find Eric I am balanced. I love what I do and most days want to bounce up and do it. Then there are days I would prefer to recharge, walk in the spring air, take a picture or two, visit with family. I find I need that to keep my life in perspective.

  5. I think it’s downright cool that you work for yourself and still get to see lotsa zeros. Your clients are fortunate to pay the zeros. I mean, what if they couldn’t afford you…
    Though, whether working for ourselves or someone else, we all have those wanna-stay-in-bed days. Hang in there. It all passes.

  6. Great post, Val. Haven’t been able to read much lately, but I think things are settling enough that I can get back into the swing. 😉 I used to be fully self-employed as a life insurance agent and securities rep. It was nerve racking for me, but I did enjoy the flexibility and the ability to work from home part-time. Now, I rely so heavily on my paid benefits and the support of my workplace, so I’m grateful I have them, especially now. But, I give bigtime kudos to women who can handle the self-employment circuit because it is indeed very trying and takes a lot of commitment and organization to be successful! XOXO-SWM

    • In all honesty I don’t believe there is any choice for me in what I do. It is either remain as I am, risk and all or change what I do and how I am. Been there, did that and hated it for far to many years.

  7. This is a r really great posting Val and thank you for sharing
    your thoughts on this one, I just hope that today you are feeling
    much better my sweet friend 🙂 🙂 xxx

    • Sorry for the stuttering typo 😦 lol xxx

    • I am good and thank you for stopping in. I don’t talk much about what I do for a living, yet it consumes so much of my life. Strange, isn’t it.

      • I don’t think that any of us talk about our home lives very much, I guess we enjoy escaping from the norm and adding a touch of wickedness here and there instead 🙂 Well we can but try 😉 Hey have a lovely Monday my great friend and be well 🙂 xxxx

  8. You hit the self-employment nail on the head. … the fine line between too busy and nothing … the fine line between we need you for 6 more months, then you’re gone one month later … the fine line between being wanted and needed, but not accepted … and the list goes on.

  9. Val, fascinating insight into life as an independent. There are pros and cons two both. I work for a company and yes, we’ve had tough times since the recession and there were layoffs early on, and I was furloughed two days a month, losing 10 percent of my income. Still, I consider myself lucky to have regular work and knowing that if I get sick, I’ll be covered. Down side: no one’s seen a raise since ’08. But, no complaints. I’m just glad to be working.

    • There are indeed ups and downs to both. That you remain working in an economy that is beating the Hades out of so many is truly most fortunate. You are right, the upsides you mentioned are there and something so many of us on the independent side look at with envy, but then we think yeah but…..we have a freedom others simply don’t have and can’t buy.

  10. Bravo, I hope you can hear my hands clapping over the internet. Over the years I have not had any trouble finding a job, the problem is that most of the jobs I’ve been enticed to were for organizations whose golden years had passed or were in deep, deep do do because their administrations of the past had not moved with the times. No one wanted to fix the mess so they called me in to re-engineer. The last job was for a one hundred year old hospital with a glorious past but whose CEO’s hadn’t recognized the world was passing them by. I flew in to take a look and decided this could be my Waterloo after a successful career, and just before retirement too. I can remember remarking to my wife, only an idiot would take the job. Because I qualified as an idiot I took it. Those were the most stressful years of my life, but it’s great to know that the hospital grew and multiplied campuses. An organization not growing is on the death bed as you well know. I believe that as you do look back after you have retired you will have the same satisfaction with what you have accomplished as I do.

    • Ian thanks! I look back now, find I have far more satisfaction with the projects and clients I work with today than I ever did when I worked for others. Today, I tell them what is really wrong, before I zipped it. I know exactly what you mean about ‘only an idiot’, I too qualify, often. Part of my work is cleaning up messes left behind, it is the part that is most difficult but that I strangely enjoy the most.

      There is indeed a satisfaction in what I do, but dang there are days.

  11. I am always in awe of the self-discipline it takes to be an independent contractor. I am afraid I would work 2 days a week.

  12. I can’t say I’ve really decided which scenario is better. Obviously, I’d love to get that big steady paycheck I used to get in IT, and I lucked out working in a place with awesome benefits. But short of that, my options these days seem to be: 1) part-time, lousy paying work where I fret about not getting benefits (health, retirement, vacation, sick days, etc.); 2) contract work where I still get no benefits, but have variety and some assurance of work lasting for chunks of time for probably decent pay; or 3) working full-time somewhere new where I start off with my lousy one or two week vacation a year, but get medical and other benefits that are valuable. On the last one, I just can’t imagine after having 5 weeks vacation that I earned back in IT, that I’m supposed to only take one or two weeks vacation for the entire year. That may be the single biggest thing that’s keeping me from going full-time for someone else again. I’m 50+ and sure as heck don’t want to beg someone for the right to balance life/work properly. It’s a tough call, but I’m really leaning towards trying an entrepreneur hat on for size. Time will tell. 🙂

    • I think the work/life balance is the single biggest thing that keeps me independent. Contract work is hard and sometimes very frightening, but being able to have some modicum of control over my time certainly makes it worth it.

      I am over 50, that also makes it scary but not as scary as the alternative.

  13. Yes, that’s the only downside of being in business for yourself: it’s all you! I’m barely surviving right now, as I struggle to generate business for my freelance writing career. I’ve wasted too much time and energy working for other people. I get bored easily. I feel that’s the new trend in business now: working on a contract basis; whether it’s your own company or someone else’s.

    • I don’t think we ever waste time, even when we work for others. Each experience is a learning experience, even when they are bad. I have taken something away from every place I have worked, whether as an employee or on contract. Whether what not to do, what not to tolerate or how to do something better. I also grow bored easily, but I have been lucky in much of my experiences and been given the opportunity to expand in my work.

      Good luck in growing you writing opportunities.

  14. I believe I lived a lucky life. For short periods I had to scramble for work but mostly I survived. Now I’m retired, maybe not in the lap of luxury, and need for nothing. What would I do in the lap of luxury? I like what I do now and without it.

    I know people who own their own business and others who have had to scramble between contract jobs. It’s not always smooth sailing.

    • It isn’t, you know though like you I think most of the time I have been fortunate in my work at least. Luxury, maybe not but my world doesn’t suck either.

  15. Thank-you for sharing more about your life. I did not know you are in IT. I am an independent gal too, a full-time freelance writer and I also have contracts and deadlines and… I hear you about not being paid if we stay in bed all day. There are ups and downs.. but I do love the job overall and do remember that when I have an off day. ((hugs))

    • It is strange how many of us are out here, how many of us no longer working in traditional roles or choose to take different routes in our careers. IT isn’t were are started, honestly the work I do is not fully in the IT world since I do mostly Project Management around a much broader spectrum. Nevertheless, I do tend to touch IT all to frequently.

  16. I used to do contract IT work for a largehospital in Winston-Salem. I guess they figured out that Active Directory isn’t quite neuroscience, and they built their own in-house IT department. Believe me, I feel your pain!

    • I suspect many people do, those of us who work in this business had some hard choices in the 90’s with outsourcing being the big push. Strange the organizations that built in-house went with ‘cheaper is better’ never really looking to source from those who already knew their business. Those who went with ‘cheaper is better’ and outsourced, well many are now regretting those decisions. Many of my clients are looking to rebuild organizations to bridge gaps.

  17. I know how it works being self employed, my hubby went Self Employed in the 80’s.. and no one pays the bills when you are sick…. In fact you dont even get sick pay! ,,, So I know where you are coming from… We had some tough years… Thats why I went out to work when my youngest was 3.. And Ive been working ever since. When needs must we crawl out of bed however we are feeling…. and somedays I know you must have felt like curling in a tight ball and staying there, especially when in pain.. I relate to that…

    Anyway Val, Im over here to wish you a great Weekend, and hope you at least get to stay in bed on Sunday… ( Me its my day I start work again lol )
    Take care
    Hugs Sue

    • Overall and despite the sometimes uphill battle, it is better I think than the alternative. You are so right, there are those days but you know I think being forced to truly get up and get moving is part of what keeps me proactive about everything.

      Hugs back

  18. I know that they are bleak days but I’m still envious

    • Don’t be, but I understand what you are saying. There are days when I am envious of the employees and I think to myself, dang why am I doing this they have it pretty darn good. Then I look at the clock and it is 3pm and I prance out, done with the day because I choose to be done with the day. I am not obligated to a 8 hour day, I have no one to answer to but me. My clients, most of them are grateful that most of the time I work a 32 hour week rather than a 40 (I am paid by the hour).

      Yes, I get it. Most of the time I have it pretty darn good despite the downside.

  19. Getting to be your own boss is great, but as you point out, the stress of knowing you can’t ever let your guard down because you risk an absent ‘paycheck’ if you do could be taxing indeed.

  20. Woaah isn’t it a mean lil world. Why can’t they pay us for taking. Break..lol
    Value sometimes i feel like telling people hey i was lying down taking a break but i was thinking Bout job whole time..and it’s the thought that counts ..isn’t it?

  21. Wish I had one of them there magic wands to help you with, Val. I’m in a small (10 people-ish) company, and you’ve made me appreciate my boss and my colleagues even more. It is tough when you feel low/sick/bored/whatever and can’t just call and say, ah, nope, not coming in.

    I hope next week finds you feeling more able to take the bull.

    XX

    • This was simply my thoughts on independence. Most of the time, I really would not trade it. Many people don’t understand what we trade for our independence though. No health care, no sick or vacation pay, no matching retirement, double dipping on our taxes and the stress of constantly looking for the next contract.

      This was an interesting week with my current client and since life is a bit rough right now putting on the game face is like doing double duty.

  22. You tell them Valentine! 🙂

  23. I do not miss those days. I would love to call in for the next week. Cover my azz? xxx

    • Were I competent in the ways you are competent I would do so in a RED hot instant!! It is truly unfortunate there is no one capable of covering your azz.

      XX

%d bloggers like this: