Monday, June 28, 2004

Perils of contracting

I've been working as a freelance contractor doing J2EE work for the past 5 years. I'm not going to get into the whole discussion about pros and cons of contracting versus fulltime employment as that's been done and I probably have nothing to add.

The start of the Java One conference does make me reminisce of the good ole times of working fulltime. My last fulltime engagement was at a large company that treated us very good. We were given the luxury of attending a conference each year as well as freedom to research new technologies in order to keep abreast of interesting developments within our field.

Taking a week off to attend a conference is a hard argument to win when you're a contractor. It's not just the cost that you have to stomach yourself. It's a double edged sword as you need to account for the lost income for that week. Provided you can convince yourself that the conference is worthwhile financially, we contractors are usually working towards unreasonable schedules which make taking a week off a hard thing to do. If it's a longer term contract, vacation is typically available but then do you really want to take your week of vacation to spend at a conference?

Anyways, it is something that I miss.

Contracts. Ahh yes, contracts. My contract for the job I'm at currently is about to expire this week. The "friend of a friend" who got me this job has been nice enough to be charging me a commission on my rate for the past year. Well now he's offered to even more friendly by allowing me the option to buy out of our arrangement by paying him a lump sum of our current commission for the next 5 mths. By doing so, whatever contract I can negotiate this week will be directly with the employer and I will not be paying any 'fee' to our friend anymore.

Sounds enticing somewhat. If I remain employed here for a long time it can be very beneficial for me. However the amount of the lump sum, means I won't see any benefit until next year. What if I'm laid off this year? What if the project finishes and I'm not assigned to a new one? What if I can't stand it anymore and decide to leave? My greedy conscience tells me to buy out and hope for a raise which will shorten the time it takes to see financial gain. My common sense tells me that if this offer were that good, I wouldn't have so many doubts. *sigh* I need to make up my mind after lunch.

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