23314358There’s a lot to be said for full time employment. But you know what? I personally think it’s over rated. As witnessed by corporate implosions, nothing is secure or sacred these days. I’m not a full time type of person myself. Never have been. Although I can respect those who want the stability of a constant paycheck and benefits, I prefer to think of myself as a free agent and keep my options open. I don’t want someone to dictate how much I’m allowed to make in any given year, or at any time for that matter.

Back in the days, a good salary and benefits package would be the hook that got people to commit to a job. My parents , just a generation ago, used to drive home the point that we needed to get a good job with stable benefits and advance through the company as high as we could then retire. Loyalty was a big thing for them. My Dad worked for New York City Housing Authority (city job) and my Mom was a bank supervisor for many years before being wooed by another company. Guess what though? I’m not my parents as you could pretty much guess. I’ve never been one to want that kind of long term committment. Not because I didn’t feel I could hack it in the corporate environment, but because I always felt I wanted to diversify and advance my skills, learn new things, meet new people, and I never believed I could do that working for just one company forever. Plus, I love being able to pick and choose which contracts I want to work. Talk about total freedom!

I long ago joined the ranks of the Free Agent, the Independent Contractor. Yes I am considered a business, and there are no corporate perks, but I get to call my own shots. I don’t need any fancy benefits package because I did my research and comparisons, then I chose the appropriate medical, dental, life and disability insurance for me and my family needs. Yes this can be a little costly, but here’s the beauty of it…I make more as a contractor than a salaried employee. I can set my own rates and make it where I can afford my coverage. I also researched and found a good self 401K program and enrolled. So the benefits package doesn’t sway me. As far as vacations, the best part of contracting is I take off the months of November and December- by choice- each year. If I need to take a few days here or there during the year, it’s ok. Sure I don’t get paid for hours I don’t put in, but again, the freedom of being a contractor is well worth it. Some websites to check out are: http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/, http://www.ahip.org/, http://www.healthplans.com/, http://www.sharebuilder401k.com/, http://www.401kadvisor.com/, http://www.mykplan.com/, http://www.401k.com/. So don’t let insurance be a determining factor for you. It is becoming easier to set up your own plans. Remember, contractors make more money so consider it part of your overhead when calculating your rate.

Contracting is not for the faint of heart though. As I stated earlier, many people are happy with knowing that a timely paycheck will be available every week, biweekly, etc. They can’t handle the unpredictablility of the work. Contracting can be short term, long term, or even end abruptly. And usually here is nothing you can do about it. Oh, but yes there is. Remember, being a Contractor is like being in business. Just as you take care of your own expenses and taxes, you also need to prepare contracts. Most times, companies want to give you a standard contract that ends up protecting them more. But you have a right to revise a contract. I eliminate this need by having my own. If a company needs to make changes within reason, I allow it. But I always make sure to have an attorney look it over and I put in verbiage about giving at minimum two weeks’ notice of terminating a contract. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t help to know you only have two weeks before you have no gig. But you can contingency plan in thet two weeks. Actually, as a contractor, you need to always keep your ears and eyes open for new opportunities, even when you have a contract, simply because you never know.

There are a few places you can search for contract positions.  Of course, they are listed on some of the major job boards. But you can find them on Craig’s List, Sologig.com, Civiliancontractorjobs.com, SimplySAP.com, Contractjobs.com, ContractJobHunter.com, iFreelance.com, Freelancewritinggigs.com, GoFreelance.com, Project4hire.com, Contractedwork.com, Elance.com, Guru.com, ODesk.com, and of course Dice.  Of course you can do a good old fashion Google/Yahoo/Live.com search using keyword criteria. And you can always find out through networking what companies hire contractors. Tap into Linked In to find contract opportunities as well.

So if you’re looking to step into a Contractor’s Life make sure you prepare yourself and you’ve got the resolve to deal with uncertainty. Do your due diligence and investigate all of your “benefit” options. Make sure you cover yourself legally with a solid contract. And finally, take advantage of every contract opportunity you get and soak up as much knowledge as you can to enhance your skills. Get to know as many people as you can so that you can leverage those contacts in the future.
Til next time.
Adrienne Graham