Try contracting

Dear new developer,

You have a portable skillset; most every company needs software, just like everyone needs accountants.

You have a “means of production” that only costs a few thousand dollars: your laptop.

You are in demand (as long as you have the right skills, experience and salary expectations).

Please take a chance during the first decade of your career and try contracting.

There are two paths to contracting. The first is where you go through an agency and they place you. The second is where you contract directly with a client. Each of these paths is different.

The agency path is easier. The agency finds the work, treats you as essentially an employee, and sends you to client work. However, you’ll get paid by the hour and you’ll have the chance to see into a number of different companies without making the commitment of being an employee. (It’s been a few years since I did this so the model may have changed slightly.). This can be a good experience, but it can also be frustrating as you will likely not be treated as well as a full time employee (FTE) while on this contract. This treatment is assuaged by more money and freedom.

The direct to client path is harder, but worth more. Here you will learn all kinds of skills not directly related to development. You’ll learn about sales, about customer support, about requirements gathering, about invoicing and getting paid. All these are fantastic additions to your toolkit. If nothing else, they’ll give you an appreciation for all other company departments, because when you are a client facing contractor, you have to perform all their job functions for yourself. Getting this business running will take longer than just calling an agency, passing their interview, and getting placed at a client. The plus is you’ll have a lot more control and you will likely have more income.

Even if you want to stay a full time developer for the rest of your career, a stint as a contractor can expose you to new ideas, let you gain new skillsets and give you an appreciation for the work that other departments do (man, sales is hard!).

Sincerely,

Dan

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