Why I love contract work

June 19th, 2010

The other day, a friend who’s halfway through a year-long contract as a technical editor said what today’s temporary workforce is never supposed to say aloud:

“My boss keeps telling me she wants to bring me on permanently, but I’m not so sure I want that. It’s funny how everybody assumes that’s my goal.”

Sure, my friend is thankful to have a decent-paying job this year, especially in the wake of her big, fat, soul-sucking layoff in 2008. But after a couple years of cobbling together a paycheck from various contract, part-time and freelance jobs, she’s no longer sold on the sanctity of shacking up with one employer — despite the promise of 401(k) matching and a group health care plan.

I can relate. I took my first contract job in 1998 and have yet to accept a temporary boss’s offer of permanent work. Some of the staffers I’ve worked alongside have said, “Why don’t you just do the permanent employee thing for five years, sock away a bunch of cash and then go goof off in soloville awhile?”

But I prefer my freedom now, even if it means paying for my own vacation days and owning a smaller house than my employee counterparts.

Of course, there are legions of contract, temporary and freelance workers who couldn’t agree less — and dire news reports of the ever-growing number of malcontent temps to prove it. They don’t want to have to find a new job every three, six or 12 months or fund their own health insurance premiums. Real or imagined, they long for the uniformity of one boss, one corporate culture, one employee manual year after year.

Entirely understandable. But in the decade-plus I’ve worked as a contract employee and freelancer, I’ve encountered many content temps who agree that contract work has its undeniable perks. Between the autonomy, flexibility and variety, many of the nation’s 10.3 independent contractors have no intention of returning to staff work any time soon. Here’s why.

[Read the rest of this column on abcnews.com.]

Entry Filed under: Popular articles

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan  |  June 21st, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    A to the men, Michelle! I feel exactly the same way. I’d been doing on-site copywriting for a retail company on and off for several months and they repeatedly asked me to join the company full-time. I resisted because I like the variety and autonomy of freelancing (plus, the commute was a lot easier to swallow when it came with a fat hourly rate and a definite end date).

    The one time that I started to question my decision was when the company gave all their full-time employees iPod shuffles for the holidays. Obviously, I was excluded from that (and the holiday party), and I felt a little left out. But of course I can always buy my own tech gadgets, and I can do without seeing my cube mates after a few too many martinis!

  • 2. Serena  |  June 23rd, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Freelancing and contract work is absolutely the way to go. You mentioned the schedule flexibility and the lack of office politics. And the best part is that if you don’t particularly like a client, then you don’t have to deal with them again when the contract is up – no fuss, no muss.

  • 3. Annie  |  June 24th, 2010 at 5:07 am

    I hear from well-meaning folks all the time “Have you found a job yet?” I am constantly saying, “I am actually not looking for a full-time job, but I am busy with x, y and z projects.” I often get a questioning ‘not looking for a job?’ look in response.

    I am not sure why it is so strange to so many people why someone would want to freelance, but after only six months, I am loving it for a number of reasons — setting my own hours, taking vacation when I want to, the variety of projects that I work on. Sure the money isn’t as good as a full-time job (yet), but I am so much happier than before!

  • 4. boohoo  |  August 5th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I am little late to the party, but the reason why many folks don’t like contract work is because of insurance woes. Working for someone gets around the whole “pre-exsting condition” issue with health insurance, the price of said insurance and disability insurance. I tore an achilles tendon a few years ago and had I been a contract employee the whole debacle would have bought me a bankrupcy and possible homelessness. Sure the new healthcare bill will adjust that somewhat, but the price to buy a “non-catastrophic” medical plan will be more astronomical that it already is. Not to mention, some people are just average employees no matter what they do, and being on contract when you are just an average performer is likely the most financially dangerous thing they could do short of risking thier actual life working in a coal mine

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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