Contract Jobs: Lifestyle Considerations for Freelancers and Independent Contractors
Ehem, why are you on Facebook at work?
Actually, why are you on Facebook at work?
Independent contractors are only independent for tax purposes, you know. They are not always that independent otherwise.
I worked as an "independent" contractor in retail stores, yet the owners of the stores watch us on cameras, listened to our phone calls, tracked our calls to our "agent support line", blocked the internet, and recorded our keystrokes on the computer. It totally blew. It made me feel TOTALLY paranoid, and here's why:
- Even during a 12 hour shift, I felt like I took too many bathroom breaks.
- When I occasionally had to touch up my makeup, I felt like they were watching me while they brushed their teeth.
- I was afraid to look in the direction of the camera because I thought that they would think I was about to do something wrong.
- I was afraid to put my back to the camera because I thought that they would think I was doing something wrong.
- I didn't want to go on Facebook on my personal computer or smartphone because they would recognize the interface and write on my wall, "Why are you on Facebook at work? You're fired."
- I couldn't say anything awkward on the phone or use anything but my nice phone voice because they would record it and play it to other people I work with. (They actually did that to someone who got in an argument with a customer.)
- I couldn't mumble anything about the ridiculousness of the company I work for on the phone because they would record and play it to me when they fired me.
- I couldn't type about how much I hated my job on gchat to my friends because they would find it and fire me.
Anyway, like I said, being an independent contractor definitely has its pros, but make sure to know about the cons as well before you are sold.
One last note, if you are considering becoming an independent contractor, here are some things you may wish to consider:
- Independent contractor taxes
- Independent contractor health insurance
- Being an independent contractor vs. employee
- Independent contractor agreement or contract: what are the terms?
Now go get 'em tiger!
Are you considering becoming an independent contractor? If yes, it is important to think about some lifestyle factors. Like being watched.
But before we get into that, note that not everything about being entering into independent contractor agreements is bad! There are actually a lot of freedoms associated with being an independent contractor.
Since you are technically working for yourself, you do not have to go to work when they ask you to. You have the freedom to say, "No, I have a Star Trek convention," or "I am on the brink of finishing the largest rubber band ball made entirely of organic vegetable rubber bands," and they can't really do much about it, except for terminate your contract. However, some companies, depending on how many employees they have, make it company policy that you really should try to get your shift covered. Again, you do not have to, but remember that your employers (regardless of how hard it is to believe) are people too and would appreciate the common professional courtesy. It's an opportunity to save a bridge from being burned.
Additionally, as an independent contractor you will develop your own professional network, which means that you have autonomy over your relationship with clients. You, in theory, have the freedom to do things your way with the backbone of the company with whom you are connected.
Part of having autonomy over your relationships with clients is the ability to work from home, or from a coffee shop, or whatever. (But be aware aware of work-from-home scams. Know your work from home options, and make sure to consider whether the work from home lifestyle suits you. Also, check out some hubs highlighting work from home opportunities - you can do your research about these options right from here!)
Which leads me to the next point, many independent contractors have backing from a big company, meaning they can rely on its name and reputation to help boost their own.
Also, if you are an artist of any sort (painter, musician, or writing), you have ownership of your work in most situations, not them. However, if you did it while employed by someone as a regular full-time employee, they own it.
Depending on the nature of your work, being an independent contractor can be an ideal situation. Come tax time, it sucks not to get your big fat return, but it may help to think of it this way: as a regular employee, you are kind of giving the government an interest-free loan on those extra taxes - they take it all year long and then give it back to you without the extra three cents you might get from having it in a checking account. As an independent contractor, you are essentially taking that loan from them. You have the cash up front and can do with it what you will, provided that you are ready to pay it back when its due! (If not, you can always enter into an Offer In Compromise.) But consider this one lifestyle consideration which may affect your work-life happiness... someone might think you are going to take your "independent" status too far and start breathing down your neck, making you feel paranoid.