I wanted to get other software developers' thoughts on what I was thinking about doing. Just a little bit of background ... I'm 29, have a B.S. in Computer Science, have around 7 years total experience in software development (primarily C++ programming but comfortable with C, Perl, and C# as well). I work in the finance industry in Chicago, USA. I am single and have several months of emergency savings in the bank (which I know is a must for contract work).
Based on what I have read (and it's hard to find topics about this), it seems like I would be a good candidate for contracting work. I have actually done some side contract work in the past for various clients and they were all happy with my work. The problem was that I didn't feel like I could make enough money to maintain the lifestyle I have right now with my permanent job. I was getting work through sites like ODesk.com or Craigslist. I found out that it was hard to compete with people who were willing to do the same work for much less money in other countries, but I still managed to find a few decent gigs and probably could've developed a good client base given time.
Ideally, I would like to do that sort of thing full time except not necessarily though ODesk.com but through contacts I develop over time. I also recognize it's quite risky and for sure I wouldn't be making enough money for the first several months if not longer. I know what it was like to deal with clients who don't pay you on time or ever pay you period. Based on what I have read, working on an IT contract for a 6 month - 2 year period at some company basically feels like you're at a permanent job, but at least you'll have some flexibility and move on to another contract if you don't like the current one. My plan is to initially take on these 6 month - 2 year type of contracts for a while until I develop a good client base and then after that I can become more of an actual "independent" contractor if that makes sense. I understand that I have to develop a good client base first though.
My first question is: Does it make sense to do what I am thinking about doing? Secondly, how do I get there? Should I just search for a contract job on a site like Dice.com and go from there? I found my current permanent job on Dice.com. Am I completely nuts to even think about this? What are your thoughts?
Have you asked yourself why you wanted to be a contractor?
Have you ever put yourself on the market? Every time I've posted my resume out there, I probably get 2-3 calls/emails for some kind of contract work for every permanent position. Is that the sort of thing you're looking for? I've been told this is a great way to start networking.
Yes, because I want to have more flexibility of work hours, projects, clients, etc. that contract work allows in many cases. Also, they seem to pay much higher than typical full time positions (even after accounting for taxes and insurance). I hate being stuck at one desk for years at a time and can't hop around too much as a permanent employee for obvious reasons.
Yes, that is the sort of contract work I'm looking for. It would be a good way to start out I think.
You are only limited by your own self doubt. Of course you can make a full-time living as a contractor...and still have plenty of time and opportunity to pursue development on-the-side of your own projects and interests. Depends a bit on the type of development you really want to focus on, but I can say with confidence that established agencies are always on the lookout for contract helpers. They'll want to start you off small with even insultingly small projects to see how you work together and then your jobs will get larger from there. Just look around locally, connect with them on facebook, add a comment or two to their blog posts, then contact them saying you really like what they're doing and that you have a similar business philosophy and would like to contribute to their success. Get three or four of those sending work to you and you'll be full-time in no time. Great thing about contracted work with agencies is that they usually will not want you talking with the client. So, you just get to do the work you love without the client headaches.
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