Why Software Engineer Contract Work May Prove to Be a Safer, Smarter Career Move For You
Software engineer contract work offers many benefits over permanent positions, although it has its downfalls. Here are some characteristics of contract work which may help determine whether or not it is a good fit for you:
Contract work pros:
Money - usually the pay will be better than permanent positions since there is less overhead incurred by the employer.
Flexibility - since you are paid on an hourly rate, you are not obliged to go over your set weekly hours. In many cases you are on your own time. Also, taking contract positions allows you to work on several different projects with different companies.
Experience - contract jobs allow you to gain experience and training in several different areas of expertise. This can be a great resume builder, however, you want to avoid being labeled a job-hopper, so show some concentration in specific areas.
Work from home opportunities - many contract employment opportunities are work from home. While some employees feel the need for a structured environment, many love the freedom offered by working from home (and its gas saving benefits!). If you work from home, you may qualify for a tax deduction for a home-based office.
Tax-deductions - contractors can claim tax-deductable business expenses. Make sure to keep record of any money you spend on office supplies, phone calls, and anything else related to job expenses. Also keep a log of the amount of miles that you travel in your car to get to and from your contracting job, as this can be another deductable expense.
Contract work cons:
Less benefits - this isn't always the case if you find a generous company that is willing to negotiate your contract terms.
Uncertainty - during the economic downturn the average job-seeker was searching primarily for job stability. Now that things have eased up, contract work is gaining back its desirability for those who enjoy its benefits.
Taxes and health insurance - While full-time employees have taxes withheld from their paychecks, contractors must take care of their own taxes. Contractors are responsible for paying self-employment tax, which covers social security and Medicare. Additionally they are responsible for paying estimated taxes, which consists of self-employment and income tax in quarterly installments based upon what they expect to earn in the year.
Contract work can be highly beneficial to some, while not so fitting for others. Since much of software engineer work is project based, many of you in the field should be comfortable with this position type. In many cases software engineer contract work will be the most sensible choice for those in the industry and I highly recommend experiencing it at some point in your career. It can always be used as a gateway into a permanent position and is a great way to test if the company is a good fit for you. Always remember, over 70% of contract jobs turn into permanent positions, so there is a good chance it will open up opportunities down the road (Source: IBISWorld).
Employment agencies are often a good resource for finding contract work. Another option is to use freelancing resources.