Contracting Pros and Cons 3

Skills and Expertise, Respect

Pros

  • You are considered an expert in your field, and you DO get respect. Some people say they feel more professional working as contractors.
  • Each time you take on a new project, you usually work with new tools and add new skills, instead of doing the same old thing year after year.

Cons

  • You are primarily responsible for defining the parameters of a contract: what you will and won’t do, under what circumstances the standard contract can be modified, what provisions are in place in the event that deadlines get changed or a company expects full-service work on incomplete copy.
  • Juggling multiple projects from different clients is a different challenge than multiple projects from the same client. Figure out how to balance competing deadlines without sacrificing your sanity or losing a client.
  • Continuing education can be expensive, and may be hard to schedule. Some miss the opportunities to learn that comes at a big outfit - one of the reasons to join STC.

Software and Hardware

Pros

  • Invest as the need arises but don’t ignore maintenance issues. However, when you start out it’s important to remember to spend only when you HAVE to, not when you think you need to. Perhaps wait a few days (weeks?) before buying. Also, try to get hardware and software on evaluation. How? Just ask the sales manager, not the sales person (they’d be looking for commission whereas the manager should be paid a salary so you might be able to negotiate some short-term deal). Hardware is definitely easier to negotiate for than off-the-shelf software. But you might find certain programs available for trial from your local STC chapter.
  • You may have to purchase everything your clients have. Target just one area to begin with, otherwise you may flounder a bit until you find your niche. Some add a little bit each year.
  • Others wait until a job’s in hand before spending the money for the necessary equipment.
  • If you freelance for magazines, newspapers, or Web publications, software companies usually provide review copies of their software that don’t have to be sent back, so that you have something to work with while you write the review/tutorial/product roundup. Sometimes you can register this software for tech support, sometimes you can’t.

Cons

  • Buying your own equipment, furniture, etc., can be very expensive.
  • Talk to an accountant to determine how best to handle deductions; depending on your business, taking a one-shot deduction may be better than calculating depreciation over the course of 5 years.
  • Companies often have subscription plans that let them automatically get product upgrades. These plans may be expensive for contractors; your clients, and the work you do for them, will dictate how current you need to be on software.