Thursday, April 30, 2009

Self Employed, W2 Contractor, 1099 Consultant vs. Employee

In the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around Plan B and career choices. I thought it might be a good idea to share those thoughts in this weeks post. In the past, and I’m talking about three years ago, I thought consultant was simply a term for someone who couldn’t find a full time job with a company. Now, mainly over the past year, I’ve come to realize that it might indeed be a well thought out choice. Let’s think about this.

Actually most of my friends are consultants now. Originally they may have gone that path as a means to land a full time job with an employer, but I think they’ve come to enjoy being their own boss. As most of you know, when you agree to work for an employer you not only agree to do the job assigned to you, but to also follow their rules, and work within their culture and belief system. Sometimes this is a good thing, and if it is a good match, oftentimes it is a good thing for a long time. I know one of my previous employers had this culture where you were encouraged to always speak up and definitely to call out if you saw a foul taking place. However, also within that culture, it was very difficult to get ahead, especially after a certain age. I flourished there for years and did get ahead until I hit that age barrier. Then I switched to the next employer. The culture there was very different. You were not encouraged to speak out, ever, which was very difficult for me. On the other hand, one was given tremendous freedom to do whatever you thought would be good for the business. So I flourished there too. Until, the culture changed. I am so sure that a lot of you reading this have gone through something similar. I stayed at the last company for a long time after it changed. There is a lot of comfort in being paid well, not having to do much for it, and have all the other support benefits like insurance. So, I’m not saying that going to work for an employer is a bad thing, not at all. What I am saying is why I am starting to think about the whole self employed thing.

A friend of mine told me he really wants to be a 1099. Of course at first I was thinking what the fudge is that? I believe what it represents is this surge in people wanting to be their own boss. To work out of your home, in your own time, according to your values is not such a bad thing. Being a 1099 consultant means that basically you bill for your services. It also means you can have a whole bunch of clients you are working with and the fees that you receive aren’t shared with any one you don’t want to. The 1099 refers to the tax statement you receive from your clients so you can pay income tax on these fees. As to the W2 contractor, that’s a little different I believe. Besides the fact that they actually give you a paycheck (hence the W2), you are actually employed by someone, just not getting other benefits and I guess it’s usually for a specified contracted term. You’re still your own boss to a great degree. I guess if your getting paid mainly by commission, it’s really only different from the 1099 because of tax status. Ultimately, if you have a service to offer and like a lot of freedom, and aren’t tied so much to the security of that check coming in whether you do much or not, then you might want to think about doing this type of thing. It can range from contacting old clients and partners to do work for them, to contacting an agency like Adecco or Olsten Temps to contract out your services. A lot of people are doing this quite successfully. Plus, there is the added benefit of keeping your skills up to date and adding something current to your resume, so that when you do find that job you’ve been looking for, you’re ready to go.

Now tell you something else I’ve run across recently. Oh please, I know some of you are going to think “where has she been?” That being said, it just caught my eye, thoughts or imagination recently. Reading different job adds for Business Development jobs I had come across the terminology, “hunter”. Now being somewhat analytical, I could kind of figure it out. Then I read about or heard a recruiter refer to a hunter vs. a farmer. OK, I guess that the difference between business development and account management. Business development goes out and cold calls and creates relationship and closes sales and account management nurtures those relationships and grows the business. Pretty good huh? Well, Monday a friend said something to me that really nailed it for me. She was talking about how in the investment world, or part of it, nowadays it’s all commission based with no base salary. She looked at me and said, “You know. You eat what you kill.” Oh my God! The concept finally landed. Then yesterday, I was speaking to a recruiter for a W2 contractor job. As she described the position and how it would be compensated, I knew it was a mighty hunter job. Privately thinking, I’d rather live out of my car, or as one of my friends calls it; my four door apartment. So I said to her, I’m not going to waste your time. I am much more of a farmer and would not do well in this position but I know and respect and actually and am in awe of people that do this well. It’s true. There are those of you out there who get a charge out of going out there and nailing the sale and want to be compensated for doing just that. Me, I’d rather eat what I grow.

On that note, I hope you all have found this somewhat helpful. It just brings out the fact that even though there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot out there right now, there are other options. It’s all about knowing that there are other options and keep exploring them. You just never know where they’ll lead.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

OK So I Took Some Time Off

Some of you may have noticed, but I haven’t posted anything to this blog for a couple of weeks. I had just hit that wall we all run into at different times in our own internal timeline expectations. You know what I’m talking about? This internal clock that just keeps ticking through the times when you thought you’d be back to work long before this time ever hit. Anyway, so I took some time, a couple days at least, just for me. I didn’t do anything, eat anything, or talk to anyone, unless I really felt like it. I’m telling you, it really did wonders for my new occupation campaign. But on that note, aren’t there days when you’d really like to have that first drink at 2:00, the heck with tea and cookies. I was starting to think today was one of those days, and then I managed to fix my kitchen light. I have those long florescent light bulbs in my kitchen and I changed one the other day. Well it’s been flickering for days; sometimes dim and other times real bright. I was at the point of asking my super to come up and look at it, but not only am I feeling too cheap for that, I also felt it was kind of like one of those jokes. You know what I mean, how many whatever’s does it take to change a light bulb? Well I went to Target and bought new bulbs, came home and tried again and voila, everything is fine. Ahhhh, the little victories. Anyway, I do digress don’t I?

It may have appeared before in this blog how I am always amazed that people think I am handling things so well. But, you know, yesterday I “got” it. Finally, I gave myself credit for surviving relatively sane. However, before I get to that, you all need to believe that people are looking at you the very same way. We are all surviving. When you are home alone with your PC/Mac you may not feel that way, but it is all part of the process. Of course it also helps if you can appreciate, like I do, that it wasn’t always so happy times while working and at least now when you get frustrated, you can retire with tea and cookies to your comfy place to read a book, watch TV or whatever it is that makes you happy. That’s how I either keep my spirits up, or drag them up when they get really down.

You know, I started this posting yesterday, but realized I was having a real writers block. One of my original intentions for writing this blog was to recognize the humor, because there usually is always something to laugh about in every situation. Well in the last couple of months there didn’t seem to be anything to laugh about. Now, this all a perception mind you. I for one, can find something to laugh about in pretty much anything. Speaking of which, a friend of mine told me the best story about the day he was laid off as we drove home. I really wish he would share the story in comments. That was the hardest I’ve laughed in a very long time. And darlin, I wasn’t laughing at you, but more laughing with you at the irony of things that happen in our lives. I could so relate and I think you know that. This was an instance of good sympathetic influence. However, that being said, we all need to keep an eye on who is influencing us and in what way.

One of the ways we do survive or thrive in the process is to recognize and deal with appropriately, those negative influences that come and go through our lives and times. We can all succeed at focusing on the positive and diminishing the negative, but if there are people who we let close to us and who are really negative, this can have a very bad impact to our confidence, our hopes and ultimately to our future success. I’m not talking about the give and take of support in our various networks of friends and family. I’m talking about that person who always sends you or calls you with negative stories, never positive ones. The person who when you reach out to and say your in some need of support, says, no you're never that way, that you are always positive, and then changes the subject to talk about their problems. Listen to your own inner feelings. Do you think “uck” when you read one of the emails or feel that way after you get off the phone? Do you dread when you hear from them? Well it may be kind of cold of me, but in order to survive, we may need to distance ourselves from these vampires that suck the positive energy right out of you.

And, on a more positive note, the job boards may be thin and interviews even thinner, but people are using this difficult time to follow their dreams. That’s one heck of a segue isn’t it. Yesterday, at one of my network meetings, it struck me that a lot of us in a normal market would have simply moved on to another job, similar to the one we left when we were laid off. Because it is so darn difficult to get a job, we have to be more creative. There are only so many creative ways of searching for a job that you can come up with but, once you start thinking about what you would love to do, then the creativity can really kick in. In normal times, family members, friends etc. might respond with “stop wasting your time”. Now, since what you have most of is time, this type of creativity is encouraged and it can work. This colleague of mine was an IT maven and is now pursuing his dream in cooking and broadcasting and managing his daughter’s career. I am just in awe. Another person I met though another networking meeting, is pursuing her dream to make quilts as a business. Personally, I am spending some of my free time volunteering for my neighbor’s political campaign. I don’t know if it will lead anywhere, but I’ve always wanted to get involved in politics so we’ll see where it goes. I do believe these things can be a path that leads to another. More importantly, I think we all need to recognize that this awful recession may be an opportunity for us to explore things that for some reason we would never have given ourselves permission to pursue in the past.

To end, I’d like to add these links that I found on to articles we have an interest in:

Generation B, They Feel Your Losses

Stupid Interview Questions

You know, now that I have that negative influence out of my life, I am starting to find things to laugh about again. Isn’t that grand? I’ll leave it at that and perhaps next week I’ll be able to share some with you. The one I’m thinking about, you really had to be there to appreciate it.

Keep feeding the positive wolf and keep those hungry negative wolves at bay.

Monday, April 6, 2009

You Take Your Successes Wherever You Can Find Them

Don’t know about the rest of you, but there’s been a slew of “you know what” kind of days and weeks lately. I was IM’ing a friend earlier and I was whining about not having anything good or positive to say. So, I took my own advice and went for a walk. Do you know that I ran into this guy that I’ve been trying to contact, in the crosswalk of all places! Mind you I want to do some volunteer work for him, but you never know where that may lead. After that, I decided to indulge myself. Heh heh. Nah, nothing big. Just bought myself a trashy novel and a magazine. I have always believed, for as long as I can remember, that it’s a good idea to reward oneself when something good happens. It tends to get you focused on what you might consider something good. Most of you probably know by now, and if you don’t I’m sorry to put a damper on things, but it is very difficult to volunteer these days. Volunteering is a great way to network. It gets you out and about talking to people, meeting and making new friends. Plus you’re doing something for a cause, so you get some good karma points as well. For myself I have sent in applications to volunteer for the botanical gardens and the Friends of the Library. I’m having as much success with them as I have with the gazillion applications I’ve sent out in the last couple months. Therefore, when I ran into the candidate and he was pleased that I wanted to volunteer, I claimed that as my success for the day. That and the fact that I’ve lost 26 lbs since I’ve been out of work makes me feel very successful indeed today.

I want to bring something up and I’m not sure how this is going to land with most of you. Several of my friends have found jobs in the last couple weeks. The reason I mention the fact of how it might affect people is because I know I faced this news with the same ambivalence I had with news of huge layoffs. You know what I mean? With the layoffs, one can say hey there’s a reason I can’t find a job, but at the same time it’s really scary because you don’t know how you are ever going to find a job. However, when people start getting jobs, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you, even though, at the same time, you are really happy for them and would love to share in the excitement, but just have a little problem with it. Am I just projecting or does anyone else feel that way? No really, I am truly glad for my friends and am looking to learn from them what they did differently from me and from what I’ve done so I can improve my search. Just so you all know I believe they got their jobs through networking! That’s right folks; everyone I’ve known who has landed a job in the last six months got it through networking. Why do you think I’m out there volunteering and oh yeah, I’m joining Toastmasters too. The reason I am emphasizing all this is because in this current job market, it may be easy to apply for jobs on-line, but it’s not working. If there’s anyone out there who has a different take on this, I would love to hear it. So here are the different things I’ve done in the last few weeks to improve my outreach: 1. Volunteer, 2. Join a club, 3. Start a group of my own. Oh and finally, I have also reached out to a contact in for an information interview that may lead to something. Finding a job is really a lot of work. It is! It’s also hard. You have to constantly come up with new ways to approach it. But please stick with it. There are people finding jobs, and good jobs at that. We will all go back to work and probably look back on these times as “the good old days”.

Hopefully, this information is of help to you all. I am really not saying anything new, but I think, I myself, need to revisit the basics from time to time. Oh another idea that a colleague brought up at lunch, was having a task list. If you are really and truly looking for something to say you’ve accomplished something, have a task list every day. I have one and do it religiously. Mind you, control is a key factor, both in having the list, and in drafting the list. You need to keep it to an amount of items that you can reasonably accomplish that day and still leave you time to get out and about and make contacts. Whenever you are facing a huge project, and finding a job in this market is certainly a huge project, it is always a good idea to break it down into tasks. Looking towards the future can be daunting, therefore if you can just start breaking it down, you allow yourself to build momentum, find new directions to go in, and to give yourself a reason for a pat on the back.

There now that I’ve finished my blog, I can check off the final item on my list. Isn’t that great? Woo Hoo! I know I’m being silly, but it’s raining outside and I think it’s a very good thing to be silly at the end of the day if it makes you smile. I’m feeding the positive wolf with all my heart.

Good luck every body. Please feel free to comment. I would love to hear from you.