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Contracting or Full-time Employment

Posted by David Pledger

For most developers, there are two popular career paths: working as a full-time employee or working as a contractor. The question is should you as a developer pursue a full-time position or a contract position? Each role has its benefits and disadvantages.


First, we’ll examine pursuing a full-time position at a company. This is generally the more popular route in comparison to being a contractor. Full-time employees receive all the perks that come with being apart of the staff like health care, a full-time salary; full-time employees are required to fill W-2 forms and are subject to most company policies like working a 40-hour week and other required stipulations. The most apparent advantages of being a full-time employee include the security of a salary, health care coverage and the ability to climb up the organizational ranks. In addition to these benefits, full-time employees can be eligible for stock options in the company that employs them. This allows employees to be incentivized for the company’s success and can lead to large financial rewards if a company performs well. For example, Microsoft has made 12,000 millionaires since it’s IPO in 1984; this is a direct result of stock options that employees pursued during the course of their tenures.


Although full-time employment has many perks, there are several downsides that accompany it. First, a full-time developer must be willing to be managed by supervisors. This means that you’re held accountable to meeting goals and deadlines set by your managers. Work is often set and there’s not as much freedom as a contractor because you don’t get to choose who you work with. Work options like remote and telecommute work are often not an option and you must show up to your company’s offices.


In contrast, a contractor lacks some of the security a full-time position provides. Developers who choose to be contractors generally work with companies on a per-project basis. The financial security of a full-time role is absent in the case of a contractor. This means that you are directly responsible for ensuring you have enough work to meet your desired salary. This can be difficult if you are not an established developer because it can lead to feast and famine periods which can drastically influence your income. This may lead to working weekends, nights or holidays to meet your monthly income. As a contractor, you’re not only a developer but a businessperson as well. You have to be familiar with contract negotiations, communicating with your client and be able to find adequate work routinely. This is different from the normal full-time path where you pursue an internship and consequently apply for a role. The growth projection of your career is entirely in your hands.


With these challenges, there are also great benefits to contracting. As a contractor, you set your work schedule completely. You can work day, night, weekends or whenever you want as long as you meet your clients’ goals. Also, you can choose to work with who you want because you are pitching your clients. Although starting a contracting career is difficult at first, once you figure out how and who you’d like to work with it can be extremely lucrative because you choose where you work, who you work with and how much your rate will be; not to mention, there are various tax advantages that come from being self-employed.


Whether you’re looking for a full-time or contracting position, SDS is a great place for developers  to work. Check out some of our openings here!