I have been an Independent Consultant (1099) since 2001, and since it’s Independence Day, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my journey.
Salaried Employee : 2 years
I started out in 1995 as a Business Analyst on a DB2 Data Warehouse project with the understanding that I would go through the company’s Programmer Training Course, and pursue every man’s boyhood dream of becoming a professional baseball player programmer. During that programmer training course we learned a mainframe language COBOL II that I won’t mention here, and we learned PowerBuilder. Back in the day, consulting companies and headhunters were even more aggressive than they are today. There were a couple of consultants that I knew on my project, and they seemed to be on the ball, more so than most. The project I was on was dangling the PowerBuilder carrot in front of me for almost two years before a consulting company came along and dangled the PowerBuilder carrot AND significantly more money (among other things) in front of me.
Salaried Consultant : 1 year
They hired me to ‘the bench’, and I remember that my first day on the job, they asked me if I wanted to play in a golf tournament…talk about an awesome first day!! There is no free lunch, and this was no exception. They sent me out on an interview a couple of days later, and there were no PowerBuilder questions being asked. It was all about that mainframe lanaguage COBOL II that I gloss over on my resume. At the end of interview, I remember being asked if I was interested, and I remember giving an honest answer. Turns out my new employer (who promised PowerBuilder) wasn’t happy with my honesty. They told me, under no uncertain terms, that I needed to do whatever it took to ‘get my foot in the door’. The next interview was for a straight up DB2 developer / DBA position, but I was assured that the client also did a lot of PowerBuilder, and this would get my foot in the door. This client was mostly consultants, so I learned the ins and outs of W2 and 1099 from everyone around me. I didn’t even make it a year in that DB2 position because I was chomping at the bit to get away from the mainframe. My consulting company at the time was right though, I earned a good reputation at the client and when another position became available I jumped at it.
Hourly (W2) Consultant : 2.5 years
This was also a good opportunity for me to exert what little influence I had, and switch from a salaried consultant to an hourly (W2) consultant. Why pay them the extra overhead for bench time when nobody is ever on the bench (back in the day, remember)? The new position was supporting Access developers at this same Fortune 50 company. The developer supporting Visual Interdev at the time was spending most of his time at the coffee shop, and I quickly learned the lesson to travel light as a consultant – he got fired. My manager offered to let the Visual Basic developer and I support Visual Interdev as well, and we jumped at the chance. The Visual Basic developer was already an Independent Consultant and is still one of my mentors to this day. I learned a lot from him, both from a consulting and a technical perspective. He was only at that client for a year, because he was waiting for his non-compete to be up at his previous client, where the bill rate was more in line with the market. I stayed at that client longer myself, because I was enjoying what I was doing, and getting the experience I needed in the Microsoft stack. One day, the manager there called me into his office. I remember he was all choked up when he told me that he couldn’t extend me any longer, due to company policy.
Independent (1099) Consultant : since 2001
I had still kept in touch with my mentor, and when he heard I was going to be available soon, he started the process of getting me started at his client as an Independent (1099) Consultant. That was a good contract, but probably had the worst ending I’ve had. The client company merged with another, and all contractors there were let go at the end of the year. That is a very bad time for a contract to end, and I was without a contract for two months. The market was so quiet that I used that time to get my first Microsoft certification. Knock on wood, in the last 15 years, those are really the only two months where I haven’t had at least on contract going.