It's been an interesting experience contracting for this small software development company in Salt Lake City so far. The biggest change from what I'm used to, though, is that I'm paid by the hour now.
Since 1996, I've been almost exclusively in salaried positions. The benefits of salary are readily apparent: paid vacations, paid holidays, sick leave, and no "slave to the clock" mentality. There seems to often be a great professionalism amongst salaried employees, a dedication to goal-oriented work, rather than time-oriented "putting the hours in". And yet... there's a difference in a bad way, too. There's a feeling in much of the tech industry that a company "owns" you when you're on salary, that your time is not your own. Many tech companies abuse this, by working employees sixty-hour weeks for months on end, often without any explicit requirement to put those hours in, but with a whole lot of peer pressure.
Yet here I am, now, paid by the hour. Many hourly employees get the same benefits salaried workers do, including the paid holidays, sick leave, vacations, etc. They simply earn it in a different way, and their paychecks vary according to how many hours they've put in. The perspective is very, very different. Maybe it's because I'm a contractor, too, rather than an employee, that I feel simply very task-oriented. I get in in the morning with certain objectives, and attempt to accomplish those objectives in a timely manner. I prepare regular reports on my progress so that the money invested by my customer is shown to be well-spent. And I generally go home at 5:00 without any compunctions at in the vein of wanting to stay longer "to get the project out the door". It would seem to be wasteful of the customer's money to put in sixty-hour weeks when there is no need.
Where do you sit on the "hourly versus salary" question? Which do you, or would you, prefer to get in your profession? Why?
As for me, right now, I'm enjoying the heck out of getting paid by the hour. I dislike the lack of benefits, but I like seeing the $$$ on the paychecks, as they represent "real" effort to me, rather than my stipend for just being a part of the company. Heck, I also feel like my evenings are my own, and I can pick up another gig or two from time to time. I guess I feel a whole lot less "owned" than I ever did as a salaried employee, and I keep thinking that, one of these days soon, I need to really get more into making money in my own business. Of course, other than my technical knowledge and my modest musical talents, it's difficult to say what I'd make that money in :).
Sammy, to me, is a great example to me of a guy making it work. He's pursuing a dream with his own business. When you're just hanging out there, relying solely on your own abilities to bring in the dough, rather than a corporate wage... That just really seems like living closer to the metal. Gotta be a lot of Ramen in there somewhere though.