Tips and Tricks for Becoming a Contractor – Part 2

Your Personal Life Will Change

It may seem like it goes without saying, but you may not realize what, and to what extent, things will change in your life by becoming a contractor.

Freedom to make your own hours, be your own boss, set your own pay rate, all of these things are true to some extent, and at the same time very wrong. You have control and freedom, but at the same time you are a slave to your customer(s), at least if you want to be successful.

Note: Some of the sections below may relate to certain types of contracting or situations, when that is the case they will have the situation explained in the title.


It may be obvious to some of you that when you are your own salesman you have to put your best foot forward every second of every minute that you are interacting with your customers, and for you out there that know this, you are either a salesperson for a living or have been a contractor for years already.

As a contractor, you can’t have a bad day. Sure, some days if you aren’t feeling up to the task you can call in like any other job, but some days you just have to be present when you don’t want to be. You may be saying to yourself, “I have to go into work on days I don’t want to already!”, and that’s true, but while your co-workers at your company, that you are a salaried employee of, may be more tolerant of your poor moods, a Customer will not be as forgiving.

Keep in mind that a W2 employee costs money to fire or lay off, but a contract for and individual contractor can usually be cancelled easily with few, if any, repercussions.

You may be wondering how this is going to affect your personal life. It won’t at first. You’ll be elated that you are “your own boss” and high on life for a few months. Then, over time all those bad days that you can’t be a snarky know-it-all to your boss or co-workers will add up, and pretty soon you’ll be taking it out on your friends and family.

So, make sure to set aside time for yourself to blow off steam. Make sure you stick to your workout, or paintball on the weekends, or hiking that pretty mountain trail. You will need time for yourself to blow off the steam that you can’t with your co-workers anymore.


Depending on the type of contracting, and the situation you are in, your Hygiene will likely improve or decline, but it will almost certainly do one of the two. Be prepared.

Say for example that you are a remote contractor, lot more of these now than years before. This could be a steady gig or even if you are drumming up your own short term business. Being remote and working from home tends to make you forget that you haven’t showered in a week, especially when you are working 12-16 hour days trying to keep your customers happy and the money flowing in.

On the other hand, say you are a contractor who works in the customer’s office. Well I’ll tell you what, you are going to want to look your absolute sharpest every single day because, why? That’s right, you are your own sales team. Get used to it.

No matter what situation you are put into as a contractor, you should be prepared for changes in your daily hygiene. As a contractor, you will likely never be in that sweet spot of comfort and professionalism that is encapsulated by a typical office, so expect changes.

For those that aren’t going to be forced by their customers to shower and look sharp, this can be hard to deal with.

The best way to cope with poor hygiene situations is to develop a daily working schedule that includes your hygiene needs, and stick to it, come hell or high water.


Let’s face it, computer people are not typically the healthiest or fit people. We all know it, but for a remote contractor it could be even worse.

As burdensome as it feels, few people realize how getting out of the house and going to the office each day has a positive impact on us.

In addition to a little exercise, face to face interaction with other human beings is good for us. Sitting in your home office from sun up to midnight cranking away on your projects can be great for your pocket book, but terrible for your waistline and your mental health.

If you happen to be working in your customer’s office you don’t have to worry as much about this, but if you are a contractor long enough you will inevitably be faced with a work from home situation.

Some of the best ways to combat the negative effects from work from home situations is to set a work schedule like you would have in an office, and try to stick to it. Also, working from a coffee shop or a shared workspace is a great way to get a little social interaction. Set yourself a timer to get up and move around every hour or two, and even better, get a standing desk for your home office.

I am no doctor, but we have all heard that exercise improves your mental health, as well as social interaction, so if you aren’t careful this could be a negative spiral into depression and poor physical health if you don’t make yourself get up from your desk from time to time.

If you don’t plan to take care of yourself, this can have negative effects on your friends and family as well, not just you.

You Will Need to Know a lot More About Businesses Than you do now!

In Part 3 we’ll discuss some of the business related issues that are going to come up.

Tips and Tricks for Becoming a Contractor – Part 1

“Hi” to all you developer’s out there that are thinking of shedding the chains of a W2 and forging your own path to fame and fortune!

I’d like to help, well, at least with shedding the W2! You’ll have to find your own path to fame and fortune.

I am writing this article to help developer’s, or possibly anyone looking to become a contractor. With some of the steps, business and personal, necessary to transition. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I have learned a few things in the years I’ve been a contractor.

Finding Work

The first thing you have to do is figure out how you are going to get work. Find your own contracts? Get contracts from a contracting hub? Know a friend that can hook you up? All viable choices.

There are many companies that offer full time contracting positions, and typically these offer more stability but without the chance for “the big pay off”.

The alternative is temporary contracting gigs. The hard part about these is finding them. These tend to offer higher pay rates for expertise in a specific domain. You can find these types of jobs on job boards sometimes, but for the biggest pay offs you typically need to know someone that can set you up with a client. Best people to know for these kinds of connections are development managers and Architects within larger organizations.

My personal recommendation on this one is to find stable long term contracting work first in order to grow your connections, but don’t stay put, move from contract to contract as you find them to have maximum exposure. For the long term contracting work, you’ll likely want to stay for at least a year, just like with W2 employees, organizations hiring for long term contractors don’t like to have high turn over rates. Eventually you’ll start seeing better opportunities through your network.

Keeping the Work

As a contractor you have to realize something, you are your own sales and engineering teams. You have to have a “customer first” attitude. I have seen many developers become contractors and not have the appropriate attitude for it.

The Basement Dweller

If you are the kind of developer that wants to sit in the back corner working odd hours, not talking to anyone, and hissing at the light when someone opens the window, well then you are going to have a problem.

Contracting is more about working with people than it is writing code. You have to be present when the customer needs you, you have to have a cheery demeanor when you are speaking with your customers, and most importunately you have to show interest and enthusiasm for your(their) work.

The Critic

I can’t remember how many times I have been on a project and seen other contractors with the same organization whining and complaining about how terrible the customer’s code base was, and how terrible of a process they had, and how annoying it all was. They tend to last between one and four weeks before their contracts are terminated, depending on how nice the customer is.

By the same token, if you are missing every other meeting, and delivering code late (or not at all), you will have your contract terminated.

It amazes me how many developers think that contracting is a free pass to have all the worst habits that any developer can have, and feel that the customer should still be groveling at their feet.

Customer First

The customer is #1! You have to make them feel warm and fuzzy any time they see your face. That’s not to say you can’t point out where things are going wrong, you absolutely should, but you have to have tact while doing so. They don’t just want to hear what’s broken, they also want to hear how it can be fixed, and how things are going to be peaches and rainbows in the end.

Most importantly, you have to be able to give the customer the information that they need, and then let them decide what to do with it. Don’t keep pointing out their flaws to them over and over, they got it, they don’t need their faces rubbed in it.

Your Personal Life will Change

In Part 2 we will discuss some of the changes you can expect in your personal life, and some strategies for dealing with those changes.

Fingernail and Toenail Maintenance

Keeping your phalanges well groomed is a very important thing if you study a martial art.  You don’t want to be the guy who just scraped the crap out of your training partner because you didn’t feel like spending a few minutes to trim.  But even more than martial arts, finger nail grooming especially,  can have a benefit in you career and how people perceive you in life.


Nobody likes a slob!

Imagine you’re reaching out to shake the hand of your company’s CEO and you stab his pointer finger with one of those claws you forgot to cut! Pretty embarrassing right?  Imagine somebody mistakes you, a hard core dedicated code monkey fueled on adrenaline, dubstep, and Mt Dew for the receptionist because of the constant tap, tap, tap of those unkempt nails on the keyboard.

Whats more, longer finger and toe nails can be a health concern. According to the CDC, dirty unkempt nails “… can contribute to the spread of some infections, such as pinworms.”.  Additionally, poor nail hygiene can lead to fungal infections. The cracks and crevices of your nails is an ideal place for anaerobic fungi to thrive.

So, not only is it inconvenient, dirty and viewed poorly by others, it can also be a health concern for you and others.


Good Habits

Cutting and trimming alone is not sufficient “good nail care” you also need to scrub under your nails regularly, removing dirt and debris that may accumulate there. Before trimming wash all your nail care tools to sterilize them in case something is still living on them from the last grooming session.

Aside from looks and diseases, good nail grooming habits can help to protect the health of your nails themselves. The Mayo Clinic reference link below outlines several conditions that can occur do to poop nail hygiene, including color changes, thinning or thickening, curling and deformations among other things.

So next time your thinking of skipping that nail trim and scrub do us all(yourself included) a favor and don’t!



Blog Awakenings

Over the Christmas and New Years holiday 2015 my wife, daughter, and I were spending some time in the mountains enjoying the trees and snow.  My wife and I tend to not spend too much on Christmas gifts for each other but this year she got me something that I’ll never forget, she got me a book.

This book was special though, and I’ll never forget that Christmas.  Its safe to say this book changed my life for ever.

The book was Soft Skills, and given the snowy freezing climate I had a lot of time in doors by the fire place to get some good quality reading time in.  So I got to it and in a couple days I had managed to get through the book, as well as another I had gotten The Beer Bible, I’m not a saint!

In the remaining days of our vacation I spent a fair amount of time reading articles at and watching John’s videos, and then I found something, “Sign up for my free blogging course via email”.

I was iffy about it at first. I wasn’t super enthusiastic about giving out my email address to yet another web site, but everything I had read and heard about the benefits of blogging from John’s educational material changed my mind. So I signed up.

After that I started following the guide’s advice and performing the homework, and even though I have no expectation that John is actually reading my responses or actually looking at my new blog, I knew this would be a good exercise for me. This was going to help get me into a successful routine.

The first lesson or two seemed a bit slow, but they got harder, not in the amount of work that they entailed but the amount of thinking that they made me do about my goals and expectations for my own life and career.

After having made all the decisions that I needed to, at least tentatively, I finally had my blog, this blog.  I have greatly enjoyed the journey to this point and all that I have learned along the way.  The resources that John has over at have taught me a huge amount in my quest to become more entrepreneurial minded and I look forward to being able to put it all in to practice over time.

So if you to would like to take John’s email blogging course, you can go here to sign up.  I highly recommend that you go through the course, even if you have been blogging for a while and want to improve your blog or blogging skills.  I believe anyone can learn form the lessons in this course.