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.

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!



Don’t Forget to Breathe.

As first legitimate posts go, I figured this was a pretty good topic to write on since it hits so close to home for me.  In all areas of my life I am constantly having to remind myself to breathe!  It sounds like a silly thing to have to remind yourself to do but you may be more like me than you think.

You may be thinking to yourself that I sound crazy right now. You may be thinking if I, or you, had to constantly remind yourself to breathe that there would be no way anyone could live long enough for it to be an issue.  Well you’re right, so let me clarify.  You, and I, need to remind ourselves to breathe the RIGHT way! That’s right, there is a right and a wrong way to breathe!

The Wrong Way

The wrong way to breathe is the easiest, and simplest to understand because you are already doing it day in and day out!  The wrong way has three characteristics.

First, it is too fast and shallow.  Typical adult breathing fills a surprisingly small amount of your lungs with air.  Wikipedia defines the total volume of the average adult male respiratory system as 5.8 liters, and the average adult woman as 4.2 liters, that is a lot of air! The average adult inspiratory capacity is 3.5 and 2.4 liters for men and women respectively.

It makes sense that our lungs can not be fully collapsed, but even so the average person has the ability to expand and deflate their lungs by 60% of their total air capacity.   Obviously you aren’t gasping for air on each breath though, the average adult however, only breathes in 0.5 liters of air per breath and they breathe between 12 and 20 times per minute.  That means the average person is only utilizing 15-20% of their lung capacity for a given breath, but breathing much more rapidly to compensate.

The second characteristic of the wrong way to breathe is chest expansion.  When you breathe in and your chest is forced out, or more specifically you use your chest muscles to breathe in you are not expanding the lower regions of your lungs so even if you wanted to take a large breath, you will always be using less than 100% of your total lung capacity.

The third characteristic of the wrong way to breathe is weak exhalation.  When you use the wrong muscles to breathe you are not effectively expelling the old stale air from the bottom of your lungs which effectively lowers the total amount of oxygen that your lungs can absorb into your blood stream by not providing fresh air to all parts of your lungs.

The Benefits

Now that you have an idea of what “breathing wrong” entails, let me describe the benefits of the correct way of breathing just to make sure you’re a believe before you read too much further.

First it’s important to note that breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth is important.  The nose is a very important part of the breath cycle and bypassing it can contribute to many respiratory problems as described at #2 below.

There is a large fitness benefit to breathing the right way for those of us that are active.  The correct breathing cycle promotes muscle relaxation, clarity of mind, and a stronger connection between your mind and your body.  This is especially important for sports and martial arts as it promotes the necessary clarity of mind to “react without thinking”.  Now don’t think to yourself, “I don’t participate in sports or martial arts so I don’t need to bother with this crap!”, everything described so far is not only useful to people who participate in competitive physical activities, it is also extremely useful to those of us that have to sit in the same chair and think all day!

Correct breathing can allow the software developer to more effectively fight that 2pm slump by providing more air to the body to promote energy levels, can relax your body to relieve the stress of having a deadline looming over your head (#3), can give you the mental clarity to write better code, and plan out your projects more elegantly.  The benefits are practically endless.

The Right Way

So here is the technique that I use to train correct breathing habits in my day to day life.  My breathing training in the Dojo is quite different but still fundamentally based on the same principles.

Slow Abdominal Breathing Practice

From standing or sitting, while maintaining correct posture, inhale as deeply as you can through your nose, by using your abdominal muscles to expand your lungs, this inhalation should take 3 to 4 seconds, and you should see a sizable expansion in your abdomen.  Hold this breath for 1 to 2 seconds, and then exhale through the mouth for another 3 to 4 second period.  The total length of the breath should be between 7 and 10 seconds. As you practice this breathing technique more try to see if you can extend the length of each breath, this will strengthen your lungs, abdomen, and help train the feeling of deep abdominal breathing.  To start out you can perform this breathing for a few minutes a couple times a day, and try to extend your practices with time.

Fast Abdominal Breathing Practice

From standing or sitting with correct posture, inhale as deeply as you can through your nose, by using your abdominal muscles to expand your lungs. This inhalation should take 1 to 2 seconds, and you should see expansion in your abdomen. Hold this breath for .5 to 1 second, then exhale through the mouth for 1 to 2 seconds.  This whole breath should take between 2.5 and 5 seconds.

Overall Goals

These exercises are designed to help you do two things.  First, slow down your breathing, and second, transition to breathing deeply using abdominal muscles all of the time.  As you transition away from shallow chest breathing you can drop the fast Abdominal breathing practice and focus on the slower practice.  If you are an athlete or martial artist however then I’d recommend not only continuing the fast exercise but try to decrease the time it takes you to perform a fast abdominal breath.  Fast abdominal breathing skills are very beneficial for martial artists who do not wish to project their breathing when sparing, additionally in sports and martial arts when your body is being stressed to a great extent you want to be able to provide a high volume of oxygen to your muscles as quickly and efficiently as possible.  For less active people this isn’t as important.

With a slower deeper breathing cycle your lungs will be more efficiently utilized, you will be more efficiently oxygenating your blood, your muscles will be more relaxed, your mind will be more alert, and you will be less stressed through out the day.

Please comment below if this is something that you feel strongly about, or if this has helped you in your daily routine or martial arts and sports training.


Obviously there has to be a disclaimer so here goes. I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. If you become dizzy, woozy, or otherwise sick feeling at any point in time during the breathing exercises I described, stop the exercise immediately and consult a physician.