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    contract assassins

    Gregory Walker
    Sep 11, '12 8:57 AM EST


    yet another post about the rise of the contract worker.


    yes, there are people for whom this kind of lifestyle is something to be desired. but my experiences and discussions tend to confirm the opposite: most people crave stability. not all, but most. for a ton of obvious reasons that have been studied by sociologists before: it's harder (significantly) to put down roots, start a family, take a mortgage, etc. without a some kind of stable and predictable income that helps support a kind of lifestyle. this kind of destabilization can exact a long term mental toll on some people


    now, this isn't the same thing as an entrepreneur deciding to strike out on their own, taking a second mortgage to finance the dream (creating a whole other level of insecurity let me tell you). that's by choice. you're jumping in willingly. but this isn't most people. and even though most businesses will fail early on, not all businesses entail excessive amounts of financial risk to their owners.


    which is all simply to say: being a self employed contractor is not for everyone. in fact, it's probably not the right solution for most. so, shouldn't this impact the way we begin to reshape the economic recovery?


    • RH-Arch

      Graduating this past May, I was able to obtain contract work with two different firms with great owners. Right now they are both receiving a healthy flow of work to keep me busy seven days a week if I choose. Since I am a young twenty something, and I am still used to dedicating lots of hours to working from school, this hasn't been a problem for me (besides catching up on all the W-9 and other tax related issues school doesn't teach you). However, I personally wouldn't want to maintain this lifestyle of work for too long as I get older, because I am sure at some point I would like to partake in those putting down root activities you mentioned. 

      I don't see this type of industry work relationship changing much in the immediate future, especially among new graduates. It is somewhat depressing to know that I could instead go work at an engineering/construction firm for equal or more pay as a draftsman, with full time benefits and less hours.

      Sep 11, 12 10:58 am  · 

      contract work may be fine for some employers, and even some arch. firms in hard times. (that seems to be all i'm seeing lately)  I think it would be disastrous for firms when times are good, firms won't be able to count on "labor" to be there when needed.

      it also destroys idp since employers would have no incentive to train younger architects

      Sep 11, 12 1:50 pm  · 
      *your name

      A rubber condom would have been a better image instead of a rubber band in "The Rise of the New Contract Worker" article you linked!

      Sep 11, 12 2:14 pm  · 

      Contract 1099 is a big hassle esp w/regards to taxes - after 2 years on this gig, the office I am working for hires someone as a direct - doesn't seem fair - but then again these are unfair times - oh well - fairness is a privilege now

      Sep 11, 12 2:36 pm  · 

      I think it is fine as long as independant contractors remember that they are not employees.  They must act like small business owners, which means that they must set the terms of the contract.  The position can be empowering in the right hands, however I doubt that's the case most of the time.  I got a contract position after graduating.  The firm wanted me to come in to do work that was not part of my contract (Work that I would not be paid for)  I refused.  It told them that It was no different than hiring a painter to paint a house and then demanding that they fix the plumbing at no charge.  They were annoyed.  They wanted an employee that they could pay as a contractor.  Although they had no power to fire me, since I did not breach the contract, they began giving all the work to the other more obidient contractor.  They basically starved me out.  I quit and started my own LLC.  Now I am a freelancer. 

      Sep 11, 12 2:37 pm  · 

      This is a deep rooted topic, and I really have to place emphasis on a large and deep running root bed. Having worked in this 'frame of mind' for some time, I have to say this topic only touches the surface.

      From experience, working as a consultant looks desirable from a few perspectives. Financial, involvement in the work, the variety of assignments, the diversity of offices/ studios/teams worked in and maybe even the time commitment. Let's not forget the middle man ( it's a global issue, it's a love / HATE issue) that brings you into that office. The Recruiter of today is quite the wordsmith, amongst other things. I will not go further so I can get back to the point.

      Offices are looking to meet the hiccup demand for services that come knocking on their doors. Consultants / Freelancers are that magic bullet that solves the void created by layoffs and declining benefit packages. With or without a recruiter, you are really on your own. No 401K, and no benefits. What seems as slightly better pay, brings with it some resentment from your peers, some fear that you may actually be groomed to fill their position, and sometimes restrictions in work assignments. You are expendable, permanent staff are too but it's much easier to let you go. You may even not be able to collect unemployment. 

      My $0.02, if you really have to, place more emphasis on marketing yourself. Develop a balanced sense of your hourly worth and markup that rate so that you can fairly cover your unforeseen expenses. Figure out if you want to bill out the same rate in overtime assignments, or times 1.5 or times 2. Be smart, not greedy because that instability and your lack of a sense of development / accomplishment may drive you down a path you didn't see.

      Finally, keep in mind that the contract lifestyle sometimes bites you in the butt when you try to go after some permanent positions. Some firms will not look kindly on the fact that you have worked some place different every 4 to 8 months. Some, not all. It's tough out there, it really is. I sometime wonder how my generation will look back on this time where mentor ship sounds like a fairy tale and the future of the profession is more about an individual's survival skill and less about the design community.

      Sep 11, 12 4:04 pm  · 
      boy in a well

      what is this 'design community'? I think I'm a design orphan. When has architecture not been about individual survival? I'd love to know more.

      Sep 11, 12 8:40 pm  · 

      Vile Child, you picked up on that correctly. Call me an optimist. I still believe that on some level we, as a profession, do try to help each other. It's not always a money thing. Although, in an era where that prospect of a constant stream of said money is a skill set we should all hone.

      That said, I also believe that we as a profession hurt ourselves in not watching out for each other ( on whatever finite level you may choose) The whole 'everyone for themselves' mindset does cater to a smaller grouping of our ranks, while the rest of us melt into our desks chasing a state of being that is nothing but drafting dots and tracing paper overlay-ed onto some semblance of a plan.

      Its a tough world out there, it always has but I subscribe to that school of thought that questions the aspects of our development that seem to be more detriment that aid. I.e recruiters. I feel that the more we cannibalize each other, the more other entities will feel they can too. At the end of the day, even clients will do what they can to get the most and then some for their money.

      Sep 11, 12 11:19 pm  · 

      Greg I have to say this issue comes up in my industry all the time. the opportunities are great but often (and speaking for myself) the lack of institutional support, long-term commitment and stability is enough to convince one not to. what to speak of things like healthcare/benefits and the more complex tax issues.

      Also this line "which is all simply to say: being a self employed contractor is not for everyone. in fact, it's probably not the right solution for most" seems to relate to your previous post in a way...

      Sep 17, 12 11:32 pm  · 
      vado retro

      i am preferring this model. design genius uses a production office owned and staffed by someone else. they handle or don't their own payroll, insurance etc. design genius can either pay on per project basis or pay a retainer. production office can do anything from presentation boards to full on cds. design genius then has time to get more work and deliver design services. the details need to be worked out.

      Nov 27, 12 11:06 am  · 

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Central to the blog is a long running interest in how we construct practices that enable and promote the kind of work we are all most interested in. From how firms are run, structured, and constructed, the main focus will be on exploring, expanding and demystifying how firms operate. I’ll be interviewing different practices – from startups to nationally recognized firms, bringing to print at least one a month. Our focus will be connecting Archinect readers with the business of practice.

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