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Getting Started With Part-Time Development Work? 262

Posted by kdawson
from the stability-vs.-fulfillment dept.
fortapocalypse writes "I'm getting paid a good salary as a Java developer and the hours are great. It is also very stable, which means something in today's economy, especially with a family to feed. However, I'm very unmotivated both because of the work that I do, which is boring, and because the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability. I've done what I could to try to change things at work and have pretty much given up on that. I want to go out on my own, either starting my own company or just working as a contractor doing Java development, but I'm not sure of the best way to get started, and my family needs the stability of my current job. I'd really like to start out part-time at 5-15 hours a week to use it as supplemental income (which my family could really use at the moment), but I really don't know where to start. I doubt many contracting agencies would be interested in a part-time worker. What would you suggest for someone in my position?"
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Getting Started With Part-Time Development Work?

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  • Mix Fun and Fair (Score:5, Informative)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:17PM (#26302113) Homepage

    First: keep your day job: it provides the cash your family needs. Second: forget about traditional part-time work, it usually either pays really low hourly rates, or the work consumes much more than the 5-15 hours you say you have.

    Instead, look at fairsoftware.net [fairsoftware.net] (hey, if I invented it, I can brag about it). You won't earn immediate cash, instead you'll be getting equity into whatever fun software project you find. Or start your own and get more geeks to join you, also for revenue share, not upfront cash.

    Financially, it's the right thing to do: have most of your base covered with salary, and an upside based on equity so that the sky's the limit. Plus it's fun.

    • by Kintanon (65528)

      Along the same lines is Coder For Hire [coderforhire.net] that let's you freelance out for a set rate or bid by the project, etc... Good way to build a portfolio and make contacts, etc...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kintanon (65528)

        replying to myself because I'm an idiot, wrong site.
        RentACoder [rentacoder.com] is the site I was thinking of.

        • No way. (Score:4, Informative)

          by bigtangringo (800328) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:01PM (#26303515) Homepage

          While I like the idea of RentACoder or Guru, the people posting jobs on those sites are mindbogglingly cheap rubes. For example:

          You have been invited by the buyer to participate in a project on http://www.rentacoder.com/ [rentacoder.com] for the following bid request:

          Title:Java web application, jdbc, jsp, payment integration.
          Description:Type: Web app.; Using: Java, J2EE, JDBC, JSP, MySql, Javascripts, all browsers.
          Requires completing a non-disclosure agreement, NDA, to obtain full project details and percentage of deposit held in escrow to hedge against and minimize project risk.

          Some of the project deliverables are:
          * Integration of live/real-time payment processing
          * Multi-Account registration
          * Various user groups with varying access levels
          * Site navigation hyperlinks
          * Region specific clock and news updates
          * Content management interface
          * Administrator console/panel
          * Dynamically generated pages and panels with scrolling content
          * Password reset utility/Account lockout security feature
          * Directories
          * Newsletter feature
          * Triggers, Auto-notification, Stored procedures
          * Built in Node-aware sniffer and product licensing
          * Software update-deploy utility
          * Packaged executable interfacing with web application
          * Search, sorts, queries and data manipulation utilities
          * Consistent page design and theme
          * Database design normalized for optimal performance
          * Language conversion utility
          * Thorough documentation

          Categories:Web, Microsoft Windows, Database, Language Specific, Java, Requirements, Operating Systems / Platforms, UNIX, Internet Browser, Security, Web Services, Linux, MySQL, Java Server Pages (JSP), Search Engine Optimization, Javascript, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, Software Related (Includes Websites)
          Max Bid:$250

          Like hell. That's a representative sample. Don't even get me started on the requests for clone sites.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by afabbro (33948)
            What you're missing is that they can get that work done for $250 or less. I played around on RAC but I'm not going to compete with people in the Third World who'll work for $5 an hour. Unless you're willing to work for Third World wages, sites in RAC are a waste of time.
            • Re:No way. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday January 02, 2009 @08:05PM (#26306457)

              What you're missing is that they can get that work done for $250 or less.

              No, they can't. Not even outsourcing to (competent) people in lower-paying countries would get you close to that. But since the average person posting a job spec on sites like that thinks they've got the world's best idea but will drop it as soon as they realise they're being wildly unrealistic, it doesn't really cost anyone anything.

    • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:23PM (#26303135)

      Rent-a-coder is a joke. Crap developers writing crap code for clients who think $200 for a full CRM is a reasonable price. Hell no.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by minsk (805035)

      How long until someone finishes a project to fix the public fairsoftware.net site for users with Javascript disabled? :)

      I find it downright hilarious every time I see <a href="#" onclick="...> used for a basic link.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by v(*_*)vvvv (233078)

      If software already sold itself, then sure, what a great tool, but software is hard to sell enough as it is. Heck, most software is free. Only a very few companies get our money.

      Unless you have a platform like the iPhone, the internet is so abundant of generous programmers' contributions, that everything useful has already been done, done well, and made available for free. Even the big and difficult stuff like... operating systems.

      So I'd say add tools for iPhone and Android sellers and build around those ma

    • by landonf (905751)

      Instead, look at fairsoftware.net [fairsoftware.net] (hey, if I invented it, I can brag about it). You won't earn immediate cash, instead you'll be getting equity into whatever fun software project you find. Or start your own and get more geeks to join you, also for revenue share, not upfront cash.

      This is very, very cool.

      Do you have any plans to support existing legal entities using FairSoftware? This would provide us with a low-friction approach to collaboration, allowing trust and more permanent relationships to form organically between independent contractors and our organization.

      Also, do you have any thoughts on models where external billing is required, such as the iPhone App Store? Serving as a publisher could be one option here (and would be a fairly significant advantage given the difficultie

      • I joined a very similar organisation called Asynchrony about a decade ago. After two years, they had failed to produce anything that might qualify as a 'success story.' I'd be interested to see if FairSoftware does any better.
    • Re:Mix Fun and Fair (Score:4, Informative)

      by SQLGuru (980662) on Friday January 02, 2009 @07:19PM (#26305843) Journal

      I agree to the keep your day job part. But if it's about money, I've done quite well taking small projects from the local Craigslist (about 15k last year in "fun" work) which will be a better option than trying to create a product on your own.

      The day job pays the bills and establishes a "base" pay. The small projects have the flexibility to take things that are interesting or short or well paid or whatever. And be "creative" in what jobs you respond to. My best client right now is actually a company that was looking for some temps to do some data entry work (my wife was looking for work to fill her down-time during the summer -- she's a teacher). I looked at what they were doing and wrote some small apps to automate a lot of the data entry work. They liked my work and keep coming back to me for other projects.

      As long as you are up front with them that you are working on the side and communicate well on expectations, most small companies would love to have the resources you can provide. They can't afford a full-time developer (and usually don't know what to look for if they did) and yet you can bring insight into how to help them.

      Layne

  • Craigslist (Score:3, Informative)

    by matthewncohen (1166231) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:21PM (#26302181)

    Have you checked out Craigslist? Look at both the jobs and the "gigs" sections. I see ads for single-project development all the time as well as some ongoing stuff. I know a few people who do this sort of thing freelance full time and make a pretty penny too.

    I live in one of the more tech-active areas in the country (Boulder, CO) so this may or may not apply...

  • by Monx (742514) <MonxSlash@ e x p ... ossibilities.com> on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:21PM (#26302201) Journal

    My company needs Java developers. We're looking to build a list of available contractors to do work over the next year as demand for our services grows. If you want to work in S. Florida, e-mail me.

    I'm sure there are similar opportunities elsewhere. You just have to find them. A recruiter might be a good place to start.

    • by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:17PM (#26303057) Journal
      Our company can also use more Java developers, the ones we have are relatively unexperienced, have issues with our management structure, and like blaming everybody for everything. Also, they seem to spend too much of their time on tech sites, and we suspect them of looking elsewhere for work.
      ...
      ...Wait a second!!...Jim is that YOU!?
    • by infinite9 (319274) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:19PM (#26303733)

      My company needs Java developers. We're looking to build a list of available contractors to do work over the next year as demand for our services grows. If you want to work in S. Florida, e-mail me.

      I'm sure there are similar opportunities elsewhere. You just have to find them. A recruiter might be a good place to start.

      Why does he have to work in south florida? Can't he work anywhere? He's writing software, not painting houses.

      For software development, and a lot of other professions, we really need to get out of this location based mind-set. It's totally unnecessary. It's a waste of time commuting. It's a waste of energy commuting. It's a waste of gas, office space, the expense of computers in the office, space on public transportation, business clothes. It goes on and on. We should all be working from home.

      • by cs02rm0 (654673)
        Why does he have to work in south florida? Can't he work anywhere? He's writing software, not painting houses.

        That's lost on me too. Why is it necessary for me to turn up 9-5? IAJD looking for work on evenings and weekends to supplement the day job, but on online dev project auctions I seem to be underbid by kids on $2/hour who can finish huge projects in next to no time.

        I suspect without employers developing a mindset change my only alternative is to start my own business. Seems a bit extreme though.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "For software development, and a lot of other professions, we really need to get out of this location based mind-set. It's totally unnecessary. It's a waste of time commuting. It's a waste of energy commuting. It's a waste of gas, office space, the expense of computers in the office, space on public transportation, business clothes. It goes on and on. We should all be working from home."

        Yeah, but, when you are billing by the hour...they often like to see your body there physically working during the hours

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mangobrain (877223)

        It's totally unnecessary. It's a waste of time commuting. It's a waste of energy commuting. It's a waste of gas, office space, the expense of computers in the office, space on public transportation, business clothes. It goes on and on. We should all be working from home.

        That may sound like a nice ideal, but there are many reasons that working from home isn't (yet?) a given.

        I think you underestimate the importance of being able to walk up to a colleague and work with them face-to-face. The trouble with your ideal is that "work", in this context, rarely - if ever - just means writing code: it can mean giving someone a helping hand with a bit of debugging, going over design documents, giving feedback on a demo, performing knowledge transfer, or simply taking a break and havi

    • well, this is part time - do you really need that much face time?
  • by ilovegeorgebush (923173) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:22PM (#26302219) Homepage
    As you're probably aware, Freelance Contracting can be quite profitable and allow you to get a decent wage and time off. I've heard of plenty of people that work 3 months, take 3 months off etc. If you were to go this route, you'd need to ensure the following:
    • Your qualifications match your experience. JEE developer? Get SCWCD at least
    • If you're not in a large city, or near one that has a decent size business district, be prepared to travel
    • Sign up with a large but respectable contracting agency

    I'm not sure what part-time work is available in the IT industry: contracting would probably be the most representative of what you're requiring.

    Failing that, try and get qualifications and see if your current employer will support you financially (training, certification, degree?). If you're improving your CV, they may be more inclined to give you different work.

    • by infinite9 (319274)

      As you're probably aware, Freelance Contracting can be quite profitable and allow you to get a decent wage and time off.

      I've heard of plenty of people that work 3 months, take 3 months off etc.

      I want to do this, but the cost of the lost opportunity is just too high. I'd rather keep working and retire early.

      If you were to go this route, you'd need to ensure the following:

      • Your qualifications match your experience. JEE developer? Get SCWCD at least

      I have no certifications, just a CS degree. I've been consulting for more than a decade. What matters more is the experience on your resume and the performance in the job interview.

      If you're not in a large city, or near one that has a decent size business district, be prepared to travel

      I agree. Living in a los angeles or new york will give you access to a larger pool of available contracts.

      Sign up with a large but respectable contracting agency

      Why just one? I switch consulting firms with almost every contract.

      I'm not sure what part-time work is available in the IT industry: contracting would probably be the most representative of what you're requiring.

      I currently have two side projects tha

      • You're suggesting that his current employer will pay him extra to do side projects?

        No, he's suggesting that his current employer will pay to get certifications (hence the "training, certification, degree" examples). This is quite common.

    • by cs02rm0 (654673)
      JEE developer? Get SCWCD at least

      I haven't bothered - I can't find an employer looking for more Java developers that knows what it is!
  • First, rentacoder.com. Go, frolick about, have fun. Second, your question is equally applicable to the profession I'm jumping into -- graphic design. I'll make a long story short for you: Keep your day job. Part time work doesn't pay the bills unless you're getting more than about $35 an hour. The only area in which I've seen someone earn a living on part time work is as a field technician doing laptop repairs. And at that, only barely (and he is making $36/hr). Just so we're clear, his job is located in on

    • Re:urk. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by moderatorrater (1095745) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:57PM (#26302795)

      Part time work doesn't pay the bills unless you're getting more than about $35 an hour

      Freelance PHP coders (of which I know several) can easily make $75 / hr, $125 with some experience and a decent customer base. I'd be surprised if java coders couldn't beat that quite easily. The trick is building a customer base, which starts to take care of itself after a while if you do a good job.

      • I agree. I don't know much about the PHP market in particular but it's been at least 20 years since I knew any contractors charging less than $40/hr. OTOH I'd say the way the economy is today demand may be pretty low for a new entry so start around $40/hr and work your way up - you should be getting $60-$90/hr after 3-4 years. And like everyone else says - don't quit your day job until you're financially secure.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by infinite9 (319274)

        Freelance PHP coders (of which I know several) can easily make $75 / hr, $125 with some experience and a decent customer base. I'd be surprised if java coders couldn't beat that quite easily. The trick is building a customer base, which starts to take care of itself after a while if you do a good job.

        The H1s have devastated java. The only way to get $100+ doing java is if you're the architect.

      • Holy shit, people PAY for php?

  • Don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Escogido (884359) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:23PM (#26302237)

    Just don't.

    What you're saying pretty much translates into 'I want to work more and get paid less.'

    If that is exactly what you're looking for, then be my guest.

    Otherwise... like I said, don't. If you're tired, get a vacation, for chrissake.

    • First of all, while I don't have any firsthand experience, everything I've ever heard is that freelancing can be, at least somewhat, more profitable than working as an employee but you have the headache of handling your own insurance, taxes, unstable income, etc. Of course, it always depends on how good you are at selling yourself and, as the poster pointed out, the economy isn't good right now.

      Secondly, his statement "the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability"

      • Re:Don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jcnnghm (538570) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:55PM (#26302765)

        Being self employed is, in many ways, the same as being permanently unemployed.

      • >... his statement "the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability" suggests to me that he is working for a non-profit, not-for-profit, or similar organization.

        Unfortunately, that quote could easily apply to a major share of American (if not worldwide) businesses. One legacy of the pyramid scheme that Wall Street has become is that many nice, profitable small businesses have been bought up by idiots whose only skills are to concoct a 'business plan' that makes se

    • An addendum to my previous post is that working part-time while keeping your day job isn't a bad idea and will make it easier later should the economy pick up and you make the full move. Either way, keep the info you dig up while researching the idea in case the worst happens and the choice is made for you...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slugtastic (1437569)
      What he says is "I want to work more and get paid less but be alittle happier".
    • Re:Don't. (Score:4, Informative)

      by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012.pota@to> on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:59PM (#26302815)

      What you're saying pretty much translates into 'I want to work more and get paid less.'

      You forgot one important part: "while not being driven fucking insane". Being able to actually get things done without a lot of bullshit is worth a lot of money to me, and plenty of others.

      Sweeping up crap after one managerial elephant parade after another can pay quite well, because jobs like that suck and really good people rarely want to waste their time like that. Taking less money for more satisfaction and less stress is, for a lot of people, a great trade.

      And if the original poster is one of those people who doesn't mind being a human pooper scooper, then he should certainly become a contractor or consultant. I know one contractor who for the last 5 years has been cleaning up other people's spaghetti code at a large internet company, and grossing over $300k/year for it. And he can do that as long as he wants, because the permanent employees can always tie things in knots faster than he can untangle them.

    • by FortKnox (169099) *
      While I agree with parent and GameMaster's comments, I must also ask you to proceed with caution. Most companies have it in the contract you sign with them to not do outside work that is similar to your current work without permission. Talk to your boss about doing outside development work... just 'trying it out' can get you fired from the stable job you have now.

      If you really want to try contract work, get in a contract company. If you live in the midwest, I can get you a job with my contracting firm.
  • Good luck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:24PM (#26302245)

    .. I'm very unmotivated both because of the work that I do, which is boring, and because the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability.

    You've just described every job I ever had.

  • Craigslist (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StealthyRoid (1019620) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:34PM (#26302409) Homepage
    Unless you're in Austin, and then stay the fuck out of my territory and keep your day job.

    In all seriousness, I started, and continue to run, a moderately successful dev company on my own via 100% Craigslist clients. I began by building up a small, but consistent client base while still at my 9-5, and then, when the time was right, I struck out on my own.

    I would advise against places like rentacoder and getafreelancer and elance, etc... More often than not, with those joints, you're competing against Eastern European or Indian programming companies that charge like $8/hr, and the client base on those sites is more cost-conscious than quality-conscious. You'll waste a ton of time.

    Also, for what it's worth, _never_ utilize the services of a site that makes you pay for it. More often than not, they're not worth the money you spend on them.
  • Who is it? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:36PM (#26302437) Homepage Journal

    the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability.

    You work for the Republican Party?

  • Don't quit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:39PM (#26302489) Homepage

    We're at the beginning of the Second Great Depression. If you have a job that you think will survive the depression, keep it. Even if it sucks. Ten years ago, you could have moved to a hot job at a fun dot-com in a week. Not now. Google just had a layoff. Microsoft is rumored to be laying off 17,000 people.

    US manufacturing activity is now down to its lowest level since 1948. That's right, we've lost 60 years of growth. It's going to be a long recession. Japan's housing bubble popped in 1989, and twenty years later, Japan still hasn't recovered. The Nikkei index is around a quarter of its peak in the 1980s. That's what a crash in housing looks like. Japan also has a better "safety net" than the US does in the post-Reagan era.

    If you're bored, code something in your spare time. Read books on dealing with dysfunctional organizations; over time, you might be able to improve the place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We're at the beginning of the Second Great Depression.

      And you know this ... how? Yeah, things aren't rosy. However, things were worse in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And Japan may not have recovered from its housing bubble, but it's hardly in the midst of a depression either.


    • We're at the beginning of the Second Great Depression.

      The situation is actually a lot worse than you realize, although I don't want to go that far off-topic.

      But even though the glass is half-empty, it's also half-full.

      The greatest return on investment is always made from starting small, at the very bottom of an economic slump, just as the economy kicks in and begins to grow again.

      And if you remember any of your college calculus, the economy actually starts to accelerate again after passing through
    • Re:Don't quit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cheezedawg (413482) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:05PM (#26303557) Journal

      US manufacturing activity is now down to its lowest level since 1948. That's right, we've lost 60 years of growth.

      Good grief. If people misunderstand basic economic indicators as badly as you have, it is no wonder that they are so pessimistic about the current economy.

      I assume you are basing your comment on todays release of the Manufacturing Index [www.ism.ws] by the Institute for Supply Management because of this statement in the release:

      "New orders have contracted for 13 consecutive months, and are at the lowest level on record going back to January 1948."

      That is the index for new orders- not the overall index for manufacturing. That overall manufacturing index is at 32.4%, which is a horribly low number, but not as bad as the recession in 1980. And none of these indexes describe an absolute level of manufacturing activity like you seem to think. The indexes are derived through surveying manufacturers and asking them if they expect to expand or contract their activity levels in the next quarter. An index of 32.4% means that almost one third of the manufacturers surveyed still expect to see some expansion. It has nothing to do with 60 years of growth.

      I've learned to lower my expectations for honest reporting of the economy- especially when current political leaders are unpopular. Just this morning in the local news one of their headlines was that 1 in 5 local businesses were planning on laying off employees this year. The article was full of doom and gloom about unemployment and the economy, but buried at the very end they mentioned that "only" 16% of businesses planned to hire new employees during that same timeframe- almost the same % as were planning on laying off employees. Good grief.

    • by infinite9 (319274)

      We're at the beginning of the Second Great Depression. If you have a job that you think will survive the depression, keep it. Even if it sucks. Ten years ago, you could have
      moved to a hot job at a fun dot-com in a week. Not now. Google just had a layoff. Microsoft is rumored to be laying off 17,000 people.

      If you think a salaried job will save you, just look at the numbers you posted. A good friend of mine just watched a major financial firm lay off 10% of it's salaried employees, but keep all their consultants. Consulting might actually be more secure.

      US manufacturing activity is now down to its lowest level since 1948. That's right, we've lost 60 years of growth.

      I think you have the cart before the horse. This is entirely because we devastated our manufacturing base over the last decade or two. This is contributing to the current mess, not caused by the current mess.

      It's going to be a long recession. Japan's housing bubble popped in 1989, and twenty years later, Japan still hasn't recovered.

      This is because of bad monetary policy on the par

    • by Gat0r30y (957941)

      We're at the beginning of the Second Great Depression.

      I don't really like that name though. Suggestions for what to call this debacle? Mine would be: Securitization Shenanigans 08'

  • by Steauengeglase (512315) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:39PM (#26302495)

    Though I've never messed with any of them, there are plenty of freelance, contractor type sites out there.

    Also, and I know it must sound seedy, but sitting around in a (fairly upscale) bar that has frequent business travelers works pretty well. I know it is kind of "red-lighting" it, but I've scored a few software jobs just from sitting in front of a beer and chatting it up with complete strangers on Wed or Thurs nights (often, their free night before their flight the next day).

    Like a previous poster said, don't quit your day job. It isn't worth losing your insurance because of boredom.

    • by cs02rm0 (654673)
      Though I've never messed with any of them, there are plenty of freelance, contractor type sites out there.

      I've used them. Even going in at 1/4 of my hourly 9-5 rate I won't get a single successful bid. I suspect there's a lot of unhappy customers from those sites and not many competent developers using them.
    • by hemp (36945)

      Be careful, if you are a girl coder sitting in a bar on Thursday nights chatting up business travelers about a part-time job, you just might get the wrong type of job offer.

  • Best of Luck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Saxerman (253676) * on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:39PM (#26302499) Homepage

    All the independent work I've ever done has been because someone knew someone who knew someone. It started with a helping a friend out with some trouble they were having at their work, which lead to helping out more friends of friends, and then other businesses who heard friends of friends talking.

    But trying to work a full time job and make time for my side work was sucking the life out of me. I don't like to leave work unfinished, which makes me a hell of a work horse, but only by pulling time away from every else. And once there was no time left to cut I just started sleeping less. So after only a few months I left my steady and well paying job to go solo for awhile.

    If I were more motivated, I might still be trying to fly solo, but I really didn't like all the extra work. Not the extra development work, which I loved. It was all the other work. As a corporate drone I spent a lot of my time in development. Working for myself, I also had to be the salesdroid, and the accountant, and the business manager, and health care consultant, and all the rest of the hats that needed wearing. I also could never really enjoy my 'time off' since I was never sure where or when my next paycheck might be coming.

    So after a few years I went back to a steady and well paying job. Which, right now, I'm pretty thankful to have. And these days I just actively work to fix some of those annoying bureaucratic problems. Which can certainly involve wearing a few of those extra hats I didn't like... but we all learn to pick and choose which battles are worth fighting. And I guess for me, it's in the corporate trenches.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:42PM (#26302553)

    I tried for years to pick up side jobs, but here's what I discovered.

    The people who are paying for the side projects, are looking for people to work for nothing. I currently make the equivalent of $70 an hour ($140k per year), I get to keep only 58% of that after taxes. Most of the people balk at paying $20 an hour, in their mind software developers already get paid an outrageous amount of money so making a few extra bucks must be a windfall, it's not. My time and sanity is worth far more than $11.60 an hour. And it's not even that clear cut, you can give these people an honest estimate and they act like you've padded the hours, then even if they accept it, they'll constantly change the requirements and pretend like that should just be part of the original agreement. When you stand firm as any one in their right mind should, they act like they were doing you a favor and pull out.

    The only real way to make the jump from corporate slavery is to start your own project, and hence your own business. Otherwise you are moving from one headache to another type of headache, and you'll find yourself yearning for the corporate environment you left. With a product in hand you can develop a "need" in the market place, and you'll find that once they "need" you they can and will pay the kind of money you are looking for.

    Before anyone speaks up, yes I know successful independent consultants. But guess what? I make more money then them even though they make a higher hourly wage, take for example a database admin friend of mine, he makes $85 an hour, but he has to pay his own health care, no 401(k) matching, no holiday's, no vacations, he also has a lot of paperwork to do and pays an accountant. With all of his overhead, and paying his own half of the employment tax, I'm ahead by $20k a year. Oh and I only work a max of 45 hours a week, he gets woken at 2am randomly any day of the week, and instead of racking in the overtime they ask him to leave early on the days he has to fix an emergency in the middle of the night. Some consultants might make the $125+ an hour that it takes to be worth it, but most do not.

  • by zorkmid (115464) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:46PM (#26302619)

    Make sure you don't have a "no moonlighting" clause. I used to work for a company that had one and vigorously enforced it. And I mean Security goon standing next to your desk with a box for your stuff and a quick frog march out the door style enforcement. It's a real bad time to be trashing a steady paycheck.

    • Make sure you don't have a "no moonlighting" clause. I used to work for a company that had one...

      So, what the your employer have against Moonlighting [wikipedia.org]? Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd were great in that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        They had problems with people watching the series during work hours. I mean really, who could resist? That argument almost worked, but it turns out the CEO got punched in the face by Bruce Willis when they were kids, so the ban on Moonlighting went through...

    • The guy is right. Losing $80K/year in order to earn $12/year is not smart at all...
  • by $criptah (467422) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:46PM (#26302631) Homepage

    I have not done this myself because some of my friends have. When I saw what they were going through I decided to avoid the idea altogether for several reasons.

    First of all, if your job is stable you may want to read the contract or the NDA that the company had you sign when you became employed. Many companies forbid you from working for profit or working at all. Wanna risk your well paid job? Be my guest.

    Another good reason for not accepting the second job is because it is not going to be a second job for you. In the eyes of your client, your second job is going to be his primary or the only job. This means the client will not expect less from you by any means. Calls at work during business hours, meeting during weekends and weekdays, etc. Are you ready for it? And if you for some reason manage your time well and actually get both of the jobs done then say good-bye to your free time.

    I have observed a friend of mine who made a good hourly rate at his part time job. No time to relax led to constant family troubles which are NOT worth anything in the long run. The extra money that he had made on the side essentially went to family therapy of the 21st century: Shopping sprees, vacations one can barely afford, etc. The net income was zero if you don't count the lost nerve cells. That's why I recommend you to look the other way and if you do need to save some money review your family budget.

    Finally somewhere in your post you mentioned that your current organization is not the best fit for you. Are you sure you want to get a part-time gig? It sounds like you are bored and you'd like a new job. Why not get a new position that pays more? I know that we are in a recession but if you're any good I am sure there will be a job opening. If anything, I'd consider doing some Open Source development work and that way you can put something on your resume later on. At least that way you will have to work on your schedule without having to answer to a pissed off client.

    • by infinite9 (319274)

      I have not done this myself because some of my friends have. When I saw what they were going through I decided to avoid the idea altogether for several reasons.

      First of all, if your job is stable you may want to read the contract or the NDA that the company had you sign when you became employed. Many companies forbid you from working for profit or working at all. Wanna risk your well paid job? Be my guest.

      If you have an employer with this attitude, find a new job. You're either providing a level of service that's adequate for the salary they're paying you, or you're not.

      Another good reason for not accepting the second job is because it is not going to be a second job for you. In the eyes of your client, your second job is going to be his primary or the only job. This means the client will not expect less from you by any means. Calls at work during business hours, meeting during weekends and weekdays, etc. Are you ready for it? And if you for some reason manage your time well and actually get both of the jobs done then say good-bye to your free time.

      This depends entirely on the expectations you set with the part-time client. If you can't take calls during the day, and they're not ok with that, then it's not really a workable deal, right? Many part time spots are simply paid development work that doesn't need much interaction with the client.

      And as for free time, if you want to work in

      • by $criptah (467422)

        I worked for several Fortune 50 companies and every NDA included at least one thing: The company was to be my sole for-profit employer. One of the companies put a restriction on non-profit, e.g. Open Source, work. Do I bitch about it? Absolutely not. First of all, most of the time I am way too busy to do anything outside my work. Secondly, the benefits and the salary justify the NDA. Living in the state of California helps since courts here have been quite libertarian when it comes to NDAs if I need to f

  • by Samschnooks (1415697) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:48PM (#26302647)
    Many employers do not want their people to moonlight. They may even fire you over it. And these days, with all these folks who are out of work doing exactly what you're thinking of doing, you will have plenty of competition - meaning, your rate will suck unless you have experience doing some very specialized work.

    This is NOT a very good time to take risks with your employment.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday January 02, 2009 @02:52PM (#26302699)

    However, I'm very unmotivated both because of the work that I do, which is boring, and because the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability. I've done what I could to try to change things at work and have pretty much given up on that.

    Well, that pretty much sums it up for the rest of us.

    Anything new here?

  • You are absolutely right to keep your day job for now, and kudos to you for getting motivated to make a change before you go postal.

    Two vital warnings: do not quit your day job until you have so much other work that you can't possibly do both. It will take a while to build up enough of a network to do that. And you should also have at least six months expenses in cash. There will be ups and downs, and you and your family must be financially and emotionally prepared to ride them out.

    As far as finding work, s

  • "However, I'm very unmotivated both because of the work that I do, which is boring, and because the organization I work for is highly political, disorganized, and lacks accountability."

    Big reasons I no longer do it.

    The other reason is maintenance. Most "software development" is dealing with crap laid down by others who moved on years prior. If not within the company, then mentally.

    Frankly, software development is severely overrated. Getting a CS degree and going off to do it is sort of like watching some ep

    • Sure web development is not the only kind of software development but it sure is the majority nowadays.

      Seriously? For real and true?

      NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

      Well that pretty much confirms my notion that I need to prepare another possible career for myself than in computing.

  • by plopez (54068) on Friday January 02, 2009 @03:22PM (#26303133) Journal

    Speaking from experience. Get another non-IT related job. Pet sitting. Working at Radio Shack. Washing dishes. You'll make more money and it may be a good way to blow off stress from IT/programming work. It will also have better defined work hours and working conditions. Once you punch that time clock, you're done for the day and can go home.

    Also, consider the fact that if your employer catches programming you they may fire you for competing with them or conflict of interest. If the boss finds you working at the local Radio Shack or book store, it looks a a bit better, you can say "I'm just paying off a few Xmas bills. Hey! Check out this signed first edition we just received!"

    • by plopez (54068)

      Damn tags didn't get through the last paragraph should read:

      Also, consider the fact that if your employer catches programming you they may fire you for competing with them or conflict of interest. If the boss finds you working at the local Radio Shack or book store, it looks a a bit better, you can say "I'm just paying off a few Xmas bills. Hey! Check out this signed first edition *insert bosses favorite author's name here* we just received!"

      But basically, there is no such thing as a part-time IT job either

  • I attend them occasionally to hear something interesting (not just for the free pizza). Headhunters swarm them all the time offering about three times as many jobs as there are attendees.
  • by tyroneking (258793) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:10PM (#26303603)

    .. of course I haven't got a family or an evil mortgage company to drain my income. What I did was save up enough cash to see me through three months of expenses (you might get redundancy!) and then I went freelance. Lots of time off, spend a lot of time with friends and relatives and going to music festivals, and really enjoy my work when I get it. Basically I've retired early.
    Sounds like you're as p****ed off with employers as I was - now I'm happy and free.
    With any luck your employers will be looking to lay some people off and offering severance.
    Your family? Well your wife can work and your kids can get paper rounds (if they're old enough). Why should you be the only one putting up will all the crap?
    Read 4 Hour Work Week and Covey's Seven Habits - not as life changing as the authors would have you believe but do let you into a few secrets.
    If you do this then I'll buy you a beer at Glastonbury this year ;)

  • Firstly, family commitment trumps personal contentment, so no matter how much you dislike your current position, you have an obligation to hang onto it until you have a clear cut opportunity.

    I've had poor experiences contracting for an agency. They charged 300% of my rate, which would be ok (I guess) if they provide commiserate value. But at that time I was finding my own work (the agency didn't know how to sell my services) and the only benefit I was getting from the agency was withholding and insuran

  • by Geisel (12180) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:44PM (#26304029) Homepage

    There are several things you can do to get started and there are plenty of places where you can make very good money working part-time. Here are some of the important points I've found working both as a contractor as well as an employer who hires contractors.

    #1 Learn the business as well as the development.
        You can be a great developer and not make money (see any of the previous "Contracting sucks" posts). Improve your networking skills and just start talking to people, be willing to fail occasionally in order to succeed.

    #2 Start with online sites.
        It sounds like you're not ready to make a move from your current job (see #3), so you may want to start with some online sites. I use ODesk [odesk.com] to look for potential contractors and have considered using it for jobs. There are plenty of sites out there which help facilitate matching developer skills with company needs.

    #3 Be willing to move when the time is right.
        Most of my clients came from full-time contracts or previous employers I had worked with. If you're good, you just need ways for people to see that and you'll never go hungry again :-)

    #4 Don't be afraid to raise your rate.
        This is actually a two-way street. If you set a low rate, I assume you suck. You are also not happy b/c after a while you realize 15 hours probably *is* worth more than $150 (before taxes). If you don't know what others are charging, do some research and ask questions. Don't be a jerk, but don't be afraid of the social faux pas of asking money questions. Ask employers what they pay an average Java developer with your experience. Generally, I charge an 80% to 100% premium over a salary for hourly work (i.e., 100,000 / yr = $48/hr. $100,000 salary would instead charge an $86 - $96 hourly rate). YMMV

    And finally, try to spend less time reading our posts (loosely known as "advice") and more time building your clientele! ;-)

    -geis

    P.S. This advice is not for developers who suck. If you suck, unsuck (read, learn, do, repeat) first.

  • Start Small (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Friday January 02, 2009 @04:52PM (#26304099)
    There have been a lot of good comments; but if I can offer some unsolicited (well; maybe it is solicited) is to start slow, taking on 1-2 clients in the beginning to gauge how the extra work is going to affect your family and other parts of your life. I'm a PT Adjunct Instructor for a technical school here, totally psyched to do 25hr/wk for 20-30 grand more a year, but quickly found that it took so much of my time, that it really isn't worth it to me. I had very little time with my wife, very little time to exercsise (not to mention another 25 hrs with very little physical activity), very little time to pursue other hobbies. The bad news is anything with consistency is going to be just that, consistent. Good for the bank roll, bad when you want some time off from your day job and the second gig just can't accomodate that schedule.

    I don't know if it is what you are looking for, but I have found some success doing small informal websites for local businesses; mostly from refferals for a reasonable price. (Usually $300-$500 for a 5 page site + $100/year hosting) The nice part is that it is fairly simple work, and opens the door for higher-wage projects if they decide to do anything more advanced such as CRM or online sales from the site. The other advantage is that the customers are local; so if they screw you, you aren't trying to get money from a voice over the phone you've never met states away, and can often settle a dispute in the local small claims court.

    The great part is its usually 1 sit down session where you give the speil, usually during my lunch hour, maybe a second to get all the facutal/content information you need and the rest of the time I send design proposals on a "beta" site for them to approve/disapprove. I get to control how much time I put into it by taking on as many clients as I want (and am willing to service), and for the remainder of the time, I just let the site chug along. It has been really nice where teaching was 25hr/wk or nothing, and was very inflexible, and made it almost impossible to take vacation.

    All that being said, don't box yourself into a corner where the second job will be a black mark on your work performance if you decide the second gig is just too much and are tempted to quit at a bad place in the project or when they won't give you vacation times that line up with your 9-5 (or give you less time than your 9-5). Be wary of burnout, and I'd say start small on a contract basis for a short term contract and see if you are willing (and even able) to keep your life in check. For me, 25 was way too much to still enjoy living.
  • Work for yourself (Score:5, Interesting)

    by br00tus (528477) on Friday January 02, 2009 @05:33PM (#26304591)

    I want to go out on my own, ...starting my own company ... doing Java development, but I'm not sure of the best way to get started, and my family needs the stability of my current job. I'd really like to start out part-time at 5-15 hours a week to use it as supplemental income (which my family could really use at the moment), but I really don't know where to start.

    You say this yet most of the people focus on the part-time moonlighting consulting part. I agree with them that moonlighting can affect your present position negatively, kill your free time and make your family time and social life lessened and more stressful, and will likely not really give you much of an income supplement. On the other hand, it is a way to make contacts and improve your technical skills, so it's all what you want.

    When the dot-com boom was happening, I had a server stored at a colo facility for free. In 1998-1999 I saw so many idiots getting $10-20 million VC I started a dot com site which nowadays would be called a "Web 2.0" site. I started to get a lot of traffic, and in early 2000 I was even scoping out disk arrays for the site (it used a lot of disk space). But then in spring of 2000 the dot com market crashed, and I gave up the idea - a few months later I stopped taking new users, and I closed the site up in late 2001. I am not a programmer yet I did all the programming on the site, so that's the main thing I gained from the experience.

    Nowadays I have a side business as well. Unlike the earlier one, you see a lot more cash upfront. I sell things online. Not the sexiest thing in the world, but it makes money. I haven't tallied up revenues for last year but I know I ordered over $10k of stuff from one of my suppliers. One reason I don't have more revenue is I do not want more revenue at this point. An important point which I will go into. But anyhow, on the technical end I have an osCommerce (PHP) web site which I modify when I need or want to. Right now I sell everything off of it. I was selling off of FeeBay as well, but they raised their rates too high for me. My web site is registered on Google Base/Shopping and right now I am getting 99% of my hits from that, which is free. Via it, (looking now at my osCommerce screen I see) I have had 25 separate orders from December 10th to today, with an average price of about $50 (price and shipping). I used Google Ads previously, and still like them, but I am not trying to grow revenue currently. I also wrote a suite of screen scraper stuff in PERL so as to get me advantageous information. They are helpful, but they can be a pain to maintain by myself.

    Anyhow - at the beginning of this year, I called my main supplier and asked for a good price on the item we sell the most of. He gave me a price and I ordered 70 of it, and 6 each of five similar items (100 in all). I called back a month later and said I was selling more of the five similar items and could I have a break on those prices as well. I got a break on all six. I promised I would order at least 100 every quarter (he had wanted me to commit to 100 every month but I said I couldn't do that). He also said if the manufacturer started charging more they'd raise the price. I was selling about $1500 a month on eBay, plus more from Google Ads and Shopping/Base on the web site. I was often shipping out 2 to 3 items a day. Between work, night school, and everything else, this shipping got to be a pain. Also I was only making one or two dollars on each shipment, and margins got tighter as time went on. In the summer, the supplier raised their prices on everything including this stuff. I used that as a point to stop ordering at the 100-a-quarter pace, as I didn't want to keep going at that rate, and it was a good excuse to end the deal we had. I learned that shipping is time-consuming and something I didn't want to spend time on. I was considering hiring a part-time person to do shipping for maybe an hour or two 5 times a

  • Small businesses are a pain in the ass even if you are your own boss. There are plenty of things to do and worry about and since you will likely be looking to more than 5-15 hours a week I would recommend taking that extra 5 hours and spending it with your kids. Infact, don't kid yourself, most clients expect a great deal of work for as little as possible. What happens when a client needs to contact you during 'normal' working hours? Your current employer won't be happy when they figure out what you are doi

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