Web developers: employment versus self employment

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Many of today’s web developers find themselves facing the same dilemma, whether to gain employment within a company or to go it alone and work self employed and on contract work. This is a decision that most new graduates have to make, but also one many existing web developers face when they assess their career goals and  future options.

Having strong web development skills makes you a valuable employee in today’s market, and with the right attitude and enthusiasm you can find yourself with several options for good employment. Equally, with the correct approach and work ethic a good web developer will have a multitude of options for working self employed, with a number of popular freelance and industry networking sites on offer.

The decision of whether to seek employment or set yourself up as self employed is ultimately an individual decision based on who you are, how you work best, and your career and financial goals. You can start by weighing up the pros and cons of both and then making a self assessment.

Here are some of the key things you need to consider:

Money and potential earnings

As an employed web developer you are guaranteed a set wage which is part of your contract. If you perform well you may be able to gain promotion or a rise in you wages. However, promotion and/or wage increases are not always guaranteed, and any wage increases and bonuses may be dependent on the performance of the company rather than your individual success.

As a self employed web developer you essentially have no cap on your potential earnings, with self employed web developers typically earning more than employed web developers of the same standard. You will have greater control over your earnings and can work longer or fewer hours to suit, however, it can take some time to establish yourself and get those bigger contracts and larger paychecks.

As an employed web developer you get a ‘hidden paycheck’ in the form of subsidized health benefits, life and disability insurance, and retirement benefits. As a self employed web developer you will typically have to arrange all your own insurance and retirement policies, which can be expensive.

As a self employed web developer you will receive much better tax benefits than an employed web developer and be reimbursed many expenses and outgoings. However, as a self employed web developer you will also need to take full responsibility for your taxes and accounts, either by spending the hours to do your own accounts or paying for the services of an accountant.

As an employed web developer you will likely have no costs other than getting to and from your place of employment and the clothes necessary to conform to your company’s dress code. As a self employed web developer you are likely to have high start up costs as you set up your office space and get all the computer, software, and design equipment you need to get going, as well as having to repair and replace such things as they age and falter.

Success and recognition

As an employed web developer you essentially share your success with your team. While you may get individual praise and recognition you will ultimately experience the success (or failure) of the company. As a self employed web developer you are solely responsible for your own success as well as taking responsibility for any failure.

As an employed web developer you will usually have the opportunity to climb the career ladder and gain more responsibilities and a salary increases, but while working for a single employer you can also hit the ‘glass ceiling’, with the size success of your company limiting your personal success and growth. As a self employed web developer you have to constantly market and promote yourself and be at the mercy of company budgets and end of year planning.

As an employed web developer you will have colleagues and a team to support you, point out your errors, and help brainstorm ideas and problems. As a self employed web developer you are on your own.

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Personal and social life

As an employed web developer you will have far less control over your working hours and holidays, most likely having rigid hours and limited holiday dates. As a self employed web developer you are totally in control of your working hours and holiday dates, however, you have a responsibility to meet deadlines and you’ll only get paid for the work you do.

As an employed web developer you have to contend with office politics, and may have conflicting opinions and opposing views to some colleagues, and find yourself relying on others to get to complete tasks and projects. As a self employed web developer you are your own boss, though you may face issues of solitude or loneliness.

As an employed web developer you will receive motivation from your management or team leaders, with company results to judge your success. As a self employed web developer you must be able to self motivate and have techniques to get work done to the expected standard even when things aren’t going to plan.

Choosing your path

shutterstock_143785576-WEBStarting out self employed gives you valuable experience and skills which you can take into an employed role, while starting out employed will also give you enough experience, confidence, and connections which can help kick start a career of self employment.

What it ultimately comes down to is motivation and collaboration.

Some people enjoy close collaboration and feed off the buzz and brainstorming of being part of a team. They enjoy the stability of working for an employer and need the social side of being employed.

Some simply have an entrepreneurial spirit and thrive on the challenge and responsibility self employment brings. They enjoy an amount of creative and personal freedom that cannot be easily found when employed, and prefer to be their own person and choose the web projects they want to work on.

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