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what would you do in this situation

i have 2 contracts right now with different places. one organization is paying me $5800 per month to be a "jack of all trades." the other organization is paying me $2000 per week to work on a concentrated project. the first contract stresses me out because it is very RANDOM. there are huge periods of downtime, and then all of the sudden i have to produce miracle results in 3-4 days.

the weekly contract is much more straightforward, I just work on one or two things, there is a regular schedule. this contract is also with a development-oriented firm, whereas the monthy contract, I am mostly working with non-developers working on very "IT cost center" style projects.

neither contract is highly interesting or "fun", but I'm mostly just doing it for the money at this point.

This week I have to decide if i want to renew the monthly contract for another year. I am considering telling them that I am interested in working on a per-project basis for an hourly rate, but I don't want to be "on call" for emergency demos at random intervals. The weekly contract place is willing to bump up my weekly rate to $2500 if I drop the first contract all together. So even if I lose the first contract, over a year, it will be a loss of $24,000 and a LOT LESS STRESS.

However, since I am just doing both for the money, I am wondering if I should just try to keep both contracts the way they are, and try to stay sane by working out more and eating better.  What would you do?

Keep both the way they are, stay stressed, but ensure that I make an extra $24K per year.

or tell the first that I will work on a per project basis, with the risk of losing the contract completely?

My ultimate goal is to quit BOTH contracts by the end of next year, and take 6months to a year off to visit my family members scattered across the globe.

contractor
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

"My ultimate goal is to quit BOTH contracts by the end of next year, and take 6months to a year off to visit my family members scattered across the globe. "

Kinda sounds like you already have it figured out.

Canuck
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

i am sort of leaning towards keeping both contracts the way they are, but I am very worried about becoming totally stressed out. I've gained about 25 pounds the last year due to stress that i attribute to work. i don't deal with the winter months well, and am worried about totally freaking out come december.

i also think that the monthly people will be amenable to me working as an hourly contractor, which I would prefer, because then I can tell them I am too busy if they ask for something with a crazy deadline. the way my contract is structured now, I feel like I just have to go along with what they want to do, and I can't say "no."

contractor
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I'd give up the $24K and live a little

apw
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Is it possible to subcontract out the first one? I'll take it :)

Contractor too
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

<I've gained about 25 pounds the last year due to stress that i attribute to work. >

That's crap.  I don't buy it for one second.  Let me show you why:

168 Hours in a week - 7 hours of exercise per week - 80 hours of work - 64 hours of sleep = 17 hours to do what you want.

So, even if you work like bastard, you can still exercise 1 hour a day, get a full 8 hours of sleep and still have 2 full days with nothing to do but twiddle your thumbs, have sex with your wife or play with your kids.

I don't mean to come down hard on you, but if you gained 25 lbs, it wasn't due to stress.  You have a fundamental lack of priorities.

Canuck
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

You don't need the money.  Even if you think you do.  ;>  More importantly, you can't get that year of your life back (or, for that matter, lose that weight easily) later.

I'd drop the annual contract.  Offering hourly services could be a way to train them to be more reasonable (wait, stop laughing!), or it could just as easily lose you any further work from them after the first time you turn them down.  Which is fine -- some clients you just don't need, no matter how much they pay.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

canuck you are right, i have changed my lifestyle in the past month so that I get up around 5:30 and go to the gym for a couple of hours. I've lost 5 of the 25 pounds. That wasn't my question, but thanks for your input.

contractor
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

--
I don't mean to come down hard on you, but if you gained 25 lbs, it wasn't due to stress.  You have a fundamental lack of priorities.
--

Stress from one area of your life can make it hard to concentrate on other areas.

NathanJ
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

That's great,  keep it up! 

I interpreted your question a little differently.  What I believe you are really asking, is how do I manage the stress of contract #1.  Your proposed solution was to drop the contract although, causing an obvious financial loss.

Perhaps, you should be asking why is it so stressful?  Is it possible to adjust your client's priorities, by indicating that their deadlines are unacceptable?  As I alluded to earlier, a healthier lifestyle might help as well.

Is there a chance you can have your cake and eat it too?

Canuck
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Weren't you just griping at him about having eaten the cake already?

Now you're saying he should have some more cake?

Wait...I'm confused.

Steve Barbour
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

keep the fix work, so you will have the money to pay the hospital after you have a heart attach because of stress and fat.

na
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I wouldn't drop a contract unless you tried negotiating.  The first gig sounds like its not as good, except for the occasional free time, but you might as well tell them you have another contract and your rate is going up a lot if they want to keep you, and that you'll need more notice before you start a project.

Vince
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

It's simple: take BOTH contracts.

Then, work on one yourself.

For the other contract, find a developer in India, China or Romania who can do the development part.

This way, you will be a lot richer.

This is what I do.

DevX
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

DevX,

You are evil.

dr. feelbad.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

This is a classic dilemma often faced by contractors, and where the standard way of handling it is deliberately kept from them.

The standard way of handling it is to CHARGE MORE for the contract you don't like, until it gets to the point where the stress is worthwhile.

As an immediate, practical point, you should charge an additional hourly call-out fee on top of the monthly retainer. Perhaps you could offer to reduce the monthly retainer for this.

abc
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Also, I disagree with Canuck's condemnation of your explanation for your weight gain, and indeed don't udnerstand it. You're you, and you've told us you find the roles stressful, and responsible for weight gain.

It seems to me you're a better judge of the cause than Canuck. What's more, it is a pretty common response to overwork.

Canuck's pretty figures overlook the fact that we don't have 168 hours per week. For a given day, after essential activities like sleep, work, getting ready, eating and other tasks are done, there is in fact only a tiny discretionary amount of time left over. If that discretionary time is swallowed by work overload, then other areas of our lives suffer.

abc
Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I agree withet abc. Charge more for the contract that's stressing you out. If you don't feel that money will make it more worthwhile, kill it and take only the second contract.

You must at all times make sure that you have a fair amount of enjoyment and happiness in your life. No job is worth sacrificing that for. Telling unreasonable companies to get lost has turned out to be a common occurance in my life. This is an opportunity for you to overhaul your working conditions with the first company, so tell them exactly how you want to work. If they give you a hard time about it, tell them to get lost.

Qerim Shahini
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Another thing about Canuck's figures is that it takes more than 1 hour to get 1 hour's exercise.

Even getting to the gym that is a stone's throw away from the office costs a surprising 10-15 minutes in walking. Then allow 15 minutes to change (may not always take that long, but I have to allow it).

Then after the hour, there's showering and changing back to contend with.

It can be more efficient if you exercise as soon as you get up, but in my case that means not going to the gym, which means my workout is not going to be as good.

That said, I strongly urge you to find these 2 hours each day; they may save you 2 or more hours during the rest of the day by increasing your energy.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Oops, sorry - rereading, I see that you are exercising. Kudos to you!

My main point, though, was that an accurate cost-benefit analysis has to take account of the costs *around* any given activity as well as the cost of the activity itself.

When you say you're doing it for the money, that would suggest that you should tough it out, knowing that it's going to be for a limited time with a big payoff at the end.

But when you say you're afraid you'll crack up, that suggests to me that you should ditch the stress and take steps to improve your life *now*, not in a few months.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Life's short, don't waste it on money.

H. Lally Singh
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

"DevX, You are evil." - dr. feelbad.

Am I??

The guys in the outsourcing countries are already eating our lunch. Perhaps in 5 or 10 years, most US programmers will be out of jobs.

I have to protect myself, in case that happens, and one way to do this, is to make as much money as I can now. Plus, I may be able to retire early.

My manager says "the trend is my friend". By that, he means that whatever trend there is in the economy, he adjusts his strategy so he benefits.

I often wondered why programmers are overworked, underpaid, etc, while managers are underworked, relax a lot, and are overpaid.

It's simple ... we developers are smart in some subjects: programming, logic, mathematics, etc.

Managers are smart in other subjects: life and business.

One can be smart as a genius in one subject, and very dumb in another subject. Or, one can be smart in both subjects.

Now, if you had to choose between smarts in programming/maths/logic, and smarts in life and business, which would you choose?

I would choose the latter, because this is the skill that usually makes one happy.

So, doing this is a my way of being smart in business and life.

Why should I let a manager outsource the software development, when I can outsource the development myself?

What usually happens at my jobs? I'm overworked and stressed, and the manager is relaxed and he takes it easy, and enjoys life.

And why is this? Because I am the workhorse and the manager is the one riding the horses, that's why.

This is NOT ok with me.

In time, I want to become the one riding the horses, too, and I already made the first steps towards that.

I hope that soon I shall have my own company and that in 5 to 10 years, I shall retire.

DevX
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

DevX, how did you find this outsourced place, and what are their fees? Is it really possible for me to say, pay some guy in pakistan $500 a month to do my $5800/m work?

contractor
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Dev X.

Please fill us in on some of the details....

Joe A.
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

> Now, if you had to choose between smarts in
> programming/maths/logic, and smarts in life and business,
> which would you choose?

That's circular reasoning: you're defining "smarts in life" as what makes you happiest.  Of course I'd choose that.

But programming, math, and logic are things I enjoy doing, and enjoy doing well.  So I'll choose that.

Michael Eisenberg
Wednesday, October 01, 2003

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