Archive for September, 2008

Working as a Contractor

Friday, September 12th, 2008

I was recently having a discussion with another developer about the pros and cons of working at home as a contractor versus working in an office with other team members. Here’s what I came up with…

First the Cons

Contracting does work for me but there are also problems with it. I love the flexibility of being at home and not stuck in an office, but here are some issues that I’ve found with it:

- Motivation/distractions: It’s easy to not do a 7-8 hour day at home when you have a family making various demands and you have home chores etc. Plus it’s easy to get distracted by the Internet and other stuff like when it’s sunny I want to go outside! I’ve got much stricter about when I do my home chores (evenings and Weekends only) so that I get more done in the day now. I also only allow myself a certain amount of time for lunch/breaks and I try to start close to 9am so that it’s as much like being in an office as possible.

- Designing: It’s much easier to do design work in a team face to face or at least where you can phone them in the same time zone. Writing emails takes ages and things get lost in translation. Also, because I work with a US team and I’m based in England, all their emails come through after 6pm which is when I want to stop work; but I often don’t stop in order to reply and then I don’t see my kids or eat dinner on time. Another thing is that, even with a good design doc, MANY questions on design will crop up along the way which need to be discussed and I have to keep sending emails and waiting for a reply instead of just asking someone face to face for a quick second opinion. I’m learning to make more decisions on my own though. However, the problem with being more autonomous is that you can spend hours making it work one way and then the producer sees it and says they don’t like it and you wished you had discussed it with them first (although luckily this is actually very rare for me). Also, sometimes just discussing a design issue with someone generates a better joint solution than you could have come up with on your own.

- Art feedback. I constantly have to give feedback on art such as concepts/ideas, anim strips that need to be different, outline anomalies and tiny details, colours, fonts etc. The list is endless. It’s very time consuming to send emails back and forth about these minor details. It would be much better if the artist worked on-site and I could point at their screen and say “change this”. I know this is not always the case though as the current artist I’m working with is based in the US but NOT in the BFG office.

- You never see anyone: In an office you would get to see other people and share ideas but at home it’s just you. I guess that these other people could distract you too though. However, at home the phone often rings with calls for Helen or me that could have been made in the evening if I was working in an office, so they are distracting too.

Now the Pros

- I can listen to loud music when Helen is not working and this is cool. In an office I’d have to wear headphones all day (if that’s even allowed).
- I can take mini Internet breaks and reply to emails which may not be allowed in an office (although this IS distracting).
- I can get up and dance around to loosen up stiff joints, this may look weird in an office.
- I can lie on my sofa (or sun lounger outside during the meagre British summer) and generate ideas, but I know that BFG has a thinking room with beanbags in so that should be OK.
- I can see my kids at different times in the day and also Helen.
- I can pop out to lunch with Helen (she would probably be able to meet up with me if I worked in an office nearby).
- I can eat my own healthy food at home whereas in an office I’d need to prepack it all or eat less healthily (and spend too much money) in the town/city centre.
- I can do urgent home/financial chores at home whereas I would have to wait until the evening or lunch break in an office.
- There’s probably lots more but that’ll do for now.

If I was hiring someone…

So that’s my experience of working at home (I worked in an office for 9 years and in a shop before that, so I know what that’s like too). So if I worked in an office and was given a choice between hiring someone in the office or on a contract-basis, I’d always try to get them in the office because working like that is a LOT more productive. But working in an office can be perceived as having some downsides if that person is used to an “Indie” lifestyle. However, if an “Indie” is very good at what they do, but they won’t work in an office, then I guess the only choice is contract work.