All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

The Myth of Stability

When I joined a year last September, I found that as well as being the web developer I always was, I was also now a businessman. I was very much looking forward to picking up my black bowler hat, umbrella and briefcase but that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I have to pass two years first.

Being involved in running a business is a great thing. I think if I’ve learned one thing about being an employee all these years it’s that no job is essentially stable. There are all sorts of myths surrounding financial stability. For a long time I stayed away from contracting, thinking that a full time job was more stable. Although I enjoyed working for small companies, I always believed that the risk of my job going away was higher. In practise, in the web industry, these turned out not to be true.

If you’re a good contractor, you’ll quickly build demand for your services. Should a contract suddenly end, you’re all set up and ready to quickly move onto something else. Whilst small companies do fail, big companies fail too. Just look at what’s been happening with Yahoo (my old employer) recently.

In a world where no job offers stability, all we have is instability. Our number one weapon for fighting instability is knowledge of your financial situation – and that’s something you don’t get when you’re an employee. In a small business, the first thing you know about the company going down is that you don’t get paid at the end of the month.

With a big company, an accountant runs down a list and decides that the required savings could be made by making 30% redundancies, and that may or may not include your position, regardless of the quality of your work or your longstanding within a company. Either way, there’s no way to see it coming. It’s a binary process – one day everything’s fine, the next it’s all gone tits up.

If you run your own business the stability (or rather, instability) of the company may be better or it may even be worse, but at least you know what’s ahead. You can do the projections and know what work is on the horizon and how much is stored up in the bank. If the money’s not coming in you get the chance to make adjustments for that before it’s a real problem. No alarms and no surprises. That’s about as close to stability as you can get.

Photo by Flickr user What What