Where to start? Given that my last post on this was Day #66 on August 4, 2014, there is some catching up necessary to understand why I’m so grateful for the layoff. Back then I was diligently networking, applying for jobs and catching interviews for my next corporate position. I was confident I could manifest a new career. Unfortunately, the reality was we quickly headed into fall, and the holidays when budgets and hiring plans tend to freeze up with the weather. I was left out in the cold, and unemployment benefits in my state do not last long.
While I waited for 2015 budgets to open, a strange thing started happening. Based on my reputation and network I started picking up side work in December 2014 for companies with overflow. It was far from full time work, but it was work! It filled time that I previously dedicated to networking and job searching, but it actually paid me. I was contributing to the household financially again. And, within 2 months an opportunity opened up to step in when someone went out on maternity leave.
Dec 2014 – $4,650
Jan 2015 – $10,300
Feb 2015 – $16,000 woohoo!
That was very good money for someone still unemployed….until the person returned from leave. By this point though, I was actually enjoying the gig economy. Why work for some big corporation when they can drop you at any minute? I had a taste for the freedom now. However, the downside of being a gig worker is it sometimes dries up and my hours dropped off in March and April though.
March 2015 – $10,000
April – $6,500
Still, combined with my wife’s income we were well above our typical monthly spend (~$5k) at that time. It was sustainable, and we were saving some money.
May was the month that everything changed. I knew the current clients were not enough so I was actively hustling for more. And, the one client that changed everything came from a surprising source. A representative from my former employer (don’t burn bridges!) reached out, and mentioned that a local multi-national needed some help in an area where I could probably be valuable. Since the client was huge and would never contract with a self-employed human without $10M in liablility insurance, I would have to sub-contract through my former employer to do the work. Grrr.
What does that mean? It means they basically get paid to sit around and watch me work then handle invoicing. For that reason it sucks. For every other reason, it’s great. I gave them an hourly rate that I knew was basically the maximum that anyone in my position should charge. They added $25/hr on top of that, and the multi-national for some reason agreed to that rate. The gig was supposed to be 10 hours per week and last until I got that piece of the business organized and compliant. I figured they would see in the first month that it made no sense to pay a consultant this much to do what I was doing.
Competency Breeds Contentment
Instead, they seemed to notice the work was beneath my experience level and since they had more projects than they could handle, they started handing off pieces of their work to me. This vastly improved their quality of life….and my bank account. It was close to full-time work, and it was paying me almost double what I was making previously. I was essentially self-employed with no 401k, no health insurance, no disability insurance, no paid vacation but also no overhead. I was a flexible contractor that could step in and cover work when it was needed and then scale back hours when it wasn’t as busy. They loved it. I loved it.
But, I knew it couldn’t last. As soon as they were doing the 2016 budget I just knew they would see my line item and kick me to the curb. Hell, I could see it because I helped set up the budget. That never happened though. It turns out that a few years before I came, this company had to go through a series of layoffs, and it decimated morale. Now they were gun shy on over-hiring so there was always too much to do, and contractors were the essential, disposable workforce that removed the risk of layoffs from the actual employees.
That was 2016. Today is August 31, 2020 I’m still there (and I’m in the 2021 budget). I have definitely moved around across multiple products. I’ve also onboarded at least 4 people to replace me (so they could be done with me), but the work has always been there. I do not just try to create work for myself which is likely another reason I’ve been kept around. I’ve been upfront the whole time. I’m only here as long as you guys want me here, and when you don’t, I will happily exit. No hard feelings. The truth is I’ve been there so long that my historical knowledge almost makes me indispensible.
While others politic and fight for the next raise or promotion, I am quietly content doing work I love at a very high level (and making bank). It’s led to a great work/life balance and I am so grateful for the layoff. I’ve learned so much about myself along the way!