Owning and running your own business is a daunting option for many people. But somewhere in between the lofty aspirations of small enterprise with high risk and the safety and stability of salaried employment lies a grey area of contracted services.
As a regular contractor with a steady income, Dave Bartlett, owner of DaveBartlett.net, has found a comfort zone that suits him well. He now contracts out his programming services four out five days a week then takes care of the business generated by his own company for the rest of the week.
Dave has been self employed for nine years out of the last 13. The other four were stints of paid employment filling in gaps. Bartlett says that being self employed is a great way to be but having a salary is a nice regular and safe income. “It’s a trade off. I’m happier to be in one camp and sometime the other so I’ve enjoyed that freedom of being able to switch back and forth when it suits me.
“How do you enable yourself to switch back and forth?” Bartlett asks rhetorically. “I think it’s kind of a third way, which is contracting, which is what I’m doing at the moment. It’s like a foot in each camp. It’s some guarantee of my income for a period of time anyway but there’s still the ability to negotiate four days a week instead of five and it keeps the projects going on the side. You are in more in control of your own destiny and your career because if it takes a direction you don’t like you don’t have to take on the next project unlike if you’re a full time staff member you have to kind of take on any work that comes your way.”
Bartlett started off with a degree in engineering but after discovering an affinity with programming moved into developing software for manufacturers. He now specialises in web-based applications with .NET programming and Microsoft technologies playing a major part.
Bartlett started out working with CCTV access control systems and some industrial control work with air conditioning systems. “That was project engineering systems where I’d be involved in
commissioning systems, designing systems and procurement, that sort of thing. It was a bit of switch to get into programming but not that much because of my technical background at university mean that it was quite easy to pick programming.”
The 38-year old Bartlett made the move to live in Waipu more than nine years ago. Since then he has worked in Auckland a few times, but these days his main contract is with North Power, based in Whangarei. Whangarei is within commutable distance from the small town where he has a lifestyle block populated with animals of all kinds.
He says he’s not really looking for new customers at the moment but rather concentrating on keeping the ones he has got happy. “I'm finding that one day a week is just enough to keep them happy. I also use a couple of other contractors to help me out of I don’t want to say no to a particular job, outsourcing the development of them and retaining control of the customer and the interface for that customer.”
Bartlett says the work involved with sub contracting out to other people can have its drawbacks.
“There’s a diminishing returns kind of thing when you start sub contracting the work to other people. I really only do it if I’m overloaded and I simply couldn’t take on the work.”
Bartlett says his website keeps bringing in business. “Initially I used Google Ad Words, that’s to get that priority listing which comes up on the right hand side of the Google search page, so you’re basically paying for your position over there. That was actually quite good return on investment. Paying fifty bucks a month was a really good way to get some new leads.”
In the future Bartlett says he’d like to get to a place that involves neither self employment or contracting. “I think I would like to get back to more of a self employed status and to get to a position where I’m not charging for every hour that I work in order to make a living. In other words to have some sort of product or on-line service that produces revenue indirectly rather than charging for my time.”
Bartlett says he has a number of ideas that he is nurturing and he’s hoping that one day he will actually pick one to spend some time on to see what comes of it.