Long before I ever met R, he had established a certain “green-collar” type company as his dream job.  Said dream job just so happened to be based in my hometown.  Where we now live.

A spectacular combination of experience, industry connections, a good friend, and pure, dumb luck somehow led to an offer with this organization.  The only catch would be his status as an employee.  R is not officially employed at his dream job, but instead works a contract that offers between 30 and 40 hours per week, at a very decent hourly wage.  Because he is employed as a contractor, there are no benefits included with his position, and we are responsible for “withholding” our own tax money.

There are pros and cons associated with this form of self-employment.  From R’s perspective?  Mostly pros.  From mine?  Hard to say.

You see, I don’t think R has worked a single 40-hour week since our move.  He goes in late and comes home early.  He’s usually barely out of bed as I’m leaving in the morning, and is always home before me.  I originally attributed this behavior to a sudden laziness, which I had never known was within him. 

Our finances began to suffer, because we were budgeted for him to work a specified number of hours per year, and he wasn’t doing that.  So many areas of our budget faced a serious shortfall.  I finally brought this up in a discussion one evening.  I laid down my concerns about our budget, as well as my concern that his vague hours could make him appear flaky to his colleagues, thus diminishing the chances of ever having the opportunity to be a permanent employee with the company. 

He calmly explained to me that, as a contractor, he costs the company a certain amount of money each hour he is there.  There are times when he faces a shortage of work to do, because he is waiting for a part of the project from someone else before he can proceed with his.  Other times, he needs a certain type of software to complete a project, for which there are only a small number of floating licenses.  His point was that every hour that he is costing the company money, he also wants to be either making or saving the company money.  If he is there just to be there and earn money, he’s going to appear as a poor investment.

We had to rearrange our budget, and I had to rearrange my expectations. 

The other big issue with the contractor status (other than my envy) is the payment schedule.   As a contractor, R is paid in net 30 terms.  This means at the end of a full month, he submits an invoice for all of the hours he worked throughout the month.  The company then has 30 days to pay him.  Which all boils down to mean we receive his paychecks a full two months after the work has been done.  Add to this a bit of, oh, let’s say absentmindedness from the person in charge of his contract, and we usually don’t receive his check until the second or third week of the month.

I had a very hard time with this at first, and finally, remembered what it was like to live paycheck to paycheck.  I make a decent wage, but the first several months we lived here, there was no money coming from R’s job.  At all.  I was supporting both of us on my income.  And I have to say, it was harder than I thought it would be, for several reasons. 

For one, we had all but thrown out our budget, and certainly weren’t tracking our spending.  Our money was divided between various accounts, some still in the NW, where we used to live, and some opened up in our new home.  I felt like I had little to no control over our finances.  Another reason was that, for the first time in my life, I felt as though I no longer had my own money.  Any money I made went to our expenses.  I felt stifled, like I no longer had the freedom to do with my money what I wished.  There was also an extraordinary amount of pressure that I’d never felt before. 

I felt such relief on the day that R received his first paycheck.  And even though it was a rough wait for it, the two month delay also means that if or when the contract is not renewed, we will still receive two full months of income from his work.

Ultimately, the self-employment has been a wonderful opportunity for R.  His flexible schedule has provided him with the ability to take a few days off to visit his family, or to spend time with them when they visit him.  The experience with this organization will look fantastic on his resume, and is a huge milestone on his career path.  It also provides him with the freedom nto explore and enjoy our new home.

Now if only I could find a way to curb my envy…