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Ask HN: What to do if you hate working for someone else and arent an entrepreneur?
180 points by amiuba on Dec 9, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 203 comments
Looking at the last five years of my career, I have come to realize I might hate working for someone else.

I resent spending 48 weeks a year in an office and stressing over issues that will only make the company's owners richer but won't change much for me. I say don't change much because a 2-3% raise once in a while is nice, but it's nothing in comparison to the thousands/millions extra it will make the company, while the only result for me is that I get to keep my job and do more of that.

I also have a very hard time feeling any personal pride or accomplishment for helping the company's bottom line. It's not my company, and I really don't feel anything whether they sell more or made a couple millions extra this year because employees worked (unpaid) overtime. My boss getting a new Tesla or yet another house from the extra profits doesn't make me happy.

This thinking is hurting me though because it makes every job I ever had barely tolerable, slowly creeping towards miserable after enough time. I am aware of it but I can't overcome it. I've tried working at startups, and 150-300 people mid-sized companies.

On the other hand, I don't think I'm the entrepreneur type either. I don't have any idea that I'd like to pursue and start building a company around, going through that grind is not something that appeals to me.

Has anyone ever felt this way? What did you do about it and how do you cope with it?

I'm late to this thread, but I hope you read this:

If you go freelance, watch the fuck out.

This post reads like you're depressed with the direction of your life, and are bucketing the causes into your workplace because it's intellectually easy to do.

I don't mean that to be disparaging - I say it with authority because I do it too, and your post reads exactly like the monologue that runs through my head every day.

I was a freelancer for many years. It's 85% pipeline management - networking, lining up your next gigs months in advance, and tending to relationships with existing customers to turn them into repeat customers. The actual "do the work" part is trivially simple in comparison.

The personality types that write posts like these tend to do poorly with the high-extroversion high-orderliness traits that make or break a successful freelancing career.

Be extremely fearful of the scenario where you quit your job with spite in ambition's clothing, and find yourself struggling to make money because you thought that making money freelancing was about output, not network.

My advice? Talk to somebody professional and really do an insanely deep autopsy on why you hate working the way you do. I think there are hard answers to be unearthed.

Now if only I could take the advice I'm writing to myself as much as I am to you...

There’s a thing between being entrepeneurship and working for a company: freelancing. It’s for those that feel no attachment to a company, but do have a very developed skill set or trade.

In our free market economy, there will always be a system where someone hires you to create value, which costs less than it makes them, in the end. If you want a bigger slice of that pie, you need to make it a viable business case. Hiring a top freelancer to create value, without the hassle for the employer, is worth a markup. Being scarce helps too.

To me, it sounds like your main issue is that you feel you don’t get enough of that added value you bring. If normal compensation schemes don’t cut it for you, you surely must be able to ask a major hourly rate as a freelancer, or a royalty.

Freelancing by contracting is risky. The company you work for maintains the right to fire you for no reason whatsoever, and you would not be able to earn unemployment. Also, unless you are a particularly skilled employee or are working in a hot market, you probably won't be paid as much after considering the fact that you'll have to pay for your own healthcare, your own liability insurance, do your own taxes, and deal with the considerable gaps in employment since freelancers are some of the first that are fired at a company.

Freelancing may work well for the top 5% or 10%, but it's not a good thing for most.

While there is obviously some risk, in my experience it is very well compensated. If anything, I think an irrational level risk aversion means there are basically not enough good freelancers to go around and the demand/pay is high.

The standard formula I recommend to a new freelancer is (what-you-would-make-as-salary / 50 / 5 / 8 * 2) = hourly rate. Anything less is undercharging. So if you would make 100k in salary, you can’t charge less than $100/hour. This is an absolute floor.

If you follow that formula, you’ll be able to cover the healthcare, tax accountant, gaps between work, and other expenses and still make your base salary.

But the ceiling is much higher. For a company, hiring a full time employee is just too much risk. You have a few hours of interviews to determine if they will be a good match, and if you are wrong, it is an extremely expensive mistake. Likewise if things slow down, you’ll have no flexible capacity. Freelancers are a dream come true.

Also, in my experience, companies do not think of freelancer rates in the same way as salaries. Freelancers are not on the organizational chart as it were. Whereas standard HR hires and the attached salaries come with a load of political and ego driven baggage, freelancers are thought about more like buying a new office printer. If there is a need and the budget, the company will hire you and you might be making 3x what the project lead makes.

If you're able to get a salary of 100k, then you're that top 5% or 10% that I mentioned _might_ be able to do well in a hot market. There are lots of people who aren't so lucky and don't have that opportunity.

Sure, I gave 100k as an example. But I think the same principle applies more generally. It is perfectly possible to run a freelance business charging $50/hour, just expect that your total annual take-home (after health, sales work, accountants, and so on) to be in the $50k range. As for being in a hot market, well this is hacker news and programming is a very hot market right now.

I think a lot of people have a mistaken impression that freelancing is hard to pull off. In my experience, landing a contracting gig at a big hourly rate takes roughly the same amount of effort as it takes to interview and land a full time job. If you can land a full time job, you can probably freelance.

My 2 cents to everyone here: nowhere in the discussion did I hear of setting hourly rate based on the value you're bringing to the company. It's all about how much the other company was paying you and how much more you're worth now. It's good to be ambitious, but as a freelancing consultant - think about the value you're bringing for the client. Set your rates based on that. You bring X value, company gets 10X benefit.

$100k isn't a particularly high salary for a software engineer in the US these days. Even in lower COL areas.

If you honestly believe this, then you are living a very privileged life. Be happy about that, because it is very lucky.

Those salaries _can_ be found in other areas of the country, but they are almost completely concentrated to tech hubs of the country. Lots of cities throughout the country don't have these jobs.

I don't live in a tech hub. The only place I've lived that was close was Northern Virginia (for only two years) and I hated it so much I moved to Florida.

I graduated from a fairly average state university with a BSCS in 2002 and joined the Army. My first software engineering job (which was hard to land given I had gone 4 years since college doing something completely different) paid $55k in 2006. I crossed the $100k threshold in 2012.

Though, I'll admit the raises haven't been as generous the last few years, and I did have to move a few times for jobs :)

But I really don't think my life has been particularly privileged or out of the ordinary for a reasonably competent developer (and many here on HN who do live in tech hubs make quite a bit more than I).

> Freelancing by contracting is risky.

Isn't that the point of the OP? He already has low-risk, constant-reward situation and he's sick of it - obviously, he wants more risky, more rewarding scenario.

Egads! I'm so ready to do this. I'm in my late 30s and have been a salaried engineer my entire career. I'm sick of corporate culture and dealing with dysfunctional petty politics. My current environment is particularly depressing. You know the office from the first part of Joe vs the Volcano? It's kind of like that :|

I'll admit, there's an element of risk aversion holding me back. That and I simply can't afford to start at the bottom and work for peanuts in order to 'build a reputation' as a freelancer.

As another data point, I'm about the same age, live in Idaho and freelanced around 2012 charging about $30-40 per hour and taking anything I could get on Elance/oDesk (now Upwork). I flipped PowerPC iMacs with the blown capacitor issue, took a local service call once or twice a month, and worked on shareware. I eventually went broke, but I landed a $50/hr, 6 month contract in a local office at the end doing backend web work.

I managed to save about $20,000 and freelanced the same way the next year or so, but charging $50/hr. Money steadily dropped, but it was mostly due to taking fixed-bid contracts, not tracking my time well, estimating done dates and then failing to bill after the deadline. So try not to give time estimates (which are often by by a factor of 3-10 or more), and if you do, be sure to bill if you go over. They are paying for the time it takes you to solve a problem, not your ability to guess at unknowns that can't be known until you've done them.

After that, I got a great gig at a local agency. If I find myself being a contractor again, I would charge 1.5-2x my desired hourly pay. In internet tech now, that's probably $75-150k/yr, $35-75/hr, even in rural areas, so a $75/hr freelance rate is probably a good minimum.

In other words, there's not an easy way that I could see to survive long as a contractor by taking a pay cut from your current salary. It's better to think in terms of charging twice as much as you're paid now, but finding work half as often. Which is generally worth it because it gives you time to work on your skills, do side projects, etc. I would not take other advice to moonlight, because a programming job by itself generally tends towards burnout.

I've been doing freelance/contract work since 2004. My advice would be to start by doing hourly contract work through agencies/recruiting firms. It's not glamorous, but it initially saves you from having to worry about sales and collecting the money, perhaps the two most stressful parts of freelancing. You'll get a check every two weeks and develop contacts in different organizations. Find an accountant that specializes in professional services and set yourself up as an LLC and do the work with a corp-to-corp arrangement. Once you get comfortable and have some reliable clients you can cut out the middlemen.

Do you know anyone that has left your company and is now working somewhere else? Talk to them about contracting opportunities.

And don't fall for nonsense about 'build a reputation' as a freelancer (mostly this is an attempt to reduce the rate you'll accept). You skills and experience speak for you, regardless of whether contract or full time.

What unique skills do freelancers have that you don't? Finding new gigs (not important to someone hiring); filing taxes (not important to someone hiring); having an accountant (not important to someone hiring); owning/operating a corporation of some form (not important to someone hiring).

Moonlight. Build customer base and savings cushion. Jump from corporate gig.

Doesn't freelancing dry up during economic downturns? I recall hearing some rather grim stories during the 2008 recession and the dot com bust and, if one takes the various economy related articles that appear on HN with increasing frequency these days seriously, we're about due for another bust.

Salaried jobs dry up too.

My boss arrived at work in a brand new lamborghini.

I said "Wow that's an amazing car!"

He replied "if you work hard, strive for excellence and hit your targets, l'll get another one next year!"

Haha yes, I love this joke. I've heard it before and that's how it feels.

I thought the punch line was:

"I will get my mistress one too!"

haha, yes that's even better.

Your words: "hate", "resent", "stressing", "hard time", etc... Change you thinking pattern, start thinking about what you love. What do you love to do? Then start doing it.

"Love" is a key.

You can start right now.

While I agree with this, it's really only easy to recognize this after you've figured it out. I also want to emphasize I'm in a position now with equity do not adhere to the philosophy below.

Focus on enjoying the people you work with and spend less energy thinking about your work. Stressing over work is a fool's game unless you have skin in it.

I had a pretty low point in my career and I simply changed my focus to collecting as much money from the wealthy bosses as I could while providing as little value as I could. After all, that's what they're trying to do on the other side of the relationship.

Now again, what I have said is easy to grok and enact once you've had some success. I don't advise this attitude for folks just entering the industry, but after 5-10 years you'd be amazed at just how valuable you are, even when not really working too hard.

> changed my focus to collecting as much money from the wealthy bosses as I could while providing as little value as I could.

I thought about this and tried it this past year. It didn't go well and my performance review was abysmal. Some of my colleagues hate my guts because they feel like they're doing all the work and I'm not.

For example, I never do overtime especially when it's to meet unrealistic arbitrary deadlines. But they do and we meet the deadline, and this is why we keep having those deadlines: management knows they can keep doing it and someone will roll over to make it happen. "attaboy, great job on giving your life away this week, thank you for the new Porsche"

How do you pull it off without your colleagues hating you?

I think there's an art to it. First off, if you work in that type of environment, yea you're gonna get shit from your colleagues. If that bothers you, you might need to be working somewhere else to pull it off. I would probably try to convince them to change to your philosophy.

To be honest, the real secret is to be everybody's friend. Focus on knowing them personally and spend lots of time bullshitting with them. You also can't flaunt what you're doing. Just make your estimates really long up front, clearly state all of the potential blockers and how they will affect your deadlines. Ask lots of questions in meetings. When confronted, product people, leaders, whoever is in charge usually do not know what they want. Put it on them to actually articulate their needs. You'll have them going back to the drawing board over and over.

> changed my focus to collecting as much money from the wealthy bosses as I could while providing as little value as I could.

This sounds like a bad idea. I always try to collect as much money as I can while providing a fair amount of value. You'll probably end up shooting yourself in the foot if you're providing little value to a company.

> It didn't go well and my performance review was abysmal. Some of my colleagues hate my guts because they feel like they're doing all the work and I'm not.

If you're going to do this, you are going to need to own it and not be concerned that sheep are going to hate you for not being a sheep.

Also understand that the company is never going to choose a non-sheep over a sheep that will kill themselves for the company, so your performance will (in their opinion) suffer.

Best option IMO is to try not to care if your colleagues hate you for stupid reasons that are none of their business. They should be hating their management for having unfair expectations of your team.

My work colleagues are generally not my friends and I'm not too concerned with whether they like me or not, although obviously I would rather they did, and generally I'd say that they do like me.

If they hated me for not doing overtime, then that's their problem.

Work somewhere where there aren’t clueless people?

You can only fix so much of a company’s culture.

Note that this may entail using your job as a means to fund what you actually love to do.

Best comment I've read in HN so far

You might be conflating a few things here.

1. Be careful not to confuse hating working for somebody else with what sounds to me like the edges of depression. 2. Entrepreneurship doesn't have to be a grind 3. You don't have to get your personal pride and accomplishment through work

So you could talk to somebody about your feelings and might find some coping strategies. Let's suppose this isn't clinical depression and in fact your job is shit and you want to do something else.

Think about your hobbies: if you could do something around one of them for a job, what would you do? Do you want to get a job in industry doing that, or perhaps use your skills to build something yourself?

Now, don't think building something yourself has to involve raising money, hiring staff or any of that jazz. Could you freelance? Could you produce a product on your own? Something physical or a SaaS or app perhaps? Could you start a blog or vlog? What about a book?

Most likely outcome is that this will _not_ make you enough cash to live off, but now you're doing something that gives you pride and a sense of accomplishment and in due course it _might_ make enough money for you to life off. In either scenario it sounds like you're in a better place.

Good luck, godspeed, etc.

> 1. Be careful not to confuse hating working for somebody else with what sounds to me like the edges of depression.

Exactly on point. Overindexing on the futility of the future while simultaneously minimizing the plausibility of positive outcomes.

I have these same thoughts, and these same problems. The OP's post has left my mouth many times. Strong odds it's depression.

It's not your job. No matter where you go, there you are.

I have mostly managed to avoid working a normal job. Here are some things I have done:

College. It let me continue to live with parents and not get a job.

Military spouse and full time parent. It let me see the world, but when I got divorced, starting a career from scratch was challenging. Also, my quality of life went way up with getting a job and no longer being a homemakers. Homemaking isn't exactly a profession that gets a lot of respect or pays particularly well and the retirement plan tends to suck.

I have been doing freelance work in recent years.

I will recommend the book "How to survive without a salary" by Charles Long. If you can pay off all your debts, pay cash for a cheap house somewhere with low taxes, raise a garden, etc, you can get off the hamster wheel and do as you choose to a large degree. But it takes a lot of time to arrange and most folks don't actually want to make those sorts of sacrifices.

This is part of why so many people buy lottery tickets. Wanting an answer with no down side is a popular desire.

(No I am absolutely not being snarky. This is reality. Finding one's "dream job" and being jazzed to go to work every day is the exception, not the rule.)

Look into the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) communities.

Here's a good starting point.


It's important to note that (Mustachian) financial independence isn't about making money so you can retire (despite the name). It's about designing a lifestyle for yourself that makes you happy without the need to buy things or experiences to sustain that feeling of happiness. The rest is just bookkeeping. And (as a neat side-benefit) you generally become healthier and fitter, gain more skills, and reduce your consumption levels, thereby helping save the planet.

Knowing that you're building a future life for yourself makes the hard days at work easier to take. Once you have the financial security of being FI/RE you are free to take career risks or try things that interest you but may not have much money-making potential.

FI/RE is a tremendous idea, and that's the thing that motivates me. I've been working on it for a few years now, but it's still far away.

But it feels like it's not enough, I don't know that I can keep eating sh*t for another 7 years. We're saving about 55% of our net income after rent, we're pretty frugal to begin with in a high col area (not in the US).

It's definitely part of the solution and I can't wait to quit working but it's not enough to carry me on its own. If it were I wouldn't feel this way.

Do you have this sentiment too?

I briefly considered FI/RE but like you said, couldn't handle eating shit for so long. Life is for living on your own terms.

Aiming for FI only means that you'll eat the same shit but for much less time (i.e. 10 years vs 40+ years)

Yes, exactly. But I can't postpone my dreams for so long. I still have my health and I should take advantage of it. Why should my body atrophy away in a chair throughout my 20's and 30's?

When the weather's nice and I'm stuck in my air conditioned office all week, only to be too busy on the weekends with errands to enjoy going out, week after week after week. That's not living.

With Freelancing, I'll need to do it for more years, but I can casually take weekdays off whenever I like and this year I took 8 full weeks of vacation. I don't know any full-time Software Engineers who are given that by their employers.

Beyond bringing in a modicum of control over my schedule, I find switching projects every few months keeps the job far more interesting. I'm learning more every day just as it was in my Junior days :)

Every job has its difficult days, but none has ever felt like "eating sh*t" (and I've also tried starting my own company). So I can't relate to that unfortunately.

If any job ever felt like it wasn't meeting my needs in some way (stability, financially, growth etc) I've moved on.

Join a startup early enough where you get enough equity to feel like an owner. Just search on Angelist or similar sites, such as the job postings on here.

Start a small services business- or freelance. If you're just worried about unpaid overtime, an hourly bill rate gives you a little more freedom. You do have to do a bit more sales work to find customers, but there are numerous platforms to assist with that.

While both of these options have higher potential returns, they also have higher risks. What it sounds like is that you are not factoring into your analysis is the low-risk nature of what you are doing. You are trading off "the grind" and that risk for a lower maximum payoff, but a higher minimum payoff. If that's actually what you want, just keep job hopping every couple of years as you get sick of things and ask for a 10% raise instead of 2-3%.

Maybe the real problem is presuming that what you are doing is bad when it is really the path that is best for you. Not everyone is meant to find a place they love and stay there forever. Even when people do find such a place, the place changes as time passes, and they change as well, so what was once right does not always stay that way. Not everyone is set up to take the stress of having 95% of your net worth tied up in a venture that is likely to go to $0. Hopefully, Model 3 production continues to ramp up, and you can get your Tesla anyway.

Oh yeah this sounds very familiar. Does it get to the point where you start resenting people in upper management because you think they literally do nothing and make more? I started having those thoughts when working at a Fortune 500 - I'd see VP's at the office for insane hours and not sure really what they did but they sure got their 5 figure bonuses, even when things didn't go well it seemed.

I was an engineering manager and had to deal with upper management, bogus policies like only 10% of people can get a good raise, meetings about meetings, etc. Now I've gone back to software development without managing people and it is a relief. Think of all the things people in those other roles have to worry about: budgets, raises (or lack of), employee reviews, project planning, sales, hiring, firing, etc. You said that going through that grind of entrepreneurship isn't something that appeals to you.

Take pride in the work you do, software engineering can be fun if you enjoy it. Sure it helps some rich person at the top, its the same everywhere though: pilots, carpenters, plumbers, accountants, etc. Be relieved you don't have to worry about all that other business stuff. If you find a place with good work/life balance then you can pursue things you are interested on your own time.

Whenever I felt like that, I used a mental hack to make me feel better. I would sit down and start to think (or write) about all the things I am grateful for. Coming from a third world country, it was easy to see how good it was to be highly employable and live in a relatively safe society. This would instantly put me in a good mood and make me feel proud of my achievements.

Being grateful doesn't mean you should accept your lot in life and stop striving for improvements. It will just help you make peace with where you are at right now, so you can focus on your next steps without the negative pressure.

Today I run my own business and make more money than I ever expected, and I still use this method whenever I'm having a bad day.

I do something very similar, I also take pride in my work, not the generic "of course I take pride in my work" but the pride you get from knowing you did the best that you could do given the constraints (whatever they may be) you had.

That way I'm comparing what I did against what was reasonably doable.

Sure there are things I'd love to do but management constraints/budget or temporal constraints simply ruled them out, if I explained that to (former bosses, current boss is a diamond) management clearly then who cares, I did my job.

I can live with that for an above average salary and a 40 hour work week.

Duplicating other points, to some extent:

1. You can reduce your working hours. E.g. you can negotiate a 4-day workweek. This means more time to do what you want.

2. You can pursue early retirement. Reducing your spending gives you more in the bank, and eventually you can not work. In the short term it improves your negotiating position.

3. You can find a job pursuing a goal you care about. E.g. work for a non-profit, or a government agency, or a company where you care about the outcomes separate from making money.

4. You can start a business not based on a Great Idea, but based on research. More likely to succeed, too (https://stackingthebricks.com/ has a bunch of useful advice).

You can also pursue some or all of these at the same time.

Self-promotion: I've written a book about how you can reach a sane workweek, whatever that means to you. You can read about and get a free excerpt here: https://codewithoutrules.com/saneworkweek/.

Thanks, your blog has pretty good posts, I enjoy reading them.

You are preaching to the choir brother.

I am feeling the exact same sentiment more strongly every day.

In the past, working for a corporation meant some kind of loyalty in return, resulting in pension or still keeping you on payroll even if company was doing not so well.

Now, at the first sign of decrease in revenue, employees are cut. And I'm not even talking about company in danger of going under or having a negative revenue year. Employees are cut because revenue growth goes from say 5% to 2% and the execs have to do something to look like they are trying.

You can be the only one that knows how to do a certain thing in a company to ship that product or come up with a solution that saves the company millions, but all you get in return is 'good job' (and the implicit understanding that you should be thankful you have a job). And the owners/ceos walk away with millions.

So what is the action plan? 1. Do not wallow in bitterness. Do something productive/positive about it instead.

2. Do not think that you aren't an entrepreneur material. No such thing exists.

3. You don't have to run a tech company. Someone posted on HN that an ex-coworker was making far more money with far more freedom running coin laundries.

4. Look into real estate?

5. There are ways to start a company so you can be your own boss.

6. If you are in tech, brush up some new techs and look for cofounder.

7. How do you get the motivation to do all above? Channel your anger/hatred/resentment for having to work for someone else (enriching that person) into doing something for yourself.

8. You may not be successful, but at least you can enjoy working for yourself.

I'm only realizing this a little late in life, but better late than never.

I just started contracting in the public sector and I don't know if this honeymoon will last but so far, it's amazing how much more I care about the problems they are solving compared to working in the private sector. It's work that I think needs to be done.

"He who has a Why? in life can tolerate almost any How?"

How did you get the gig? It seems my local and national government (Canada) only hires FTEs. I've applied before but was never successful.

Knew someone who was working as a contractor. I would try trying to find people working in the public sector through the internet (they're on twitter, meetup and linkedin too) and ask them if they have any openings. It's definitely easier to get brought on as a contractor than an FTE, and it seems to me that the FTE jobs go to contractors who have proven themselves first.

I felt similarly often, even though I was working for a great company with great products and with a very humane way of working. At some point I just could not stand the worker-owner fundamental power imbalance. There is a lot of pretending in our industry that this conflict does not exist, which often ends up in quite schizophrenic logic. I had to go. And Since I don't want to inflict such pain in other people, become the typical entrepreneur (i.e. a capitalist) was not an option either.

My solution for now is to freelance and consulting. It comes with a hole different set of contradictions, but it is a good learning experience and great way to experiment and explore what you want to do. It also buys me time to do open-source and research, but it requires more self-motivation.

My long-term dream is to start a worker-owned coop with other people in the future.

You sound a lot like me...I'm a laravel/vue dev if you want to join forces let me know. Email : patrickwcurl@gmail.com

I think if we could get 2-3 devs, a designer, and a marketing person to join the team we could start filling our pipeline and build a pretty cool worker-coop.

My vision would reward first in more, but give everyone coming in - even non-technical people a stake in the company with stock and what not. I think the lowest income in a company should be at least $70k -- that's the current number it takes for someone to feel 'happy'... about their position in life and presumably live comfortable.

I admire companies like Winco where some cashiers who started back in 1990's are worth millions because of ESO plans.

My dream would be helping clients with full biz-dev from idea to validation to mockups to development to SEO/Marketing and growing the user base. It would be cool if we worked in some equity as well, say 5% equity for a lower cost of development, but if we helped build a unicorn all employees would split the windfall.

I think I feel very similarly to you in a lot of ways. How did you get started? How do you see a consulting co-operative working? I'd be interested in hearing about your approach, what's worked and what hasn't, etc.

Hey! To you and Amiuba. I did get started into freelancing slowly. I had money saved when I quit my job and I took things slowly. I don't use freelancing websites. For marketing I use conferences, user-conferences and open-source. I am still in a good relationship with my last employer and I do freelance work for them too.

Wrt the coop, one of my motivations is this Spanish open-source coop which has been running for quite a while and does excellent work: https://www.igalia.com/

When doing research on the topic I found this document you may find interesting too "Technology freelancer's guide to starting worker cooperative": https://www.techworker.coop/resources/technology-freelancers...

Hey, I'm a freelance developer based in Montreal, Canada who is also incredibly interested in building out a freelancer/webdev co-op. Would love to hear more about your ideas and what direction you're interested in taking it :)

Also, any tips on how to find clients at conferences? I've been to a few but never seem to meet anyone who's actually searching for a vendor.

Most of my clients have come through my extended friends/family network.

Happy to keep this discussion on HN so that others get benefit from it, but if you want to take it private my email is e@ericwaldman.ca

Wonderful idea, I'm in MTL too. Sounds like an idea for a slack channel.

Hi Eric!

W.r.t. the co-op, at the moment my ideas (or fantasies) are more about organizational stuff than the content (what we would work on). I am just gathering ideas, learning and keeping my eyes open waiting for all this to crystalize...

My motivation is to be able to work with other people in a democratic and (internally) non-capitalistic way. You are still playing in the market so there are lots of contradictions that you would have to assume, but I think there is a lot of progress one can make nontheless. For me Igalia, as I mentioned, is a source of inspiration because they have been going for quite a while and they are about ~50 people now and have a good business. They are also very democratic and flat (e.g. everyone has equal pay, something shocking but with very good rationale). They also do excellent technical work---for example, they have been the ones implementing a lot of ES6 features inside V8 and SpiderMonkey. If you want to read about them, Andy Wingo (the person I know from there) has 3-post series on the topic here: http://wingolog.org/archives/2013/06/05/no-master

On a more political side, recently I read the Telekommunisten manifesto which also touches on cooperative models as a way to do social change for real: http://telekommunisten.net/the-telekommunist-manifesto/

In my student times I was very much into activism, but since I started working I stopped "having time" for it. I was also burned out from the energy and emotional sink that activism can be. I've realized with time that the workplace though has not managed to make me more conservative, if anything, it has made me more concerned about the issues of exploitation and alienation---even in "well-off" industries where workers often feel privileged just because of the (relatively) high salaries. My current thinking is that separating work and politics is one of the things that leads to activism and work burn-out and that, if anything, I should use the privilege of being an engineer to try build a democratic workspace for myself and hopefully others too. In the best scenario it could be an example and do some little good for the world, in the worst case I would have tried and learnt something about how the world works.

W.r.t. finding clients at conferences, I am really no expert, I have actually been freelancing less time than you :-) I don't consider myself an extrovert. What has worked for me so far is doing talks about open-source projects. Last summer, for example, I worked with a client that just watched the video of one of my talks and contacted me. Last week I talked with a new potential client that just some comment on Hackernews where I talked about some of that work. Doing open-source work and talking about it is very time-consuming, so it is not a silver-bullet for sure, but something worth trying if that scratches some itch of yours.

I still feel that I have lots to learn and am making lots of mistakes, but I guess this takes time... :-)

Thanks for the links!

I'm at a similar stage of gathering ideas. It seems that as software developers, we're at a unique point in history where an individual owning their own means of industrial-grade production is a possibility thanks to free software.

I come from a different angle as I was incredibly Liberal throughout my student years. But the working world shattered any illusions I had about achieving self-fulfillment as your typical software engineer.

You might be intrested in looking into Enspiral. They are a huge tech cooperative (~40 core members + ~100 associates) running out of New Zealand https://enspiral.com/ with some great ideas. They started out of individual freelancers grouping together to form an insurance fund and smooth out their incomes between contracts.

I've been thinking lately about how to initially build up a group's reputation and client pipeline. If you start with too many members without their own clients then I am not sure it would be sustainable. You could have initial capital investments from each member, but I'm less comfortable with that idea right now.

As for presenting, from time to time I will give web development workshops. I agree that presenting requires a disproportionate amount of time and energy but I find that it spices up my workload very nicely :)

Thanks for the input. Like WaxProlix, I'd be very interested to hear more. How to shift to freelancing (fiver/elance/whatever it's called today doesn't seem too good), and how does a co-op work in practice?

Not the OP but I made a similar transition a couple years ago.

I'm currently a software freelancer consultant working out of Montreal and also very interested in co-ops. The main idea behind co-ops and workplace democracy is that you can't force anyone to do anything, and every decision made should be fair for everyone involved. You can't have a co-op if anyone involved has an overly capitalistic/individualistic mindset. Likewise, in order for the group to not need excessive hierarchy, members need to be open to constructive criticism and must be devoted to doing what's best for the group as a whole even if it is bad for any one individual.

Now, at the moment, I'm an individual freelancer who occasionally hires subcontractors but I do my best to treat them better than any boss has ever treated me. I always pay above market rate for labour, and if someone's skill level is similar to mine I will happily give them the full hourly rate that I am charging out. I see this as a great foundation for building out towards a co-op.

The main issue for starting a co-op, beyond finding interested and committed people, is finding contracts to feed it. It has taken me almost 3 years to get my pipeline to a sustainable level. My understanding is that 3 years is the standard for virtually any small business, from retail to restaurants to a dentist's office, so that was encouraging.

You're right that online freelancing marketplaces are a trap. There's no good work to be found there. You have to build your network so that next time someone with a project and a budget is looking for a vendor, your name is at the top of their list. Any client who frequently buys software development services likely already has a preferred vendor, so you're going to have to fight for what's left: clients who buy software infrequently. And by their very nature, it's a purely numbers/waiting game. Another great type of client to find are those who are fed up with their current vendor. Given how expensive and generally low quality software developed at agencies tends to be, you would think it would happen more frequently but it seems most clients are unable to differentiate low quality software from high quality software.

But first, to even be considered for the contract, you need to have a decent portfolio. Nobody with a serious budget is going to risk it on someone who has never delivered a project from start to finish. This creates a Catch-22. Your best bet is to go after undesirable contracts (generally those with too-small budgets), and over deliver so that you can create portfolio-worthy pieces. At the same time, you should be building up a project template so that you can be more efficient and compete better.

It's been much harder to build up my pipeline than I had anticipated when I first set out to freelance, but the needle is moving in the right direction and I continue to be optimistic. Every year has been significantly better than the previous one! Not only that, I can confirm that I no longer feel the despair and dread from when I worked in an open-office farm with those horrific fluorescent lights. It's been replaced with its own problems, but I am far happier with my new demons.

I'm definitely interested in meeting more like minded people as well as discussing possible avenues for cooperating. We can continue here or feel free to email me at e@ericwaldman.ca if you like :)

Yes, freelancing, but then you will probably feel dissatisfied that you're not soing something meaningful and that the lack of socializing depresses you.

I believe the problem isn't the work, but inside of you. Have you tried improving your own life? Getting a meaningful hobby, volunteering, building a meaningful circle of friends, moving to the city that you love most, finding a significant other that you love above anything else, starting a family. Those things really fill your life with meaning.

Apart from that, if you don't want to be working at a company, you need to build your freelancing agency and you need to be good at it, so that after a few years, you have a client base that pays really well and other people do the work for you, so that you only need to work 10-20h per week or less. Then you can focus on the things above that really matter.

This is great timing as I've been rolling this around in my head for about 6 months now, thanks for posting it. I have yet to find a good exit plan.

My issue isn't really the work itself, it is the risk that comes with stepping out on your own when you have a family to support. I have seen firsthand what a failed start-up/small company can do to a family (twice actually) and it scares the shit out of me. That's one of the reasons I am so hesitant to live off of savings while the work pipeline builds.

On top of that, my family and I have grown accustomed to our current income level which I don't think I could keep up as a consultant/freelancer/etc, at least for the first year or so.

For me the question is: is my full blown happiness, with my career, worth potentially risking our future and current lifestyle? It is a really hard question to answer...

> This thinking is hurting me though because it makes every job I ever had barely tolerable, slowly creeping towards miserable after enough time.

Profound changes in life are not easy, and feeling miserable is a sign that you probably have to change something.. Personally, I believe that people that are willing to change their lifes when circunstances ask for it are courageous. Most people will keep feeling miserable by inertia and fear of change.

As a little bit of more practical advice, have you considered going freelance or teaching? Something similar to what you're feeling now also happened to me, then I went freelancing and am currently teaching. I'm immenselly happier and get to learn lots of new things so I can be a better teacher..

Wish you good luck!

I have considered freelancing, but I don't know where to start. The only place I know of is fiver and elance which have pretty bad reputation and where I couldn't charge enough for it to be viable.

Any insight on how to execute the shift and find your first customer?

Can be a freelancer. You're your own boss, you can pick who you want to work with and you're in control of your time, but you don't need to risk it all on a "risky big idea".

I've never been able to work for someone else for too long (starts being noticable after a year).

So I started freelancing / consulting. You don't have to be an entrepreneur and build a product or a company. It's not a grind (or at least it doesn't have to be - you can choose how much effort you want to spend).

But you do need to take business side of things - finding clients, making them pay, making sure your financials are in order and other non-"tech" tasks.

Have you tried changing jobs? There’s a huge variety of companies out there and some of them do really amazing things and have competent leaders. I used to think every company is the same deadend desk job until I hit an amazing one - let’s me work remote most of the week, insane compensation, managers who don’t micromanage, and a sense of mission in all my teammates. Take your time to find the right one, you’ll be glad you did

I had also thought about this so many times. Working for the man who doesn't even care about his staff. One of my colleague has lost his job few weeks back. I don't know what he wants for us. But one thing for sure, he is arrogant and just care about himself and nobody else.

I just don't want to work here and I'm looking for some new place when the right time is come. The day when I'll say enough is enough you jerk, I'm done here.

I also have the fight yesterday with him and when I came home, I'm just screaming at everyone in my house. But than I Cam myself down and listen to a new song and I want to share with you here: http://www.lyricshawa.com/2017/12/bollywood-lyrics-akhil/

Then I thought one day, I will muster some confidence to just quit this job and find a better one. But one thought that always come in my mind is this, What if that another organisation have the same boss like him. Haha.. I'm just little bit confused right now.

Learn to work for someone else. Seriously there is no way out of it. Even a CEO works for someone else (investors/customers/shareholders). The blog posts that tell you otherwise are trying to bullshit the naive. Everybody is working for someone. The king/dictator you heard about that lives such a good life without considering others? He certainly considers his generals, and he certainly considers whoever provides the money to pay for his generals.

You could basically decide if you want to decline ever taking responsibility for other people and work in such a job where someone else will organize your food and bed. But then again we can't really choose to have no responsibility to other people (parents, friends) either. So in that case quite a few important people in your life would consider you a dick for good reasons.

Therefore in the end, learn to accept it. This is part of life.

btw why does this downvoted? I was in the same situation when I was 20. Now with 32 I got used to working for someone else, as much as one can get used to it. I make more money, have a better office, better living area, more valuable connections. It's totally worth it.

On the other hand one of my best friends, same age, totally struggles with the concept, barely has any money, often doesn't even has a stable place to sleep.

One can fight against it, but life will fight back.

Consider a commissioned sales role. There are many companies out there with commission-heavy 'eat-what-you kill' culture. If you're good at your job and bring in revenue, you make a lot of money and probably get a lot of autonomy. It's not my cup of tea, but it might fit with what you're looking for.

I was in the same situation as you a while back. I do have some entrepreneurial spirit, and I'm working on my own project at the moment.

But something that I am doing on the side for a while now that pays 5x more every month than I used to make at my web development job, is crypto mining and lending.

I have been searching for highly reputable and transparent companies for a while before I got on board.

I then found and am currently mining with Lifestyle Galaxy, and lending trading with USI Tech.

Yes, it takes some money to start off with, but my initial capital has already been paid back and every day's payouts are pure profit. These companies also allow building networks as to grow your daily income even further. I'm making around $250 per day so far.

If you'd like more information, don't hesitate to email ( ninjavis@gmail.com ) me and I'll send you some more information on how easy it is to get up and running etc.

My work situation has been much less draining since moving to Australia. I think the biggest difference is that 6-12 month contract work is more common in tech jobs, and there are a lot more small companies where your contribution is bigger and feels more valued. The flip side to that is your work probably won't be seen outside of the small company unlike with huge corporations.

I don't know that they have the equivalent of casual/agency contract work for developers in the U.S. I think the health insurance makes it a problem, but I liked it better than working for bigger companies because there's less BS and you can just take a month or so between gigs if you want. You're never going to get rich though and there's always the possiblity of not having anything for longer than you want.

Whatever you’ll do for work, you always end up working for someone. A boss, clients, customers...

Being a freelancer ? Your clients will be the one you’ll work for. And as some others said: they’ll make money on your work.

Being an employee ? That’s your case, you know how it works.

So entrepreneur ? You say you’re not comfortable with it. And at the end, you’ll have to please your customers or else you will otherwise not earn enough money.

So I guess you have to choose the less hurting path for you.

The good point is that if you want to change your situation, you can start doing it without leaving your current job and see if it leads somewhere before making a drastically decision which will impact your life.

Try a side project, or several. Start looking for what exists in freelancing on your domain of expertise.

The first step is always the toughest one. You’ve got a paid job.


This leaves you with a few options that haven't been brought up.

Have you considered working for a nonprofit or a governmental agency? The pay probably isn't there, but some people wouldn't want to work anywhere else. It can be tremendously rewarding fighting for your favorite causes rather than your boss' latest second house, as you said.

Not all big company corporate cultures are created equal, either. A lot of people love working for the big 5 and even though you're still making a boss rich (as in, richer than anyone else in the history of time rich), these bosses don't waste their time flaunting their wealth in front of you and demoralizing you. Change the world, do interesting work, and get rich far faster than an average startup.

I've spent the majority of my career feeling this way, OP, hopping jobs and feeling like a crazy person. I've left plum gigs at coveted companies; I've passed on opportunities that would have made me rich (could I have stuck with it). I've read and studied a ton of things to try to deal with it.

At a high level, this article summarizes my angst. Maybe you'll benefit from it. It's about moving into management, but the ideas of deliverables and contributions might help you understand some things about you.

"I no longer operated in my personal sweet spot, where my sense of accomplishment after closing a difficult sale or launching a new product was contingent on my having had a concrete deliverable and the sense that my efforts were integral to its success. Being a manager caused me to feel disconnected from what career analyst Daniel Pink has identified as the three primary motivators of behavior: autonomy, mastery and purpose. I had little autonomy, little interest in gaining mastery as a manager (in spite of myriad coaches), and felt dissociated from my true self."


When I evaluate the jobs I've loved or hated using autonomy, mastery, and purpose, I can clearly see why I've loved or hated them. We'll all fall in different places on those three scales; what's right for me won't be right for you. But I need high levels of all three (and mastery is the really tricky one) or the job will slide towards the hated end of the continuum.

Some of the many great books that have shaped my thinking: So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport Deep Work, Cal Newport Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford (that last one, watch out. you might never go back to work. But the chapter called "The Contradictions of the Cubicle" speaks volumes to me).

There are many others, but I got the most benefit out of those three. Hope this is helpful in some way.

I have some experience with this feeling and for me it comes from mismatched expectations. I believed that simply getting into the workforce was my goal, the proper goal, and that would be a satisfying end.

At some point in the working life some people (you!) become acutely aware that satisfaction and purpose matter. Now you have to reach outside of everything you have tried and everything you were taught to find something you actually care about.

Take up hobbies, personal projects, travel, and through trial and error find a way to connect your talents with a meaningful end.

Most importantly, you will have to solve this yourself. Friends online can't tell you what you want any better than your boss can!

If you are not the type of person to run your own business then you would need to get a job working for someone else. Now it seems the issue is not you really working for someone else, but not properly being compensated for performance.

Now, the good thing is until you have enough time, money and feel comfortable taking the plunge into being your own boss you can work on gaining the skills by working for someone else. If you are working at a company that does not conduct additional compensation based on performance leave the company for one that does. You owe nothing to a company that is not properly compensating you for the value you provide, especially as your time increases there and you are a top performer.

There are companies out there or should I say sections within companies (even the big ones) that will normally do the following: Annual raise based on performance, annual bonus based on performance, spot bonuses, quarterly bonuses and increasing your base salary to keep competitive with the market (i.e. if your showing mass improvement beyond what you were originally hired for or your actions keep improving your coworkers productivity you could see your base salary increased by 10 to 20 percent or more to better place your skills and talents within the company and insure you are being properly compensated).

A company that cares about attracting top talent, growing and retaining top talent will properly compensate you to where you could technically become rich within (within reason of their income and the value you bring to the table) a few years of working there. As the good companies see that the value you bring to the company increases their bottom line and will make sure to keep your pockets filled with cash so you do not have to worry about it and can spend time doing what you do and have fun doing it.

I would recommend you do some searching for areas near you and compare your skills, talents and abilities to what the average household incomes are near your next possible employer - https://www.incomebyzipcode.com/

Insure that what you ask for in salary is a minimum of what the average household income is for the zip code of your employer. Also ask about compensation based on performance and how any bonuses, raises or salary adjustments are calculated. If the potential employer looks at you funny and doesn't know what your talking about move on to the next potential employer until you find one that does not just pay a base salary and does raises but also pays bonuses based on performance.

I negotiated my initial salary well (from talking with other colleagues who also shared their salary), but the only thing my company does is an annual performance review and a raise based on that. The raise is a few percents and that's it. No bonus or profit sharing.

I have yet to work somewhere that gives bonuses. Based on my experience, it isn't that common here it seems (Canada). My current base salary is a tad more than the median household income for my city.

You make a good point that while I'm employed, I'm getting paid to learn some of the skills I'll need to become an independent developer. What I still don't know is how to go from employee to independent: where do you get clients?

You make yourself unhappy by focusing on what your boss or company owners are doing. Don't think about them, they are external to you. Focus on what you want or like to do.

You can try starting a consultancy business. Start as a freelance and grow that. Anything you do you must work hard and create value for others. If you do this consistently you will eventually move into a position where you are comfortable. The best way is to start by doing what you like and engages you, and at the same time the resulting work creates value for others. This doesn't have to be a startup with a product, consulting is always easier to start.

That's the thing though: how do you start? Where do you find clients? I obviously can't go after any of my current employer's clients, I don't have friends who studied CS and work at prestigious companies... How do you get started?

Identify who would need your service, learn and do sales. Make sure you believe you have a great service. If not identify your greatest skill and improve it. Books are generally great. Here is a great sales book: https://www.amazon.com/SPIN-Selling-Neil-Rackham/dp/00705111...

If doing sales sounds tough, it will start tough and then get easier. If people ignore you just keep going.

Build something for someone for free (assuming you are in a programming or similar field).

When selling the most important part is the immediate benefit you are providing - will you reduce your customer's cost, improve their sales, solve some problem they spend too much time?

RE: how do you find clients? What field are you in? Who would need your service? Identify 1000 potential buyers and contact them. Contact them by email, phone, use forums, go to conferences, talk to people one on one. Introduce your benefit to them.. Make sure you contact people who seem to have budget and good things going on. Build a website on wordpress that describes your service. Hang out in places where your audience might be.

There is a lot to talk about but most importantly you "do" something consistently, improve it and keep going if you get Nos. If you stop doing you will never get there, and if you keep doing you will definitely get somewhere good, then great.

First, have some savings, it took me ~3 years to get a solid sales pipeline going.

There are 2 types of freelancing. You can specialize in a platform or framework, like Rails/Shopify/WordPress, or you can specialize in delivering whole solutions.

I prefer whole solutions as it gives me control over the project which makes it more likely to succeed. But it takes longer to build a reputation that will get you these projects. Until then, it's easier to find a client that knows exactly what they want but needs a programmer familiar with their technology of choice.

After deciding on what niches you want to go after, you have to start marketing yourself. Print business cards, start heading to meetups and conferences. Find any tech/startup hubs and go to networking events that sound interesting. My rule of thumb is to try and make at least one good connection for every networking event you attend. At the same time, find some online job boards for your city. I have had very good luck with a Facebook group run by a local startup hub. I've heard good things about LinkedIn but haven't looked much myself.

The best is when you can find clients by word of mouth, because you aren't competing with anyone else for their business. The goal is to build enough word of mouth that clients find you. Until then, you have to hustle.

If you make sure to announce on all your social media channels that you are now freelance and you make sure all your friends and family know, clients will start to find their way to you. It takes some time, but it happens.

If you put effort into networking and marketing, you should find clients eventually. As long as you have enough money to float your expenses until the work becomes consistent.

While building your portfolio, don't be afraid to do a free project or two for friends. Barter can work well with artists if you like their work! You can work at a discounted rate if a project aligns strongly with your objectives.

After your portfolio is something you are proud of, you shouldn't need to worry about discounted work anymore.

Try not to get stuck doing an under priced project for too long. It will get highly demotivating.

After a few years, if you live somewhere with a decently active tech economy, things should be well on their way.

It seems that most of your objection is to the company and it's goals, but not actually to working for other people. Have you considered working for a non-profit or charity, or a company where the products / services align with your values?

Maybe grab yourself a copy of Anita Roddick's "Business As Unusual", or "Ben & Jerry's Double Dip" to read about businesses that use capitalism to also have a social impact. On the not-for-profit side, Muhammad Yunus' "Banker To The Poor". Then start thinking about the kinds of companies or organizations you might like to work for.

You mention a couple times that your work has a significant impact on the company's sales/revenue. If you can actually quantify the value of your work, you are in a much stronger negotiating position with your employer and others. It is rarely done by engineers and sets you apart.

In addition to fair compensation, you mention "stressing over issues." I've noticed more than once that I've been stressed over problems my clients didn't really care about. It's not easy, but it's important to keep your stress levels in line with management's (or lower).

Value provided to my employer is more or less known: they sell my time for about 5x what they pay me (software consultancy).

The stress is over issues that the client is pressuring us to solve before a deadline, that usually requires overtime. I always refuse to do overtime, and try to work less rather than more. This creates a situation where my colleagues resent me because it feels like I'm not doing my share since they roll over and do whatever it takes to meet the deadline. And the client never learns, expecting overtime.

As a result, my last performance review wasn't great because my employer would prefer that I worked as much or more than my colleagues while only paying me 40h (clients are billed by the week, not by the hour.) I'm not in the top performers at my job either, I'd say I'm average at best. I don't feel like my bargaining position is particularly strong at the moment with this employer, and I negotiated my initial salary well from what I gather from colleagues I've discussed comp with.

Wow, 5X! I have a small consultancy and most engineers are surprised to learn that 2X is typical. I do know some of the large management consulting firms have very high margins, especially on junior programmers, which you're clearly not. Specialist knowledge will also raise rates. But I suspect they have high churn with abuse like that.

Do they have an awesome sales/marketing team, or are those rates typical for your industry? If it's typical, you might consider freelancing. Or finding a small consultancy that will treat you better and take care of sales for you.

I'll say I was once unhappy and asked to be laid off. They told me no, essentially because I was a cash cow. You think your bargaining position is tough, but if your utilization rate is 100% and their margin is 80%, if you leave they are guaranteed to lose at least 160 billable hours (up to 480) while they replace you. I'm assuming you're not in gaming or a glamour industry where there is a line out the door to replace you.

I'm far from an expert, I'd say intermediate. There are people I work with who know far more than I do.

The company specializes in a couple of frameworks so yes they sell expertise in that sense, and they've done a lot of work developing the brand.

But yes, there are more jobs than people to fill them, which is pretty much any software development job that isn't gaming related or movie related. My company always has open software dev positions and they can't fill them fast enough despite being very well known in the industry.

What domain is your consultancy in?

Traditionally it's been Java web application development and ecommerce, and I've subcontracted a few times when friends needed help.

But now I'm currently focusing more on staffing, since almost nobody technical is in recruiting, hence I'm a no brainer to hiring managers. Long term, I'll funnel recruiting revenue into products.

I believe there is a reason why it's rarely done by engineers, and that is because most management types view engineers as easily replaceable. Asking for a raise can put a target on your back when things get tight.

You might make a good independent consultant. You don't need an idea, but you do need to be able to find work, actually get stuff done reliably, and, oh yeah, remember to send invoices.

Why is it so difficult to find a service that finds work for a consultant?

I am in the same boat. As someone in IT, I find that most organizations don't value my incredible achievements... this year, I made a decent sum of money selling a seasonal product. My long term goal is to start one or more businesses with the blueprint from "the 4 hour workweek".

I have started to become an entrepreneur because there a billion different ways to make the world a better place (some are marketable) and in part because I want to be rewarded for the value i produce instead of the time I put in.

You could try being a staff augmentation contractor, working mostly 6 to 12 month gigs. Search any job board looking for keywords like contract or 1099.

You'll end up working at big companies, but are generally exempted from a lot of the bullshit. Things like company kool-aid meetings, non technical training, performance reviews, etc.

It's sort of in between running your own company and being an employee.

The risk profile is higher. You might see significant downtime between gigs. So you'll have to be disciplined about putting money aside.

Have you done this? The job board advertised rates seem a bit on the low side in relation to the downtime risk. (I'm only asking because I'm curious, not because your advice sounds bad or anything.)

I have. Staff aug, regular employee, and run my own company.

I've done staff augs before, I hope to never do staff augs again. You are not respected, and have to absorb all the cost of poor decisions made before your time.

You can become an academic, monk or makerspace operator if you enjoy research and teaching. You can also just take a break to recharge, eg. personally I find bicycle touring to be great. You could find something creative that you enjoy and just work on that until you find a way to channel it in to income, for example through sales or teaching. You could also consider channeling your frustrations in corporate profit allocation to creating new approaches to transparent management practices.

Seems that you're unsatisfied with the risk/reward balance, but you're not yet ready to go all the way to the other side.

What about working as early employee or a co-founder on a new venture? It won't be as hard as being the founder and CEO, but you'll still exchange some stability and guaranteed reward right now for a chance of greater reward in the future - and you'll be able to see direct results of your actions on the whole company and your stake in it.

M C P C' M'

Seriously though revolutions have happened because of this feeling, so you're far from alone. I've been struggling with this for all my life and yeah at some point I'll go nuts if I don't own my own work. I'm not advocating communism as the right solution for the disenchantment of having your labor exploited- I am saying that I think the frustration of that lies beneath both entrepreneurship and most anti capitalist movements.

Public sector employee plus FIRE sounds like a great combo to try.

Maybe freelancing too but I think that’s closer to entrepreneurship than some here are willing to admit.

Can you do it though? Public sector men's that you're paid less, a third of your pay is out away in a pension you cant touch until you turn 65 (if it's still there then). I've always wondered about it because I'd rather work at making people's life better and it feels like it's what most of government jobs stand for.

Public sector can actually pay pretty well. It really depends on the job. Top performers can do better in the private market, but money isn’t everything. Maybe OP will need to take a paycut to feel better about life :)

I would advise against 1099 until you are thoroughly read up on the subject.

There are calculators out there and percentages for employee versus 1099 but really it comes down to risk. You could be out of contract, injure yourself, and need to find income in that state. If you can mitigate that risk then you are ready.

In the meantime you may want to try a few courses in business or entrepreneurial skills at a local college or online.

Well, unless you win the lottery or get an inheritance, you have to work for someone else, in the US at least. There's no way around that. So in that case, you should try to find a job that you loathe the least. I suppose there are other options, like begging -- but that's still working to convince people to give you money, or welfare / disability -- again, same issue. No matter what the arrangement, until the end of your days you will have to justify your consumption of resources to your fellow humans.

I'm reminded by 2 quotes that may be of use to you. The first, by Paul Graham, who founded this forum:

"Startups are not magic. They don't change the laws of wealth creation. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars' worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can't evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it."

And the second, by Mr. Money Mustache:

"In real life (even New York City real life), you get paid for getting really difficult shit done, better than anybody else can do it."

Two things you can do:

1) You can opt for job roles where your perks are directly linked to your efforts - eg: Sales, Marketing.

2) There are side projects which can get you really decent and increasing revenues. You need not be a big visionary and build a company around it but you with the help of some freelancers can manage it. I can help you with some ideas if you want.

> I can help you with some ideas if you want.

Sure, I'm always curious to hear ideas! Thanks

Try to switch your company and see it as your vehicle to navigate the cosmos. Don't hesitate to ask your coworkers for the new things you want in your life and see how it becomes business projects.

Like many people, managers are systems to be used to organize. Coworkers organize your surroundings, managers organize your upper layers.

Remote work has been my saviour — infinite travel possibilities, disconnected from the 9–5 monotony, only need to fake enthusiasm for 5–60m a day max. Helps to see the position as purely a means to an end — pays the bills and allows for unbridled freedom.

How did you first take the jump to get into remote work?

You seem very focussed on the money-side of the equation, however for most people job satisfaction consists of more things like feeling part of a team, being friends with colleagues and growing as an individual. e.g. some companies enable you to solve problems you cannot do anywhere else, or allow you responsibility that you wouldn't have anywhere else.

Maybe the easiest to identify what would make you more satisfied with a job is to think what job you would sign up for if you suddenly have all your money needs solved (aka win the lottery).

The high risk of becoming an entrepreneur is exactly why the labour market is not allocating profits to employees, if it were very easy to build a successful company that can employ others then a lot of people would go and do just that. consequently, the war for talent would ensure profits go to the few people willing to work for somebody else.

That's the thing... I've worked at many different places (startups come and go fast), and I've never worked on something that I felt very strongly about. I was always solving someone else's problems while making someone else money.

If I had enough money to live, I would quit writing software for money instantly. I have a few side projects in various states of neglect and I'd much rather work on these for free than solving yet another meaningless corporate or business problem.

But I can't do that yet, because I like sleeping in a bed under a roof and eating food.

I get the risk/reward thing, but I think that one side has too much power and reaps too much profit from it.

Get a license. Medical, legal, electrician, teacher, plumber whatever tickles your fancy. This typically gives you a secure occupation with a steady enough income and quite a bit of workplace independence.

Have you tried working in the public sector or for a non-profit, like a university? Also you could try, although this is extremely rare, but there exist some cooperative software development firms.

You should consider to read books written by Peter Gelderloos about social anarchism, for example "Anarchy works".

At least you will meet with thoughts of people who have the same frustration as you have.

Definitely understand where you are coming from. Not sure about your specifics, but you could try the Mr. Money Mustache route; spend less money, then you wouldn't need to work as much

Definitely doing this already, but there is still several years to go.

1. Take up kickboxing

2. Consider that you probably can't change someone else but you can probably change your own response. In other words, figure out how to quickly identify the stuff that is total BS, actively choose not to stress about it, and train yourself to focus on the parts of it that you genuinely enjoy.

3. Know that you're not alone.

Have you considered working for an NGO or charity or something?

> Has anyone ever felt this way? What did you do about it and how do you cope with it?

Yes, same here. Good question!

> I say don't change much because a 2-3% raise once in a

> while is nice, but it's nothing in comparison to the

> thousands/millions extra it will make the company, while the

> only result for me is that I get to keep my job and do more

> of that.

Have you considered moving into sales? With your technical background as an engineer, you can certainly forage into sales with the right mentorship.

Sales is about the only type of 'job' that you will feel a proportionate reward to the effort you put in, meaning, you get more if you sell more (e.g. work longer/harder), whereas there's no financial incentive to work longer if you are salaried.

Of course, with sales you pay a different price - time-wise. You may have to be on the road a lot and work longer hours. But many people who are now considered very well off got that way through sales (e.g. John Doerr, who was one of Intel's greatest sales people).

Another way, and this is a tall order, is to find something your company (or the company's customer rather) needs, and try to get something started/prototyped before it becomes an actual project, then pitch that to management/sales/marketing. This way, you create value that was going to be created anyway on the company's dime, but you do this on your own time and hopefully in time for the company to adopt it and transition into your product idea. I know at least a few projects like this where I work, it's just that I value family time above extra cash that isn't really going to make a massive difference to my lifestyle.

I'm talking about software here mostly, as the barrier of entry to creating a software prototype of something is usually lower than creating a hardware prototype of something, depending on application of course.

Notice however, even if you do create something that's of value while working for someone else - you still end up having to 'sell' it to stakeholders within the company who can further give you a budget to polish it... or worst case, you may have to kill it if they don't like it, or don't approve of your methods- mostly because anytime you code something that involves using the company's source code as a base, they get to claim ownership of the IP (software). You read your employment contract, right?

This way, by putting above and beyond your 40 hr/week, you can most assuredly extract promotions and/or additional equity, without taking on the massive stress or risk of venturing out on your own. If you find it too time consuming to code on your own time, there's always options to hire foreign talent from countries with a lower standard of living to help you with coding - though that has its risks too, it's most definitely a viable avenue. I've done that for people who needed me to build simple websites for a lot cheaper than if I had done the website myself as a US-based engineer and usually marked up their rate by 20% or so. I've seen outfits mark up 100% or more... it all depends on what's acceptable to the engineer you're hiring, your customer and ultimately your take.

As you hopefully intuited, if you want the rewards to be proportionate to your effort instead of salaried, it almost always involves some kind of salesmanship in addition to being an astute coder/engineer/techie.

Yet another way is to becomes a serial start-up-eneur. Continue joining startups until one of them hits it off. This is less risk, but many people have gotten well off this way too.

I'm sure there are other ways, I just can't think of them now :)

Congratulations, you have discovered socialism. Most people find extreme injustice in seeing the value of their labor being stolen by the capitalist class. Socialism is an economic system that does away with the employer-employee distinction and allows all workers to take ownership of their own labor. In practice, this means the democratization of the workplace, and the end to the autocratic workplace.

Edit: To actually answer your question, perhaps you should think about politics, and fight for a future where no one should suffer like this.

Owner of a business here... I'm 6 years into owning my own business and things have grown year over year for the company and we are doing quite well. In theory, the democratization of the workplace is a nice idea, and I initially tried to build my business around this idea. But over my time running things, I've realized that hierarchy is necessary, especially when things start to scale up. One of the biggest things I've come to realize is that most people take comfort in structure: what time to arrive and what time they can leave, specific directions on how to do their job and what exactly their job is (or isn't), when they will be paid, etc. As things begin to scale up in a business, it's necessary to create specific roles and specialized work for things to operate efficiently, and while a healthily functioning company relies on everyone doing their job well and working together, every role in the company does not carry equal weight, either because of the skillset or knowledge base required to perform a given task or because of the network and social abilities of a given person might open more doors for the business. People also go through different stages in their personal lives where they might be more or less invested in the work they're doing, and when you're an employee you have the luxury of checking out every once in awhile. For better or worse, good owners are married to their businesses and don't have that luxury.

I'm still learning and I consciously try to value the input of each employee and make myself openly available for criticism when it's called for. I also realize that the temptation is there to siphon off marginal profits into my own check, but I think that's short sighted if you have good employees who do "own" their job and are growth minded. Investing in those types will only pay dividends. There's a balance to be had, and it sounds like the OP needs to find a company where he feels better respected and supported. Maybe pay is a component of that, but communication and a healthy culture are also pieces of the puzzle.

Democratization of work doesn't mean zero hierarchy. It means the workers get to choose how their labor value is used. It is perfectly acceptable for a majority of a company to decide to elect a CEO and form a capitalist-style company, but it is important that it is their choice to do so! And of course, they would still retain their right to revoke such a hierarchy.

So what's stopping this from happening now? The existence of other firms where employees own 0% shouldn't negatively impact worker-owned cooperatives, right? If anything, coops should be at an advantage because no one is sucking out all their value!

So why don't we see more of that?

My theory: corporate tyranny is commonplace and accepted, and a democratic (or more likely, a republican) workplace is new and different, and a lot of people are rightly suspicious of building their lives on a new and possibly unstable foundation.

Also the law is set up assuming the firm will ultimately be run through a single point of authority, and if you want to run the place as a coop you'll face investor uncertainty and legal difficulties.

Most of all, the US culture doesn't have much in the way of cultural norms for a firm like this. We have centuries of experience working in a hierarchical style workplace, but people don't really have manners for working in an democratic firm, and there would have to be a lot of time and energy spent on cultural factors that a conventional workplace doesn't have to.

Does this make any sense at all?

It's hard to raise money for such a business, because venture capitalists typically aren't willing to loan a new business money- they want ownership equity for their money. And at that point it's no longer employee owned. In fact small business loans specifically exclude any new business from consideration- established businesses with documented profits only, thank you very much. So usually employee owned businesses start out privately owned and then the employees buy out the original owners at market prices. I think there is hope though- there are financing options for cooperatives starting to appear here and there, still on a very small scale though.

I see that happening only under an employee owned company. Most companies start small though, with 1 to n founders and/or equity owners. I think it takes a special owner and a very special set of employees for an owner to later abdicate control back to their employees.

Socialists have a particular hate for voluntary leftist organizations that allow choice, and then have the workers choose individualization, mostly because that's exactly what open communes keep doing, and it destroys them.

For a good example, see the evolution of the Kibbutzim system in Israel and what sort of image Israel has today in leftist circles (and the image and reputation Kibbutzim have in Israel's own considerable leftist parties). You will see that leftists cannot deal with individual choices and, also, that allowing individualized choices will destroy any leftist society. Therefore, they cannot be voluntary.


>I resent spending 48 weeks a year in an office and stressing over issues that will only make the company's owners richer but won't change much for me. I say don't change much because a 2-3% raise once in a while is nice, but it's nothing in comparison to the thousands/millions extra it will make the company, while the only result for me is that I get to keep my job and do more of that.

Who wouldn't resent it? Who wouldn't resent the fruits of their labour being reaped by someone else? Who actually thinks it is fair that you work hard to make your boss millions?

We need to radically rethink our current system of wealth distribution. Propaganda and US intervention have succeeded in preventing socialism from taking off anywhere in the first world or succeeding anywhere at all. How else can the majority of people tolerate feudalism in the 21st century?

Or maybe most people just don’t have such a simplistic view of the world?

People who advocate for socialism just want the rewards of capitalism without any of the risks.


Yeah, we wouldn't want people being wealthy beyond belief without deserving it. I can tell that you don't know the first thing about socialism.

I'm perfectly fine with some people ending up with undeserved wealth if it comes along with higher prosperity for everyone. Capitalist-leaning systems have an unbelievable track record in this regard, while socialist utopias all seem to wither and die, usually while impoverishing, starving, and murdering millions in the process.

To be clear, I'm not talking about social democracy, and I'm not talking about more mixed economies, which all developed countries have to some degree. Capitalism isn't perfect. It's horrible in many respects. Call me when you have something better, because socialism isn't it.

Higher prosperity for everyone? Who are you talking about? I'm pretty sure the bottom 95% of capitalist countries are in complete poverty.

In 1820, the vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed higher standards of living. Economic growth over the last 200 years completely transformed our world, with poverty falling continuously over the last two centuries. This is even more remarkable when we consider that the population increased 7-fold over the same time. In a world without economic growth, an increase in the population would result in less and less income for everyone. A 7-fold increase in the world population would be potentially enough to drive everyone into extreme poverty. Yet, the exact opposite happened. In a time of unprecedented population growth, we managed to lift more and more people out of poverty.


In 1990, there were 2 billion people living in extreme poverty. With a reduction to 705 million in 2015, this means that on average, every day in the 25 years between 1990 and 2015, 137,000 fewer people were living in extreme poverty.

Socialism didn't do that. Capitalism and liberalism did.

Source: https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty/

Well seeing how most Americans haven't been getting the rewards of capitalism(wages have been stagnant since the 70's, regional inequality + healthcare + housing has made the actual COL much higher), it makes perfect sense that people would start pushing for something different.

Our system isn't perfect, and capitalism overall is shit, but actual socialism somehow manages to be worse. Americans aren't clamoring for socialism.

> Americans aren't clamoring for socialism.

In fact Americans are inexplicably voting for the absolute worst proponents of capitalist corruption.

Shh, no one is supposed to know. --The 1%ers

The 20th century has thoroughly proven out the naivety of this position. Political and economic systems conform themselves to reality, not the other way 'round, for better or worse.

The reality is that we live in a world of scarcity, and have unchangeable biological impulses toward hoarding resources and other exclusionary survival behaviors. Capitalism provides the _most fair_ solution under the unchangeable physical realities that govern human life.

You can't wave a political magic wand and do away with all unfairness in the world. A lot of people tried that over the last 100 years. One quick honest look at the wreckage should be more than enough to disabuse anyone of these ideas.

>The reality is that we live in a world of scarcity,

Since the 1980s we have been producing enough food to feed everyone on earth. So to take that example, of that basic necessity, there is no scarcity. From that moment on making sure nobody starved ceased to be a problem of scarcity and became a problem of distribution.

>and have unchangeable biological impulses toward hoarding resources and other exclusionary survival behaviors.

I have a biological impulse to kill people who cross me, to shit on the street, to steal things I want, if given the chance. The proof of that is that for the vast majority of the existence of our species this was how we behaved. Nevertheless I tamed those impulses. No reason why the impulses of hoarding for myself to the ruin of others can't be tamed as well.

>Since the 1980s we have been producing enough food to feed everyone on earth. So to take that example, of that basic necessity, there is no scarcity. From that moment on making sure nobody starved ceased to be a problem of scarcity and became a problem of distribution.

Scarcity is a feature that exists due to physical limitations and processes that have a) shaped human evolution for millennia, socially and biologically; and b) have not ceased since the 1980s. We may produce enough food to feed everyone on earth by some metrics, but that doesn't mean that the principle of scarcity is irrelevant in either the theoretical or practical sense.

>I have a biological impulse to kill people who cross me, to shit on the street, to steal things I want, if given the chance. The proof of that is that for the vast majority of the existence of our species this was how we behaved. Nevertheless I tamed those impulses. No reason why the impulses of hoarding for myself to the ruin of others can't be tamed as well.

Negative default behaviors are mitigated through systems that recognize, acknowledge, and cooperate with the human impulse instead of trying to deny its existence or inevitable operation. If bathrooms are too far apart or the wait is too long, then people don't use them and yes, will alternately relieve themselves on the side of the street.

We need to carry some of that realism into our economic and political discussion.

Most people find extreme injustice in seeing the value of their labor being stolen by the capitalist class.

Nonsense. Most people don’t think their labor is stolen or find extreme injustice in getting paid for their labor. You need to get outside your bubble.

I think you are in the bubble. How much of the world do you think gets paid fairly for their labor? The First-World conditions of America and Europe are buoyed by the dystopic conditions of labor in the Third-World. And these conditions are very visibly creeping into middle class America as well.

Compare global poverty (especially in developing economies) today to 50 years ago and tell me again about the dystopia the average human is living in because of capitalism.

If I was going to be reborn in a random country, I’d sure rather it be in 2017 than 1967, and I feel optimistic that 2067 will be much better still.

Sure here's the comparison data: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-sta...

And my favorite part:

"For economic growth and almost all of the other indicators, the last 20 years [of the current form of globalization, from 1980 - 2000] have shown a very clear decline in progress as compared with the previous two decades [1960 - 1980]. For each indicator, countries were divided into five roughly equal groups, according to what level the countries had achieved by the start of the period (1960 or 1980). Among the findings:

    Growth: The fall in economic growth rates was most pronounced and across the board for all groups or countries.
    Life Expectancy: Progress in life expectancy was also reduced for 4 out of the 5 groups of countries, with the exception of the highest group (life expectancy 69-76 years).
    Infant and Child Mortality: Progress in reducing infant mortality was also considerably slower during the period of globalization (1980-1998) than over the previous two decades.
    Education and literacy: Progress in education also slowed during the period of globalization.Source 29"
TL;DR: Capitalism is unsustainable. We need a new system.

Doesn't seem like the highest-quality source and I'm pretty skeptical of their conclusions, but regardless:

Your TLDR doesn't make much sense. So we're making less progress for the last 20 years (but still making progress) therefore capitalism is unsustainable and we should replace it with the same tired system that's been tried over and over again for the last century without even a hint of success?


Large amounts of global inequality are because, to the very recent times, most of the people in the world lived under communism, which kept them in poverty (often extreme). The rest of the world was lucky to enjoy massive increase of standards of living thanks to capitalism, which created a chasm. Only now, as capitalism has spread to most countries, the global inequality is decreasing (see ex. increasing wages in China and stagnant wages in US).

To elaborate: it's not stolen if you previously signed a contract that the employer can have it.

Otherwise every trade would be theft right?

Hardcore socialists apparently think that’s true. After all, if the other person wants it, they must be taking advantage of me! They all operate from a fixed pie / scarcity mentality, and must have missed the basic economics class where you learn that parties can trade where ALL end up better off than if you didn’t.

Of course, but it’s hard to argue that because a trade is advantageous to you, you cannot attempt to create the conditions where it’s even more advantageous. And in negotiations, you should strengthen your BATNA (best alternative to no agreement) and that of the other party’s. So you could see class struggle as a strategy to improve the starting positions in a negotiation, if that makes you happier :-)

A mugger doesn't steal from me, if I hand my wallet to him, right?

Analogously to how this is theft because of the threat of violence, so it can be argued that it is also theft/extortion due to the threat of leaving you and your family homeless and starving if you don't take my offer right now.

There’s a market for labor too, so it’s not like most people have only the choice of one employer’s offer or starvation. And no one is arguing that we shouldn’t have a social safety net of any kind to improve the BATNA of employees.

Socialism as you’re portraying it here doesn’t exist, does it? Or can you provide some examples?

The model where social democracy works best seems to be the Nordic model, but this is expressly NOT socialism as you’re defining it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_model

So please, where’s this utopia that you’re telling OP is the answer to their problems?

And where it works best also tends to me culturally homogenous with very little diversity.

Socialism is only a valid answer if you don't understand technology. If you think there's a fixed pie and we have to forcibly break it into rations so that everyone gets at least something.

But technology offers a much better solution, which is grow the pie large enough that everyone has as much as they want. There are no physical limitations to this concept. The universe is rich with everything we need for billions of years. Karl Marx didn't understand asteroid mining.

And it turns out that unchecked capitalism is shit but it's just the right kind of manure for the garden of technology to bear its fruit of panacea.

This is a sentiment that I think is termed "technological utopianism" and it has limits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_utopianism

Or more generally, this is just a description of Technology https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology

There may be "limits" in terms of scope and trade offs to society, but there are no practical "physical limitations" with respect to available atoms.

I'm not so sure that there are no physical limitations to technological growth, which is ultimately a function of investment in to technology.


Marx wasn't really advocating that there is a fixed pie which needs to be forcibly carved up. Mostly he built his ideas around the distinction between different kinds of "value", particularly the labour value and exchange value of goods.

His clever insight, the basis of his theory of exploitation, was that labour value and labour power are different. The labourer sells labour power. The difference between the labour value of the good and the labour power sold accrues to the capitalist.

One of the several ways he was wrong was that prices aren't really set by labour value at all. All economic value is subjective, influenced by many factors. The average amount of labour is neither here nor there.

For the last 50 years, the pie has gotten larger and larger. And yet, the median slice is getting smaller. How big does this pie have to get before everyone is allowed to have a bite?

Why do you say the slices have gotten smaller? The absolute percentage of people in poverty in the world has had a very rapid decline over the last 50 years. So something we are doing is working.

I don't think you know what socialism is.

Could you provide an example of socialism done right (not social democracy) where you'd love to live?

You can build your socialist enterprise in any capitalist system, it's not like it's forbidden as long as you pay your bills.

Yes, because a socialist enterprise can exist in a system where the ultra-wealthy capitalist can

1. Buy out the company and outsource everything 2. Buy out the politicians and make laws against them 3. Use their extreme wealth to sabotage their business. 4. In the case of other nations, embargo them and assassinate their leaders, stoke pro-capitalist revolutions.

Examples: See Cuba, USSR, entirety of South America, Vietnam, etc.

Ah...I see now. Socialism has failed miserably everywhere it’s been tried, but that’s not socialism’s fault! It’s capitalism’s fault! The big bad capitalists ruined it by meddling! If only socialists could be left alone, they’d finally be able to create paradise.

I’m straw-manning here, but only a bit. Not only is this cliche defense of socialism not logical or accurate, it’s impractical.

So you need a world without adversaries or people with entrenched power before you can create your utopia?

Good luck with that.

Liberalism went through the same period. Ever hear of the french revolution? Then the Napoleonic wars?

The same is and will happen with socialism. The status quo benefits a select few people (Monarchy, at the time), who will do their damndest to keep it that way. Eventually, enough people will rise up and make change happen.

You may be right about things eventually changing, but I think it'll be due to post-scarcity due to technological progress, not because people will rise up.

What you're definitely wrong about is that the current status quo benefits a select few. It's not equally distributed (although neither would socialism be), but almost everyone on earth today is much better off today than they would have been without capitalism, liberalism, etc.

But I'm tired of providing examples of why, especially when the alternative being offered is a theoretical utopia that's basically a more extreme version of some of the most cruel and deadly regimes earth has ever known.

I was going to say the same thing but you beat me to it. Without some form of profit sharing or stake holding by employees, there is simply no way to make the workplace fair. That fairness was traditionally sought by unions but they have lost much of their influence for political reasons because of their relationship with socialism. Richard Wolff has talked at length about this:



Thom Hartmann's programs are another good source:



Socialism gets a bad rap in the US because it has been abused in the past to give rise to things like fascism and communism. But many social democracies (much of Europe) today enjoy high standards of living and I would argue are focused more on culture and the pursuit of non-material goals than the US.

We're at a crossroads where the middle class is on the brink of failure due to decades of trickle down economics (Reaganomics). Things like the upcoming tax cut will likely lead to stagflation (high inflation and flat wages, last felt in the 1970s) because there is no mathematical or economic basis for lowering taxes in boom times under a high national debt. So this will be the third bust I've seen (the dot bomb and housing bomb being the others) since the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999 by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act. Keep in mind that we had almost 70 years of relative stability since it was implemented:


The current trends are towards maximizing concentration of wealth, not just in the US but under multinational corporations. Think of boom-bust cycles as being similar to stock market volatility. The most money is made when prices fluctuate the most, so elected officials are under tremendous lobbying pressure to maximize these peaks and troughs. Meanwhile the working class feels the brunt of the effect, worst for people who have no savings or investments and find themselves overworked/underpaid during boom times and unemployed during down times. They have no investments so miss out on the share of profits made by the wealthy (in effect, a poverty tax).

I’ve tried not to politicize this too much but there are very basic left-right divides at work here and I was born in 1977 so have only witnessed conservative economic policies (Clinton and Obama mostly maintained them, there have been no top marginal rate hikes to pre-Reagan levels of perhaps 50-75%). Incomes flatlined sometime around 1980 and in very real terms, workers today are earning roughly half what the baby boomers earned, adjusted for inflation:


This is probably due to several reasons, a main one being that more women work outside the home today so there was a doubling of the labor pool which put downward pressure on wages. But that’s not enough to explain it entirely. I put the blame squarely on regressive tax policies, for example the separation of income and capital gains tax (so-called earned and unearned income). Net income should probably all be taxed the same way, under a fair tax bracket scheme, preferably a mathematical curve of some kind:


A flat tax is far too regressive, but something approaching linear on a logarithmic scale could work.

What this all means is that it's going to be up to us to work towards some form of progressive taxation or dreaming into the future far enough, a universal basic income like Star Trek. That may require taxing robot labor or coming up with new forms of taxation like putting sales tax on stock trades. If we educate ourselves in things like civics which are no longer taught in school, we can get a picture of what it was like when the US was more democratic and able to change its course. So to answer the original poster’s question: too many hours, too little pay, and to add insult to injury: no self-determination (freedom) in the workplace.

But I think if everyone knew the history of how we got here, it would no longer be ethical to exclude workers from reaping the fruits of their labors via the distinction of employer and employee. And I think that with full access to information, we arrive at the conclusion that progressive taxation is the quickest and most proven way to create a middle class. I don’t think of these things as socialism but that label is used to discredit otherwise logical conclusions in socioeconomics.

Just want to point out. Socialism doesn't give rise to fascism in any way. Fascism is basically late-stage capitalism, and a rejection of socialism. Communism is late-stage socialism, which is a utopian society.

The words are a bit bundled up in usage. The communist revolution lead to a State-Capitalist USSR, which most scholars would say is not what socialism actually is (as per your Richard Wolff videos) I suggest watching his intro to socialism videos to get a clear understanding of the terms. The USSR revolution was supposed to bring about a socialist society, but Stalin basically decided that being in a State-capitalist society was good enough, and ended the transition there.

Ya I was thinking of WWII Germany but I’m not sure if the Nazi party was really socialist or just used the term in place of populist.

"Democracy at Work" http://www.democracyatwork.info/

I seriously hope you're joking. Can't be sure nowadays.

Anyone who thinks this is a great idea should take a trip to Cuba.

Seriously. I had the same affliction and about 8 days into Cuba I was totally cured.

Cuba is a cherry-picked example and is misleading.

Other socialist countries that are doing better: China; Denmark; Finland; Netherlands; Canada; Sweden; Norway; Ireland.

Don't forget Cuba has been forced into economic isolation by the US. And places like Venezuela and Detroit were overly dependent on too few industries and are plagued by massive wealth inequality.

You can also find persistent systemic poverty in capitalism: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0185084916...

> My boss getting a new Tesla or yet another house from the extra profits doesn't make me happy.

Hang on, last I checked everyone still gets employed in China; Denmark; Finland; Netherlands; Canada; Sweden; Norway; Ireland the same way they get employed in all the other countries. All the bosses in those countries you mentioned still drive the new Telsa and have bigger houses. So wouldn't this kind of socialism not actually be a solution for the OP's problem?

In these countries there is a larger tax rate and a much larger safety net for those who cannot or do not work. In addition, the government provides basic services like health care and, in some countries, child care that do a lot to close the gap. In most of these countries, they don't really have a conception of working "full time" vs. "part time," due to provided health insurance, meaning that people generally have meaningful work life balance. They also have better law around collective bargaining and the rights of employees. But yes, they're not like the USSR where everyone is provided with some kind of job.

There is social democracy and there is socialism.

I am totally with social democracy like your European examples where health care, education, and other things are basic rights and investments that everyone in the country should enjoy.

That said, nobody in Norway or Sweden are guaranteed jobs and the working culture is actually pretty similar to the most of the west, including having to work for demanding bosses.

True socialism is a nightmare that guarantees nothing more than everyone has the same, which is usually very little.

I don't think anything like "true socialism" could exist. Just like "true capitalism" or a "true scotsman".

How do you define a socialist country?

Too complex for an HN post and ultimately my definition will far too short, so I'll just cop out by saying "I know it when I see it".

Usually defined by a relatively more weighted public sector ownership and operation of the factors of production. It's about worker control. And my overall feelings of it is relative to places like the U.S. which practices a form of democratic-ish corporatist oligarchy.


In the context of this conversation, where your efforts won't go to improve the wealth or power or status of your boss, I'd say you'd have to get pretty socialist to solve that problem.

By including China, I'd say, very broadly?

I agree, China doesn’t meet the criteria imo. It’s totalitarian, nationalist and it does not provide socialized medicine - it has more in common with the US than with the other examples, I believe. Over the years they’ve been moving to privatize many industries - not all though.

Interestingly the Western leaning Taiwan usually portrayed as the capitalist counterpart does provide socialized medicine, having quite recently de-privatized the system with great results.

There are arguments against socialism, but pointing to a small country who's been embargoed by a local juggernaut for decades is not a strong one.

Can you elaborate? Specifically:

* Out of the dozens of countries that have/had socialist governments (let's ignore those where US intervention prevented that from happening, against the will of the people) why did you choose Cuba?

* What failings of Cuba do you attribute to socialism, and do not see happening in capitalist countries?

For those of us who can't go to Cuba (I'm sure there are a lot of us), could you say more about what was wrong with it? Also there are lots of other factors I'm sure that could contribute besides just that its socialist.

Take a trip to any non-first-world capitalist country. Funny how only a handful of countries benefit from capitalism, while the rest have their resources and labor pillaged. Sounds a lot like a capitalist business.

I don't know why people take it on its face that hating their job is something that is fixed, and not changeable. What if rather than seek a different lifestyle, you try to learn to love your job and be ok with working under others? Why does everyone assume your feelings as they are are ok, in the sense that they shouldn't be worked on and navigated. Does everyone here just work off their first impression, for instance, that they wouldn't consider their feelings the problem on occasion?

You're probably looking at the wrong thing here.

People who enjoy what they're doing typically look past how mightily life, the government, and the suits are screwing them. In my own business, I absolutely hate the admin tasks, but the people and the actual productive work more than make up for it.

Try to find something that you actually enjoy doing. The rest will probably take care of itself.

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