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Workers quit jobs in droves to become their own bosses (wsj.com)
434 points by prostoalex 53 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 450 comments




I hope everyone considers themselves as working for themselves, regardless of the actual vehicle that attaches themselves to their current income stream (job or their own company or whatever...)

Even self-employed, you still have many bosses (customers, etc). In fact _those_ bosses can be harder to fire depending on contracting terms... And you might find it harder to churn out the sales to maintain a steady income stream.

Even company-employed, you still should frame things in working-for-yourself. What are you getting out of the relationship? Is the employer holding up its end for you?

The traditional, paternalistic concept of employment is outmoded. It says your career growth should be managed by your employer (don't let it...). It presumes the work you do and your job are always 100% the same (they're not). It assumes a kind of one-sided evaluation of the employee, where the employer has all the power (very untrue these days).


I think you - and a lot of other people - overstate how hard this is. It's really not much of a churn to get leads in todays market. Even for someone who keeps working at small companies (whoops) in a tech backwater like me.

Also clients are really not like bosses at all - even for me who is on the "software pro" - to use the Daedtech terminology [0]- end of the self employment spectrum.

- There's no polite fiction that I'm going to stick around indefinitely

- The 'interviews' are way shorter, because it's so much easier to fire me. I'm backing myself to deliver which is a show of confidence

- It's just a much more honest and less un-equal conversation. I can survive without them, they can survive without me, but we have a mutually beneficial relationship. Not one based on power or desperation.

[0]: https://daedtech.com/a-taxonomy-of-software-consultants/


I was a consultant for 8 years and burned out, in part because of the context switching between sales and delivery. It can be exhausting.

More specifically not the sales per se but the extensive amount of in depth relationship work at very sophisticated clients. Or the cheap clients that always want something for nothing. You can have a lot of inbound, but how many of those clients are qualified?

Then there’s the complicated contract negotiation process, which is its own huge headache with months of legal negotiation extending well beyond the desired project start time. Often from big companies that role your eyes at you when you say you want to negotiate.

Then when it’s all said and done, chasing payment. They promise they’ll pay in 30, 45, 60 whatever days, but there’s always an excuse for not getting paid. Often made up ones that actually violate your contract with them. But what are you going to do, sue? You can stop work, and we did, but then you’re maybe burning bridges and disrupting the tech colleagues you work with day in, day out…

Relationship work is important in any work. And you’re _always_ selling and communicating value. But when it becomes all about administriva like contracts or being paid, it’s no fun. I don’t think it’s a valuable use of smart peoples time.

Finally, there’s a certain type of company that hires lots of consultants. And they often aren’t the ones you would choose to work with. They hire consultants because they have bigger organizational dysfunction but lack awareness to tackle that dysfunction.


The thing that I hate the most is filling taxes.


You are missing out greatly here, as this is where the benefit of being independent is. You get tax breaks on pretty much everything you do.


This is no panacea, as it also means you have no employer paying Social Security taxes on your behalf, not to mention not getting any employer-provided benefits either.


You still have to pay SS (at least in the US and NL), it just doesn’t come out of your check every month. In the US, it’s pretty high (15%) IIRC.


I have literally never had a problem with this. Is there some part of self employed tax filing that I’m just missing?


I live in Brazil so things might be different. I have to fill taxes monthly and the system to do it sucks. I have to clear cookies each time I visit it or log in wouldn't work. I'm probably overreacting because I find it extremely boring.


Just use a private browser window if it's so bad? Most of the browsers have a mode like that that won't store cookies for the sites that you visit in it. Nor should that mode give any of your already present cookies to the private session. You shouldn't have to clear all of your cookies to just make one site not persist session data.

Firefox: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/private-browsing-use-fi...

Chrome: https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/95464

Edge: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-edge/browse-in...

Safari: https://support.apple.com/guide/safari/use-private-browsing-...


Thanks but who does not know about incognito mode? :)

It's not a big deal, I just have to clear/remove cookies for just that site. I though it wouldn't work in incognito mode because theoretically it would require access to my client certificate which I believe wouldn't/shouldn't work in a private window. Anyway I tried and it worked because the site is not using it in the end.


> Thanks but who does not know about incognito mode?

Just felt like the perfect use case for it, not sure why it wasn't considered previously. Your update makes sense and clears things up, though. Thanks!


Oh, yeah, that does sound like a pain. My interaction is limited to signing into the tax system once a year and dropping my total amount of income and expenses.

Especially now that I’m not elligible for any startup discounts any more (and sole proprietor, so no employees) the thing has become almost automatic.


then hire someone to do it for you


This is why I got an accountant who set up the aspects of my side-hustle business I'm too stupid^H^H^H^H^H^H lazy^H^H^H^H busy to sort out. Yes I could have done this all myself but could I have done it myself the correct way from the outset? Not a chance. I would have screwed up some detail.


Its silly, lots of people do their own taxes but forget what they normally charge per hour and how slow they do the taxes makes it not worth it. No one would hire them to do taxes at those rates.


this of course only works if you spend the time in exchange for billable hours. if you do it during down time or in your free time, you of course save money.

until you screw up :P


That amused me so much I forget to reply. There is no such thing as doing work in your free time!


I wish to do so, I approached a few and will definitely hire one when I incorporate as a one person company.

The issue is that I did not find one with experience in my activity as it is very particular when compared to that of their average client. And I was reasonably scared that the ones that I could hire could screw me. So I ended up studying how things should be done for this particular case and I think I'm better doing it myself.


I always found companies with disfunction are the ones where you can get most benefit for yourself. You do have to make sure you work their disfunction to your benefit, not getting crushed by it. They usually have a lot of problems, some are solvable, some are not, you have to pick solvable ones and do good job and you will have a good time.


You should have been a lawyer. :)


This is an excellent summary of tech consulting.


If you get to a certain size, and it doesn't need to be huge, you can delegate those tasks, can't you?

Just hire an administrator that's competent - they most likely don't need an MBA to do the tasks you're describing.


>Just hire an administrator that's competent

The idea that this sort of thing is easy is precisely why most startups fail. Sure the ideas and tech and implementation are hard, but that happens to be what most of us are good at. But guess what? The administration of the business is also hard (harder?).

This is just the inverse thought process of a couple of business students with an app idea for which they plan on outsourcing the programming for $5 an hour. It's a simple app, no problem!


> The idea that this sort of thing is easy is precisely why most startups fail

Most small businesses fail, too, but a small business such as a boutique consulting services company does not have the same risk profile as a startup.

I never said it's easy, but it's certainly not as hard as building a unicorn. The difficulty is commensurate to the risk and the scale, I hope you can appreciate that?

If you don't want to delegate, then the other only alternative is to put up with doing these jobs (marketing & sales, finance & accounting, etc.) since they are not going away regardless of your technical expertise.


It's an undervalued skill to delegate and manage people, even menial ones.

So whilst your point is spot on I've learned (the hard way) that not everybody has the ability to delegate. It's a skill just like any other.


So the solution to people working for a boss and not themselves is to hire people to work for you?


> So the solution to people working for a boss and not themselves is to hire people to work for you

Your comment is not only facetious, but also quite unintelligent.

I was not replying to the idea that "everyone should work for themselves". You've just taken that idea and replied to yourself, not to anything I was saying.


I do apologise, my comment wasn’t really directed at you at all. I was simply lampooning the idea, apparently held by some here, that working for others is an inherently abusive relationship. That employers are exploiters.


That's just called a company my man...no, it's not easy to run, even if everyone involved is competent and you delegate things.


I did not say it was easy to run. I was implying it's the only way to avoid doing marketing and sales, finances and accounting, operations, etc. by yourself since those jobs are never going away.

Also, as astonishing as this may seem to a lot of HNers, most modern economies are built upon SMEs. There are good, normal people working in small businesses all over the world. You could run an operation with half a dozen people and focus on technical delivery and strategic sales (I don't think you can ever delegate high-level sales). This poses its own set of challenges but it really is a middle ground between having to do everything as a sole trader and living stressed out of your tits trying to build a unicorn.


> - The 'interviews' are way shorter, because it's so much easier to fire me. I'm backing myself to deliver which is a show of confidence

I've never found this to be the case. Interviewing for an employee position was usually < 4 hours. But I have to spend way more time than that meeting with clients and putting together proposals before winning a contract.


I think there's a certain type of person who has no trouble selling themselves and therefore finds this sort of thing easier than those of us who are most decidedly not salesmen.


Surprisingly (at least for me) I find that freelancing has made it much easier to solicit business than the hiring process as an employee.

When freelancing neither side has the expectation that this is forever. We both understand we have our own businesses but will benefit from this particular time-limited engagement.

In contrast, in employment there's this whole charade where the company pitches it as a brilliant opportunity and you're supposed to play the game and pretend to care about their values, how exciting the work is or be enthused by their mission to change the world when ultimately the only thing that should matter to you is the paycheck.


I wonder if there’s opportunity to build a community/collective/agency to help software developers manage the admin similar to a brokerage model.


Still involves a bit of selling, but isn't that basically UpWork's model?


I was extremely surprised how low Upwork's fees are.

In vanilla software consulting it's not uncommon for the middleman to take 20% or a third off the top. Or even more extraordinary amounts in the more traditional places like Booz.

Upwork's taking less than 10%.

It's extraordinarily good value for money compared to many recruiters and other middlemen.

The downside is of course there's a very good community of talented international developers on there.


> The downside is of course there's a very good community of talented international developers on there.

There is a far larger community of horribly bad developers on there, many of them working at low rates to get high ratings. I am on both sides; hiring and getting hired and the hiring part is far more beneficial imho. What is a huge PITA as well; once someone who is rather mediocre (junior with some promise for instance), after a few good reviews they hike the price up so far that it makes no sense at all hiring them. I have used upwork (and before than Elance and others) for 20 years with 100s of people and almost always people overplay their hand and come back begging for another chance.


I actually freelanced for a while during college, in parallel to studying CS, before i found local part time employment as a developer.

Admittedly, there's a large amount of project postings that have unclear or unrealistic requirements (feature or estimate wise), almost always you can expect either some outdated or obscure stack in pre-existing codebases/platforms, typically some badly developed WordPress site that you're supposed to fix or use for things that WordPress isn't really suited for (advanced CRUD), you'll almost never find projects with documentation, any sort of a quality control/code review, or even separate test environments.

There are good projects there every now and then too, but be prepared to compete in a race to the bottom price wise, knowing that many of those potential clients shall pick the cheaper developers, which sometimes will result in similar neglect of the codebases, because if you accept multiple projects you only have so much time for each (and the clients won't necessarily know any better). Sometimes the developers are simply in a lower CoL area, but depending on where you live, you'll also have to cope with that, some projects will just be below your living expenses.

I'd probably say that in my limited experience, around 90-95% of the project postings on the site as a web dev were like that at any given time, whereas around 70-80% of the projects that i got to work on weren't satisfactory in regards to how easy or even "safe" the development process and communication was, even if i tried avoiding the red flags for the most part. I got to work for some people that were decent, however the code quality wasn't satisfactory, nor was anything surrounding the code itself.

There are circumstances in which freelancing through them can work, you can also be even more selective with the projects that you undertake, but unless you have a wide variety of skills, you might find yourself missing out on anything reminiscent of a stable income. The best idea would be to somehow manage to find a few good clients and build a longer term business relationship with them, which is probably one of the better outcomes for everyone.


Sounds like the real world to me.

I guess I've never hired someone at cheap rates, I only ever hired at 30 USD an hour.


Same for me, but there are very many really bad/inflated people on upwork for 30US/hr.


Yeah, it’s called regular employment.


Yes, there are many. https://mission.dev/ is one I've spoken with but haven't had an opening to work with (I think this is the one, they were called GSquad before). When you get past the marketing site and hear from the people, it sounds more like a self-organizing software co-op.


Could worker cooperatives serve that purpose? I suppose there's a trade-off between security in numbers and individual freedom, but maybe working conditions could be better (despite the constraints of a permanent job) if employees shared equally in the business without any non-employees holding voting shares.


I don't think I'm that type of person. But at the same time I'm not the shiest programmer around. All I'm really doing is introducing myself.


Yes there is, but sales is a skill that can be taught and learned.


At first blush, I might guess "a tech backwater" would be easier to find leads. A tech hub will have so much noise and competition for those leads, even if the leads are more plentiful.


I do miss the days when every teenager who "knows computers" was thought to be more technically competent than adults with 10 years of industry experience and every small business and sole proprietor in existence was looking for a 100% custom website design and was willing to pay an 8th grader rather than a web design firm. Such were the early 00s / my teen years.


As someone who has been on the web site/app dev entrepreneur grind for quite some time now getting leads is a tougher game now more than ever. Social media is fraught with scammers and people with risky black-hat inspired SEO goals that I'm not willing to be a party to at all.

I get lots of emails for jobs and generate estimates at least twice a month only to find out that the person is a scammer posing as a customer. I also get tons of spam that I have to sift through to make sure no customers are missed. It's far easier to go door to door at real business establishments than to get cold leads over the net now.

I can't really complain though, it's still much better than working for warehouse development shops... Far better work-life balance, and I'm in better control of project quality, client management, and the types of projects I agree to complete.


Frameworks and platforms like wordpress have really killed the cottage industry of web design imo


> And you might find it harder when trying to maintain a steady income stream.

This can't really be overstated enough.

Contracting is one of those things that sounds super easy when you first jump and you already have a client lined up.

But maintaining a steady stream of work is often far more difficult than people expect.

Getting consulting clients is a completely different skillset than doing consulting work. If you're not the type of person who enjoys networking, cold outreach, selling yourself, and chasing deals then the consulting life probably won't be as fun as it may sound on the internet.


I wonder if something like an agent could help with that.

In many freelance-heavy professions, like music and acting, having an agent handle this part of business seems to be the default. Is there something similar in tech?


And when you start relying on them for all of your business, you've basically reverse engineered being a regular employee at a creative agency.


Maybe not. The agent should get a percentage of your income and should be trying to get you the best income possible (well a mix of bess possible / low vacancy rate)

But the employee gets let’s say $150k/y and f you are hired out for $5k a day you still get your same salary regardless.


When you are a regular employee at an agency you don't have much of a choice on what jobs to take. With an agent you are much more free in that regard.


Being a contractor for an agency is the worst of both worlds: no choice on what to work on that you'd get as a freelance contractor and no career growth wherever you're placed.

I did it for a year and it was miserable. It was great for the first few months, but then I started getting put on more and more menial tasks just to fill out my contract duration and I realized that there was no real point in understanding the systems I was working on in much depth beyond what it took to execute my task.

The other contractors who'd been at it for longer wrote some of the worst code I've seen, even though they were obviously very talented; they just didn't see the point of writing beautiful code if they're not going to be around in a few months to maintain it.


It's called recruiting, but it doesn't work like you described.

In freelance tech recruiting, the jobs are the scarce resources, not the candidates. Freelance recruiters focus their effort on obtaining new positions for them to fill in, and only then they look for suitable candidates. You can see that in how they angle to find out about other companies that you're interviewing in - they do that, because they very much need it as another lead.

In other words, nobody would care about becoming your agent, because you're fungible. That's why it's not done in our industry. I suspect actors are much less fungible (you can't cast a 20 years old white cheery woman to play 50 years old broody black male who can ride on horses and do a british accent), hence market dynamics are different there.


I am a former recruiter and wrote an article about this years ago. One of the main issues with third-party recruiting and the recruiter/candidate relationship is that their interests aren't aligned.

In perm hire recruiting, the recruiter is typically paid a percentage of the candidate's starting salary. That means the recruiter and candidate are aligned in negotiation - if the recruiter can negotiate a higher salary, both the recruiter and the candidate are beneficiaries.

Therefore, the more the candidate makes, the more the recruiter makes. Win/win.

For contracting roles, a recruiter is a middleman and trying to maximize their margin, defined as the difference between bill rate (what the client pays the recruiter) and pay rate (what the recruiter pays the candidate).

There are only a few ways the recruiter can maximize margin.

The most obvious is to negotiate the bill rate UP and/or the pay rate DOWN. A less obvious way is to simply try to make sure the candidate with the lowest pay rate gets the job. So if I have two candidates and one is asking for 100/hr and the other is asking 120/hr, if I can get the 100/hr candidate into the job, that means an extra 40K in the recruiter's pocket for a year (based on 2000 hour work year).

I'm admittedly oversimplifying a lot of things here, but the typical recruiting model is not aligned with candidates for contract hiring.


Is there a true difference between those two models though? In the end, the client has to foot the bill, no matter how the money is allocated between commission and candidate.

As a recruiter, you could have a similar model for contractors and promise a fixed % of the daily rate. That way, the higher the rate of the contractor, the bigger the commission for the recruiter.

However, I do see your point and I notice most recruiters not being very transparant about their commission, nor do they want to give it up & work with a fixed fee instead. I know one small agency who's very open about their commission and promise to only take a cut for the first year. I hope eventually other freelancers will wise up and choose those types of recruiters over the more shady businesses.


The recruiter argument against a fixed % is that they should be rewarded for their skill in negotiation.

In other words, let's say market rate for your programming skill is 150/hr. I'm your recruiter, and I make you an offer for 170/hr. You should be ecstatic. But what if you find out that I am billing the client for 1000/hr? Would you still be happy? Probably not - you'd feel you're being robbed, even though you are being paid above the market rate.

So should YOU be rewarded for my ability to negotiate the client's rate to 6x market rate?

I'm not saying this is fair or a good way to do business, but I'm just offering you the recruiter's mindset on this.


Actors are very fungible.

The commodity in cinema is entirely actors whose name the audience knows and remember.

You can definitely staff a film entirely with superlative talent from the indie world.


There are a number of contractor agencies where they basically manage your relationship with a number of businesses/specific projects, and you get paid through them or some affiliate. The skim is usually more like 30-50% though.


I think it's a bit different than what I meant. In this agency case, the freelancer works for the agency, in the "agent model" the agent works for the freelancer.


I had a similar thought recently; I'd gladly pay 15% to someone that can consistently find me interesting work that pays well.


I work at a place where about 500 independent consultants/contractors have outsourced branding, training (to a degree), office admin, and, above all, sales to a shared organization.[1] Those who want can become "partners" by buying shares (I have). Importantly, this setup also provides a community because solo consulting can otherwise get lonely at times. But essentially we're all still entirely "our own" and free to choose how much we want to work, whether we want to pursue side projects, etc.

We pay 17%. So not quite the 15% you mentioned, but also far from the 30% others talked about.

We're only in Sweden for now, so maybe this isn't immediately accessible to you. But it shows that it can be done.

[1] https://www.kvadrat.se/


These umbrella sales / networking / socialising organisations are fun. I've tried a few. But 15-20% is highly inefficient.

My overhead for cold-finding new clients is <5% (against those projects), and I'm not a good salesman: I'm overly direct, opinionated, and have very low tolerance for nonsense. My overhead for recurring clients and referrals is <1% (against those projects), which is also the majority of my business.

Admin, billing, accounting, etc is also <1%, so it's a non issue.

These sales organisations have _much_ better salesmen than me, yet they need >3x the cost to do the job, and they produce worse results?

My guess is: if you actually tried to spend one day per week (20%) for sales and networking you will get a better result. But for many (including me) it is uninteresting / uncomfortable / annoying / etc and therefore many of us overestimate the difficulty of sales.

There is also very likely a notable difference in interest alignment between the sales partners/employees and you. They will make more money/h the faster they sell you and therefore have greatly reduced monetary interest in working significantly more for a higher quote or a more specialised project. They also do not have the deep domain knowledge you do in your areas, and you are much better at judging how well you will enjoy working with a prospective organisation and how interesting you will find any given project.

My experience: Yes they can sell you. They will get lower quotes than you will get yourself. They will find worse projects than you will find on your own. And they cost too much. Still, I had fun with all the groups I've tried, and I still recommend them as a social luxury. Fun, overpriced, business friends.


A very significant part of the pool of interesting projects in "my" market is only available under framework agreements for which solo consultants will not be considered (but Kvadrat will). If I were completely solo, I would have to bid for such projects through brokers who would happily charge me between 5% and 20% without really giving me anything back besides acting as gatekeepers.

Instead, all my cold calling, contract negotiations, billing and accounts receivable — things I'm not good at and don't enjoy doing — get taken care of. I'm happy to pay for that. The "luxury" of "business friends" is included.


Indeed, this sounds highly inefficient. Say, 15% of a daily rate of 800 euro for 200 working days equals 24,000 euro, recurring every year. Seems like a ton of money for just matching a candidate with a job, given that the freelancer still has to sell themselves and do all of the actual work.

Being a freelancer myself, I've often asked recruiters about this, and they always dodge the question or reply something like "there's much more to our job than you think". I have not yet figured out what that is exactly.

My best guess, from personal experience, is that they charge 15% and upwards because... they can. Because a lot of (especially technical) contractors are really bad negotiators and just accept whatever is offered.

Given the huge competition between recruiting agencies nowadays (at least where I live in Europe, it seems like there's 10 recruiters for every senior developer), I would think that a new recruiting agency could gain a huge competitive advantage by simply advertising clear & fair commissions.


I vouch for this I'm also part of the Kvadrat community and I'm my own boss. It's fantastic.


The geography does limit me (US), but wow this sounds awesome, exactly what I want.

I have talked to consulting/contracting shops here in the US before, which might look superficially similar, but there you are generally a direct employee of the company who then contracts you out to their clients. I have generally had a poor perception of such places, though I'm sure some are fine. Kvadrat sounds much better!


I’m actually toying with the idea because I’m finding more projects/demand that I know technical folks who can deliver. Would you like to connect?


I’m interested in something like this if you would like to connect.


Add me too. Let me know if you go ahead with it in the US.


Me too.


Me too


The going rate is at least double that.


I picked 15% thinking about the old default for entertainment agents. I know 30% is normal for external recruiting fees, why does a "dev agent" get the same? Because they can?

If the gigs found are high paying enough I don't think 30% is unreasonable.


I'd pay more than that to anyone who can find me any remote work.


I see from your profile you work in hardware/firmware; I'm guessing the remote wave hasn't disrupted those roles the way it has for software folks?


It has made a dent, but it's slow going.

In my previous position we built a lot of wearable devices so having a dev system at home was no problem since they're portable by definition. Likewise at my current position, we have larger, but still easily movable development/debug systems since the product I'm working on fits on a desktop. Takes up more room with everything splayed out on a back plate, but still fits on a tabletop.

But going back two jobs where the machines we built were large, very complex and floorstanding, it would be much more difficult.

It's also much easier when the hardware is stable. When you're still in the "bring up" phase, there's a lot of shipping hardware back and forth, or occasional office days together if feasible, especially if you need a $70,000 tool that the company doesn't want you taking home.

As the pandemic has progressed, embedded development has adapted. The biggest reason it's likely to reverse is simply that a lot of companies prefer to have their people onsite.


Yeah, I think a lot of engineering managers still think it's impractical. It worked out well for me on a few projects, but I got them from people I had previously worked with in person.

However, I'd be fine with any kind of work, it doesn't have to be firmware.


There are recruiters who specialize in filling contract S/W development positions.


You can get around this by simply interviewing for a regular dev gig, then telling them you’d prefer to come on board on a contract.

That’s how I’ve negotiated my last several gigs, and it nicely sidesteps the business development issue.


That’s a different thing though? That’s contracting. There are even such contracts day rates on job sites so no need to bait/switch.


But from a UK perspective the premium in the USA for contracting like this is rather low - and you pay both sides of the SS tax.


> Getting consulting clients is a completely different skillset than doing consulting work. If you're not the type of person who enjoys networking, cold outreach, selling yourself, and chasing deals then the consulting life probably won't be as fun as it may sound on the internet.

It's really not this dramatic.

People need software developers. All you really need to do is let enough people - who can hire you - know who you are and what you do. I do this entirely online.

I will say it's way easier when you specialize in a particular industry however.


> All you really need to do is let enough people - who can hire you - know who you are and what you do.

Right, that's what I said: If you're not the type of person who enjoys networking, putting yourself out there, and setting up contracts with clients then it's going to be a pain to do this.

> I will say it's way easier when you specialize in a particular industry however.

I looked at your profile and it appears you are very specialized in a smaller (fewer overall specialists) market. Big fish in a small pond makes consulting easy. The average developer doing generalized work isn't going to have the same experience, though.


> Right, that's what I said: If you're not the type of person who enjoys networking, putting yourself out there, and setting up contracts with clients then it's going to be a pain to do this.

LOL fair point. I guess I never really thought of what I was doing as networking. I don't exactly think of myself as a very extroverted, salesy kind of person. I just went about it from first principles - problem 1 was no one knows I exist, solution was let people know I exist.

> I looked at your profile and it appears you are very specialized in a smaller (fewer overall specialists) market. Big fish in a small pond makes consulting easy. The average developer doing generalized work isn't going to have the same experience, though.

While there is some stuff in my industry that's different (low connectivity and older users) - really the day to day work is not that much different than writing software for any other. I'm sure most people could look at their past employment history and find themselves a market.


The ease of this is really entirely dependent on knowing the right people.

Years ago I tried selling myself as a freelancer, but in spite of doing fine work for one or two people, I couldn't find clients, so gave up - I realized that the trick is, you've got to have boss-tier or management-tier friends (aka, be upper middle class).


Pro Tip: Hire a marketing specialist. You don't have to do everything yourself, you just have to quickly understand, monitor, and properly respect all the aspects of doing the business.

If that is out of budget, find a partner that can build that aspect of the business.


It IS really this dramatic.

And it's infuriating how many people keep passing this off as easy or "not that hard". Building up to deals is VERY hard unless you have the skillset for it, and it takes either a LOT of time to develop such a skillset (if you can at all), or it takes natural talent.


Fair enough.

Maybe I just lucked into the right niche in the right locale at the right time because I definitely don't have some kind of amazing deal-building skills.


That was never my experience. I found clients from my existing network and was always turning away work. My sales activity was passive rather than active.


And bully for you. That doesn't make it easy for other people. I gave up after 2 years of losing money between the few contracts I could scrape together.


I felt the pain of losing a steady income stream before but for a different reason. I have no problem networking per-se but I did once rather blithely sign a really onerous contract with a massive soul-less organisation that buried me unpaid for about 9 months essentially reworking their entire CRM. Renegotiation was impossible, they'd just point at their massive legal department and I'd squeak and get back to work.

When it was all done and dusted, every ounce of my energy had been poured into this one job for so long, the payment was like a middle finger and barely filled the hole of bad debt that had grown to cover basic living expenses, and it took a couple more months to reconnect with old clients and drum up some new work as I'd essentially fallen off the face of the planet in their eyes. It also took months to recover emotionally and start to feel some joy in life again.

It was a painful, very real education, whereas as an employee you're shielded to an extent from the direct effects of this type of thing since your employer is still legally bound to pay you whether they make good or bad decisions client-wise.

The risks in contracting and self employment are often subtle and not realised for many months until the trap is seen, and I doubt everyone making the transition is aware of all the tricks (net 30 EOM) etc that seem innocuous at first glance but in combination really screw contractors down to terms much less comfortable than sitting in a cubicle 8hrs/day dealing with latent passive aggression from middle management. In the current system at least we just have to weigh up which option suits us better. I was certainly unprepared, but I survived and am stronger / more experienced now with only slight residues of latent psychological damage (mostly self-inflicted).

tl;dr I agree. It's not all roses. Very simple mistakes based on subtle information can have very real, very painful consequences long term and a lot of this knowledge is only gained through hard-won experience. With more inexperienced contractors entering the market it seems like a field day for unscrupulous types looking to lock in some cheap labour without the annoying hassle of traditional employment laws but that's just my hot take. I'd encourage people to think very carefully before making any transition one way or the other that's for sure.


I used to stop working once they were 15 days late. In general the people causing payment problems were not the ones commissioning the project. The project owner would kick up a stink and a cheque would arrive the next day.


Like I say, I made the mistake in signing the contract. In my case there was no "15 days late", it was payment on completion, and to the letter of the agreement the work wasn't complete until they said it was. Definitely do things different these days.

Edit to add - as per your experience the team themselves were pretty good to work with but in my case they had no sway (or at least said they didn't) with whatever archaic nested babushka-esque financial and legal mechanisms this century-old institute had. Perhaps if I'd put my foot down and refused to work it would have forced a proper renegotiation and worked out better in the end but it was a constant state of "we'll be finished next week, just one more thing" so the old sunk cost fallacy was always in deadlock with pragmatism and the frog slowly boiled.


What do you do differently nowadays? How do you stop this happening


Me, my problem has always been eagerness to please, so I'd agree to "just do it" and skip the first part.

Don't, under any circumstances, do that.

If the client asks for a fixed price, then don't propose an implementation cost. Instead, propose a discovery cost. I can easily say how long I'll need to figure out what needs to be done and deliver a documented solution with an estimate of the work needed.

If they refuse this approach, then the only other option is "time and materials", i.e. I will send you a log each week of the hours I've worked and the product I've delivered, and you will pay me each week.

If they refuse discovery as well as time and materials, and insist on fixed price, then I walk away.


Don't do fixed priced work.


It can be difficult to find work that pay per hour but almost impossible to find fixed price work that does not result in at least some feeling of being exploited. And I would only do fixed price work again if: a) The deliverables are commoditized and I own the codebase; b) I am desperate.


I think there is a conflict of interest at the root of fixed price jobs. You are incentivised to provide as little as possible within that fixed price and the customer is incentivised to extract as much as possible.


Yes which's aggravated by many times the client having unrealistic expectations. It's a race to the bottom.


Isn't it quite obvious, don't do stupid contracts.

As a contractor/freelancer you can do any kind of contracts. You can commit to free work for whole year if you want (or are stupid enough to sign a contract that requires you to work for free).

With normal employment there are lots of laws that protect you so you don't have to think about your contractual duties. Just turn up and do what is told and you will get paid. When you do contracting it is quite different game.


Pretty much this. It was a stupid mistake and it cost me dearly. My choices were to suffer and work for a few dollars a day, or suffer even more and be blacklisted in my local community, if not being dragged through the unknown depths of some legal dispute that I had no recourse to fight. And to be fair, I agreed to do it, so it was kind of on me for not doing my homework. We live and learn to protect ourselves, but when there's a glut of people who haven't learned yet it's very lucrative for people who will exploit ignorance deliberately.


You spend some time reading /r/freelance and learning from their mistakes :-)


You can learn some useful wisdom from drug dealers in the show The Wire: always get paid upfront.


I feel like your comment is really empowering. I've felt like I should feel lucky to be where I am, especially at my last company, but honestly I felt like I was just being dragged and pushed around to do whatever made my employer make the most money. Working in consultancy (the fancy name for hands-for-hire), I made my then-employer between 1.5 and 1.8 million in revenue over the span of about 8 years, while earning... a fifth to a quarter of that.

Recruiters have started approaching me again, really pushing me to work for banks and insurance companies and the like, trying to make me feel like I should be lucky to be granted these opportunities, really stringing me along without naming any figures. I really should take a firmer stand and take over those conversations - send me an e-mail with the companies, technologies, job openings, and wage ranges, then MAYBE we'll talk. But I'll switch jobs on MY terms, not because some salesman who doesn't even know what the fuck I do (else they would do it themselves) tells me what a great opportunity it is.


It's a nice lie to tell yourself, at least.

Unless you are independently wealthy, you are beholden to your employers. Sure, you can always jump ship and find another job, but whatever you end up in you will ultimately have to do work you don't enjoy from time to time, or play politics to keep everybody happy... or deal with a coworker you don't like.

Certainly you could try to operate that way in a traditional job, but you would quickly be fired.

If you were truly your own boss you would have 100% discretion in everything you do, have 100% autonomy to make design decision, technology decisions etc.


> but whatever you end up in you will ultimately have to do work you don't enjoy from time to time, or play politics to keep everybody happy... or deal with a coworker you don't like.

This also applies to you if you're a business owner. Just replace the word "coworker" with "employee" or "customer" (or "partner")

I think the point the person you replied to was trying to make is that you should treat yourself as your own business. Your employer-employee relationship is the same as any other business-business relationship. You're basically selling your time and you should continue to do so for as long as it is beneficial for you.


The difference is that "customer" is usually diversified, while "employee" is usually a completely concentrated dependency.

Of course, there are many (in absolute numbers) exceptions, they are very rare on the "employee" side, and not too common on the "customer" side.


I agree with the sentiment that viewing the relationship that way can be empowering.

It's better to be loyal to yourself and your future prospects rather than those of your employer, particularly in regards to your career.

But it's dishonest to consider yourself your own boss when you are financially beholden to other people.

The ability to walk away with 0 consequence is what gives you power and independence in life. If you still care about some RSU grant that vests at date Y, then you are not a free person, or fully in control of your destiny. If you choose job X because it pays more than job Y, despite being less fulfilling, same story.

You may be happily captive, but captive all the same.


I agree with this completely. A lot of people dream about "becoming their own boss", but then let themselves get dragged around by a crappy company.

Job markets do vary from industry to industry so this might not apply to absolutely everyone, but if you're suffering in your current job then I recommend finding a new one ASAP. Your existing experience gives you a lot of leverage during the job search; it's not "fresh out of college" again.


I think there are systemic issues though. Things you can’t escape no matter where you work. One of the most insidious is minor or major reorganisations or even the company being taken over. You could jump more often to compensate but then you are a jumper.

My thoughts on this are I need to network over learning the next thing or getting skilled up ready to jump the next interview hoops.

The networking might reveal opportunities that are more equal rather than the “we’re hiring” “full stack” fare that is generally out there.


Similarly I imagine a client might suddenly go under or cut you off. It's pretty hard to make money 100% in a vacuum.

Networking and marketing vs interview skills is a pretty solid point, though. If you prefer one of those over the other, then definitely lean towards the associated career path.


>It says your career growth should be managed by your employer (don't let it...)

Apparently, this _used to be_ a reasonable option. But "employer loyalty" is much rarer, so now it's a totally unreasonable option.


I have the same mentality as you.

But over the years, I came to realize that the majority of the workforce just wants to live the easy life, where everything is done for them. They want to be taken care of.


Also known as specialising. You probably don't rear your own farm animals for food - you want an easy life and let someone else do it for you. Likewise for your fish - you probably don't want to head out to sea and cast your own net, you want the easy onshore life. You probably haven't gone to medical school - you want to be taken care of by professionals, rather than do it yourself.

And so on.

(I'm reacting to your judgemental tone in large part because it's just naive. Nobody is good at everything and it's not a matter of wanting an "easy life". Without specialising, we'd be living off the land or in the wilderness with no more technology than we can assemble from raw materials. Anything more, and you're in "easy life" territory.)


Sorry about the judgemental tone, that was not my intention. I just wanted to explain that not everybody wants to be self-employed.

I'm also a specialist (software-architect), so I don't have my own farm animals ;).

But I don't think I explained myself properly, so I will try again. As an employee, a lot of things are decided for you: which company phone you have, company car, your career trajectory, bonuses, holidays, etc. You also know how much money will be on your bank account at the end of the month. And when you're sick, you know you're getting paid (EU here :)). This is what I consider the "easy life", because a lot of stuff is decided for you because of company policies. The good thing is that you don't have to overthink all this stuff.

But I don't want that. I want to have a car that I choose, want to negotiate my rate all the time, want to take holidays on my own terms, etc. The price that I pay? A lot of administration. And when I'm sick, I'm not getting paid.

I used to think that everybody wants this freedom that I desire, but that is not the case. And there is definitely nothing wrong with that.

Just like everything, it has benefits and drawbacks, and everybody makes their own choice. And I think still more people prefer to be an employee than self-employed.


>I came to realize that the majority of the workforce just wants to live the easy life, where everything is done for them

Why is this wrong? Maybe I am abnormal but for me a job is just a method to receive money. It is the case that my passions are unpractical and not economically profitable, so I work on the part that I can tolerate and leave the business part to people more inclined to do well in that part. It seems like the struggle of entrepreneurship is interpreted morally, while it really doesn't have a moral dimension at all.


It's about proactivity and your ability to manage what happens to you at work.

The passively employed, especially outside technology often have worringly insecure career trajectories. We are an insulated caste against the problems of the world, partially because we keep up with tech skills.

The stories are crazy from my former roommate who works in "change management," aka babysitting employees who've done the same task with the same software every day for 15 years through an unheaval.

They become like adult babies when you tell them to do something different than what they've done before.

If you take away the requirement for continuing education of the technology work, some extremely nasty things happen to the more passive members of the workforce.


> They want to be taken care of

That sounds overly simplistic and a bit rude. I want to do the work I like, which happens to be writing code, and I don't really care about the business, management or accounting. And the best way to do only the things I like is working at a big company, where everything else is done by other people. Why exactly is this wrong?


Sorry if I came off as rude, because that was not the intention.

I'm a freelancer, and my best friend is an employee (both developers). He knows I earn a lot more money, but he explicitly chooses to stay as employee. Why? Because all of the things that you mention.

Plus, when he goes home, he spends time with his family and hobbies. For me, my company is always there. Still need to do administration, see which things I can write off, etc.

I used to think everyone would be like me, once they know how companies really work. But that is not the case. I'm pretty sure everyone knows what they can expect from the company, after a few years in the workforce.

So I definitely don't consider your choice as wrong. It's really about which things you prefer in life.


It's almost certainly not that simple; you are good at and enjoy (or at least don't dislike) doing some things that your friend does not. Maybe you have a larger risk appetite. And so on.


Does freelancing really beat faang employment and salary potential? I don't think so.


>I want to do the work I like, which happens to be writing code

Funnily enough that's why I started working for myself.


Of course I want an easy life lol. What kind of nonsense is this post? And posters being offended by the "judging tone". LOL

Judge me all you want. HN jet setters and growth hackers don't even cross my mind while I'm living my "easy life".


I don't specially like soliciting work. I could earn lot more by being contractor. But currently I get paid if I have work to do or not really. Not really my problem. And living in country where firing is complicated, the job security isn't bad.


It will be a much better world if everyone thinks like that. Who knows, we might see a similar thing unfold in migration. Who really cares for public servants who act like your master? A Turk told me one time that people there working for government use to do it... drum roll ...as a public service! As a side effect the new won respect helped promote their business.

Mobility is [somewhat surprisingly] all good for economic stability and scaling.

We can greatly improve the economy if everyone continues to learn and moves to a position that makes better use of their new and lost abilities. We will also have to improve the corporate bus factor and improve job quality in all possible ways that do but also those that don't cost money.

One might even end up in a job that thy actually cares about rather than poorly pretend. Wouldn't that be something?


I hate to break it to you, but you’ve got tradition backwards. We have always been bosses of ourselves, it’s only been recently we’ve been made wage slaves. Even 100 years ago, it was conceivable for most to live off the land, you owned. Now, who can own land?

Otherwise I agree.


> to live off the land

Yes, in a good year.

> you owned

Only in the Americas. And we all know how that was made possible.


> > you owned

> Only in the Americas. And we all know how that was made possible.

Yup. The term "landlord" didn't originally mean "a guy owning a bunch of flats for rent in London", but rather a noble who rented out his lands to local peasants.


My uncle owns a small business. He says it's great because he can pick the people he wants to work with and fire ones he doesn't like.

I pointed out I have the same choice by walking off a bad team and finding a good one.


100%

Think of yourself as a business of one


These stories always feel like they picked a few good anecdotes and interviews, but they wanted to present it as a national trend to make it sound like a bigger deal.

Indeed, the statistics they provide aren't as significant as the headline suggests:

> Hundreds of thousands of Americans are striking out on their own...

For reference, the United States has around 160 million employed people. 0.1% of them moving to freelancing might be significant, but is it really a new era? That was happening on the regular well before COVID.

1 in 1000 people striking out on their own doesn't really explain the "ongoing shake-up in the world of work" like they're trying to suggest.


My favorite fake statistic in this article is "and nearly half have a college degree." They're trying to frame that paragraph to say the people are educated, and if you read it quickly it comes off that way, instead of "most of these people only have a high school diploma."


You left off the other half of the sentence that makes it more clear that there are some highly educated people in this cohort: " and nearly 4 in 10 a postgraduate degree."


Which means obviously fake stats. 55% high school, 35% postgrad, and only 10% college in the middle?


I believe it means 4 in 10 of the college educated. I don’t remember the exact line. I’d have to go back and check. However I vouched for your dead comment and wanted to comment quickly.


Not really, "nearly half" is a significant proportion considering that only 30% of americans have anything above a high school diploma


37.5, which is 75 percent of half, I would say "nearly" half puts the education of the people very close to average.


Typical "boom and bust" trend reporting... It's been around since the gold rush of course, it gets easy reads, and by the time it's published it's a burnt out trend...

Web dev is not an easy thing to break into, also having the money to really set up and thrive truly limits market competition.

After the burnout of social media though, the need for custom web dev should begin to rise, provided that operational costs don't skyrocket artificially. Cloud hosting adds a lot of potentially high and unpredictable costs to clients too. I usually try to make sure that my regular and "big-idea" clients need to always have a solid plan for proper revenue/monetization before any project paperwork is signed.


Roughly 0.4% (600k/160m) moving into a freelancing, just saying


Employers are finally starting to get bitten for squeezing labor. Even highly compensated people suffer from being squeezed. Working long hours. Not being given the resources needed. Working outside your job description. Being asked to stay late again and again. Constant anxiety about deadlines and not having physically enough time to get the job done. Not having enough time to get everything done at home since you are spent from the workday. It's like, if there is so much demand for labor, why not hire more hands? Even if you are paying more out of payroll you are getting a better rested, more engaged, less mentally disturbed labor pool for your dollar, one that's not looking desperately at linkedin for an escape route from the hell you've created.

I guess the question is whether or not employers will actually balk and start to offer better conditions, or collectively decide that they can get away with staying put with the status quo since people need to eat and afford shelter and they can get away with hiring more naive recent grads and having high turnover seemingly indefinitely.


Just... be aware of the survivorship bias in these kinds of articles.

I've been planning to go solo for more than a year. I've been saving up, and working on validating my ideas on the side while still working a full day job.

Most startups/entrepreneurs fail, so plan for that eventuality. And delay quitting that day job as long as possible.

I've obviously only gotten this advice from other sources and not from personal experience, so be skeptical...

..and remember the survivorship bias in everything you read about this topic.


If you can, dip your toes in the water before jumping in.

I run an eBay store that makes around $20k a month and is still growing, but it started as a side gig while I was still working (making less than 5k a month, but I was only working on it for maybe 8-10 hours a week).

Actually validating your ideas before fully committing is a great way to minimise risk and avoid procrastination.


Nice, what are the gross/profit margins of an eBay store? Know it depends on what you sell but always interested in launching one.


>Nice, what are the gross/profit margins of an eBay store?

For us (retro games), it's about 50% overall. Of course, this varies greatly from product to product.

Interestingly, most of our higher value products tend to also be higher margin. We've increased revenues significantly by focussing more energy on getting promotions right for said high value, high margin listings.

>Know it depends on what you sell but always interested in launching one.

Then do it. Buy something undervalued from Facebook Marketplace and flip it, or import a small batch of a product with low local competition from Alibaba.

You can optimise from there, but starting small is absolutely a great way to learn the ropes. Worst case scenario, you've lost a couple of hundred bucks and learned a valuable life lesson.


This is what worries me, about our society and way of life in general.

I look at your margins, high ~50%. I look at what you sell, retro games. Not a necessity and also not something that more can be made of, so fairly safe. Unless there is a downturn, then I hope that you have something tucked away.

I look at the recommendation: "Buy something undervalued from Facebook Marketplace and flip it, or import a small batch of a product with low local competition from Alibaba."

And I look around and see the same pattern being repeated. People becoming middle men, inserting themselves in supply chains and charging margin. Rise and repeat and you get more people just repackaging and charging more for what are simple products or things that people might want but do not need.

I dislike this sort of activity because the more margins that are paid mean the more money is siphoned off, fine for luxury good not so great for necessities.

I worry because as more of our economy is devoted to this activity, when there is a downturn large numbers of people lose their jobs.

I hate it morally because it goes against my views of a "good" society. We have created societal structures where people are close to the decision making process where as before we had Kings and courts. We have the ability to do the same with manufacturing, where the people could order directly and not through the "courts".


The guy is basically a flipper and provides no value. He buys up stuff off the market at a low price using his existing capital and then puts it back on the market at a higher price.

It’s literally no different than the market manipulation you’d see on World of Warcraft or some other game where there’s a marketplace. People with a ton of money would buy up items at a lower price and then relist them at a ridiculous price - all the while having bots to watch for any listings that were significantly under theirs to make sure no one would buy except from them.

I hate how this is considered a “business”. What a joke.


So they already replied and said they buy wholesale or refurbish, but even if they were purely flipping that still provides some value. If they can buy low and turn around to sell high, the obvious question becomes "why doesn't the original seller just sell at the higher price if that's what it goes for?"

Either they are better at reaching customers who are willing to pay more (which provides value, that's a sale that wouldn't have happened if the customer doesn't know to look where it's cheaper) or the original seller just wants cash now and doesn't care about getting max price (in which case the reseller is being paid to supply liquidity and take on some risk of not being able to offload it or it goes down in price).


I think that resellers have some use in a market.

Rye bread for an example, I like rye bread but only eat it occasionally. Same with tomatoes and avocados. I and the farmers and manufactures can't deal with trying to juggle and maintain inventory.

But cars on the other hand, if you were to set up your manufacturing side with some inventory(so not JIT), you could make every car to order.

Imagine a world where you could go online, pick exactly every option and feature and then have the car delivered in a couple of weeks.

Instead of the current reality of dealerships who hold a large amount of inventory, have to negotiate for deals and search for the features you want.

I view it the same way that I viewed High Frequency Trading, sure the dealers and traders provide "liquidity" but the value for their margin they take is marginal.


> Imagine a world where you could go online, pick exactly every option and feature and then have the car delivered in a couple of weeks.

You can do this now: https://shop.ford.com/configure/edge/model/customize/se It just ends up being delivered/sold through a dealer. OK, so these days it will be more than a few weeks...


>It’s literally no different than the market manipulation you’d see on World of Warcraft or some other game where there’s a marketplace. People with a ton of money would buy up items at a lower price and then relist them at a ridiculous price - all the while having bots to watch for any listings that were significantly under theirs to make sure no one would buy except from them.

I don't get it how are they manipulating the market? Are they really cornering the market? If they haven't cornered the market, and are matching just below the price of competitors, isn't that the exact competitive behavior we want, driving down price?


Are you asking about the WoW example?

Let's say an item's near true market value is something like 10 gold (not going to get into how that is determined but let's just go with it). It's going for 10g normally. You have 10,000g+. You decide to buy out the entire market from 0-25g. You can do this because the market for this item might not be gigantic and/or you have so much gold to afford this.

You relist the item for 30g. You setup a bot to buy anything listed under 30g before anyone has much of a chance to see it. The only listing people will see is yours at 30g and those above you. Since you cornered the market and are basically the only listing - everyone has to buy from you for 3x the usual price.

You do this long enough - you get a ton of gold out of it. Usually - the way the games try to correct this behavior so it doesn't happen all the time is through listing fees and other such things. It's to curb this kind of behavior - some even have listing fees that are directly tied to how much more you are selling this item over what you could get for selling it directly to an NPC. (To the point where it doesn't make sense to even list the item - only makes sense to sell it to an NPC)

It's extremely rampant in video games with any kind of market economy and thus why these mechanisms have to be put in place because otherwise it ruins the marketplace for many players. But - the great thing about our real world is that there are no controls for this! Thus, people can buy items for cheap, corner the market on that item, and make a killing. All the while - they take in real money from real people and give literally no fucking value to the system. They are purely rentiers.


So this ebay reseller has cornered the market on retro games? I find that hard to believe.


Thank you for your moral condemnation! It's especially appreciated as you fundamentally misunderstand how reselling works!

For what it's worth, most of my stock comes from smaller resellers themselves. I will buy large lots that are inefficiently packaged (say, an entire collection of 500 games) and split it into optimally-packaged smaller lots that collectively have more value to the consumer than the lot I bought. We also repair and refurbish huge amounts of consoles (and onsell what we don't refurbish to others who do) and would probably divert an entire pallet of faulty stock every 6 months from ewaste.

Of course, sometimes we do stumble across undervalued small lots and flip them for immediate profit. In these instances, we're absolutely flexing our capitalistic muscle all over people who can't afford to spend $20 on an undervalued N64 game worth 5x that.


>People becoming middle men, inserting themselves in supply chains and charging margin. Rise and repeat and you get more people just repackaging and charging more for what are simple products or things that people might want but do not need.

I understand where you're coming from, but I think you're misunderstanding why many people buy the things they do.

Most consumer purchases outside of food, rent and utilities aren't sacrifices made to made to optimally meet a physical need but instead a fun activity that the consumer engages in order to make them feel special/important.

You can see this in economic terms if you go to buy a second-hand appliance, for example. A current-model washing machine that costs $800 in store might cost $300 on Gumtree or Facebook.

Even accounting for the depreciation (which might be $50 on a year-old machine), less than half of the perceived value is actually in the washing machine itself. The rest comes from the luxury experience of purchasing a new appliance - looking up reviews online, comparing prices, convincing yourself that this particular model is optimal, going down to the nice store to get it, haggling the guy down and finally unwrapping your shiny new thing.

It may not be an optimal distribution of resources in terms of achieving mankind's greater goals, but most retailers are a luxury service just like wedding photography, fine dining or high-class escort services.

We exist to meet a demand.


The other reason that prices are way cheaper second hand is that the buyer is taking the risk of buying a lemon - versus some sort of guarantee (usually) when you buy new. The seller has more information about the object in question than the buyer (i.e. wifi card on laptop is flaky, for example), so buying secondhand implies more risk, which drops the exchange price.

I think that this affects the price of new vs used moreso than the experience of purchasing it.


Again, though, most of the economic value of that is in the experience itself. The retailer reassures you with a warranty and you do avoid the small risk of painful emotions (humiliation/disappointment) should something go wrong with an informal transaction.

The short-term failure rate of second hand goods is nowhere near the 50% that would be needed to justify the price difference in terms of pure rational economic terms, especially given that most informal sellers are happy to guarantee that a product is working at the moment of sale.


I've saved enough money to wither a bad year or two before I went solo. Takes the anxiety and makes for a good night sleep, even if there is no immediate job lined up...


> “When I’m at a red light, I don’t feel like I’m rushed to get home anymore.”

This article and elsewhere I've observed that many employers are running antiquated or misled patterns that cause significant anxiety in their workers (examples are performance reviews[1], stacking unrealistic and unneccessary deadlines in attempt to push additional "performance", and excess hours for the appearances of productivity)

I wonder how many employees would be staying if their employers weren't doing dark patterns?

[1]: https://lattice.com/library/how-your-brain-responds-to-perfo...


Just from personal experience: more. The past few years I've worked at a company that really values its employees and does none (or at least very few) of those destructive common things. They also do a surprising number of things right in terms of how to actually motivate people (the autonomy, mastery, purpose stuff.)

For the first time in my life, I didn't feel the desire to find a new employer at the two year mark.


Nice! Did you get lucky or did you have a plan to seek out such a company?


100 % luck. I didn't even know such a company existed before this. I was looking for a change in general, hit an unlucky streak of bad interviews, and then this company apparently saw something good in what was yet another interview I bombed, asked what they could offer to pay me such that it would be easier for me to make a decision, and that was that!


Cool. I had the same luck after many bad jobs. The working world in general and including programming tends to lack empathy by default so it’s nice when you find a company that has it and wants to foster a good culture.

It’s hard to tell in advance but any kind of bad vibe … in my experience my gut has been good but it’s a matter of trusting it and having the courage to turn back an offer that is “logically” good.


My employers don't follow any of these types of dark patterns and have been remarkably relaxed around how the time and effort I put in. Despite that, I'm still constantly in stress mode and demand of myself that I'm productive every little second of the day. I feel guilt for taking breaks, despite these being encouraged and feel like I have to show up exactly on the clock despite no one saying anything about the many colleagues I have that don't.

I've come to believe this anxiety actually stems from high school, where teachers would constantly demand punctuality, full focus and productivity. It was an environment where glancing out of the window could get you yelled at. Years later, I still seem to carry that sense of being constantly on edge, that someone is watching, judging.


You can go to your boss for a feedback meeting, establish that everyone is happy with your work. Then, don't frame it as a problem, just take some time to describe your work process, and how it is not 8 hours of typing, but also some lateral thinking, research, and say you wonder how if it may be a bad look. You can calibrate the expectations for your future work in this meeting. Your boss is probably happy you didn't call for that meeting to quit or complain about a workplace incident or whatever and will assure you that you should proceed as you outlined.

Work is a psychologicall rich topic, related to self-worth and livelihood. The work situation could be problematic and you might sense something happening behind the scenes. Trust your feeling.


This is a good advice. Also worth to discuss it with a psychologist.

I had fight similar issues. My excuse to stand up is to eat something. Guess how thin I am… Luckily I changed a lot, it was an 8 year long journey which still ongoing. For me what helped is experimenting, e.g. do some small „crime“ -> experience the lack of arising problem / or that the issue can solved. If you never try just fear, The fear just grows.

For me it was especially hard to accept that I just need sometimes to stare out of the window or draw some graphs by hand, which then ends in the bin. So seemingly unproductive stuff… But in reality this is productive, my brain is working and try to process the topic. Furthermore even just an ordinary discussion with some friend can fire the aha moment.


I can attest to this. I've been at my current (remote) job for 3 years and we don't really do much of performance reviews (there exists some reviews but nothing super formal like any other company I worked at before). There isn't much of the dark patterns you describe here. I totally have that same feeling of "When I'm at a red light, I don't feel like I'm rushed to get home anymore" now, whereas that really wasn't the case back at previous jobs.


Been a contractor for around 3 years now working remotely for start-ups and it's the best thing ever. No bullshit algo/whiteboard interviews, no having to lie about believing in the company "mission", much more flexibility over how much do I actually work, in whatever terms I work. Good luck pitching to a regular company that you want to only work in chunks of 2 or 4 weeks, and then take 2 week breaks in-between, which is what I can do now.

Also, in general, you are treated as an equal and not as a subordinate, which is very nice.


Hi, I am very interested in doing this. I am wondering if you have any advice for making the switch from full time? I know that my resume and experience are what these companies are looking for but I don't have a very good network and have found it harder to find companies than with FT work. Cheers Alex


Open source work has helped me a ton. I'm active in the Clojure community and create open-source projects, as well as collaborate with other Clojurians every now and then, which builds credibility. My Github and references is 90% of my "sales". So once I had credibility, and my references prepared (they will always ask for references), I started contacting start-ups in the Clojurians Slack channel, and elsewhere where I found Clojure start-ups. The difference was that from the very beginning I communicated myself as a contractor, and not as a potential employee. Start-ups are pretty open to contractors, and part-time contractors, I've found. Probably because we mostly bill by the hour, and they don't have to pay any employee-related taxes on us, so they don't really lose anything with that. They pay for the work we actually do, and we get paid for the work we actually do.

I don't know if this helps at all, but feel free to hit me up for more details if you want, my contact info is on my profile :)


Hey. I actually started a YouTube channel specifically for this. I started freelancing and contracting around 10 years ago and found it really hard to understand how to approach everything so I’m basically spewing off my thoughts on that process and the things I’ve learned over the last 10 years. It’s a bit UK specific but the general mindset and lessons will still be relevant: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheFreelanceSoftwareShow


Thanks for this! Been trying to ween off YouTube and tv mindlessness. Listening to more productive stuff is one thing I’m trying to do. Subscribed.


I quit Oracle a few months ago. The good part is that I get spend more time on fun blog posts and projects like datastation [0]. The bad part is it's still challenging to find contract work that is enjoyable and pays well.

Most of all though I miss having teammates/peers. That may be the thing that drives me fastest back to full time employment.

[0] https://github.com/multiprocessio/datastation


Maybe consider registering at a local lively coworking space/accelerator? You may find like minded people you can form a cooperative with.

Also as far as the contract work that is enjoyable and pays well -- in my experience this mostly has to do with knowing the right people. People who are high up enough in an org and technical enough to be sympathetic to understand what enjoyable jobs for you would be.


> Maybe consider registering at a local lively coworking space/accelerator? You may find like minded people you can form a cooperative with.

I did try a coworking space but it has not been the best year to get that in-person experience. :) I'm vaguely looking into accelerators now but I'm naive so I'd kind of rather build a slow, sustainable, healthy business than get swept up in the mindset having a VC funded startup requires.

> Also as far as the contract work that is enjoyable and pays well -- in my experience this mostly has to do with knowing the right people. People who are high up enough in an org and technical enough to be sympathetic to understand what enjoyable jobs for you would be.

You're right and I misspoke a bit. There are definitely enough opportunities out there but you have to try things out and move on if you don't enjoy it. The last two contracts I had paid decently but I found the style of work completely demotivating. So I keep looking.


> I did try a coworking space but it has not been the best year to get that in-person experience. :) I'm vaguely looking into accelerators now but I'm naive so I'd kind of rather build a slow, sustainable, healthy business than get swept up in the mindset having a VC funded startup requires.

Totally agree on the slow sustainable healthy business -- If you're going to bootstrap then I assume you've heard of the MicroConf community? You might want to get plugged in there. At the very least they've got great resources on things bootstrapped founders care about[0].

I meant to suggest hanging around the accelerator because you'd find like-minded people, not necessarily entering it by the way -- for example working as a technical advisor or contributor to the accelerator (and/or the attached VC/PE firms) itself might be interesting and give you the latitude you're looking for.

> You're right and I misspoke a bit. There are definitely enough opportunities out there but you have to try things out and move on if you don't enjoy it. The last two contracts I had paid decently but I found the style of work completely demotivating. So I keep looking.

No worries, I do pretty much exactly the same thing -- if I'd known a better way I would have shared it. I can agree from experience that finding companies you'd want to work at for long periods is very hard, and even more so when you have seen >3 small-to-mid-size companies and how vast the difference in architecture, experience, coworkers, environment, etc can be (especially compared to larger companies).

It seems like if you have a very specific niche you want to target it's easier (i.e. try to be a patio11 type figure in one area that deeply interests you), but if you just want to find interesting problems that span areas/stacks/architectures, it can be hard to find companies that fit.

Good luck out there!

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHoBKQDRkJcOY2BO47q5Ruw


Oracle is a horrible company to work for. Nice resume fluff though.


I just didn't fit in well with my particular org but there were plenty of good managers/directors and interesting work to be done. In a company of 100k employees there will be better and worse bits.

The compensation was pretty good though. I'd still recommend anyone to work there as much as any other Fortune 500 in tech.


they did pay well didn't they? my boss neighbor works for oracle, and he lives here in third world buying houses like buying cars. dude could just stop and become the big landlord if he wishes.


A recent article [0] draws an interesting comparison with the aftermath of the Black Death in England. Briefly, peasants just refused working the aristocracy-owned fields. No matter the (harsh) countermeasures, the situation just never went back to the pre-plague levels. As a result, the aristocracy had to sell some of the fields to the richer farmers, resulting in a much strenghtened middle class.

[0] https://prospect.org/labor/great-escape-why-workers-quitting... via https://pluralistic.net/2021/11/29/ordinance-of-labourers/


Bill and Melinda's Trust has locked up the majority of farm land in USA. The peasants are screwed. The middle class is gone. People think more monoculture with machines is the answer. Technology will never supplant nature, but it might cause a collapse & reboot. You can't eat AI, you can't eat a digital twin market model.

Local food economy is the real economy.


>Bill and Melinda's Trust has locked up the majority of farm land in USA.

source?

https://newspunch.com/billionaire-globalist-bill-gates-sudde...

This article says the Gates' or their foundation might have a few hundred thousand acres, but the USA has orders of magnitude more farmland.

https://stacker.com/stories/1578/states-most-farmland


I remember reading about this on HN earlier in the year — according to LandReport, "[t]he cofounder of Microsoft and his wife rank as America’s largest private farmland owners."

https://landreport.com/2021/01/bill-gates-americas-top-farml...

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25779681

I think the gotcha here is that they rank as the largest /private/ farmland owners, not the largest singular owner of farmland (including corporate farming conglomerates).

I think this story went "viral" through this BusinesssInsider article from May 2021.

https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-land-portfolio-bi...


The truth of the matter is we are compensated nowhere near the value we create. And so if you work for yourself, and actually do create something that others will pay for, you will usually far exceed your normal salary.


Where does the idea that prices are a function of value even come from? Even the most basic high school microeconomics course must teach students that prices are the intersection of supply and demand curves.

And it is trivial to see one’s self deriving great value from things like eating fresh fruit and produce and drinking clean water, but not paying anywhere near its “value” for it.

Edit: replace the word value with utility in my comment to get a clearer idea of what I am trying to convey. Value is too vague of an idea to use for this topic.


> Where does the idea that prices are a function of value even come from?

Basic economics.

> Even the most basic high school microeconomics course must teach students that prices are the intersection of supply and demand curves.

Demand curve is marginal (internalized) value @ quantity, so saying that prices are the intersection of supply and demand curves is exactly saying that they are a function of value at market-clearing quantity, plus telling you where markey-clearing quantity comes from.


“Value” is subjective - the price is derived from the market-defined value. The OP is talking about the value they perceive their work to be.

In that sense, prices are not a function of an individual’s perceived value of work.


> “Value” is subjective

Correct. This is the law of demand, and why price curves slope down with most goods (luxury goods excluded).


Basic economics assumes a functional and competitive market. The majority of markets in America no longer fit this criteria - today's corporate environment is closer to neo-feudal than capitalist; if we want to return to "true" capitalism, we need a lot stronger anti-merger and monopoly busting efforts.

I highly recommend listening to "Bullshit Jobs" by David Graeber on the observed inverse relationship between pay and [actual] value (if we're talking about societal value, for example). There are exceptions to the rule, but the correlation is quite strong.


Right, but as an employee, the demand curve is your employers, not the customers.


How do you determine value? I think you have it backwards.


As I write in my edit, I do not know what the word “value” really means, so but if we replace it with utility, then we see that we pay prices based on the options we have, not based on the utility it gives us.

For example, paying $0.02 per gallon for clean, potable water, which surely one can agree has extremely high utility since it allows us to survive. But also paying $100 for a Christmas tree, which has lower utility. This is because we can get water for cheaper and the lowest price for the Christmas tree we could find was $100, but if water stopped being available for $0.02, then you bet people would pay $100 and even $1,000 for a gallon of water.

Does that mean water started having more utility? Not according to the definition economics used. Whether or not water became more valuable depends on how you are using the word value, so that is why I think it is not really a good word for discussions of how prices are determined.

You can sell a service to a business that is crucial to their continued operations all day long, but if someone else is willing to sell to them for less, then do not expect to get paid based on how “valuable” you are to the buyer.


I think economists use the concept of "marginal utility" to solve the problem you describe. If you already had 10 glasses of water, the marginal utility of having another drink is very low. If you haven't had anything to drink for two days, the marginal utility is high.

Your own example should make it obvious that "utility" is not a good way to think about value. Should people pay 100$ per glass of water, even if they live next to a river of fresh water? It wouldn't lead to good economic results to set prices that way.

I think anything else than "what people are willing to pay" will ultimately lead to bad results. For example the misguided "value theory of labor" keeps messing things up and leading people down the destructive path to communism.


The key caveat is here is that changing circumstances does not mean easily reproducing the exact results from path A to B.

If someone is working at a prominent company, and (for example) making $200k while their employer is making $500k in revenue per employee, that's the personal output($) : input($) value ratio in the context of that job environment.

Shifting to working for yourself doesn't mean immediately realizing that $500k monetary value equivalent for yourself instead. It depends on the business, business model, clients, capital, sales, operations, growth, etc, etc.

In what I've observed from some colleagues that have done both, using this information as leverage for a raise or jumping ship to "climb the ladder" elsewhere can yield equally good if not better compensation results than just being your own business.

Obviously there's nothing wrong with doing that and it's personal preference, it's just more of a naive assumption that own-boss money is always going to be >= job money.


I was an entrepreneur for 10 years. I would have made more in a job. Eventually I realized I am better off creating value for others and earn a lot more. Hung up the entrepreneurial boots and life has good since. Some people can make it, some can't.


I've been my own boss for ~ 7 years. 2 of those as a contractor, the other 5 as a SAAS founder.

I've been able to take any day off I want, but I have NEVER been able to switch off. It took me about 4-5 years to finally be relatively OK with it. Annual leave is far better.

I've taken a bit of a "holiday" this year by taking a full time role for ~8 months and it's been a great opportunity to recharge and work with amazing people that are much smarter than me, but I'm already feeling the pinch to go back and do my own thing.

Having said all of the above, I'm very lucky that I'm 10+ years in the software industry and I've always got the option of a great full time role to fall back on.

All in all, so far I'm not sure it was worth it. I wouldn't have been as successful and fulfilled if I kept my full time role, but I'd be a hell of a lot happier.


I know what you mean. My support demands are quite low and just 9 to 5 and Monday to Friday but I can never completely switch off. I'd like to go on holiday without a phone and laptop.

Having said that I've never had the same level of autonomy in previous jobs. This has outweighed all the downsides.


Did I read this right? You took a full-time job as a "holiday" from the stresses of being your own boss? I guess the grass truly is always greener.


Yep, and it's been great!


We have a giant jump in the number of new businesses now.

A majority of them are more spontaneous and less well conceived by people with much less experience with all aspects of running your own business.

I read that there have been several 100.000 of new business registered.

All of those will have to try and climb on top of each other to be heard.

Let us say that 1000 new mobile dog grooming business have been started in Denver. They all need a van and equipment. There are already 100 mobile dog grooming businesses, some do very well with an established clientele, a known name, and organic growth from happy businesses. Others do not.

How will all the new dog groomers be heard?

Who will be inventive enough or rich enough to hire someone, to create a solid and successful marketing campaign?

Traditionally on average 20% of new business fail within the first year. (Depending on type of business, some fail more often than others).

I predict we will see solid increase how many businesses fail. A lot of people will lose their savings. Unless something drastic changes a lot more will be without health insurance.

Within 6 months to 2 years there will be a horde of people who wish to return to being an employee of an established business, while being worse off financially.

I hope I am wrong.

(All numbers used about dog groomers are made up. Pure fiction)


Looking at the chart toward the top of the article, I couldn't help but get a similar feeling. A huge spike of self employed workers in the early 2000's that preceded the crash and Great Recession. I'd be curious to see statistics on what these self employed workers were doing in 2004-2007, but I assume many of them got into the idea of flipping houses?

Either way, I worry that in a few years time we'll see a market correction of all these self employed workers and I wonder what its impact will be. Will they just go back to corporate life? Will it even be that easy to do so?


Like everything else, this is very relative to locality. You'd be shocked at how hard it is to find any service business (pick one: plumber, well work, electrician, tree removal, etc.) to even come out to do an estimate in my area. I do a lot of tree-work for my neighboors simply because there is nobody else willing to do it. From talking with family and friends, it seems to be a common problem.


I can think back 15 years ago to a friend -- a software test engineer -- who started a handyman business on the side, hearing the same complaint from his clients. 90% of success is just showing up!


There's lots of money to be made there - in your examples, the people selling used vans (and then re-buying them cheaply from new companies going out of business), and the internet megacorps selling advertising to all the dog groomers trying to be heard. In a gold rush, most of the miners get nothing, but the people selling shovels can have a good business.


I would be my own boss right now if health insurance for a family of five didn’t cost a small fortune. But it does.


I'm actually convinced that single payer healthcare doesn't exist because companies lobby against it. It makes zero sense for healthcare to be tied to employment. But it sure makes folks hesitant to leave.

I come from a -deeply- conservative family, a large one at that, and I still don't know a single person who supports our healthcare system. The memes you read about evil republicans against it just aren't true. So what's the real reason?


>I'm actually convinced that single payer healthcare doesn't exist because companies lobby against it.

I suspect big companies also lobby against allowing individuals to purchase health insurance with pre tax dollars if you are employed by a small company that does not offer health insurance.

Similar to why an employee can save $20.5k of pre tax earnings per year if they work for an employer that offers 401k benefits, and an employee that works for an employer that does not offer 401k benefits can save $6k of pre tax earnings, IF they earn less than $68k per year.

And I have never heard either a Democrat or "small government" Republican address this glaring piece of corruption.

The cherry on top is that the legislation Democrats' are trying to push through right now gets rid of the backdoor Roth which allows people to save $6k in a tax advantaged Roth IRA if they are not eligible for IRAs, claiming that this is a benefit for the rich. But even the Democrats do not seem to want to touch the $20.5k (employee) or $61k (employer + employee) 401k limit, which benefits even richer people working for richer companies.


Doctors' groups have consistently lobbied against it because they fear it will reduce their power and earning potential. That's the most influential lobby. The AMA killed Truman's national health plan and lobbied hard against Medicare.


Well, the Republicans in Congress do vote against single-payer healthcare. Probably because companies lobby against it. And while conservative families may want better healthcare, they're not going to get it as long as they vote for Republican politicians. Or moderate Democrats for that matter, because they're really not so different when it comes to corporate lobbying.

If you want actual representation, you first need to change the system.


There was a bunch of exit poll statistics that Fox News of all places ran around the time of the 2020 elections. One such stat was more than 60% of people supporting a single payer healthcare system. Couldn't believe they let that air on Fox News.

This is what happens when we have out-of-touch elite class running Congress.


For some reason both Republican and Democrat politicians seem more economically right-wing and more corporatist than either of their bases.

I wonder if that's a natural consequence of the giant part of the voter base that feels obligated to vote for one of the two parties for social/tribal reasons alone. Without these voters pressuring their parties to align more with them in economic terms too, the effect of corporate pressure may be felt more strongly by politicians, leading to a drift to corporatism.


Democrats did try for a "public option" or something like it in 2009, but they always barely have the Senate, and have 2 or 3 Democrat Senators that are closer to Republicans who force them to cut back on spending. I remember Lieberman from ACA times forcing quite a few changes to ACA, and the same exact thing is happening this year with Manchin/Sinema.

Although the bigger issues is probably distribution of resources within American society. Lots of people were pissed that even the compromise that was ACA caused their healthcare costs to rise, even though it objectively lead to many more Americans getting access to healthcare. The country might say they want everyone to have everything, but no one will sign up to pay.

Whereas before, say the top 50% of the population got access to healthcare because they worked for government or large enough private companies to afford it, now that the bottom 50% had access to healthcare via subsidies and laws ensuring no one could be excluded from health insurance, the costs rose for the top 50%, and I hear endless whining about it, ignoring the fact that the bottom 50% can actually get an annual physical now.


Have you considered moving to literally anywhere but the US? Even Canada would solve this issue for you afaik


Only in the US.


Coincides with the rise of the FIRE movement as well.

It appears that humans want to not subject themselves to endless politics and meaningless bureaucracy in corporations. Given a choice, people want to live and die with dignity.


I read the scifi book Dancing With Eternity years ago, and while it wasn't terribly good there was one element of the story that really stuck with me.

The premise is a future where humanity has solved death via transferring consciousness between bodies. As you approach old age, you'd have a new body grown for you, but the process is quite expensive.

The relevant bit is this society has organized itself by having people alternate between a life of corporate drudgery, as a cog in the soulless machine, and a life of being a real human. You'd sell your soul for a lifetime of corporate bureaucracy until your body expires in exchange for joy filled freedom in the next lifetime. This is the deal you make to earn your keep and pay for the rebirth process.


A 50/50 split between life and death/corporate drudgery would be a godsend.


We're certainly making progress towards that goal.

Used be that people worked until they died. We chose to believe in silly fantasies like heaven as motivation to keep working, because eternal paradise would come after death.

Then we started creating schemes like social security, but those were planned such that the age you could start collecting was within a few years of the average age of death. You'd still work most of your life and then maybe have a few years of feeble freedom.

Now life expectancies have increased and people are even retiring earlier because we have secure ways to save and invest that plebs in our past never had. But most people still have to backload their freedom after they've lost most of the vitality of their youth.

One interesting question in my mind, is whether there is a causation between the belief in the afterlife and the amount of retirement people take in this life. Is the freedom to experience more years free from drudgery causing a decline in the need to believe in heaven, or is the decline in the belief in heaven causing people to check out of drudgery while they can and enjoy at least part of the only life we know we get to experience?


Also, people are joining workforce many years later than they did even 200 years before. So, effectively, people used to work from when they were 10-15 till they died, and now they work 22-65, if that. Effectively we already have an almost 50/50 split between working and non-working years.


Kind of.

The youth of a lot of people is also a grind of schooling to prepare for a career working. Youth are better off than in the past, but if you're stressing full time studying, that's basically the same thing as working.


FIRE is an internet phenomena. Don't mistake what you see on Twitter for the average person's experience.


FIRE movement is largely a result of crazy high salaries and a booming stock market, it wont last forever.


The original FIRE movement was all about living frugally, fighting lifestyle inflation and western hyper consumption, and saving like mad in order to invest early and take advantage of long term compounding.

It's become perverted in recent years by high salaried hyper consumers who have started idealizing "fatFIRE", which is really only achievable by a small group of people.


100% agree with this. The FIRE movement (or the equivalent before it gained this name) was about average people using frugality, investing, sensible leverage, and luck to get ahead and (semi) retire much earlier than usual. It has since suffered an influx (at least in popular online circles) of high earners scoffing at the idea that anyone could achieve financial independence with a frugal lifestyle. This despite the trivial mathematics proving it is indeed very possible for average earners, perhaps even more so recently given the bull markets.

I've worked with some very intelligent, brilliant people, who simply cannot comprehend how their own financial spending is foolish, or more likely, know this and choose to play ignorance. I've always found it fairly bizarre, almost like an addiction. It's fascinating how some people can be so skilled in one domain, but so lacking in self-control, especially when obtaining said skill requires enormous self-control in the first place.


It is quite fascinating. I've known incredibly high income earners and brilliant engineers who have hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting in cash earning near 0 percent. It blows my mind how absurdly financially illiterate so many people are.

And beyond that, so many of my peers hit the ground running on the hedonic treadmill right out of college, quickly filling up their consumption habits to meet their newly high income, while I continued to live low and plow huge amounts of my paycheck into my investments. Well, they're all still slaving away with no end in sight and I'm financially independent after many lucky breaks in my early investments that wouldn't have happened if I didn't have such a frugal mindset early on.

It seemed so obvious to me that this would be the outcome. I still don't understand how so many people can't seem to grok how much early sacrifice can yield outsized reward down the line.


One of them here, although I'm working on it. There is a lot of things here going on, and I don't think you can just stamp this with "lol how reckless these people are"

- Separate investing and frugality/budgeting. I guess a lot of those people do actually one of those, but not the other.

- You talk about high earners/engineers. In most of they earning life they never knew the need to ration, or lacking funds - so with the trajectory they see in early adulthood, especially if they like what they do, and they're successful, there simply isn't any recognizeable need to save for later (or even retire early)

- Maybe you like dealing with money, watching stock news early in the morning - I hate it. I hate the thought of dealing with this. It's an active aversion. Of course, the majority of investments should be "set and forget", but it's not always apparent how (especially outside US) and you need quite some research beforehand.

- Coupled with this, you put your life savings in a thing that you don't understand, won't follow. There may be a not entirely unfounded fear of South Park's "aaaand it's gone"

- There is something absolutely tempting about money sitting directly available on an account. Especially when you're young and single, you have no idea what happens with you next year, or what you will probably spend on. Walling away your funds is a critical and worrysome thought.

Sure, you can sum this all up as "financial illiteracy", but they are still cemented in valid concerns or life experiences, instead of mere negligence.


> Of course, the majority of investments should be "set and forget", but it's not always apparent how (especially outside US) and you need quite some research beforehand.

I really wish things like annuities or pensions were available for the 21st century economy. So many people don't want to deal with investing and understanding markets (which change!) and avoid making smart decisions.

There should be a way to just put money in a magic box that pays a little bit back each year, and every time you put money in it grows a bit more.


> and take advantage of long term compounding.

Yeah that is what I mean, what happens when the stock market drops 75% over 25 years? Not much compounding happening. https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/%5EN225?p=%5EN225


That index is up over 25 years. You'd be even better off if you were buying during the bear periods. AND you're not including dividend reinvestment.

A quick check here, https://www.portfoliovisualizer.com/backtest-portfolio, with JPXN between 2002-2021 investing a static amount monthly and reinvesting dividends suggests you would have doubled your money over the period.

Bad compared to US growth to be sure. You're right that Japan is a great example of how this strategy doesn't work as well for people locked in to stagnating economies.


> You're right that Japan is a great example of how this strategy doesn't work as well for people locked in to stagnating economies.

that's why you don't invest in a single region. A globally diversified portfolio (which, to be fair, is more difficult to achieve for people in some nations that's not the west) is what's required to get the market returns.


> That index is up over 25 years. You'd be even better off if you were buying during the bear periods. AND you're not including dividend reinvestment.

You, on the other hand, are not including inflation...


Yeah I meant 1989 to 2012. FTSE10 is flat from 1999 to 2021 as well.


Sure. You can cherry pick a time period in any index that would be bad. That's why the 4 percent rule only works for most retirement historical starting years, and why some people choose to work towards a more conservative 3 percent withdrawal rate.

Retirement always was and will continue to be a risk that depends both on how much you've saved and how well the economy will continue to function and grow once you're no longer working. Like all things in life, nothing is certain.


> FIRE movement is largely a result of crazy high salaries and a booming stock market, it wont last forever.

Productivity per employer has gone up a lot, ideally everyone would be earning more, but at least some are. FIRE doesn't require a booming stock market to work... It simply requires places to put capital that return annually (ideally perpetually). For example buying solar panels is a form of capital sink that has a practical return annually, or sinking money into a home or insulation. At some point someone's savings + annual "income" will be enough to survive on.


No. Let’s say everyone in the world is relying on savings + investment income for living (the end goal of the FIRE movement?). Then who will produce food (no one is doing any labor)?

FIRE is possible for everyone only when full automation is developed.


That’s definitely and decidedly not the end-goal. Most people don’t retire entirely, they just switch to work that’s more interesting to them, on their own terms. Maybe fewer hours.

But I’ve never heard anyone proposing that nobody should ever work again — you still need to work for long enough to build up a big portfolio. Maybe you can choose to just work 20 hr weeks for your entire 40-yr career… or 60 hour weeks for 15 years, then retire early. But the idea is that if people could consume much less, then we could build a better economy that supports everyone needing to work less in a lifetime.


additionally there is always a new generation of non retired people who can do the non-automated tasks (in return for their FIRE money)


> who will produce food

the people who have not yet FIRE'ed would have to do it, and they do it because they are getting paid by people who are FIRE'ed - presumably, with the intention of FIRE'ing themselves after reaching some target net worth. Unless you're claiming that somehow the population would stagnate and no new people would be born, this will continue to work.

Why does it have to be possible for _everybody_ to be in the same position, at the same time, for FIRE to work?


People that FIRE are still working - they're just compressing their working years vs higher income vs lower spending. Everyone is "producing food", just for a shorter portion of their life than normal.


It's not possible for everyone to FIRE, is the point.

Society needs to produce X amount of goods and services to sustain itself. If insufficient goods and services are produced, you get stagflation that kills your retirement nest egg. It's reasonable to say that a society where everyone stops doing work they don't like around age 35 cannot possibly produce enough goods and services, unless these people also die by 40.

I also don't buy the idea that it's possible to utilize only ~10-20 years of high productivity from an average person to sustain that person perpetually. This would only be possible with much more advanced automation than what we currently have, in everything from food production to medicine.

FIRE works for now because productivity continues to grow, at least in the US, and in part due to population growth. It also does only work for a small subset of the population (be it high earners or high savers), because the larger this subset, the higher the systemic risk. And it's a bad idea to advocate FIRE as a culturally sustainable approach to life. That idea is absurd.


> I also don't buy the idea that it's possible to utilize only ~10-20 years of high productivity from an average person to sustain that person perpetually.

Check out earlyretirementextreme.com

The author shows how it can be done in 5 years on a sub-$100k salary. The catch though is that he doesn't have children. With dependents, it would probably be more like 10 years.


high salaries and booming stock market are the result of an increased standard of living due to technological advances. If you looked at the standard of living of a middle class person in 1975 it would be worse than someone making $15/hour today on average.

More and more people are not interested in spending 50+ hours a week in bullshit jobs to just be able to buy a Mercedes and join a golf club. A lot of us are perfectly happy driving Toyotas.


You can FIRE with any salary range with thoughtful spending (save before you spend) and common-sense investing (buy-and-hold, cash generating assets). Though the recent stock market opens up many opportunities for FIRE, it is an age-old proven way to retire or do-your-own-thing rather living paycheck-to-paycheck


I do not see how this is possible for the bottom few income deciles considering healthcare costs. Definitely not possible for many more income deciles if you have children and still want to protect against healthcare costs.


Healthcare is easily solved by letting go of the requirement to live in the United States and living almost anywhere else.


Healthcare costs are dirt cheap if you make between 133 and 200% of the FPL. Look into ACA subsidies and “enhanced cost sharing.”


Good point, let's all FIRE tomorrow and see what happens. That age-old "work to collectively add value to the economy" thing really gets old after awhile.


The only people who could FIRE are those that have saved enough to live on the interest. That definitely doesn't describe "us all," not even close.

Also... I hate the power your username has over my mind. It's never going to give me up


Yeah its almost a new aristocracy where people have fun while everyone else works.


The funny thing is most working people will look at the spending levels required to achieve FIRE and decide they don't want to make the sacrifice. They are in a prison of their own making.

Of course it's easy to see how they arrived in this situation. There is a constant stream of propaganda telling us we need to spend in order to become successful. Without that SUV you aren't a good parent, without the big house you can't be a good partner, without the expensive holidays you must be a loser. Thank Bernays[1] for all of this.

Not many people can resist that and take a different path which is why we don't need to worry about "what if everybody does it".

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays


Some will probably bail out of FI when the market slows/crashes in the short term, but some will definitely stick with it! People have been doing the same thing for 50 years, there’s just a community aspect with a name now.


Even if the growth doesn't last forever, many people are beyond reasonable thresholds. Having made their money, people are downsizing in innovative ways - leaving America for 6 months for a cheaper country, relocating to a lcol place or even casually experimenting with starting another business.

Short of a multi year recession, most FIREed folks will survive. You don't need to get another job when you can just downsize your expenses in bad years.


Also coincides with the rise of TikTok and people telling everyone else that in order to retire, all you need to do is own property and extract capital for it to create a neverending cycle of mortgage refinancing.


TikTok is good at figuring out what demographic you are interested in. I have never seen FIRE stuff on TikTok. This may say something about what it thinks your interests are.


I wish.

I get that and all the crypto morons pushing NFTs to the point that the platform is almost unusable. I'm mostly on there for food ideas.


I don't use it much, but when I do open it up, it seems like it's 99% construction memes. I must've hit like on one or two and now it's got me in that rut.


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