Consultant or Salary which is a better position?

I like to work, but I do not like to work and not get paid. When I was making over one hundred thousand dollars a year plus a nice bonus, I worked all the time and had a lot of stress and responsibility placed on my back. I was signing all types of documents I was potentially liable for. I had to make choices about people’s lives with regards to hiring and firing. I was owned by the company.

  • Does 60k mean living the dream?  I see many jobs which are offering 60k a year in a major city like Boston. Can work for 60k a year really do it for you? A job stands for ‘Just Over Broke’. You could be a controller for double that if that is what you really want to do.
  • The opportunity cost of life – If you are not going to start your own business, there is an alternative to being a corporate rat in a maze. In contrast, consultants get paid more, with all the overtime you can eat. My consulting friends that have been in the game for a while making 200k + a year and less stress flying beneath the radar. Some even engage in overtime competitions who can clock the most billable hours. One guy I know billed 100 hours a week for three weeks, all real work mind you, but he made about 30k that month with dinner provided by the client.

As a consultant, I site in a cube and people are nice and walk by me without asking me a question every ten minutes. I am out of the crossfire. I work mind you, and with diligence, however, consultants tend to not be in the crossfire of the politics, and fire drills of corporate America as much. They know their jobs will have a start and endpoint based on a task done and work efficiently.

Consultant vs permanent work
I have more time free time to spend with my family as a consultant and less stress. Can you imagine me walking around in the afternoon with my family when having a boss dangling the salary carrot in front of me with deadlines? As a consultant, I work and get paid when I want. Life is all about lifestyle remember that and lifestyle is all about family.

A consultant is:

  • More flexible – With time and location.
  • Fairer pay – Get paid what your worth and have no illusions if you do not produce you are out.
  • Less stress – See the below elaboration.
  • Does not get routine as you see more varied situations – A big part of work in the USA  is routine and boring tasks.

Corporate accounting planning and  budget determine your raises –  more than your performance in  your ‘permanent high paid position’

In contrast, in a job with a salary,  the bag of salt they pay you at the end of the moth in wages is not worth your marginal product contributed to the company. No one will ever compensate you for what you are really worth in a full-time salary job unless you are in top management or work for the government.

You will get your increase based on corporate accounting planned budget more than your contribution. Trust me corporate accounting has a budget and that is what your pay is about, you are just working to keep your job, rather than really make progress in your career in many cases. It is all about the budget. If they need to they will fire you to make the budge fit. It is all about the budget, not you personally.

Further, as a company yes man you have to be ready at all times to chase paper and produce paper. In the company a ‘VIP’ – VP call fire drill day and night which people get immune to. It is like if the Police always drove around town with their sirens on.

  • Not all jobs are like this. If you have a government job it is pretty easy.  Guys I know in government are asleep at the wheel and still collect. The government employees I know are milk toast and could never work in the real world. But I think you have to basically sell your ideals if you work for the government. I think my testosterone would go way down if I had some government position.

However, a salaried job in the private sector, a real job if you will you have to work your butt off.  Your only downtime when you kiss your wife good-bye for the day is when you are in your care on your commute and you are listening to National Public Radio. The rest of the day you will be stressed out. If you have a job where this is not so, write to me.

That is why I prefer to be a consultant or contract job. Maybe that will change someday.

For now, I enjoy living an anonymous life doing SQL queries and Excel pivot tables under fluorescent lights in a cube.  A ghost cube, with a name plate of some former employee that no one can remember after a series of cut backs. Doing consulting you have to work hard and smart. You can not waste time or you are out. However, they paid you for your time and the stress is less.

Usually, companies cut too deep to show value-added by some steering committee that is making the big top-level decisions for the company and then they bring in a swarm of consultants to help. It is perfectly logical. So there are many opportunities to get these positions if you have skills.

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My approach to consulting and what to expect in Accounting and IT consulting

In Accounting consulting 50 bucks an hour might be a normal rate – When I get in the first few days I try to get an understanding of General Ledger and start from the highest level P&L and work backward. These things are always frustrating at the start because you want to hit the ground running but there is always ramp up. But eventually things make sense and you feel good.

My guess is at most clients they know it’s a mess. That’s why you’re there. You make the most of it and think of it as an opportunity to shine. The pay rate does often not match a salaried job in some cases, but if you make a contribution that the client values, you can try to hit up your employer for a raise. Once you have this first assignment under your belt, you will be an ‘expert’.

If it is a public company, at the end of the clean up the get an accounting firm like PWC to bless it.

IT consultants get paid more like 75 to 100 bucks an hour in their pocket as a freelancer, although if you work for a consulting firm they will bill out over 100 easy, plus travel expenses.

Technology jobs get paid more than accounting jobs and it is more about implementing some system. You know, PeopleSoft – SAP, etc. Some recruiter will find you if you have those keywords on your resume.

The reason IT gets paid more is fear. The corporate guys are afraid they will not be able to turn on their systems and access data or it will be a mess. In contrast accounting consulting jobs are more pivot tables and analysis which is more tangible and understandable to the Accountants that run companies. But SQL and deep programming are like wizardry and they paid consultants for a level of security. If an Excel workbook is bad, that is one thing, but if the database is wrong the accounting team is at risk. That is why IT gets paid more, it is not that they are smarter.

Usually, in the contract, you can not talk to your client about your pay or get hired until a certain time is up.

The calculator of wages and salary and benefits

I like working per hour. Then it is clear. When I worked salary I had to work 24/7.   100,000 dollars a year = 50 dollars an hour on a 40 hour week. But they pay you 100,000 you must work like 60 – 70 hours which brings your rate to 25 – 30 dollars an hour.   When you are a consultant you have less stress and ownership. You just sit in a cube off the radar and do some project. When you are a salary employee you work all the time. 50 dollars an hour is like a 100,000 dollar a year job with no overtime or weekend. 100 dollars an hour as a consult is like 200,000 dollars a year.

  • Most of my consultant friends are rich.
  • Most of my employee friend do OK.
  • My friends that are owners of a process or company are monied – this is why ultimately you want to be an entrepreneur.

I like a nice ‘safe’ (yeah right) salaried jobs but have no illusions

In contrast, I think salaried employment in many companies is a scam on par with a sales job that makes promises that not one really sees.

Do not get me wrong. Most of my life I worked with a salary. Nothing wrong with that, it pays the bills and more. It will help you pay the mortgage with the stability of cashflow.

My point here is considered there is another way because in a steady job companies will not pay you for what you are worth.  At best your marginal cost will equal your marginal product, but I rarely see this. Being a consultant is getting paid for work done rather than and an endless stream of work being piled on you.

I like working per hour. Then it is clear. I work and I get paid, I do not work I do not.

When I worked salary I had to work 24/7.   100,000 dollars a year = 50 dollars an hour on a 40 hour week. But they pay you 100,000 you must work like 60 – 70 hours which brings your rate to 25 – 30 dollars an hour.   When you are a consultant you have less stress and ownership. You just sit in a cube off the radar and do some project. When you are a salaried employee you work all the time including nights and weekends. If you do this as a consult you bill them and you make a lot.

Ah, but salaried jobs give you medical benefits, right?

The hook is that in a salary job you get medical benefits.

Well, I most company plans are now basically the same price as if you went to Blue Cross.  Blue Cross is 100 dollars a month on the cheap side for a family of 3 and 350 a month for the expensive side depending of course what you want etc.

Check your pay stub, I bet you pay at least 100 dollars for medical coverage? Maybe I am wrong. But unless you are older and sick I can not imagine more than 350 dollars in medical bills a month. So I just prefer the least expensive plan, which is often even 80 dollars a month. Just in case type plans and pay at the walk-in clinic if I have to go. I also believe nothing beats being slim, even skinny and fit and taking vitamins. This helps but of course is not the answer for more serious problems.

Also, there are many other options, all doctors discount for cash or lower-income and even in my town of St. Augustine, there are free doctors and free clinics.

I paid 35 dollars to get ten staples out of my head at the walk in the clinic by a real ER doctor. He was just working at the walk-in clinic that day.

But let us say you get a 300 dollar a month plan, from Blue cross that is a good plan and not bad.  In a company, you have to pay a part of your own insurance anyway. And is the marginal cost worth the stress.
Marginal cost being the difference between a company plan and a private. 300 dollars is usually less than one day of consulting and in some cases one hour.

Further, for good or bad it looks like we may have some form of Obamacare in a year or so.

In conclusion, do not quit your day job but if you are stressed, being a consultant is an option

A salaried position Vs. being a Consultant your choice, just be open to the idea there might be more to life than your boss and his budget. Bing a consultant is another option at least they will pay you for those hours and they let you work from home often or at the office. you can run a salary calculator or compassion all day long but being a freelancer gives you economic freedom.

If you do not have the skill set for the market, go to the Internet and learn what you need to do and know. Practice at home and learn. Most skills are not that hard to pick up. No one is a genius, rather I see people succeed because they do not give up or berate themselves.

We all can say no to corporate America and take our skills directly to the market. Or better yet understand how money is really made in the USA and be a capitalist or else you will find yourself working for your bosses wife.

What do I do for work since I moved back to the USA? I work on my own company and ideas at home. I believe entrepreneurship is the best way. But I still from time to time take a consulting job. You can see my LinkedIn profile by searching ‘Mark Biernat LinkedIn’.

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