As my regular readers know, I’ve been a freelancer for around half a year now. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it would take to entice me back into full-time employment. Here’s what I came up with.
I don’t care about your stock options. I’m not interested in possibly maybe perhaps getting a little bonus ten years down the road. A %0.1 share in the company isn’t going to make me any more loyal than I already am. The only sweat equity I’m willing to invest is in things that are mine: my projects, and my family.
Unless you want to offer me founder-level equity, I don’t care about your stock option plan.
I don’t care about your health care package. I’m tired of switching plans, wrestling with sullen doctors offices to get the paperwork updated, and losing my deductibles. I’m tired of finding new providers. The individual plan I have may not be the greatest plan in the world, but it’s mine, and I’m keeping it. If you want to pay for my health care, great: give me an extra $12,000 a year and we’ll call it a deal.
I don’t care about your office space. The finest office space in the world is located a few steps away from where my children are playing and sleeping. The second best is a 20 minute drive from my house, at whatever venue my home coworking group is currently meeting at. And the third best is wherever there is a warm sun, a cool breeze, a gorgeous view and a decent Sprint signal.
You can’t top that, so don’t even try.
I don’t care about your free food. My wife is an amazing cook, and your chef doesn’t know my tastes the way she does. And I doubt he would fashion special treats in the middle of the day and bring them to my desk, just because.
I don’t care about your game room, movie night, or ski trips. I have a family already, I don’t need yours.
I don’t care about your retirement plan. I’ll manage my own investments, thanks.
I don’t care about your job security. Because I don’t believe it exists. I’ve watched too many direct employees walk out the door with their things in a box. You can’t predict your fortunes. Today’s lifers could be tomorrow’s reluctant freelancers. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
I care about cash. I have a family of six to support. I have bills to pay and groceries to buy and savings to put away just in case. I need car that will actually fit the whole family. I care about real compensation: good old fashioned cash.
I care about time. Have I mentioned I have a family yet? I also need time to devote to my side projects, to growing wideteams.com and writing eBooks and speaking at conferences. If you want to get my attention, offer me a 4-day work week. Or how about six weeks of vacation?
I care about interesting problems. If I never write another line of RHTML I could be perfectly happy. I’m bored with vanilla Rails apps. I want to glue systems together, and make packets flow, and crunch data, and scale clouds, rewrite slow code in C++ or Haskell, and architect distributed systems, and talk to a galaxy of devices. With a nod to Larry Wall, I’m tired of making easy things easy. I want to make hard things possible.
I care about dispersed teams. I like learning from them and helping them to work better.
I care about learning and teaching. I’ve learned a few things in over ten years of professional software development. I’ve mastered two languages to the point of minor guru status, and I’m conversant in a half-dozen or so more. I still like to learn something new every day, although that doesn’t always happen.
I care about learning, whether about code from better programmers than me, or about business from businesspeople, or design from designers. And I care about helping the next generation of developers find their legs and learn to be pragmatic, passionate, productive programmers.
I care about leadership. When a man watches others muck things up long enough, he eventually gets the urge to muck things up himself. I want to lead teams that learn from each other and write awesome software.
I care about self-ownership. Just because you employ me doesn’t mean you get to own my thoughts. If it’s built on my time an my equipment, it’s my property.
I care about (real) job security. The corporate world has developed an instrument for incentivizing companies to find a solution other than letting an employee go; it’s just not often seen outside of executive circles. It’s called a severance package. If you really want me to believe that you are committed to my career development for the long haul, you’ll put your money where your mouth is.
What about you? What do you want in an employer?
EDIT: It occurred to me that this could really come across as “haha, direct employment sucks!”. Which is not at all what I’m saying. I actually like the idea of sticking with a group and growing with it for a long period of time. At heart I’m not someone who gets a kick out of moving on every six months. But the enticements that a lot of companies offer in return for going direct just leave me cold. If a company was willing to talk seriously about the stuff in the latter half of the list, I’d definitely consider them.