2007/09/04

Skillserv - Or 'How Kvatch Spent His Labor Day'

OK, I have an admission: Early in the summer I took a little break from blogging. Although I was pretty burned out at the time, there was an ulterior motive. I needed to devote some time to a little side project I'd been trying to finish.

Well here it is September, and ironically I completed the last few items on Labor Day and put the site up live on the Internet yesterday afternoon. "Why ironic?" you might ask. Mostly because this little project is designed to help consultants and contractors accurately estimate rates for their billable hours.

You see, when I left my corporate job back in May of 2006, I found that the world of technology contracting had changed...a lot. Though there is plenty of work around, it's now almost impossible to get to the hiring managers because thousands of staffing agencies guard the doors, 'body-shops' whose sole purpose seems to be offering up semi-qualified candidates at cut-rate prices. They pay their 'code-monkeys' a pittance and skim 25% to 40% of the billable rate off the top for doing...essentially...nothing. Qualified, experienced engineers don't stand a chance because our rates are too high. We happen to know what we're worth.

But what if these kids also knew what they were worth? What if they knew that when they work sans benefits, their effective salary is considerably less than what they'd make going corporate? This is where Skillserv comes in--a subversive little application originally designed to help me estimate my own rates while taking into account the complexities of taxes, billing status, and benefits. My goal is to help the kids, and just about anybody else who works independently, figure out what they're worth, how much benefits cost, and how their tax status affects their earning potential.

Worth 'wasting' my holiday for? I hope so, and I would encourage you to take a look if you think it might be valuable. If not, please forgive the indulgence of my using my blog to flog a pet project.

17 Comments:

Well...you are just the innovative Mr. Froggy now aren't you? Congrats on you ingenuity being an amphibian and all.
Such a small frog, such a large task. Good for you and here's a year's worth of tasty bugs as a reward for work well done. Don't eat them all at one sitting.
frog thats a good idea, and you have done more for the cause of labor than any parade!

I think workers need to know what they are worth, but sadly, the corporate world is conspiring to reduce those numbers, and we are not doing enough to raise them.

Wait....
What program helps a person know their worth relative to the thousands of others looking for good gigs? Isnt worth dependent on competition, others who can perform the task? What program reflects the explosion of experts in a ratio to the rate of obscurity of their expertise or skill?
Some people want to think that it is an analysis of what it costs to hire versus what it costs to contract.

Laywers had this problem when it became clear a few years ago that there were way too many lawyers.

Continuing to think aloud....
I think what people are worth also depends on what is going on.

Your worth as an enlistee in the army has gone up in recent years, no? Your worth as a Chinese toy executive responsible for record profit losses? Not so much so.
Kudos, Mr. Froggie. That had to be a lot of work!!
Sumo... Yeah the typing thing is a real pain-in-ass for us frogs. ;-)

PoP... Thanks. Hoping this little venture will at least pay for itself (and a few flies).
Lynn... Thanks! There's a lot of comparative research giving contractors a general idea of the salary ranges that can be expected, skill-wise and geography-wise. This little project is geared more toward arming people with information about the differences between contracting and full-time employment.

TomCat... Thanks as well. It was a lot of work, but as needed to do some "skills catch-up" anyway, none of it was wasted. My next "project" is going to be much more ambitious.
Looks good froggy. just wondering how you get past staffing agencies guarding the doors to get billable hours.
Sweet project. Congratulations on finishing it.
Kvatch,
That sounds like a project worth pursuing. I will check it out and also put an ad on APJ for you. Probably sidebar permanent type thing...cause I like your big red eyes you adorable little amphibian!

"I am not gay. I have never been gay. I only plead guilty now because the frog truly has gorgeous eyes. I will resign further talk of this and relieve the people of Webaho."
Kvatch,
Check your Skillserv emial box...
Check your "email" box too... :>)
Cartledge... Not very well I'm afraid. I kept getting told by agencies that the contract rates had already been set by the employer even before they'd seen any resumes. More often than not, that left the company in a position to only hire someone with about half my experience.

SadButTrue... Thanks. There's obviously more to add, but the main things are there.
TPM... Thanks so much for the plug on Poetic Justice and for the proof reading. I caught the issue you mentioned as well and corrected it in the version that just went up.

One of the problems of working on something for so long is that you tend to just skim over the mistakes.
Well buddy, I have to tell you that I am severely impressed. That rate calculator is a beaut.

The only wild card that I can think of off-hand (and I know from experience) is when your competition starts "whoring themselves out" for less than the job is worth, everybody eventually "gives it away" just to stay in.

And what Lynn said.

Added value (and then educating the prospective customer). Therein lies the secret.

Very well done! :)
Very nice work, Kvatch. Have you had many takers yet? Are you advertising the site or simply depending on word of mouth?
Chuck... Thanks. I'm hoping people will find it useful.

Both you and Lynn have noted the somewhat intangible issue of what the market will bear in terms of rates. There's not a lot I can do about to help there but many sites that already do those sorts of analysis. I'm really trying to arm people with a way of determining how they stack up in terms of covering benefits and taxes.

Kathy, I've had about a dozen people sign up but for the moment it's really just friends and family. As soon as I get the payment system in place, I'm going to do some advertising on Monster, Career Builder, and Dice.
Before even clickin' on it, I've got to say, there's no "forgiveness" necessary, Kvatch! It's your blog and, even if it didn't sound like an incredibly Great idea for our modern times, it'd be your absolute (at least still so far) right to blog 'bout it.

Personally, I'm glad you did. Starting on Labor day, I've spent about 12 hours working on side jobs and have so far brought in a gran' total of $85. Hmmm... I'm actually headin' home from my regular job because my shoulder is acting up from all the mousin' around I've been doing this week. busy Busy BUSY! Ouch! (Rememberin' that I dislocated the danged thing just about 2 weeks ago now.)

When I get there, I'll be to clickin' your linkage! But, NOT I'm promising m'self, much else. :O

Good luck, frogmigo!

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