Karacticus Dork
8/18/20 12:19 p.m.

Anyone have any experience they can share on working as a contract engineer?

I've got a head shed working pretty hard at recruiting me for a job.  Hourly rate looks acceptable, plus what appears to be a generous weekly per diem.  One year contract, plus option to renew.  Also, spacecraft!

Yes, I'm less than a month into early retirement, but I really was planning to work another couple or three years if the job wasn't such a grind.



759NRNG (Forum Partidario)
759NRNG (Forum Partidario) UltraDork
8/18/20 1:04 p.m.

I've been a contract 3D (O&G)piping designer for most of my 40 plus year career. I also intend to pursue it again should the planets align as hoped for after November. Also see if OT is available, work all you can unless you happen to end up in a locale that offers weekend distractions.  Best of luck to you!!!  

914Driver MegaDork
8/18/20 1:06 p.m.

I was offered a position as a Senior Technician to resolve some issues; I agreed to do it part time, 20 hours/week.  A General gave me and a 4 man team the nod to do this when the rest of the world is shut down.  Thank you.  $3k/month in the sock drawer helps when CListing ....

Specific questions or pitfalls?

z31maniac MegaDork
8/18/20 1:20 p.m.

Does the hourly rate look acceptable when factoring in you'll be a 1099 person? Being that you were retired, it's probably not as important. 

For me, I've never found any contract work willing to pay enough on the hourly rate to make up for no retirement, PTO, health benefits and paying the higher payroll taxes. 


93gsxturbo SuperDork
8/18/20 4:25 p.m.

I heard you were supposed to take your hourly rate at a salary job and double it - and thats breaking even, more risk, more paperwork on your end.  

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
8/18/20 4:36 p.m.

I've never worked under contract to start ignoring my reply now.  It just never seemed to be worth it.  I heard all these stories of $100+ an hour rates being paid to engineers in my field (aircraft electrical/avionics engineering) and the dudes calling me never get remotely near that kind of money.  I've actually had a couple recruiters call me and by the end of the call they're asking me if I'd take a pay *cut* to leave a direct position to work contract somewhere that would require me to move to do.  That's seconds before I hang up.

Different contract houses seem to offer different things, like having to pay for health insurance yourself or some kind of 401k/403b setup that they contribute to, but when I've run numbers its never been close to worth it.  I could rant on but it sounds like our situations are quite different anyway.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
8/18/20 4:38 p.m.
93gsxturbo said:

I heard you were supposed to take your hourly rate at a salary job and double it - and thats breaking even, more risk, more paperwork on your end.  

When I last ran the numbers a 67% increase would be a break-even. A full 100% increase would actually make it tempting.  In my personal experience those gigs are rare on the ground.

Karacticus Dork
8/18/20 4:39 p.m.

As far a specific questions or pitfalls, I figure I at least need to do due diligence on the head shed being slow to pay or not, especially with regard to the per diem, as this would be away from home.

Still, have yet to see if anything will come of this.

I'm still kind of in the mode where I'm susceptible to these kinds of offers while I haven't yet found a routine for retired life.   The derecho event blowing through here last week hasn't helped.  Got by my former workplace for the first time since retirement today-- nearly all of the mature tress, and there were quite a few, have been cut down.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
8/18/20 4:49 p.m.

Yeah, I could see being okay with not making "the right amount" as you're not working, vs. my situation of having a job already so from a financial standpoint these kinds of things are usually of no interest to me. 

Would you have to move? There's always some space vehicle nonsense going on out in the desert... Working remote would be nice but I wonder about how productive I could be taking on a new job and never being on-site. 

Hope you get some useful information from folks that have done this sort of thing.

CAinCA Reader
8/18/20 5:15 p.m.

I worked as a IC mask design contractor for ~4.5 years in the Silicon Valley in the early 2000's. At the time they were paying contractors ~1.5 - 2X what they paid the permanent employees. Then CA started cracking down on long term contractors. Some people I knew had worked as contractors for 10+ years at the same company. Around the time I went back to permanent jobs most companies implemented a 12 months on 6 months off or 18 on/12 off policy. That has taken off nationwide now.


No Time
No Time Dork
8/18/20 5:42 p.m.

10-15 years ago when I did it, I used the 2x formula to determine the rate. 

I've worked as a full time employee for companies that paid 1.5-2x the equivalent full time hourly rate for contractors.

The gap for the contractor comes when the agency takes 30% off the top. The company paying the contract is paying approx 2x, but the guy doing the work only sees 70% of what the company is being charged. 

wake74 New Reader
8/18/20 8:53 p.m.

I work for one of the largest engineering companies in the world, lets just say top 3 to keep it generic.   Contractors, "job shoppers", etc. seemed to be much more common 10 years ago.  We still have plenty of them but I don't see it as common as it was 5 or 10 years ago, at least not with our company.  A few independents on my teams who I think make good pretty good money (+$100/hr), but mostly we now have to contract with a single placement agency domestically.  And as others have mentioned they take a pretty good cut.  And I find that most of the time, those agencies have little understanding of what we actually do or need, and forward resumes based upon "has pulse", "has no pulse". 

The other issue in my opinion that has reduced contract opportunities is the globalization of the industry.  Chances are if one local offices is busy, and needs more workers, another office is slow and needs the work.  Even more so, over the last 10 years, all the major A&E firms have offices in India, Poland, etc. chock full of engineers and designers, who will work for less per hour than you. (This is NOT a political, or belief statement on the plusses and minuses of globalization and offshoring design work).  And COVID has only reinforced the notion in the industry that location doesn't matter.  If you can do it from home, then you can send the work to the office that is slow.  I've always been a diehard guy that wanted my project team local, ie, I can manage by walking the floor and keeping an eye on what my project was (or was not) working on.  Management by wandering so to speak.  I think I've got people resident in half dozen states, plus India currently working on one of my projects.  While the constant barrage of instant messages, quick voice chats, video chats, etc. was tough to get used to, I'm adapting to the new norm.

While I'm working on becoming an old dog, I'm finding that I have zero control over the direction of the industry, and I need to learn some new tricks.  I'm desperately trying not to be that bitter old guy desperately holding onto old times, and the "good old days".

Well, that was a serious diversion from your question but this forum is labeled "Off Topic" :-)

03Panther HalfDork
8/19/20 12:13 a.m.

I only did short term contracts from 97 till last year. As a Technician, not engineer - although some of the positions had engineer in the title. Made from $20 to $60 an hr along the way, for basically the same skill set! Perdiem use to be 50 - 60 a day, and I could put half that in my pocket. now its 85 -140, and costs most of it to live in area. YMMV. one thing to look out for is some of the more cut throat head hunters only pay prediem for "days worked" That's a huge rip off. The double a full time wage is prolly a good rule of thumb, and as a tech we normally are on 6-12's, but that's for short outages. The overtime is what paid so well, for me, and time off between busy seasons. Finally to my first full time job since 94 - for the benefit package!!!

Is the contract on the FL Space Coast, TX or CA. I almost had a contract with SpaceX in FL, but it fell through, and their full time ads apparently didn't like my resume, since I've had 90 jobs - I must not be able to hold one!!!

Can't give ya advise on pay, but can tell ya lots 'bout being a Roadwhore! (the Roadwhore site changed is name to Roadtechs.com, for obvious reasons)

Karacticus Dork
8/19/20 12:24 p.m.

It's with ULA in the Denver area. 

Denver isn't exactly my favorite place on the planet-- life's to short to spend any more of it than you have to on I-25. 

I kind of doubt anything will come from this-- suspect the head shed is just throwing resumes at the wall for the exercise. 

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
8/19/20 3:53 p.m.

A head house contacted me about that company, same location, a couple of weeks ago.  I turned them down for reasons listed above.  I lived in Denver a decade ago and didn't really care for it then and can't see myself wanting to stay there long-term so why spend a couple of years there just doing time?  I might like it a bit more now as interests have changed a little over time but the cost of living out there is pretty rough and I didn't care for the weather outside of the 8 weeks of "summer".

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