My accountant just reminded me it’s time to file my annual confirmation statement. That means another year has just ticked over with me working via a limited company. And that means I’ve been a company director / principal consultant / head tea boy for a decade. More than half of my contractor life, and a good chunk of my 25 year career as a developer.

Things have changed… the contract that caused me to finally incorporate was UK Government work. They wouldn’t accept umbrella. Of course, six months later they had to fire and re-hire us all because of IR35 and now I’m pretty sure you can only work there via umbrella. Yay IR35. The contract developer market has stayed pretty vibrant over the past decade, even with all the catastrophic economic fallout of Brexit, the pandemic, etc, but people are obviously more cautious about taking on temporary workers due to the tax regulation. (And rightly so.)

In fact, I think the market has possibly been helped by the turbulence. Uncertainty means many potential employers are unable to commit to permanent hiring, and that the shape of the pool of potential developers changed as a result of the churn. I was already (mainly) working from home so had a head start during the panicky retreat of the early COVID period. Now everyone is now working the way I always have. Plus, interviewing via Zoom is a godsend.

I’ve been very lucky with my clients. I’ve done relatively few one off gigs in ten years and have mainly been bouncing around the same four clients. A surprising number of them have been railway related, but that’s just pure co-inky-dink.

I reckon it’s been about 30% fixed price vs 70% timesheets. Although a good chunk of that T&M work (let’s say 20%) has been umbrella, and the fixed price work has often been support gigs alongside my day job.

I am not even remotely stinking rich, sadly. Although I’ve often prioritised finding interesting problems to solve over gigs that make real bank, and I’m always happy to go back to a good client without negotiating a new rate I don’t think it’s my gig choices that have let me down. My rate is always reasonable and it’s just a myth that contract work is big money. In the end it’s about the same as permy work, but you get a lot more flexibility and choice. And more admin work.

I still suck at accountancy.

On the whole, though, it’s been a blast. I’ve worked on some interesting things, met a lot of very talented developers, some brilliant humans and have become the scourge of Accounts Payable departments everywhere.

So here’s to the next ten years…