I doesn’t seem like nearly 12 months ago that I wrote about my plans for this year and I couldn’t have had any idea how difficult and challenging a year it was going to be.
Contracting / Career
Although I knew that the contracting market had changed here in the UK I didn’t expect the desolation I found when I re-entered it in April. Back in January when I gave notice to my previous employer the market was slow, but then it always is at the start of the year until things pick up towards the start of the new financial year. However, as April approached there was no signs of this and the days when contractors were getting numerous calls every week appeared to be a distant memory.
That said, I did manage to pick up a contract towards then end of the month, working with a small company in Bristol. The rate was good enough and the contract was set to run for six months so that would get my back up and running wouldn’t it ….?
Well, no - not really.
The contract was to provide services until a replacement for their previous senior developer and the process was expected to last a few months with the further expectation that the successful candidate would probably need to give their employer 3 months notice. But that’s not how it panned out.
As it happened they managed to find a suitable candidate within a few weeks and he was immediately available having been made redundant. I provided a week of handover and after 6 weeks total duration I found myself once again ‘between contracts’.
This is the double edge sword that comes with contracting. We provide a service and when that service is no longer required we move on.
The problem was that the market had still not recovered when I dropped back into it in June and it took me until September before my luck changed and a client I engaged with via my previous Ltd company reached out. I’m now 3 months into a six month contract and it is pretty apparent that there will be an extension - there’s a lot of work to be done. There has been a suggestion of a permanent role in the offing but I’m in two minds about that.
Contracting in the UK is under attack from the Government and HMRC - no question about it. They don’t seem to want us little people running around despite following all the legislation and taxation guidance to the letter. No, because of an acknowledged minority of contractors/freelancers running wild then we must all be treated like criminals to the point where contracting becomes non-viable.
I won’t get into an IR35 rant here as I’m trying to stay positive for the New Year celebrations this evening. Suffice to say that I flip between firmly staying a contractor and throwing in the towel again and returning to regular employment. I’m not getting any younger and could do without the hassle of having to prove that I’ve adhered to the legislation rather than the other way around - apparently ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is an outdated concept here in the UK these days.
Back in June I posted about going ‘All in on Mac’ and I’m currently on the verge of shelling out £3000 (of company money) on a new MacBook Pro to replace the aging hardward I’m currently using. I’ve had to bring my old Windows Workstation out of retirment as the current MBP doesn’t seem to play well with the VPN software required to access my current clients systems. Frequently dropping connections was a major hit on productivity and the Windows system didn’t seem to have the same issues.
I had one of the other developers, who runs a much newer MBP, to run some tests for me and it was pretty clear that it was an issue with either the older hardware in mine or it’s inability to run the latest version of macOS. I have my fingers crossed that the new laptop won’t have the same issues. Mind you, even if it does I ‘need’ a newer device to continue my development with MAUI as along with the latest version of macOS I’m also unable to install the latest version of XCode, required to build applications for iOS (and macOS) devices. I have plans to upgrade my existing apps, The Motorhome Stopover and Smite Scoreboard, by migrating to MAUI so I can at least justify the expence to myself that way.
I’ve already upgraded my Synology NAS to a new DS224+ with two 4TB drives and some additional RAM for good measure. Not only is the unit much, much quicker than the old one but it’s also capable of running Docker and I was keen to bring a few select services in-house without all the faffing about when it came to configuration and upgrades.
So far I have Gitlab up and running and have to say I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve worked through the process of backing up and restoring as well as upgrading when a new Docker Image becomes available.
This is all part of my plans to reduce my usage of services like Github and Azure DevOps - not because they are necessarily evil (some may argue otherwise) but it’s my code and I should be capable of managing it myself.
I’m also considering moving away from 1Password to a self-hosted Bitwarden instance (although that is a little on the scary side) and spinning up my own Mastodon instance as the future of the one I’m currently using is in doubt.
How I’ll get on - only time will tell I guess but as long as I can keep the little grey cells working the better, so I may as well do something useful to give them some exercise.
I also deleted my OnTheFence Twitter account (or deactivated it anyway - and yes, I know it’s called X now) after going cold turkey for about 6 months. Using Mastodon has certainly made my life calmer.
You know, I’m not going to promise to blog more - I’ve done that previously and frankly I’d just be setting myself up to fail.
Fact is, I’m thinking that I’m the only one reading this blog anyway (I don’t have any analytics wired up) and even though I start numerous posts I normally end up thinking ‘why am I bothering, who is this helping anyway - it’s not like I’m bringing anything new to the conversation’.
Next year it looks like I have some decisions to make, I’m not getting any younger and time waits for nobody.
The biggest one is, will I remain a contractor or will I throw in the towel again and return to regular employment to see out the last 5-10 years or my career?
Right now … I’m not sure either way and I find that slightly disconcerting.
Many people have much bigger problems to deal with right now so if that’s all that’s ‘troubling’ me then I guess I will see the New Year in with a reasonable degree of hope.
Wishing everyone a great 2024