Throughout my career, I've primarily been a full time employee for an organization. I have worked for myself, as well as for consulting companies. For the latter, I've been an employee as well as a contract worker. There's a bit of difference between those, at least in the US, and it isn't always easy to understand what that means for an individual.
I thought about my various experiences while reading about Jon Shaulis' T-SQL Tuesday post recently on changing his mind about contracting. He also has a section on T-SQL (bonus points for Jon), but the post is mostly about contracting and employment. Jon talks about some of the differences he's seen between working for someone as a contractor and as an employee. His experiences are similar to mine, but I certainly wish I'd had a good list of these things when considering job offers in my 20s.
There are lots of people in our #sqlfamily that have started consulting businesses, wanting to work for themselves and make more money. You can read various accounts of how well this works, but it certainly isn't as smooth for everyone as it might seem. I like reading Brent Ozar's yearly evaluations, and I've been following Eugene Meidinger's journey as well. These aren't about contracting too much, but they do give you an idea of what it's like to operate your own business, and as a contractor, you are your own business, though you have a little less of the "business" stuff to do since someone does the admin, selling, and marketing and just tells you what to do.
I actually encourage everyone to consider themselves and contractor and don't get too complacent with your job as an employee. You never know when you situation will change, and it's good to be prepared. It might not even be you, as your spouse or partner might force you to make a change.
Or your employer might.
Just like a contractor might have one client for 10 years, I think it's prudent to keep an eye on the environment and be prepared to find another client if some unforeseen event occurs. The days of single company employment for life are over for most of us. I have the best job, but I keep an eye on the market. One never knows when things might change for them.
Deciding how to structure your employment is a decision each of us should make, but do so with an open mind and some understanding of the changes for work, benefits, savings, medical coverage, and more. While Jon has a good list, I'd love to see more people build and publish a structured checklist in terms of decisions and costs, even sample ones. This can help others get an idea of what the impact might be on their life when making a decision like this.
No matter whether you choose to work for an organization or as a contractor, it's not a final decision. You can change your mind anytime, though do so with some planning and consideration of the impact on you and your family. It's not an easy decision, but you should be comfortable with your choice when you finally do make it.