Disclosure: I’m a VFX artist in the game industry.
I’ve just hit my one-year anniversary with my employer. I like working for them, and in many ways it’s a really good gig. They’re in California, and I’m in Utah, so I’ve been working from home. The pay is… well, it’s okay. It’s not great, but if you factor in my non-existent commute, it’s pretty good. I like the people I work with, and they like my work- so much so that I’ve now finished up one project and am now working on a new one, which is a project I’m very interested in. On the previous project, I was one of two artists, but on this new project I’m the only artist.
The problem is, I’m on contract. I’m hourly, so I don’t get any holidays or sick days. I don’t get any benefits. And, the part that bothers my accountant wife the most, we have to do our own tax withholding.
About nine months ago I broached the subject of being hired on permanently. They want to hire me, but they don’t want actual employees working offsite. I’d be willing to move, except they’re in Newport Beach, and it’s a very expensive area to live in. We’d have to sell our house and try to find a place to live there, and odds are I’d end up with a really long commute. Plus, their office is already crowded- they don’t have the room for me or any other new employees. Furthermore, if we move my wife will have to find a new job, so while it’s likely she’d find work, it’s not guaranteed.
My wife has done the research, and she says that I’m not really supposed to be a contractor- like I said, I’ve been working full time for a year now, and I’m having to provide my own equipment… which is pretty pricey. She says they’re breaking labor laws with this situation.
The problem is that I don’t feel like I have a ton of negotiating power- like I said, this is the game industry, which is kind of notoriously “take it or leave it, we don’t care”. Even though I’ve been working in the industry for 25 years now, just in the past four years I’ve been running into what is most likely ageism- I’m fifty years old in a young man’s game, and my job prospects are showing it. I used to have to fight off the job offers, and now I’m lucky if I get an onsite interview. It’s very disheartening.
Optimally, I’d get them to hire me on permanently, but stay here. The past year has definitely shown that I can do the work remotely, but like I said, they’re very resistant to the idea of me working remotely as a regular employee.
So… any ideas? I’m holding steady right now, financially- but I’m not setting much aside for retirement, since they’re not contributing to my 401k. My wife’s company provides benefits for the both of us, but it’d be really nice to have some backup in case she loses her job. Plus, well, it would be nice to have at least the illusion of stability. I’m not sure how to broach the subject again- I’m afraid that they (specifically, their hiring manager) is perfectly willing to just continue our present arrangement. I don’t want to risk losing this job by giving them an ultimatum, especially since I don’t have any other real prospects, but I really need some long-term stability.