How best to convince my employer to hire me?

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.

Are you in the middle of a big project? That would be the optimum time to bring it up. Otherwise, you pretty much have to watch for advertised openings and apply for one. Are there any?

One would think that after a full year of working remotely they would have adequte proof that you can do so reliably. There’s really nothing to do but bring it up. Don’t try to strong arm it, or hold anything over their heads. It’s not necessary to threaten. Just let them know that you would like to move forward with a more committed work relationship, and that the security of benefits etc. would be valuable to you.

But I’d advise you not to compromise on moving. There is no guarantee that they will still be employer this time next year even if they do take you on. Tell them you don’t mind traveling there a few times per year, but you’d rather not relocate at this time. Emphasize the productivity of your home office space.

Your primary strategy is in who to open the discussion with. You want the highest level person who is familiar with your work,and who would be motivated to keep you. Start with a phone call to that person, followed by an immediate one to your supervisor letting him/her know you’ve opened the discussion.

Keep us updated!

I’m a little older. My first thought about age is what is the demographic of their physical office because that would worry me a lot. And probably them as well. After even 40 ageism is a very real thing. I couldn’t sit all day with a bunch of 20 somethings - completely different place in life.

I’m sure you’ve done this already but are your broader software skills transferable; this isn’t an issue for just right now - you should maybe think about this in the context of what you see as your remaining work life: I have X years left, where in the market might I feel good towards the end of that …

Is there any employer in the industry that values older employees? Good luck.

I emailed the hiring manager and asked if, now that the first project has shipped, would they be interested in bringing me on permanently. He said that they are, that everyone loves the work I’ve done, and he wants to talk more about it on Wednesday once he’s done finalizing the project. They’re going to try to fly me out for the ship party for the project, so that’ll be coming up soon.

So, yay!

However… they really don’t want me working offsite. Which means that I’d need to work in their office, which means that I’d need to move to Newport Beach. Moving is always difficult, but moving somewhere where I’d have to rent is even more so- we have two dogs, one of which is a pit bull.

Alternately, I could probably move to their other office, in New Orleans. However, I can’t stand the heat and humidity there, and I’m not really liking the idea of moving to an area where hurricanes are increasingly a concern. But there, at least, we’d be able to buy a house…

It sounds like the problem you have isn’t about not being an employee but the compensation you get. If you don’t want to move and they insist on you moving to be an employee, you could keep being on contract but renegotiate its terms include holidays, sick days, other benefits or something which would be equivalent to you.

As a contractor, my company (aka me) sets my working conditions. My days off are unpaid, but the clients cannot refuse to let me take one. Is it not so in the US?

ISTM, a work at home, hourly, 1099 contractor would have a difficult time asking for that unless the person that pays them requires them to work on a (their) schedule.

I’m curious if the OP would be better off finding out what he (gross, hours x wages) in 40 or 80 or whatever hours and asking for that much extra per year or as a yearly bonus.
IOW, if he’s making $30/hr. Instead of asking for a week of sick pay and a week of vacation pay, ask for a $2400 bonus or a raise to $31.50/hr (or a little more in either case).

It may be easier to make a case for one of those situations.

In theory, yes. In practice, a lot of companies tend to expect contractors to act just like regular employees without all the benefits. As in, they gripe about work hours, etc…

Some general advice. When interviewing or discussing the position focus on what you will bring to the company and not why you want to work there.

That was my first thought too when I read the OP, with all respect you’re not doing it right as a tech contractor. Either your rate or your budgeting is off. It’s been a while but the rule of thumb is that your hourly rate should be {equivalent annual salary} divided by 1200 (+/-200). So if you’d be paid $120K as a permie, you’d charge $100/hr. Yes theoratically you could put in 2000+ billable hours a year but it doesn’t account for off days, bench time, incidentals, etc. You bill $100/hr and budget as if you were making $75/hr, save the rest to pay for employer-side taxes, and yourself on off days.

I spent most of my career as a contractor and almost every client, especially in US, offered me a full-time position, I turned them all down, when done right contracting can be much more lucrative than permie. No you don’t get “sick days” or “vacation days,” just “off days” with no billable hours, potayto potahto. For vacation, easiest is to take it between projects, but you might be stressing to come back to no gig so try mid-project, talk to your manager and say “hey boss, I need 2 weeks off to recharge the batteries, when’s a good time to do so without impacting the project too much?” Most clients will work with you on that. While on vacation, pay yourself from the 25% you’ve been saving (at $75/hr).

Another way is to go through an “umbrella” company, you basically become their W-2 employee and for a small percentage, they bill the client and take care of employer-side taxes, and some offer group health and 401K and save up for your off days. Not sure if they still exist in US, if not, ask your client if they already work with a contract broker, aka placement agency, and maybe you can go through them as a W-2.

There used to be a website with an active forum called They had great tips and tricks on how to be a contractor and it was very eye-opening. There may be something similar on reddit, I retired long ago so haven’t kept up (I’m 55 now, tech work is like pro sports, you’ve only got 20 good years in you, if you’re not management material you better plan to retire at 45/50).

This is a pretty good time to find a job. If you can find one, you might want to take it (better pay, better location) or you can use it to leverage what you want from your current employer.
As someone older than you, I can tell you it doesn’t get any easier.
You are right to worry about finding an affordable place to live. Things in California are crazy. Probably even more than you can imagine. I’m not so sure you can find anything remotely close to Newport Beach without dealing with a two hour commute each way.