I've been working full-time for 12 years as a programmer in the video game industry. Although I still enjoy programming, my focus has gradually shifted to my various interests in life, and today I feel a deep need to finally have more time for myself (even if it obviously leads to a lower income). This has been going on for a year now. I would like to work part-time as a programmer in a salaried job (not self-employed, not in a contract, not an hourly job). I don't feel the need to stay specifically in the video game industry. Right now I'm thinking of 4 days/week (32 hours) but could certainly enjoy 3 days/week.

Is this even possible to get a salaried part-time job in the software industry? Opportunities in that particular field always seem to be full-time. Do you think a serious employer could accept to hire for part-time after negociating? Would you think it would be possible only if the candidate happens to be a very precious resource for them at the moment?

I live in Canada, but any information coming from other countries are welcome as well. I know I will eventually have to go to interviews to find out, but I would like to get some opinions first. Thank you.

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    Welcome to The Workplace fury! Is contract-work okay with you (get a contract with company A to create product Y by deadline Z)? Or are you looking for a hourly job doing programming? Or a salaried job that only requires you to be there less than 40 hours? It's a bit unclear what exactly you're looking for, so any chance you could clarify a bit with an edit? Thanks in advance! – jmac Jan 16 '14 at 4:49
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    Just noticed a related post that I missed since it was not tagged 'part-time'. workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/4157/… – fury Jan 16 '14 at 5:07
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    At least in the US, many companies offer less than 40 hour work weeks (salary adjusted, of course). I've worked for a few fortune 500s that allow you to drop to 32 hours per week and still keep full benefits. – DA. Jan 16 '14 at 5:34
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    I've seen part-time workers but most of them started as full-time and proved their worth before asking to go part-time. If you really want this, I would re-consider the contracting path, it might be possible to work for a consulting company on this basis if you don;t want to search out your own opportunites. – HLGEM Jan 16 '14 at 14:20
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    Yes, it is possible, I have seen it done. It really depends on your employer - discuss it with them to see if they're OK with it. One issue might be that the extra day of work still needs to get done: Do you just work longer hours for 4 days (not really part-time) or do they slightly push out their deadlines, or hire an additional part-time resource to fill the gap? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 16 '14 at 17:07

I work typically 3.5 hours per day, at a high enough billing rate to cover my expenses. I've been doing this since 2009 reasonably successfully. However, I am a contractor - I'm not working for a single employer on their payroll.

Your employer, in this circumstance, will be a very small organization and you will most likely be their only programmer. In short, they're too small to afford full time, so they'll look for part time. Such an organization might have 50 employees and between 25 and 40 computers.

Good candidates for this are small wholesalers, medical clinics, highly specialized small volume factories, small restaurant chains, etc. Manufacturing, for instance, often has unusually specific issues - food packaging (and other perishables) have unusual recordkeeping requirements, for example. You will need to be an expert in how those things work, although it is something you can build up over time.

How to Find

Given that there are probably thousands of SMBs (small and medium sized businesses) scattered around the country, it's an interesting trick to figure out which ones can sustain a developer. Often such companies put out indecipherable ads, or something hopelessly vague. Examples are 'Programmer', 'VB6/Microsoft Access', or 'Reports and Spreadsheets'. Some other things to expect with it: ridiculous pay rates (you will have to negotiate hard to get 'fair market value'), mixture of developer and non-developer work (I've seen ads for 'VB6 programmer, help answer phones when not programming' or 'Server and PBX tech support'), and 'SQL Server Stored Procedures and Photoshop' - i.e., you're a graphics artist and database guru.

Many of my clients are word of mouth, so someone knows them and knows me. Sometimes one of your tech friends is trying to take care of someone they can't handle since they're overcommitted. So some of this stuff shows up via the grapevine.

In short, you're going to be dealing with non-technical people, so you have to figure out how to communicate in their language. I have often walked in on organizations who have a contractor who says things like 'Oh all that is technical stuff and you wouldn't understand it' - usually these people are taking the client for a ride. It's critically important to treat the client as if they know what they're doing, even if they don't, and expect them to take command of their requisition process, even if they're highly deferential. In short, expect them to grow into a smarter IT services consumer. At the start, they might find this bewildering, but as you show them how it's done they will really appreciate it.

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    Thank you for this very informative answer. I never thought a very small organization could need a programmer for long enough to hire him/her even part-time. – fury Jan 17 '14 at 4:40

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