Individual 401k versus SEP IRA — Advice needed for unique job situation

(Cross post from r/personalfinace due to low engagement)

I’ve recently begun hourly contract work with a small startup that I really enjoy. It’s likely I will be in this contract position for the remainder of Q1, but will be granted a full-time offer within the next few months. However, because the company is small, there is no company-sponsored retirement plan — so whether I am contracting or compensated as an employee, I will have to contribute to an individual retirement plan (which I want to do as soon as possible, since we’re already a month into 2019 and annual limits have increased for the year).

This contract-to-full-time situation is making it difficult for me to understand whether an individual 401k or SEP IRA is the right vehicle for me. Right now I can be considered a “small business” or “self-employed,” since I am being compensated hourly by a company that does not employ me, but when I go full-time that will no longer be true. I’ve read that I need an employee ID number to open an individual 401k, and am unclear about whether that would dissipate when taking a full-time position.

I can’t find restrictions on opening a SEP IRA and transitioning from freelance to full-time, but could be wrong about that as well.

Any advice on which would be more appropriate — or even legal — as I move from hourly to full-time employment? Many thanks in advance!

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