Leaving the security of a full-time job to go out on your own can provoke anxiety. It also may provide an opportunity to obtain your first paying client. Negotiating a deal that transitions you to consulting for the company you're about to leave can be advantageous for everyone.
Employers often embrace the idea because it extends their access to you. Granted, it may be a short-term fix until the boss can replace you, but if it amounts to a few months or more of steady employment, your transition will be easier financially and emotionally. Here’s another advantage for you: Obtaining even a short-term contract with a prior employer earns you an instant referral that you can use to start building your portfolio.
Before you try to persuade an employer to rehire you as a consultant, consider these six tips.
Be Honest About Your Consulting Goals
Once you've decided to leave your job, share your plans with your employer. Explain your professional goals and how starting your own business will satisfy those objectives. Then, let the boss know you still want to contribute to the company on a temporary basis, and how that relationship can fill the void while the company searches for your replacement. Employers understand how much time an employee search and training can take, so you'll be addressing a known need. You might even volunteer to assist with the search and training as part of your consulting tasks.
Educate Employers on the Advantages of Consulting
Hone your pitching skills by selling your old boss on the advantages of hiring you in a different capacity. Emphasize the benefits the arrangement will provide to the company, especially the ways in which it will make the boss's job easier. Underscore advantages that will contribute to a healthy bottom line, such as a continued level of productivity while the company searches for your replacement and reduced costs since you won't be drawing benefits or other perks once you're working for a consulting fee.
Pick the Right Consulting Project
There’s probably no shortage of consulting projects you could take on for your previous employer, but picking the most appropriate one is critical. Select projects that:
- You can complete within six to twelve weeks
- Reflect your expertise
- Represent the type of projects you want to perform for other customers
- You can perform remotely
Keep Your Own Counsel
Avoid the temptation of sharing your plans with co-workers. Though your closest comrades may be supportive, others may raise objections to your continuing with the organization as anything other than a full-time employee. While that shouldn't keep you from quitting, it may make the boss think twice about agreeing to the new arrangement.
Negotiate a Discounted Rate for Your Consulting Services
Demonstrate an appreciation for the time you spent with the company by offering it a discount. You know exactly how much the company paid for your services as a full-time employee, so you know how much you can charge to make the arrangement financially beneficial to both sides. Don't feel as if you're shortchanging yourself. Consultants often cut their rates for their first clients as a way of quickly building an impressive portfolio. As your business and experience grow, so will your fees.
Provide a Written Proposal
Commit your proposal to writing. This is an excellent way to walk your boss through the arrangement while defining expectations. Use what you know about your supervisor and the company to anticipate concerns and objections. Then, before anyone can raise them, address the issues in your document. Detail what the work will entail, how your results will be measured and summarize the terms of payment. When you're ready to finalize a deal, transfer the terms of your proposal into the official contract.