How do you know when it’s time to quit your full-time job and become a consultant? It’s a risky, sometimes stressful move and you first have to know when it’s the right time.
Do You Have Clients?
The first question you need to ask yourself is: "Do I have enough clients to make a living?" If you haven’t been consulting on the side, it’s not time to quit your day job yet. You should have clients whom you know will continue to give you work and refer you to other companies in need of your services.
If you don’t already have consulting clients on the side, find some. Talk to people in your network and ask them if they would hire you if you were a freelancer. Discuss with other freelancers in your field if they like being on their own. You may get some insights you never thought of.
The easiest way to get your first client is to work for free. But make sure it’s a one-time, limited engagement contract. This experience will be worth more than your time if you can get additional work from this client.
Leave Your Job on Good Terms
Don’t burn any bridges when you leave. You never know when you’ll run into your old boss again. They may even call you back for special projects.
Be sure to resign in person. An email or phone message is not acceptable. Prepare a written resignation letter and hand it to your boss when you verbally tell them you’ll be leaving and why, if you so desire. If time and energy permits, offer to stay on board until a replacement is found. However, to be sure your company doesn’t keep you on for several months; perhaps give them a time frame of how long you are willing to stay employed.
Do not take your colleagues or company’s clients with you. This is unethical.
So You Want to Be a Consultant?
Before you quite your salaried job, be sure you know what you’re getting into as a consultant.
- Your paychecks may not be regular or frequent. Clients will probably not pay you every two weeks. Most likely (unless you set it up in your contract otherwise) you will get paid after the job is completed, and that could be 30-60 days after invoice.
- Do you have a backup option? What if your business doesn’t take off? Keep your options open. Continue to network and communicate with former employers just in case.
- You’re not just the worker bee anymore. As a consultant you are also the salesperson, accountant, bookkeeper, human resources liaison, and the boss. Clients will take it up with you when they’re not happy. There is no boss for them to speak to -- you are the boss.
- Are you equipped with a home office? Do you have the space to meet with clients if you need to (that’s not your kitchen table)? Be sure to set up a professional home office so that clients are not walking through your personal space for meetings.
Running your own business is challenging. Right now you are the whole business. But when it’s all said and done, you will feel rewarded.