As a contract consultant, every six to twelve months on average you are going to have to transition off one contract and start another. From time to time this can be difficult to manage. The challenge at times is when you have 30 days left on your current contract and a new 1 year contract is available a week or two before your contract ends. This is challenging as a contractor because it may be difficult for you mentally, to stay two more weeks at your current engagement knowing it will be over and having to pass up on a new contract that can secure your income for the next year. So, how do you handle this situation? What can you do ahead of time to make the transition from your current contract as smooth as possible so that you don’t
1) Miss out on the new one year project?
2) Do not leave your current client in a bind?
When you don’t have an option!
First you have to understand when you really don’t have an option to leave early. When I say you don’t have an option, let’s face it, you can always just leave whether or not the people you are working with will like it. So when I say you don’t have an option, I mean there is no way you can leave early and keep a highly regarded professional reputation in tack. This would clearly occur if you have been with your current client for a long period of time and you know your presence to the end is absolutely necessary for the client’s success. This can occur with many situations but the most common one would be to leave before a go live date where the knowledge you have can directly affect how smoothly the client will be able to deal with any unforeseen go live issues. In the case where your end date correlates with a go live or something as critical, professionally, you really don’t have options. You need to stay to the end.
Set Expectations Up Front
The best time to discuss the fact that you may have to leave a project early is when you are starting the project to begin with. The firm you are working for should have a discussion with the client (as we do hear at Healthcare IS) about the necessity for flexibility around the time of the contract end date. There are many circumstances that will allow a consultant to finish up the work for a client without having to be at the client’s site for 40 hours a week. Some options could be to finish the work remotely, have another consultant assist with the work for a short period of time or even being on site every other week. The point is, if expectations for this type of conversation are set up ahead of time, many times a good situation can be set up for everyone. The key here is not to bring up any last minute surprises for your current client. No client I have ever worked with wants to deal with any surprises that could have been avoided.
The main points here to understand are:
- Understand when you cannot expect the client to have flexibility
- Set up expectations properly so that the stage is set for a discussion