For those of us who are consulting independently as project managers, there are always lots of interesting, conflicting, and possibly career-changing events that can take place on any consulting engagement. We can’t prepare for all of them, but we can learn to share ideas and advice with each other along the way so we are as prepared as possible to deal with these topics as they come up on our projects. For this two-part series, I’d like to consider the following – what do you do when your project client indicates that they would like you to come on board as a full time employee?
It’s always flattering when a client that you’re consulting for expresses a desire to hire you full-time. They may really desire to keep you around forever or it may be a cost-saving measure on their part disguised as a compliment, but it feels good and lets you know that you’re appreciated, even if they may just be trying to save some money.
Most consultants are probably going to shrug off a hiring offer quickly – especially if their plate is full with clients and there’s no struggle involved in bringing in new clients or making ends meet every month. However, an offer from a client may be enticing if you’re struggling in this economy or if you’re tired of the grind of marketing yourself and always working to increase your client base. That act of always being ‘on’ to sell yourself or always looking for ways to present your skills to a prospective client may be wearing heavily on you and you are thinking of just getting out of it. That’s the consultant who really needs to analyze an offer like this and consider the big picture and the overall effects and changes before hastily jump at the offer or refusing it.
When faced with an offer and a decision like this, the consultant needs to consider several things that the regular employee doesn’t usually have to take ito consideration. The current employee or direct hire candidate just has to look at the location, company, hours, and pay and decide yes or no, in most cases. For the consultant, all those things are also part of the decision, but their list of factors is longer. Let’s consider a few…
Will our personalities clash?
One of the first things you need to consider is…can you ‘work for the man?’ Ok, I hate that term, but if you’re a consultant, you know what I mean. Can you work for a manager, supervisor, or ‘boss’ who may drive you crazy? Can you work for one who may try to micro-manage you? You’re used to being your own boss. When you work for a client, yes, they’re kind of like your manager…in a very indirect way. But they treat you like the expert you are and usually don’t question what you’re doing. In the end they’re either happy or they aren’t. But they aren’t trying to manage your every move. They aren’t trying to pin you down daily on your task progress, etc. If you enter into the wrong work situation as an employee, that can happen and how long will you last in that position? It’s a very real issue that you must consider carefully.
Will the client be OK if I consult on the side?
If you have any clients in your past that have been pleased with you – and if you’re still consulting then you probably do – what happens when they call you back? Will your potential new employer be ok with you consulting on the side? Is it even allowed as part of their company policies?
I went to work as a direct hire for a company that didn’t allow consulting on the side. I still did it, but just a few incidents here and there to keep past clients happy until that time when I was back consulting again (because nothing is forever anymore). It worked for me, but it also could have ended badly. If it comes up, will you just consult, or will you tell your employer? I knew the side consulting wouldn’t interfere and I was working remotely anyway so I just did it, but some consulting situations can end up being an interference with full time work. I was lucky. Just remember, this may be an issue you’ll have to deal with.
Does this client have a real long-term need for me?
Finally, a real important thing to consider is this – does this client have a real long-term need or do they just perceive it to be that way? You’re the expert – analyze their situation to the best of your ability. If you solve what they need you to do, then what? Will there be other work for you? Or could you then quickly be laid off? Then what happens?
You won’t have all the answers to those questions, but you do have the client knowledge and expertise to do an assessment of their need. And it’s ok to ask them – especially if you’re concerned about how you fit into their long-term needs. It’s a discussion that really needs to happen before you can make the right decision for you.
What about our readers? Have you been faced with offers from clients and, if so, how do you respond? What factors do you consider? Besides the obvious of pay, what can send an offer over the top for you making a ‘yes’ decision much easier to come by? I look forward to your responses.