Consulting Back to Your Employer

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Remember those hours late at night when you fantasized about chucking in your job, telling the boss where to go and heading off into the sunset? Well, hold your horses. Your present employer may be your ticket to independent consulting – and pay you more than you are currently receiving to boot. Makes you want to rethink telling your boss where to go!

Your first consulting client

When you decide you want to leave your salaried job to start your own consultancy practice, the first challenge is finding clients.

Start by looking through your rolodex and think how each of your business contacts could use your services. This brainstorming should create a long list of potential clients.

But right at the top of the list should be your current employer. Why would your former company want to hire you back as a consultant? Well, for starters, you already have a working relationship with people at every level of the organization and you know the structure, hierarchy, culture, processes and procedures. You understand the internal politics and how to get things done and, most importantly, you have invaluable and irreplaceable knowledge of the business and the industry. No external consultant fresh off the streets has as much knowledge as you. And in these days of increasing skills shortages, it benefits the company to retain your experience and corporate knowledge in whatever way they can.  It’s really a win-win situation. You get to be your own boss while your previous employer retains your skills.

By hiring you back as a consultant, you’d also be available to focus on a particular issue. You’d be freed from the day-to-day administrative tasks that bogged you down during your previous employment.

Potential challenges to consulting back

So why wouldn’t they hire you as a consultant? You need to ensure you’ve left the company on good terms. Be honest with yourself: if you left with a cloud over your head or a question mark over your performance you are unlikely to crack a lucrative contract. In addition, you need to ensure that any payouts or former employment conditions you had do not forbid your re-employment as a contractor within the organization for a certain period of time (this is mainly the case in public-sector redundancy situations).

The other challenge is being clear about issues such as intellectual property rights for material you jointly develop during your consultancy. Unless you address any potential concerns up front, you may not be granted a contract.

You may also have to deal with some challenges with previous peers who may resent you returning as a consultant and attempt to undermine you. Be direct and discuss any potential concerns you may have with the company, and share your strategy about how you would minimize or overcome such situations.

More tips and tools

Whatever you decide with your previous employer, make sure everything is documented into a project plan, with firm deliverables and timeframes. Sign off on the project plan with key players in the organization.

Make sure you’re ready – have your business plan completed, home office equipped, business cards printed, business bank account ready, legal issues resolved and so on. All of your professional and administrative systems should be in place before you take on your first client so that you can concentrate solely on your contract and doing the best job possible.

Finally – it doesn’t hurt to offer a discount to your past employer. After all – they did pay your bills for a while!

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