At the end of every project comes the time that every independent learns to cope with – Roll-off. It’s an end. It’s a beginning. It’s a process that is not nearly as comfortable as working with a client. Here we work with our network, haggle with recruiters and clients, review our financials and try to make adjustments as needed. It’s time to reassess our priorities, seek out training, make plans for the future, and breathe a little. We also interview, interview and interview.
There are 3 stages to Rolling off that must be managed. While they don’t always have definite beginnings and ends, and they transition in a very fuzzy way, each phase can be planned to ensure completion.
Stage One – Winding Down
The end of a project is not always easy to predict. There’s normally a go-live date and maintenance after the fact, that you’ve built into your contract. But then, there’s always extensions and possibly some additional sold work. I always try to get a 2 month lead on what’s coming next.
When you know your date – it’s time to decide how quickly you want to start-up again. Plan carefully! You know that recruiters always have emergencies, or immediate needs. So, just as you know your date for leaving, set a date for starting. This creates an orderly transition and allows you to do more planning.
Now you can start working with the recruiters and your network to match your skills and timing with a number of projects coming down the path. Don’t wait to get started as immediate need will limit choices and cost you money.
Make sure you get some referrals or testimonials from your client. These become gold in interviews if you have them. They also look really good on your web site, if you can save them out there in a generic fashion.
Close your project out completely. Give the client the time they need and deserve, but don’t be afraid to work in job searching and phone interviews, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the clients needs. You are running your business, while taking care of theirs.
Stage Two – Down Time
Remember the family? They’ve put up with a lot of time away and they’ll be doing it again soon, so lavish them with your time and attention. This is what life is all about. If you’ve planned a vacation, there’s no better time to unwind. Without work hanging over your head, your return will be about starting a new client, or continuing on your client search.
Down Time is where I package up all my work and make my business look a little more solid. It’s time for bookkeeping, goal setting, branding of my documentation, updating my résumé and finding some training or seminars to attend. This is also where I reconnect with my network. Emails, notes, cards, phone calls, lunches, and dinners all serve to refresh contacts.
So how’d you do with your last project? Take some time to evaluate your own performance. Did you make the money you wanted? Did you learn enough new things that you can change your role in the future? Meet with your mentors or some friends and talk to them about your performance. You could learn even more.
Stage Three – Begin Again
It’s a new day! No matter what was done in the past, good, bad, or indifferent, your slate is again clean and its time again to take on more knowledge and share it with your new client.
Chances are, you still have some recruiters calling with offers, or some old clients that are trying to call you back. Wind these down with as much candor as possible. Let them know how long your new engagement is on the books for and that you will contact them again when your close to rolling off. NEVER burn bridges!! The forgotten phone call will come back to haunt you at some inopportune moment. Carefully close each door. You may have some opportunities here to help out some of your friends with unfilled jobs.
Just as a project has a process, the in-between’s do too. Plan your work and work your plan. the transition can be as long or as short as you want it to be. There’s more work out there than you can ever accomplish and if you’re seriously looking, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Keep on keeping on!