It never occurred to me that leaving my computer consulting business would be such a dramatic change. Sure, I have quit jobs in the past, but closing your consulting business or transitioning it into a new business as I am, is unlike quitting any single job. You find yourself quitting each and every client individually which is like quitting 100 or more jobs, one after the other in a process that can take months, or even, years. There is no easy way to do it.
Throughout this process, you will experience many emotions. You may be fearful about your new direction, but your clients will also be fearful and maybe even angry that you will no longer be available. Some will have come to rely deeply on you and your skills and will be unsure if some other consultant can provide them the level of service they expect and desire. No one really likes change and being forced to change can cause a lot of stress. This stress can cause them to lash out. Be aware of this and be ready to help your clients through the process. That said, don’t postpone or stop your transition. Once you have decided to move forward in your career, it is very important that you continue with the process. You have to do what you think best for yourself and your career.
Breaking the bonds
Much like stopping smoking or trying to diet, going “cold turkey” is often the only way to move forward with large changes. Sure you’ll have to finish projects for some clients and start referring clients to someone new, but breaking from your existing business is a slow and arduous process. As I said earlier, it is not like you can hand in your resignation and be done. You have to “resign” from all your clients, both large and small. On some days, it might feel like the process may never end, but I can assure it does. It just takes some time.
For both your benefit, and the benefit of your clients, establish a schedule that allows you to transition out of your consulting role in several clearly defined steps. First, announce your transition to existing clients. Lay out your timeline for transition and provide any referrals that you can. Referrals are important, as many clients will quickly transition to that person or business, freeing up time to focus on your transition. More importantly, explain that — starting immediately — you will no longer be taking on any new clients. It is better to stop that flow immediately.
Next, give your clients a firm date when you will no longer be available to them. Your clients need to clearly understand that they need to find a new consultant, or in-house staffer, sooner instead of later. You need to be focusing on your new role, not servicing your original clients. As mentioned above, some clients will transition immediately, wish you the best in your new career and move on. Others will drag their feet and continue to call on your for support. This is probably inevitable, but in the worst cases, there will come a time when you will have to stop returning their calls. Do everything you can to move on.
Finally, when the time comes, you need to stop. It can be tempting to keep working for some clients. You may want the extra money or you might simply want to help those clients who haven’t made the transition yet. All these can be worthwhile reasons, It can also slow your transition to your new role – taking your time and attention from where it is needed most. Don’t fall into this trap. If necessary, think of these consulting clients like past jobs. You wouldn’t continue working for your old employer in a typical job situation, so you shouldn’t continue working for old clients.
Hopefully, your transition will be easy, but in some cases it can be immensely difficult. People may be angry at you for “leaving them in the lurch” and feel abandoned by you. You may be fearful over your own transition and the challenge of finding new clients, learning new skills, building your cash flow and more. Still, as with any life change, you must do what you consider best for you. If you truly believe that you’re doing what is most important for you, then you’ll need to ignore the recriminations of others. Those who want to see you be successful in life will understand and support your decisions. Those that don’t understand your need to to change jobs often won’t be dissuaded. No amount of argument or discussion will convince them of the importance of your change. The best you can do, after preparing them as much as you can, is walk away from these clients and onto the next step in your career.