Self-employed consultants can’t risk becoming disengaged from their client work, especially if they want to maintain their professional brand; i.e., reputation and credibility. They can, however, voluntarily leave a client. While this is a viable option, it's not easily made. Consider this situation that a colleague described to me.
“I quit my long term client – even in this terrible market. Doing projects with them was ruining my health and after seven years of various engagements, the last one was just too much to tolerate and I left. They have become a horrible entity – not paying bills, imposing a terrible climate of fear and austerity on their people, making consultants and contractors beg for seriously eroded wages …
Its employees have also felt this pain, exist in an environment of fear and anger, and are nowhere near the can-do proud enthusiastic workforce I was introduced to when I first started consulting with this client. The company imposed extreme austerity measures on its workforce … while sitting on huge reserve assets and bragging to Wall Street about how they could weather this recession just fine.
I am proud of myself for quitting. I’ve had other small projects over the last several years, mostly at this client. But now I need to learn to do something else ..."
In my own 20+ years experience as a consultant, I know how difficult it is to walk away from a client, especially in such a tight market. (To those of you considering the 'glamour' of going solo, keep in mind: everyday you’re self-employed, you wake up unemployed!) So I’m proud of my friend for having the courage to leave and preserve her mental & physical health, despite the economic uncertainty.
Fellow consultants who care to share: what did it take for you to voluntarily leave a client?