It’s always nice to be wanted – especially at the end of a job well done for a client you enjoy working for — and who now wants to hire you full-time. Of course, you need to take stock in their reasoning: Do they really want to keep you around forever, or is it more likely that they need you for longer than they anticipated, and/or it’s a cost-saving measure disguised as a compliment. Either way, it feels good and lets you know that you’re appreciated, even if the client just wants to save some money.
Most consultants are probably going to quickly shrug off a hiring offer– especially if their plate is full with other clients and it’s no struggle to land new clients or make end’s meet every month. However, an offer from an existing client may be enticing if you’re struggling or are tired of the grind of marketing yourself. In that case, you need to analyze the offer and consider the big picture and overall effects before hastily jumping at the offer or refusing it.
When faced with a decision like this, the consultant needs to consider several things that regular employees don’t. In most cases, the full-timer or direct-hire candidate only has to look at the company, its location, hours and pay to make a decision. For the consultant, those are part of the equation, but there’s more to consider.
Will We Play Well Together?
One of the first things you need to think about 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 or supervisor 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, but in an indirect way. Hopefully, 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. They’re usually not 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, all that can happen, and then how long will you last in that position? You have to consider this carefully.
Can I Consult on the Side?
If you have any past clients who’ve been happy with you – and if you’re still consulting then you probably do – what happens when they call you back? Will your new employer be OK with your consulting on the side? Is it even allowed as part of their company policies?
Once, I went to work as a direct hire for a company that didn’t allow extracurricular consulting. I still did it, but only here and there to keep past clients happy until I went back to consulting (because nothing is forever anymore). It worked, but I’m well aware it could have ended badly. If it comes up, will you just consult, or will you tell your employer? I knew the side work wouldn’t interfere and I was working remotely, anyway, so I just did it. But some situations can end up interfering with your full time work. I was lucky. In any case, think this one through carefully.
Does the Long-Term Need Really Exist?
Finally, an important thing to consider is this: Does this client have a real long-term need or do they just perceive it that way? You’re the expert – analyze their situation. If you solve their problem, then what? Will there be other work for you, or could you find yourself abruptly laid off?
You won’t have all the answers to these questions, but you do have the client knowledge and expertise to assess their needs. And it’s OK to ask them – especially if you’re concerned about how you fit into their long-term plans. It’s a discussion that really has to happen before you can make the right decision. Ending your consulting practice and moving into a full-time role isn’t something you should take lightly, or do quickly.