offering to consult after resigning

This was originally published on March 9, 2008.

A reader writes:

Pending a job offer, I’m looking to leave my current organization, a non-profit, where I have been for over 5 years. During this time, there has been a tremendous amount of growth – when I started there were just over 30 full-timers, now there are well over 200. While there, I launched all web and e-business practices and I can solidly say I am currently the only one on staff that can maintain the current website. When I resign, I would like to offer my services as a “consultant” or at least continue the work they need on a part-time basis until they hire another full-timer, which I do not think will be a quick nor easy thing. While the option of taking a consultant hourly wage is extremely beneficial for me, my hope is to offer them the best financial option with the easiest transition because I certainly do still care about the organization and don’t want to see it struggle. I believe I could make double my current hourly salary doing this, as well as underbid any flat web consultant they could hire – who would not know the business or those things that are particularly difficult to accomplish in our industry.

So with all the being said, what is a proper and appealing way to approach this as I resign? I certainly don’t want to seem cocky or rude, but they are going to be a bit shocked, and even more so if they sever ties with me with no back-up plan.

This should be pretty straightforward. When you meet with your manager to give your resignation, say that you want to help however you can to ease the transition, including continuing to work on a consultant basis until they have a replacement trained. Your boss will likely not give you an answer then and there, and meanwhile you should also mention the other usual things you should offer when you want to leave an organization on good terms, such as working during your remaining time there to thoroughly document your areas of responsibility, leaving a detailed training manual for your replacement, etc.

If your manager doesn’t bring up your offer to work as a consultant on her own after that, it’s fine to directly inquire — “Sue, have you had a chance to think about whether you’d want me helping out as a consultant after I go?”

If the organization is interested, they might have no idea what an appropriate rate of pay is — they may even think it’s appropriate to offer whatever your current salary breaks down to when calculated as an hourly rate. If so, you can explain that consultants typically charge more than salaried workers, because they aren’t getting benefits, etc. Tell them what rate you think would be fair, and explain that it’s lower than the market rate for this sort of work because you care about the organization (assuming that it is).

Do be prepared for the possibility that they won’t take you up on it, of course. I would actually be surprised if a 200-person organization wasn’t able to continue running their Web site in this situation, since a competent Web person should be able to step in and pick up where you left off. That doesn’t mean your offer won’t be hugely helpful — it very well may be, particularly while they’re searching for a replacement. But we all tend to think our offices would be in shambles without us, even though life goes on when someone resigns. I mean that in a nicer way than it probably sounds; it’s clear that you care about your nonprofit and I like that. Good luck, and write back and tell us what happens.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. Ash (the other one!)

    How timely to revive this letter as that is right where I am. Although, I am undecided whether to even offer to consult at this point…

    I think the problem with this becomes how you finally actually divorce from the organization. Even if you’re not working for them directly anymore they may treat it as though nothing has changed and you have to be prepared to draw the line on what you will and won’t do. That’s part of why I don’t want to even broach that possibility…

    1. Maggie

      Do you know if they have the resources to recruit your replacement? I think once you get that info, creating a transition plan with them (with a hard stop negotiated once that person arrives/is trained) should be rather easy. You can build in the amounts of calls/emails that you’ll respond to in a given timeframe, what consitutes as an emergency and the business areas that you will touch and what you think is more appropriate for them to manage without you. You can do it — if you want to. But it sounds like the org you’re referring to might not be worth it. In that case, you can totally leave without guilt!

    2. Bwmn

      I recently did this with my nonprofit when I left.

      It was essentially a situation where I was a department of 1 and even though I gave 3 months notice – I knew that given the reputation of my boss and the scarcity of qualified applicants in my field/city/nonprofit subject matter there was a high likelihood they still wouldn’t replace me.

      I never brought up consulting when I initially gave notice – though I did do all the things of “helping with the transition as much as possible” dialogue. Though the extreme length of my notice may have made such an offer come across more negative. Three weeks before my scheduled last day, I was offered the consultancy opportunity.

      At first, I too had concerns given that a huge part of my reason for leaving had to do with various toxic workplace issues. But for me the situation really worked out pretty painlessly. At first I was pushed to commit to consulting for 5 months – but I stuck to my guns to only commit to a month at time. Sticking to that boundary really helped reinforce the idea that I was a consultant – and the fact that I also moved thousands of miles also helped.

      As a miserable employee but happy consultant – it can happen. But it definitely required some serious boundaries being set.

  2. PEBCAK

    Lots of organizations have policies that expressly forbid an employee who resigns from consulting within a specified timeframe. Your organization might be too small to have this, but you should probably try to find out before pitching it.

  3. Jake

    I jokingly made this offer to my former boss 3 months after I left, and he came back and offered me a huge amount to consult 15 hours a week. I turned it down because I had another full time job and it wouldn’t be fair to my current employer, but it solidifies the idea that this isn’t an unreasonable request.

    1. Bea W

      Not unreasonable at all, but unless the OP designed a completely convoluted site in the most painful way ever, any competent web person can be trained to maintain it. Maintaining an existing website really isn’t that hard, especially if there is clear documentation on the set up and technology. It makes me question if this OP is over estimating the difficulty or the design and programming is just terribad or obsolete, or she just really wants the extra cash so she’s portraying it as more difficult than it really is.

      I had this exact situation actually when i left a similarly sized org. There was no one on my team able to maintain the site, even though required pretty basic web skills (it was a side duty i picked early in the project and unrelated to anyone’s job function) so I ended up handing it off to someone in IS. That was part of my transitioning out. I had to train some new people to take over my real job function and we had to find someone else in the company to take the public facing website. The internal site had long since been moved to a CMS supported by the company, and i had passed off maintenence to our admin as soon as i had configured it for our project and migrated everything over from the old internal site.

  4. Artemesia

    They will be able to hire someone to manage a website in a heartbeat. There are lots of people rattling around looking for work who can do this. I personally know of two organizations where the indispensable web site creator/manager quit and the organizations had consultants in place within days to tide them over till they hired.

    So offer, but don’t assume they won’t be able to get the job done without you.

    1. Annie O

      Maybe the nonprofit isn’t paying anywhere close to market rates for the position?

  5. Koko

    With her comment that “I can solidly say I am currently the only one on staff that can maintain the current website,” I’m surprised that Alison didn’t put more emphasis on the fact that she should be creating documentation so that she’s *not* the only person who can maintain the website–even if she wasn’t waiting on another job offer, what if she was hit by a bus tomorrow? Alison mentions leaving a manual, but it’s a very small mention buried in a list of other things.

    1. Maggie

      But it *was* mentioned. But I agree. It’s a good best practice for ANY role, really. The lack of documentation at my current gig is shocking — and guess who is now documenting? You betcha. (Nice reminder to not insist/complain unless you’re prepared to do it yourself. Ha. Services me right!)

    2. Artemesia

      I once consulted with an organization where the computer guy basically terrorized the office. This was a goodly while ago — long before internet and web pages, but the office had gone from paper tracking to a computerized management system for a high volume mission critical function — and one guy developed and knew it all. The office resisted change and was a disaster that threatened to bring the organization down. This one guy had the whole office convinced that what he did was incredibly technical and that cross training was impossible. I sent the manager off to get training, instituted cross training, and when Mr. Indispensable refused to be cooperative fired him. We had the place turned around and functioning smoothly in a couple of months and managed to ride out the chaos in the transition.

      No one is indispensable and any office the size of the OPs that has rested any important function on one employee is being badly managed. More than one important person has dropped dead in organizations over the course of my career; people soldier on. It is critical that important things do not reside in one head.

  6. Another Job Seeker

    Hm – I’d say that even in 2014, I’d have to know more about the expertise of the OP’s co-workers and the type of work they were doing before I’d disagree with the statement that “I can solidly say I am currently the only one on staff that can maintain the current website”. If the site is being maintained with by a hosted CMS that has a Microsoft Word-like interface, then I’d say that others on staff could be trained. However, suppose the OP works in a business unit – and she is the only person who has a technical background. Suppose the website is hosted on site – and the nature of the site requires skills in Java, Oracle, CSS and HTML? If the OP also maintains the server (Apache / Linux), then I’d agree with the statement that she is the only person in her organization (not her company or the world, obviously) who can maintain the site. I am a programmer, and I have been given a new assignment. I know that no one

  7. Another Job Seeker

    Sorry – hit enter too soon.

    I am working to develop the skills required for this new assignment. It would be great if someone else in the organization had this skillset – I’d have someone to go to for help. I am documenting my processes as I go along, but the reader of the documentation would need to have a strong, specific technical background to be able to pick up where I have left off. Obviously, plenty of people have that skillset (I am learning a lot from external trainers), but that expertise does not reside in my organization.

  8. Jerry Vandesic

    So how about an update? What happened to the OP? Did the employer take them up on their consulting offer?

  9. James M

    I think there is too much missing information about the “nature of the beast” so say whether any old web person can be a drop-in replacement for a 5-year veteran; there’s just so much that a website can include that may not be readily apparent (on-site server hardware, multi-platform support, *gasp* a database).

    Anyways, when an employee with deep domain knowledge is leaving, I think it’s a good thing to offer to help their employer bridge the gap (for appropriate compensation, of course).

    1. Koko

      Exactly. You keep manuals even when no one else on staff has the skills or background to do what you do, so that someone with a similar skillset can step in if needed. If the webmaster wins the lottery and quits, gets quarantined in a remote bushland on vacation, moves on to greener pastures, etc. another web person can be brought on board who knows what they’re doing and just needs to see your particular implementation notes. “Ah, yes, Configuration B with Modifications Y and Z, running on Platform X.0. Image backed up to Server every X Weeks. Hosted with XYZ Provider. SOPs for new page creation are A, B, and C. Got it.”

      1. jcsgo

        I totally agree – keep updated manuals so someone new can transition into the position more easily. I’m in a similar situation to the OP right now and the challenge is that I’m in an hourly position in a tiny office (just my boss and I are compensated, and there are 3 volunteers I manage – 2 of which don’t have the basic computer skills needed to learn or follow what a manual says. The other volunteer does, but already has a ton of tasks on her plate.)

        Though I’ve tried to squeeze in time here and there during my tenure for creating documentation, if it’s not a priority of my employer, aren’t they setting themselves up for a challenging transition? My workload has always been heavy – even working super fast and with much praise from my manager. Unless I’m missing something, I’m just trying to reassure myself that there’s only so much I can do to help with the transition if preparing documentation hasn’t been much a priority of my boss.

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