Beginnings and endings
Some time ago I wrote a blog post about starting a freelance engagement, contract, or any new endeavour. Now it is time to think about endings, potentially a more important time for a freelancer to perform.
Starting well is important, of course, but so is a strong finish, in terms of completing what you set out to do (hopefully), leaving a positive impression for future opportunities (if that’s what you and your client want), tidying-up loose ends and moving on, physically and metaphorically.
Here are my top 10 tips for the end of term…I mean the end of your engagement:
- Housekeeping. If you followed my advice at the start of your contract you should be on top of this; don’t forget cancelling future meetings, tidying up your desk and drawers, passing things on as necessary, but generally being a considerate visitor!
- Email is a biggie, and as a freelancer you should be able to keep your inbox relatively clear, every day, not just when you leave.
- The opposite of induction, extraction! The whole of this list is about thinking seriously about leaving…clients should spend as much time looking to the post-contractor future as they do getting people in in the first place. However, if they don’t it may become your challenge to make the transition and your exit planning as effective as possible.
- As above a clean break is a good thing, everyone feels more positive if there are no loose ends. Where it is within your power, finish reports, hand over anything that is finished and any incomplete ‘work in progress’, carry out training and formal or informal knowledge transfer. You can’t take it with you!
- You could also try to leave them wanting more – but be careful and subtle – it should never have been us-and-them or just about the money, so why would you leave any work deliberately unfinished? Doing a competent professional job, from your first to your last day, should be enough incentive to generate more work, leads and good testimonials…
- Linked to (4), try to leave the organisation in a better state than when you arrived. Sounds easy, but sometimes circumstances can conspire against you. Even if the project/stage has been less than successful, your input, conduct (under pressure), the effort that you’ve put in, and any peripheral skills or knowledge that you’ve bought to the party could still mean that it was a successful engagement.
- Don’t expect cards, presents or plaudits, although they are good for ones ego, it’s not personal if your time and contribution is not formally marked…you could always buy a leaving gift, biscuits for the team, a round of drinks on a night out, product launch or completion events are perfect for this.
- Do try to consolidate any good networking opportunities, use LinkedIn, think about possible referees, leads or referrals, but not something you should push too heavily. I’m not sure about the etiquette but I sometimes pass on my email address and a business card or 2. (Ed. but look at the fine print in your contract to be safe)
- Say Goodbye 🙂
- And after you’ve gone; update your CV, think about the good, bad and the indifferent while the engagement is still fresh in your mind, if it helps carry out your own ‘post engagement review’, recognize any learning needs or modify the type of work or client you’d like to work with next time. Even if you don’t believe in the power of positive thinking or ‘cosmic ordering’, what’s the downside?
A fews word about Change. Change is such an important part of life, and no more so when you work in fast-moving commercial, technology, media or information-oriented industries. It is so important that it has it’s own IT element, in the middle of the top row of the Table of IT Elements.
As a freelancer you are doing the opposite of sitting and waiting for change to happen, your whole raison d’etre is change, putting yourself in the middle of new situations, treating your career as a continual series of beginnings and endings, stops and starts. This is not a working pattern that will suit everyone, it can be uncomfortable, there is less time and fewer opportunities to foster and develop long-term relationships both personal and professional. And what about developing your career? That is a separate topic for another time. That said, the opportunities are there, but they require a self-determination, a discipline, and sometimes a thick skin to create and stick to your professional development and personal marketing plan.
A freelancer’s mindset should be about arriving and leaving with a positive attitude, and if possible growing as a person and becoming a more valuable asset for the next time. Change is just change, it has no conscience, but you can look for the positives in both good and less good engagements.
As Kipling said;
…meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
I hope you found this interesting. Can you share any other tips from the freelance front line?
(c) 2015 Antony Lawrence CBA Ltd.