When you’re committed to leaving your job and your erstwhile career behind you, it’s easy to think in terms of a clean break and a complete change of direction. It’s tempting to talk about closing doors behind you, moving on to pastures new and so on.
Leaving employment is exciting. Once you set out on your own you’ll be assuming responsibility for your future – both the immediate future and your long-term future.
You’ll also be the one who is responsible for finding the work, setting the rates you charge, marketing yourself and making sure that you can pay your way in business and in your life outside your work.
That’s where you could experience problems. Freelancers and self-employed people often underestimate the costs of starting out in business and the time it will take them to begin to generate enough income to cover those costs. That’s one of the reasons why so many new businesses fail.
However, you can take steps to shorten that period when there is no money coming in. In fact, with some careful planning, you may be able to avoid it altogether.
Look to Contract
There are people who already know you and your work. They know what you’re good at and how you add value. Your current and recent employers are in this position. Your colleagues and the people in other organisations with whom you interact as part of your current role also know your strengths.
It’s an obvious piece of advice to try to part company with your current employer on good terms and to look for opportunities to undertake contract work in your last workplace, if there are any to be had.
It’s also important to talk about your plans to other people who know your work and who recognise how good you are at what you do. They, too, could help you to make a good start to your life in business.
The question is: how do you initiate that conversation? How do you start to talk to your employer’s customers, suppliers and competitors about your plans whilst you’re still an employee?
There is an ethical and professional solution to this problem. At least, there is a solution, once you’ve handed in your notice.
Write Letters to the Right People
However long or short your period of notice is, make sure you use it well. This isn’t a dead time, as far as your new business is concerned. It can be a very fruitful time.
One of the most useful things you can do after you’ve handed in your resignation and before you actually start your business is to write some letters – real letters – to a list of twenty to thirty people, other than your current employer, who you have worked with or who have experienced your work in the recent past.
Create the right letters and you’ll get your business off to a great start. What’s more, even if you’ve already left employment, you can still use this strategy to help to build your business.
Here’s how to set up and manage your project:
- Write your letters from your home address or use the branding and address for your new business, if you’ve got that far with your planning.
- In your letter tell the recipient that you have resigned from your post. It is no longer a secret. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t talk about your decision.
- Tell the person you’re writing to exactly what you plan to do in your new
business. Share your dreams.
- Note, in specific terms, the types of freelance and business opportunities you’re looking for.
- Ask the recipient if he or she knows anyone you should be speaking to about your new business.
- Say that you would be grateful for some help in making the right connections at this exciting and challenging point in your life.
- Then make sure you personalise your letter in some way. Write a paragraph that is exclusively for each individual recipient.
- Post your letter.
- Start on your next letter.
- Follow up your letters in a diplomatic and positive way and always outside the work context.
Bridge the Income Gap
Do you think this approach could help you to bridge the income gap you’ll inevitably face when you leave employment?
I know that it did in my case. This is exactly the approach I used when I was setting up my business quite a few years ago.
In the event, I had the equivalent of four days work a month right from my first week in business. That meant I was covering my costs – and more – even in my early weeks of trading.
Also, because I had informed thirty people that I was leaving my job and starting my own business quite a few of the people I had written to approached me with offers of consultancy and contract work.
In the end, writing that series of letters meant that for four and a half years after leaving employment I was able to fill my diary completely without needing to do any further marketing.
Will This Tactic Work For You?
So what are your thoughts? Is this an approach you have tried? If you’re thinking about leaving work behind, is it an approach you think could help you to get your business off to a great start? If you’ve left your job recently, is it an approach you could try? Do leave a comment below. It would be great to hear from you.
Margaret Adams helps consultants, coaches and other expert professionals find the clients they need to succeed in business. She is the author or The Solo Success Start-Up Guide, an e-guide for people starting out in business. Find out more about her work at: www.margaretadams.co.uk and www.solosuccess.co.uk.
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