Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ethan Waldman of Cloud-Coach.
Recently, I quit my job. I submitted my written resignation, my boss gave me a hug, and I walked back to my cubicle a changed man.
But I’m not leaving. Far from it. Oh, and they’re also going to keep paying me. More than double my hourly rate.
Think I’m kidding?
I’m not. Everything I’ve written here is entirely true. This is the story about how I quit my job, cut my hours in half, and got a raise all at once.
Two years ago, I got hired by an up and coming company to work in their HR department teaching technology classes and producing online training (called eLearning). This is a company that’s very focused on growth and development of employees, so I had a regular performance reviews with my boss.
It also doesn’t hurt that the company was (and is) one of the fastest growing companies in North America.
Once these regular performance reviews started happening, I ran into a big challenge. My boss was always asking me what my “3 year plan” was. Essentially, the question she was asking was “What kind of management position would you like and how can we help develop you so you can get there?”
Flattering, really. But I wasn’t interested in working my way up the corporate ladder. I never had been, and even though this was a great company to work for, it didn’t change the fact that I’m not interested in a corporate career.
After about a year of asking “where do you want to be in 3 years”, I gulped and told the truth. I told my boss that I wanted to be working for myself in 3 years. Her response surprised me. “Make sure you give me AT LEAST 3 to 6 months notice before you do that. And I would hope that we would be one of your best clients!”
That was a surprise. She had just opened the door to me quitting, but continuing to freelance. It was a possibility that I hadn’t ever considered.
A year later, on March 1st, I sat down with my boss and gave her my notice for June 1st, and reminded her about the conversation we had a year earlier. She hadn’t forgotten. I was nervous, but firm. I made my intention clear: I was ready to leave, but hoped that I could continue supporting our team as a contractor.
It’s more common than you think.
Most people think that there is absolutely no room to negotiate when it comes to matters like this. But my story should be proof to you that it is possible. I started talking to some of the other consultants who worked for my team, and they all had similar stories- At some point in their careers, they had left their job to go out on their own, and almost all of them were able to maintain relationships with their old jobs that translated into steady, reliable work.
And while working for your current company certainly may not be the end goal for you, the time that you’ll need steady work most is right when you quit your job. So who better to get that work from then a company that already knows what you do, already trusts you, and needs what you have to offer?
When you look at it that way, you start to realize that you do have more power than you think: They need you just as much as you need them. Setting your own terms at your job is not so out of reach.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Have a unique skill-set. If I had been a recruiter, or an HR generalist, or something that is less rare, I think they would have just replaced me.
2. Do really great work. If they didn’t like the work I did, this would have been their opportunity to get rid of me without having to fire me.
3. Don’t take them by surprise. If you’re interested in continuing your relationship with your former employer, you cannot leave on bad terms.
4. Be firm. When I had the conversation a year ago, I don’t think my boss ever really thought that I would leave. It’s a growing company with fantastic benefits, employee stock purchase options, and generous development benefits. It wasn’t in her reality to think that anyone would want to leave. People are clamoring to get in. But not me. You have to make that clear. How? Set a date, and stay firm.
How to Double (or triple) Your Salary
According to the Consultant Journal, to figure out your freelance rate, you can take your salary (plus your benefits, paid vacation time, etc.) and figure out what your real hourly rate is. You can then double to triple that rate.
This is standard practice. Why do you get to inflate the hourly so much? Well, for one you’re no longer guaranteed 40 hours per work a week. You also have to pay for all of your own overhead: office space, self-employment taxes, connectivity, etc.
When I sat down to talk to my boss about my rate, I had all of this prepared. I had my salary, benefits, and adjusted hourly rate. I had the articles printed out that explained why I get to double or triple that rate.
When my boss asked me what my rate would be, I started high. I gave her the triple number, knowing that it was out of the ballpark. She didn’t blink. She told me that she could see paying me that, but right now I have no experience as a consultant. She said that she would be taking a risk on me, just as I was taking a risk by leaving.
I didn’t start so high because I thought I would actually leave with that number. Starting the bargaining high anchored us with a high number, so the doubled number seemed downright reasonable. And so, we shook hands and agreed on my new hourly rate.
I can’t tell you how things are going, because I am not making the transition until June 1st, but I can tell you what a huge weight off my shoulders this is. I was going to leave whether they wanted to keep me on as a part-time consultant or not, but this will make my transition into Cloud Coach full-time a whole lot more comfortable.
Challenge Your Assumptions
We base our reality upon the the people around us. And if you’re working a 9 to 5 in a cubicle, the people around you are likely unhappy, unhealthy, or both. OR they are happy and healthy people who love working in a cubicle. They exist too. I hope that in sharing this story with you that you are able to challenge your assumptions.
The point I’m trying to make is that 99% of the people around you at your job aren’t trying to leave; they’re trying to stay. I hope my story has shown you that it’s possible to go against the current and make it upstream.
And so I ask you again, what is stopping you from leaving your job? What assumptions have you made about how the working world works? Are they really set in stone?
About the Author: Ethan Waldman is the chief technology hero at Cloud-Coach, where he helps people get un-stuck on technology so they can get back to business. Over 500 people have liberated themselves from email hell using his free Email Ninja Kit.