Sure I'll help...but it'll cost you.
September 7, 2021 5:27 AM   Subscribe

How should I respond if my soon-to-be-former job asks for help after I leave?

All signs indicate I’ll soon be at a new job. There is a strong likelihood my current job will ask me for assistance after I leave. I’ve read advice that says to respond by offering to come on as an independent contractor at a high rate with a minimum amount of billable hours. That sounds good but my question is…how do I actually DO that?

Should I have some kind of contract prewritten and ready to send? If so, is there a template available that I can modify? Thanks!

(This is IT Support work and I don’t intend on quitting until I get an official offer even though I really really want to).
posted by Diskeater to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on how much help you think they'll ask you for. If it's a couple of quick questions over email that'll take you like 30 seconds, a whole billable contractor arrangement looks like overkill. And do you even _want_ to stay involved, beyond that level? You'll have a whole new job to take up your attention.

When I used to work as a consultant, I had a standard answer that I used when the customer asked me about follow-up at the end of an engagement. I pretty much said: feel free to email me with small questions, and I'll answer when I can - but it might not be immediate. If you have bigger questions, you should still email me, but I might need to arrange a call or a visit to address them, and there might be a cost involved in that.

That worked ok for me - even the possibility of further cost was enough to deter the most tedious & time-sucky follow-up questions - but the context was often that I was open to follow-up work from those customers. If you intend never to engage with your current employer again, then it's probably more in your interest to cut them off cold & ignore their emails. You're leaving for a reason.

All of this assumes that you'll hand over at an appropriate level of detail to a successor or team member before you leave, which I think is normal & reasonable anyway.
posted by rd45 at 5:51 AM on September 7, 2021 [8 favorites]

If the organization has a history of working with contractors, they will have a template with your current salary converted to hourly rate (plus allowance for health insurance, if they are generous.) Might be worth looking it over with an employment lawyer though ("IT Support Work" screams like access to confidential information, if so - are you the first one to get blamed if there is a breach? If your other job is IT Support Work as well, that might be a conflict of interest in some settings.)

More importantly though - do you want to do this? Extra money is nice, but at some point extra time is also very nice. If you don't - quote an unreasonable amount of money.
posted by Dotty at 5:54 AM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I worked for free for a bit after my last job. Partly to finish a project that was important to me and ensure a good reputation going forward. It was partly because I didn't want to be held to my side of any arrangement. But really it was because I really value my free time, and no amount of money is worth a sunny Saturday morning. So getting paid, even a high rate, just makes me feel resentful, whereas offering some freebies makes me feel generous.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 6:06 AM on September 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

The last time this was relevant for me I didn't need a contract up front. The person with whom I'd worked most closely contacted me and asked if I wanted any extra work, and I think I said something like "no, but for $X an hour I could overcome that opposition." She laughed and went away, but about two months later she came back and said, "you said $X an hour, right? How many hours would you need to do ____ ?"

I think I did about five different things for them in the year after I left, and before I did the last couple I even raised my hourly rate to keep them from relying on me too much. I had left on good terms and the stuff they had me do was all on systems I'd built, so my specific expertise was worth more to them than a random IT consultant would have been. This was more for database and coding stuff, not pure admin, so your experience may vary.
posted by fedward at 7:07 AM on September 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

The best advice is to say "no, sorry! thanks though!"

Considering you "really really want to" quit, why would you want to help out more?
posted by so fucking future at 7:26 AM on September 7, 2021 [12 favorites]

I’ve become a consultant to my previous job. My former-boss-current-client initially floated the idea as a possibility as we were working on my exit strategy. Once I decided it was something that I wanted to do, I pitched her (with a formal stack, etc) on how I could add to the organization as a consultant and what kind of work I was interested in. That was all while I was still an employee.

Shortly after I left the company, she and I checked in and I reiterated that I still wanted to do it, and we started talking details — start date, hourly rate, scope of work, etc. We calculated the rate as a small raise on the amount I had been getting (with benefits included). She gave me a pretty boilerplate contract, I redlined it, we both signed it. The contract is worth having, I think, because it formalizes/memorializes your terms. It marks the end of the negotiation and the beginning of your new role.

I also created an LLC, but so far have not done much with it. The main reason for that is so if/when I get other clients, I can give them the W9 with the LLC’s EIN instead of handing out my SS#. A single-member LLC is functionally a sole proprietorship when it comes to taxes anyway, but it does provide a measure of protection.

One thing is that I’ve found is that it’s (too) easy to slide back into the employee-boss roles. It can also be strange being in the same old place but being somewhat of an outsider now. The transition has been long and delicate, and it’s still going on now (I have been consulting for a month, about 10-20 hours a week).

I like staying involved, I’m proud that my former company valued my work so much that they wanted me to keep doing it even under new terms, and the paycheck is certainly nice.

I think it’s worth floating the idea with your own boss when you start talking exit strategy, but don’t get too attached to it. The negotiation/transition is long and delicate, and it’s very possible you’d be better off putting that time and energy into getting ahead in your new job.
posted by rue72 at 7:29 AM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I like so fucking future’s answer, only pared down to “No.”
Anything else is a chink in your wall.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:40 AM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

You could put a line in your resignation letter indicating a willingness to do so for an hourly rate, and leave it vague until they come back asking for specifics.
posted by nickggully at 7:41 AM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've done this. It's not worth it. You'll end up putting in hours at a place you no longer want to work for, for people that now vaguely resent you for quitting. Just say no if asked, and focus on and enjoy your new position.
posted by jordemort at 7:43 AM on September 7, 2021 [8 favorites]

Be sure to look up the rules for self-employment taxes. If you do it very much, you'll need to file quarterly estimated taxes or you'll get dinged.

If it's going to be an ongoing thing, consider an LLC.

You need to be very clear about what the expectations for communication and hours that you'll be available are. Don't let the idea of moonlighting for big bucks damage your new job. You might need to say that you're only available after 5PM or whatever and that emails will be responded to the evening after they were sent.

If the organization has a history of working with contractors, they will have a template with your current salary converted to hourly rate (plus allowance for health insurance, if they are generous.)

The contractor sets the rate they bill at, not the company they're working for. The general rule of thumb in IT is to take your hourly wage (plus a portion of your bonus, if applicable) and double it. And that's only if you want the extra work - it's a minimum. I've routinely put down exorbitant rates for companies or situations I really didn't want to deal with. Mostly I wouldn't get the work, which was the goal, but every now and then I'd get a nice payment for doing something unpleasant.

OP would be working more than a full-time job if they take this on and they get to decide how much that overtime is worth to them.
posted by Candleman at 8:02 AM on September 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

First, as others have mentioned, you can absolutely say no if they ask. But if you do want to work for them, and they ask you to do some work, just say sure, I'm happy to contract out for $x per hour. I would set X at double your current hourly rate. Then see what they say.

You can negotiate downward, if you really want to work with them, or you can hold firm. YOU hold all the cards. If they do agree, and you agree, then you can look into a contract and setting up a sole proprietorship for yourself. But I'd be willing to bet that your old company will probably just look the other way and figure their own stuff out without you.
posted by hydra77 at 9:51 AM on September 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

You sound like you think it's the expected thing for you to agree/offer to do contract work, but there really is absolutely no expectation (in society generally) for you to do so! You can very much say "Sorry, I just don't/won't have time around my hours at New Job" and there's nothing they can do about it. (Anecdata, but I know no one in real life who's continued to work for a company after leaving.)

I mean, if you actually want to do this, there's lots of advice above. But to me your question didn't sound like you were enthusiastic. And I'd recommend only continuing to be tied to your old job you really want to leave if you're VERY actively enthusiastic about the prospect of it.
posted by Cheerwell Maker at 10:42 AM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have two freelance rates:

1) Actual reasonable, work I want rate
2) "Go Away" Rate

Decide which freelance rate you want to quote them. Be prepared that if you quote your "Go Away" rate and they decide to pay it, now you have this new job that you maybe kind of do not want.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:43 AM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Following up with some answers:

I expect the questions will be mostly procedural (where can I find this, etc) with some technical ones mixed in. I am the only person responsible for a few things and I will probably need to show my boss / my replacement how to handle those things. I am planning on leaving documentation behind but I won’t be surprised if I’m asked for additional information.

I don’t hate my current job and won’t mind answering questions after I leave but I value my time and won’t work for free.
posted by Diskeater at 12:23 PM on September 7, 2021

"your current salary converted to hourly rate" is not how to come up with a freelance rate, unless you want to be wildly underpaid. Contract rates should be 2x-3x that of a salaried position (health insurance, taxes, and unpredictability are all factors.)

I've always fallen into the "if it's a question I can answer off the top of my head, I'll answer it; if it takes me actual work here's my hourly rate" camp. Make this clear to your current boss before you depart, if you think it's likely to come up. There are plenty of sample independent contractor agreements floating around the web; I've tended to use less formally-worded agreements, on the basis that if it winds up in court it's probably not going to be worth the lawyer fees to chase after it. ("This is work for hire, at $XX/hour; payment due monthly; work delivered as-is; agreement may be terminated at any time by either party" is really all the important stuff.)
posted by ook at 12:52 PM on September 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I agree with others that helping out after you've quit should absolutely not be an expectation, on either your or your former employer's part. Whether or not you decide to do so is your choice, period.

Are you going to give your current employer two weeks' notice once you've accepted another job? If so, make it clear to them that they'd better ask any questions about your job/train a replacement person during that 2 weeks. That's their responsibility to follow through on, and if they fail to do so it's "not your circus, not your monkeys".

If they bother you after that, if it's just a couple of quick questions you can answer over the phone in a couple minutes and you don't mind giving them that small concession, then it might be worth giving them that few minutes' "freebie" out of the magnanimity of your heart.

But if more than a simple answer is involved and/or the questions keep coming, consider at that point how you feel about taking on extra work (and exactly how much work) while you're in the process of settling into your new job. Right now you may be okay with the idea...but that could potentially change depending on how challenging the learning curve is at the new position. Within that context, if your answer isn't an outright "no", think about what sort of fee you'd want to charge (there's a good range of advice in previous answers, I'd personally be inclined toward the "charge a lot" side of that range) that would make you willing to consider taking on the extra work.

But it's perfectly within your prerogative to just tell them "Sorry, no."
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:01 PM on September 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I agree that it likely will not be as positive as you'd hope. Could you give yourself a buffer of, say, a month or two before even considering taking on hourly work for them? You may feel very differently -- more positively or negatively -- after you leave. I'm so glad I had a clean break after my previous jobs even if at the time I was a little sad to go. Upwards and onwards to better things!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:45 PM on September 7, 2021

Thanks for the update. It sheds a lot of light on your working situation.
I am planning on leaving documentation behind but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm asked for additional information.
Let's say you get an offer, submit your resignation, serve out your notice, and head off to NewJob. I second Greg_Ace's suggestion to make very clear that your notice period is the one and only time when you will be fielding questions about OldJob and/or training your successor. If they have questions after you head out the door? That's what the documentation is there for.

The fact that you are "the only person responsible for a few things" at OldJob is currently a feature, not a bug, for your boss (and probably some of your coworkers). This would be an unwise approach to management even if you were planning to stick around for the foreseeable future. And it's even less viable given that you're eager to move on.
posted by virago at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2021

When I was in this position I took the advice that contracting rate was 2-3x and quoted appropriately. Even though the scope was fairly limited (not least because the boss was stingy - it had been an orderly departure but not a sanguine one), that wasn't enough to give me the least bit of pleasure in it. Price in no small part based on how much you want to ever talk to them again.
posted by wotsac at 6:56 PM on September 7, 2021

I have been the person who took over a job a week after the previous person left. My boss said to call them with any questions. I made maybe two calls the first week I was there and then realized that they did not want to speak to me and I would not learn it if I did not do it myself or reverse engineer it so I understood it. When I left that position, I made the same offer of help. It was an entry level position and I was sort of paying it forward. Btw, the person after me lasted 8 weeks as they failed the drug test 3 times even after being warned of the random test in a week.

If they are small questions like where do I find the Penske file, answer them. If you are being asked to do the job you just left, tell them that you will do it for whatever rate you are actually willing to do it for (everyone has a price) and when you can do it. "Thank you for asking. I can do that for $200/hour. I can start in 3 weeks and give you between 5 and 10 hours per week." Give them terms that best suit you while discouraging them.
posted by AugustWest at 8:26 PM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

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