Things change. It’s that simple.
And when they do, an organization’s overall plans can change. And when those plans change, the expectations of the project on which you’re working can change. And when that happens, an organization may adjust its original projections regarding how long it requires your services.
When things are going well in the marketplace, budgets are less of an issue. But when the market turns, you should be concerned. I regularly speak with consultants who tell me that they’ve never had a contract end early. “That’s great,” I say. “It’s never an issue for somebody until it happens to them, and then it’s a really big issue.” Even in today’s market, the money for projects is there, but adjustments are being made from time to time. Organizations currently experiencing budget issues are not necessarily cancelling projects (as they do during times of recession); instead, they’re reducing their number of resources and extending project end dates.
If your contract has an “early termination clause,” then the security of your contract comes down to the amount of notice an organization has to give you in order to cancel your contract. That’s the only timeline of which you can be 100% certain.
Now, that doesn’t mean that most engagements currently out there are not in the 90-99% range of going to the end date. In fact, I would say that most engagements would probably be extended.
But there are a few things you can do — or do your best to be aware of — that will give you an idea of the likelihood of your contract remaining in place.
- When you’re negotiating the terms of your contract, try to get an early termination clause that will give you as much notice as possible. If there’s a “one week” clause in place now, you will not have much time to find something new should the client choose to exercise it. On the other hand, if the clause is 45-60 days, you should have adequate time to get your next engagement in place.
- Before you start the project, get a sense for how critical it is in the scheme of the organization. If the organization you’re with begins to run short on project funds, it will initially cut projects that are less of a priority. Do what you can to stay away from such projects.
- Try to determine if your project is fully funded or if it requires funds from a future budget that has not yet been established. Organizations regularly commence projects that require funds from a future budget to keep them on track. Although this circumstance will not be an issue most of the time, it poses an additional concern — in contrast to your project being funded within the current fiscal budget.
As I’ve mentioned, the only timeline that is 100% certain is the amount of notice spelled out in the early termination clause. However, by looking into a few additional aspects of a project that you’re considering joining, you can increase the likelihood of your being there to the end.
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