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By its very definition, an independent contractor has control over when and how a job will be completed. That freedom extends to your ability to pick and choose whom you work for and when. While you can quit a job at any time, you still face certain consequences, such as poor referrals. Protect your reputation by respecting your clients, sticking within the confines of contracts you’ve signed, being honest about your reasons and giving clients sufficient time to find a replacement.
Check Contract Obligations
Independent contractors often have contracts with clients that spell out the duties to be performed and completion dates. A contract also may describe legal liabilities if a contractor doesn't fulfill the terms. Quitting without fulfilling the terms of the contract may leave you open for a breach of contract lawsuit or other penalties. Check your contract before quitting to ensure that you’ve fulfilled your obligations or have legal standing to quit the job without facing negative consequences.
Focus on the Positive
Whether you plan to work for the client again or not, leave a job without burning bridges, if possible. Referrals are important for independent contractors; a bad one may affect your future earnings. In person or by letter, begin the resignation conversation by pointing out the positive aspects about the client and the job. Emphasize the rewards you reaped from working with the client and how you regret the decision you’ve had to make. Take responsibility for the resignation with little or no negativity toward the client.
Ease the Transition
Whether you’re quitting a job because of unacceptable response time from the client, poor working conditions or just because you can’t fit it in your schedule anymore, offer to help with the transition to another contractor or to in-house staff. Propose a brief training session for a direct employee who may be able to take over the job you were doing. Prepare documents covering the procedures you used or that describe the work you’ve done and where you left it, so the client can pass the information on to another contractor.
Explain Your Reasons
While it’s not always prudent to give the exact reasons for quitting, it may help your working relationship when you can convey a general reason. One reason may be that you are overbooked and can’t give the contract the attention it deserves. If communication has been a problem, do the client a favor and explain; perhaps she can fix the problem and secure your services in the future. Put your resignation in writing so there is no confusion about the status of your work. Add a date for when you will stop working. Unless your contract requires you to give a certain amount of notice when you quit, you may stop the work immediately -- and say so in the letter. As a courtesy, however, and depending on the type of work you do, give the client sufficient notice to find a replacement.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."