"Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic!" - Robin Sharma
How many times have you seen people who fail to finish strong either because they know they are almost done with a project, job, or even a work-out, typically because they become fatigued, bored or otherwise disinclined to continue to put the required effort needed to stand out.
Starting new projects or initiatives is always a time of excitement and for some contractors, that adrenaline rush of experiencing new challenges and meeting and influencing new people or environments is exactly what keeps them going in the contracting world.
But one of the most common problems I've witnessed and one that absolutely changes the client's perception of the contractor's overall performance is what happens in the final stages of the project when most of the work is complete and things are wrapping up. Feedback up until that point was extremely positive, everything along the way was good news (or no news). And just when extending the contract or finding the individual a new contract seems to be a no brainer, the wheels fall off.
It's at this critical time, just as a contract is about to be completed, that a contractor can cement their reputation as being an absolute pro or conversely, and unfortunately, a dud! Here are a number of things to avoid if you would prefer to be the former, and not the latter:
1. Do More Than is Required
"What is the distance between someone who achieves their goals consistently and those who spend their lives and careers merely following? The extra mile."
And do more than is required right up until the last day and hour of the project that you were contracted to deliver. If you keep that mindset as an independent contractor, you will build a reputation in the marketplace as a professional who consistently brings value to the project right up until its conclusion.
2. Don't Let the Hunt for Your New Gig Get in the Way
"There are only two options regarding commitment. You are either in or you're out. There is no such thing as life in between"
It's true that as a contractor, you are responsible for "self-marketing" to ensure that you have your next contract in hand while wrapping up the contract you are currently on. But too often, contractors start fixating on their next contract. And so the work on their current project suffers. Attendance becomes spotty and deliverables suffer. Sacrificing the hard work and solid reputation you've earned at the very last stages of your contract is not wise. Not only will you risk angering a client who might still be considering you for other projects or an extension, but that disappointment could lead to an even earlier termination, making the issue of your next contract even more serious.
3. Don't Rob Peter to Pay Paul
In other words, don't let the fear of a "gap" in projects prompt you to accept a new contract prior to the end of your current one. This is typically mishandled for a number of reasons.
The contractor is embarrassed or afraid to quit so they invent a reason why they have to leave the contract early. The lie is usually uncovered at some point and there goes your hard-earned reputation. They begin the search months before the contract is scheduled to end under the assumption that it is never too early to start looking. Well in fact, it is. Now you have an excited recruiter and client who believe that you are ready to start a new contract on their timeline. Either way, you're guaranteed to make someone unhappy whether you accept the new contract and quit the old early, or stay with the current and turn down the new contract.
In the rare event that both parties accept the overlap, you end up promising both parties that you can deliver and then fail miserably at one, the other, or both.
4. Work with your Recruiters(s)
Plan a schedule of communication with your current recruiter so that you can help each other plan any transition. Share information and project knowledge to determine if there is an extension coming your way or if there are new opportunities on the horizon that correspond with your contract end. If you attend an interview prior to your contract finishing, let the interviewers know when you are expected to finish your current contract. Set the expectation with them that you will complete your current contract, that it is a part of your service delivery approach. If anything, it should impress upon them that you are a professional with integrity. And if things don't line up perfectly, you can always offer to do project prep work while finishing up your current gig. This can always be done at home, on the bus or during weekends.
Starting new projects is always fun but it can be a challenge to finish strong. Commit to staying connected to your end goal which should be providing service and value right up to the last day of the project you are on. Don't let yourself get waylaid by impatience or worrying about your next job. Trust that your training, experience and reputation will play a big part in the successful transition to a new contract. And work with professional recruiters to augment your search.