I am scheduled to start a new job on Monday (today is Wednesday), but as the date draws nearer I have realised I just can't.

I have been working for myself for the past year, and was recently offered a new job with a very attractive salary. The company gave me a very generous two months to clear up my current projects and ready myself to start.

I honestly tried my best to do so, but now, with four days to go, I still have too much to do to start on Monday. Even working non stop from now until last thing on Sunday night there is no way I can.

I really need another couple of months at least.

This company is a big one, and so they really don't need me. I am fairly active on StackExchange/Github etc and so that want me to work for them having spotted me online, but they really don't need me.

My clients are much smaller and need me more. I am not irreplacable, I don't think for a second that I am, but they would certainly find replacing me painful (one month to find somebody, another month to train them up) and they each have a limited runway.

Whats the best plan to tell this company that starting on Monday just isn't an option.

I fully understand that starting in 3 or so months just wouldn't be an option for them.

My goal here is to step on as few toes as possible.

My current plan is to go by in person tomorrow and ask to speak to the person listed on my offer letter as my new boss, and explain the situation in person.

Is this a good plan? Is this something larger companies deal with often? What would you want somebody in my situation to do, if you were the employer?


  • 4
    Couple of months on top of a couple of months estimated? It sounds like your projects have spiralled out of control. I would be inclined to drop them.
    – Nathan
    Mar 25, 2015 at 23:32
  • 2
    In your Q you mention what you think the company wants and what your own clients want, but you didn't mention what you really want. Plus you have an existing relationship with your clients, and if they understand you're a one-man shop, then they must also understand the risks that comes with that (what if you had an illness and had to stop their project for a month??)
    – Brandin
    Mar 26, 2015 at 10:46
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    It is practically never a good time to leave any job. There's always something more to get done. In 2 months, you are going to be wishing you had another 2 months to finish up. Then in that 2 months, you'll be wishing the same. It is a never ending cycle. IMO, You may as well just start the new job now and wind down on the previous projects at a slower pace. That is assuming you really want the new job, which seems questionable by the tone of your post.
    – Dunk
    Mar 26, 2015 at 15:29
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    Have you told your existing clients that you would be taking a new position? Is it possible that they have already begun making other arrangements? The worst case for you would seem to be turning down the new job only to have your existing clients tell you tomorrow "Good news! We've found your replacement!" If you haven't given your clients some warning, it seems like you've put yourself in a position where you can't avoid breaking a commitment to someone. Mar 26, 2015 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


By backing out on the job at this point, you are probably burning this bridge, and you won't be working for this company in the future either. If your own work is more important and will continue to support you the way you wish, then go ahead and let them know you won't be joining them after all. It's much better to do this now rather than quit after you've started.

If you will need this, or some other job, in a few months, then you perhaps should reconsider whether you want to burn this bridge. They now have to go back and find and hire that someone else. This will affect the hiring manager, others at that company -- people who you might run into in future job searches too. They may remember you as someone who didn't turn out to be as good as they had hoped, someone who looked good initially but then didn't pan out.

You claim that they don't need you. But they wouldn't hire you if there wasn't a need for what you do. Just because they are a large company doesn't mean they don't need for jobs to be done. True, if it's not done by you, it will be done by someone else, once they find and hire that someone else.

As for the manager, inconvenient as this is, it is still better than you starting and then quitting soon after. So if you can't do it, telling them sooner is better than later. There will be paperwork you don't have to fill out, supplies they don't have to get for you, training they don't have to schedule.

  • I would also add, personally I've transitioned from running my own business to working for others (a long time ago) my situation was easier because while I was self employed my boss was a slave driving jerk (aka I overworked myself) You're clients don't need YOU, you should do what YOU want to do be it stay self employed or take this job. if you take it can always wrap up projects on the side and if necessary drop projects entirely. This happens, it's life, but this is about YOU, what do YOU want? (trying to further extend the time is likely to cost you the job) Mar 26, 2015 at 19:51

My current plan is to go by in person tomorrow and ask to speak to the person listed on my offer letter as my new boss, and explain the situation in person.

Is this a good plan? Is this something larger companies deal with often? What would you want somebody in my situation to do, if you were the employer?

Seems like a good plan to me.

Be prepared to answer the question "Are you sure you really want to work for us, rather than remain self-employed?"

And be prepared in case your timing no longer matches their need.

If I were the hiring manager, I'd appreciate your coming by and talking to me face-to-face. Honesty is almost always the best policy. I still would probably be angry that you waited until less than a week before your expected start date. That's unfortunate. But it's always better to back out before starting, rather than quitting shortly afterward.

These things happen. When you say "I really need another couple of months at least." it leads me to believe that your heart really isn't in changing. Think it through before you talk with them, and deal with the results.

If you do this well, you may still be able to apply for a job there at some later date, when you are more certain, about your wants and your timing. It's worth a try, as it sounds like your mind is already made up anyway.


You say your clients need you. Do you need your clients? Are you making money? All this work that you have been doing, are you billing them? The three months that you estimate you have to work to finish up everything, how much will you get paid for that?

If you have a good income from your work, by all means go ahead, tell the big company that you won't start for them, and make money from your clients. But if you don't, go where the money is. Sure, your clients might be sad if they don't get work done for cheap. But you will be sad if you don't make money. It's better if your clients are sad than if you are sad.

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