© SIphotography / iStock
© SIphotography / iStock

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to be an independent consultant and an independent consultant who is also an evaluator. I’ve been thinking a lot about it because, well, business has been a little slow. Glacial.

At first I thought it was ‘just me’. I knew I’d not responded to every tender opportunity because I’d been focused on finishing work for two other clients, and so some lovely opportunities must have passed me by. Then I thought, well maybe I’m not networking enough (I thought this coming off the back of a two day conference on consulting that I’d been hosting). Then I thought: is it Brexit?! Well everything else seems to revolve around the ‘B-word’, why not evaluation or the lack of it. Then I picked up the phone and had a few conversations with other evaluators in Britain that I knew.

Turns out none of us were rushed off our feet. Either the summer break had come early or something really was going on that we were all suffering with excess capacity. Well, that was all good and well (and weirdly reassuring). But what to do? I’m not one for twiddling my thumbs and doing nothing. So here’s what I did:

  • Cleaned my CRM database: You can’t get work from out of date details. People move on all the time and as an independent who is also thegeneral dog’s body, it’s hard keeping on top of this kind of administration;
  • Submitted to a voluntary peer review process at the UK Evaluation Society: This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while and although I thought it would be painful, it turned out to be a great experience. While it validated some of my thinking, the process challenged me in other ways and I know I’ll be a better consultant and evaluator as a result;
  • Tidied up my website: It is my shop window after all. I’m not quite finished yet (can you tell). But the website is running more smoothly, looks better and responds better to enquiries;
  • Set in place a new Social Media schedule: Can you tell? You hear from me more often. Actually this one does start back in November 2018, but I was able to review my progress and think about things to change in my blogs and social media plan, and I never get time to do that normally; and
  • Read technical briefs and papers: My reading list is always full. I’ve currently got 112 papers on my list waiting to be read. I won’t read all of them (who would?) but I’m doing my damndest!

What I also did was:

  • Took more walks with the dog and my camera
  • Picked up my French classes again (these have been languishing)
  • Switched off the computer at 4pm every day
  • Sat in the sun (when we had the sun); and
  • Cooked slow roast Lamb for Easter!

My point is this: sometimes we’re too busy working in our businesses that we don’t take time to work on our businesses, and ourselves. We are our own most important resource and we need to look after ourselves and our skills if we are going to continue to thrive as consultants and evaluators. I don’t know what was going on that work suddenly stopped for lots of consultants, but I do know that I was able to use that time to refresh myself and my approach to my work. Now that things have started to get going again, I’m in a better place to respond to client needs and I’m in a better place personally to handle all those late nights and field trips that are coming up!


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