Any Independent Eval Consultants Here?


#1

Hi all! I’m an independent consultant in Arizona. Any others out there? I’d love to connect around our consulting practices. I know I’ve found resource sharing (such as the contracts we use and how we find clients) has been useful. I’m also interested in collaborating for responding to larger RFPs or connecting on sub-contracts to build capacity in responding to contracts.


#2

Hi Jenny! I’m independent, too, located in NJ. Happy to share and collaborate with you if opportunities arise!


#3

I am also an Independent and will be discussing and demonstrating tools I am developing aimed at supporting evaluative and dialogue processes. Internet-based, which makes them location independent and mostly asynchronous – which supports collaboration across multiple time zones and the busy schedules of participants.


#4

I’m an independent consultant, up here in BC, Canada!


#5

I am an independent evaluator in Seattle and would love to be part of this conversation. I’m learning a lot about contracts, policies, and running a small business!


#6

We’re in Indianapolis, Indiana, for what it’s worth for collaboration purposes, though we’re in the DC area from time to time.

Most projects focus on cultural heritage, education, and arts (broadly speaking). Happy to chat about systems, theories, and the great stuff others are doing (there’s quite a bit).


#7

@Jenny_McCulloughCosg (and others), have you seen (or, maybe, suspect) bias against your RFPs when you collaborate?

It is a rare RFP that is worth our time, and we tend to lose out to bigger firms when we do apply to open calls. I personally suspect that - to the reviewers - collaboration with another small/mid sized firm looks…I don’t know…less capable? Implies a lack of knowledge? (I’m struggling a bit for phrasing!)

In any case, we often propose collaboration, and those projects are rarely funded/selected. Not a causal statement, and there are plenty of potential confounds, but the situation is something on which I’d like additional data.


#8

I’ve bounced back and forth in this field a little. I’ve worked for a non-profit, large social science research group (Westat), held an independent shop, and now work for EnCompass (which currently has over a 100 staff and is growing).

I have found collaboration to work really well when a small firm collaborates with a bigger firm. As much as I wanted it to work collaborating laterally when I was independent, upward collaboration almost always provided more money, more chance of winning, and more security after the win.

I don’t think it’s a less capable or lack of knowledge thing. I just think contractors awarding larger contracts want safer bets. And sometimes that’s just going with the bigger entity.


#9

Hello! I also work as an independent consultant. I would be happy to share, collaborate, etc. with anything. At present, I am located in North Carolina where I am working on my Ph.D. in Evaluation. I’ve been working independently as well as employed full time for over a decade. My consultancy isn’t my primary stream of income at the moment and I typically work off of referrals as opposed to RFPs. As I said though, I am eager to share, collaborate, and to learn more!


#10

Not sure if you have any issues with billing but my two billing go-to’s are Freshbooks and Wave. I used Freshbooks when I had a larger client load and was working a lot more (paid subscription). Whereas, now I use Wave because it offers a whole lot of features for free and since I don’t run contracts all the time or in large volume any more, it’s better suited for my budget (and just so loaded with features including a customizable GL which I love coming from a financial background).


#11

I’m independent, based in Brooklyn, NY. My work focuses more on intersectional analysis, racial equity, and gender equity, with a primary focus on working with organizations and agencies that provide programming and services for women and girls of color.

I’ve yet to partner with another independent evaluator or group, but I’m open to it. Re: Jeremy’s comment on bias against independent evaluator RFPs, I know of one contract in which I was one of the finalists but the contract went to a bigger firm. Whether they went with the firm because they were bigger is something I’m not aware of.

I do agree with Jeremy in that responding to RFPs hasn’t been worth my time, and fortunately for me, the majority of my work has come from referrals or someone doing Google search and coming across my website.


#12

I’m an independent consultant in Kamloops, BC. I work mostly from referrals and have been lucky to score a few longer term (though not huge) contracts through word of mouth. I collaborate a fair bit, but it’s usually more the sub contractor model where I take the lead. I also brought Jane Davidson in as a coach for one contract to review and validate our methods. I prefer collaboration and would love to do more of it. When I was in grad school I also worked as assistant on a few contracts where the lead evaluators collaborated from different firms. In at least one case they were bidding independently and proposed the idea to the client based on complimentary skills.


#13

Yes, same experience as nclarkconsulting re RFPs. If I reply to RFPs (or even when I’m not), I try to emphasize how you will get more personal experience working with a smaller firm. Also that you will get ME - not a student or intern doing the work - the person you meet is the person you get.


#14

This is awesome-- I’d love to hear more about all of your experiences as an independent consultant. What are some things you wish you knew when you started? What’s a dilemma specific to being independent that you’re still trying to figure out? What’s your favorite thing about being a consultant?

I’ll start: This week I’m working up a “policies” doc that I’m planning to share at the start of new contracts. Most of these are things that didn’t matter so much when I was doing this on the side, but at scale are starting to impact my work. So far it includes things like mileage reimbursement and meeting cancellations, but I’m also thinking about things like what a reasonable number of revisions rounds is.

My favorite thing about being an independent consultant is my role as a thought partner or a critical friend. As an external member of several (client) teams, I often have the opportunity to push the boundaries of the evaluation work a little bit and that sometimes trickles into the program work as well. I try especially to have explicit conversations about equity through the evaluation work. For some teams this is already core to the work they do and for others I’m helping to shape their perspectives and bring them new resources (articles, etc) that push their work in a more equitable direction.

What other things are coming up for you?


#15

I’m in the process of becoming independent. Currently, I evaluate through a university center, and I moonlight at another shop from time to time. However, I’ve had many people tell me that they’d be more willing to pick up my work as a contractor if they weren’t being charged our university’s overhead (it is really quite high). I’m definitely interested in learning from those of you who are independent.


#16

Love your “policies” doc idea - would you consider sharing it?!

Wish I knew when I started… how many hours things would really take me. I am not good at estimating and the first few jobs I certainly undercharged. Getting better, but still learning.

Dilemma specific to being a consultant still figuring out… how to balance the workload and account for inevitable ebbs and flows in work. I am pretty good at budgeting money, but time is a whole other thing!

Favorite thing about being a consultant… ability to create my own schedule. It really helps work around family issues that cropped up recently (aging parents). I also like what you said about being a thought partner or critical friend to colleagues in the field or teams on projects.

People always seem to be shocked at pricing. I was thinking about creating a document that explains why pricing is what it is so that I don’t have to repeat myself. People seem to forget that I have to pay my own insurance, rent, office supplies, taxes…
Another thing that has been coming up lately is late payment. Despite a clause in the contract that says there is a late fee imposed, people are just not paying on time.


#17

I’m still working out the policies doc, but here is a list of what I have to include so far. What am I missing?

  • 24 hour meeting cancellation notice
  • Late payment fees
  • Ownership of products (usually they own it, but I can share it as part of my portfolio)
  • Travel reimbursement (mileage and hourly fees)
  • Number of revision cycles-- I’m learning that I need to be really clear about how this will work and when we will stop taking input or making revisions-- otherwise it can just go on and on after I think we’ve finalized something.

I’d love to talk more about pricing and late payments. Most of my clients seem to understand that I’m more like a firm than an employee and compared to say the university overhead of ~30%, I seem very reasonable-- most of the time. I’m curious what happens next when there are late payments? Do you issue an invoice for the late fee? I have only had to deal with this once or twice and hadn’t yet had a policy for this (hence the need for a doc).


#18

I do issue an invoice that includes the late fee. I do try and call first, to see what’s going on, and to let them know that the invoice with the late fee is on its way via email. But the late fee is part of the contract they sign, so they can’t complain that they didn’t know. I’ve had people argue me out of it - which is wrong - I’ve got to get better at sticking to my guns about this.

Interesting that you have this “policies” document, many of the things you list are included in my contract document, so that legally it’s all there. I need to add in revision cycles as this burned me in one of my recent projects - I worked over Easter weekend because they kept changing exhibition text!


#19

That’s super interesting about the policies vs. contract! Many of my clients have their own standard contract and I haven’t experimented with asking for these kinds of changes to be made, unless they’re glaringly a bad deal for me. Do you usually use your own contract? My policies so far have been part of the SOW, so maybe not legally binding, but “agreed to”. So far it hasn’t been an issue, but I’m interested in thinking that through more thoroughly. I have so much to learn!