WE Week: Bernadette Wright on Evaluating the Decision to Be an Independent Evaluator

This is Bernadette Wright. In April 2012, I made the jump to starting out as an independent consulting/sole proprietor of Wright Evaluation and Applied Research.

Lesson Learned: When I first starting exploring the idea of taking the plunge to independent consulting, it seemed like it could be a risky, scary move to make. However, I found that many resources are available to help with evaluating the decision to make this career change. These resources can help anyone considering independent consulting in evaluation feel more secure that you understand what it would take to make your business work and that you have a plan in place to make it happen. These resources can help answer questions like, Would I enjoy independent consulting? What are some good ways to find work? What does the market look like for the types of services I can provide?

Rad Resources: Below are some resources that I found to be especially helpful.

Gail V. Barrington, new book Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers  is a very useful guide to all aspects of starting and managing a consulting business in evaluation and applied research. In addition, you can read a discussion led by Gail Barrington on the topic of best practices in evaluation on the AEA Thought Leaders forum and visit her website and blog .

Judah J. Viola’s 2006 article “I want to be an independent consultant: Considerations before taking the plunge,” in New Directions in Evaluation, while focused on recent graduates, provides helpful advice for anyone considering taking the plunge to independent consulting.

The online discussion forum for AEA’s Independent Consulting topical interest group is a rich source of information on things to consider in deciding to be an independent evaluator, how to find work, and tips for success. Also, AEA365 includes many posts related to this interest group.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website on Guide to Starting and Managing a Business provides many resources on starting and managing a business, including things to consider in thinking about starting, information on where to find a mentor or counselor, and guidelines for writing a business plan.

Talking with friends, family, and co-workers can be a great way to learn from other people’s experiences and get other perspectives to consider. I was surprised to find out how many people I know have experience with independent consulting.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the WE AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our WE members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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