IC TIG Week: Shifting into Solopreneurship: Wearing the Hat of Business Owner by Elizabeth Grim

Hi! My name is Elizabeth Grim (she/her) of Elizabeth Grim Consulting, LLC. I am an evaluation consultant helping organizations untangle their data and tell their story. I am also President of the Eastern Evaluation Research Society (EERS).

In my evaluation work, I wear many hats, often balancing multiple roles each day: consultant, coach, collaborator, writer, designer, advocate. Right now the hat I am most proud of is solopreneur. In 2021, I took the leap to move to full-time solopreneurship and run my own business. This is something I had been dreaming about and planning for years. So in true evaluator fashion, I spoke to colleagues – both new and experienced – during the planning process to hear about their work in the field.

Lessons Learned:

  • Articulate your values. The piece of advice that I have heard most often by solopreneurs, consultants, and business owners is to know your values. Understanding what motivates and inspires our work keeps us grounded. Our values shape our contracts and serve as a guiding factor when choosing projects and partnerships. For example, if a core value is collaboration, you will likely want to incorporate more time for community engagement, participatory methods, and feedback into your scope of work and budget.
  • Honor your no. We live in a society that thrives on a scarcity mindset. We are encouraged to fear limited resources and subscribe to a hustle culture mentality. It is easy to feel pressure to say yes to all of the things – yes to contracts, yes to clients, yes to meetings, yes to extra deliverables. Boundaries are hard and necessary. It is ok to say no.
  • Prioritize yourself. We have all heard the recommendations for self care like exercising and taking time off. Prioritizing yourself goes beyond that. Recognize your needs and wants, and craft your schedule and business around these factors. Perhaps you want to work 4 days a week or 4 hours a day. Maybe you want to take 2 months off every summer. These things are possible, they just take planning. Your business doesn’t have to look like someone else’s.
  • Negotiate on quality not cost. There will always be someone offering your services for less money than you. Instead of immediately reducing the proposed budget, consider how you can offer a higher quality product or service. For example, you might reduce the scope of work to have fewer but more detailed deliverables.
  • Hire a coach. We do not have to build our businesses alone. Whether you need help articulating your values, having difficult conversations, setting boundaries, saying no, developing a business plan, or creating a marketing campaign, there is a coach for you. 

Rad Resources:

  • Dare to Lead. This book by Brene Brown offers a research-based approach to authentic and courageous leadership, including an exercise in identifying and organizing your values
  • Company of One. This book by Paul Jarvis challenges the notion that bigger is better in business. Jarvis offers strategies for staying small and feeling fulfilled while also maintaining your cash flow.
  • Small Business Association. The Small Business Association offers networking, mentoring, training, and funding for small businesses. Find your local chapter to get connected with a coach who can guide you in your planning. 
  • Independent Consulting Topic Chats. The AEA Independent Consulting TIG is currently offering weekly virtual chats. You can find an archive of the discussions online or sign up to attend an upcoming event.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating IC TIG Week with our colleagues in the Independent Consulting Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “IC TIG Week: Shifting into Solopreneurship: Wearing the Hat of Business Owner by Elizabeth Grim”

  1. Hi Elizabeth!
    I would like to start off by saying congratulations as you have started the first phase of completing your goal by starting your own business. My name is Joseph, and I am currently completing my Professional Masters of Education with Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. One of the classes that I am currently studying is about program inquiry and evaluation. Until this course, I did not really know that the evaluation community extended out from the education system and how its relevant to many other industries.
    I connected with your article because I now know the challenges evaluators go through by wearing many different hats. As an educator, it can be extremely difficult at times to assess your students until you really get to know them and their learning skills. As an evaluator outside of education how do you properly assess a business that you have no background knowledge about? This is something I have been struggling to really understand. How can you provide an authentic evaluation without any input from any parties within the organization? Basically, ensuring that there is no bias in your evaluation. Now that you throw trying to build your own business into the mix, it can be even more challenging for you.
    Your main lessons also stood out to me because in my experience and profession within the business industry I understand how vital those lessons are. These simple steps are effective and can really help to build a positive business environment. I also see why those steps are important because they help you to manage the many different hats you wear as an evaluator. I had no idea how much of an impact an evaluator can have on a business, community, government, program, etc. The need for an evaluation is critical to ensuring whatever business you have or program you are trying to run can meet the expectations that were originally set out or needed to evolve.
    I want to thank you for taking the time to read my post and thank you for the article as I learn about the community of evaluations.
    All the best,
    Joseph

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