IC Week: Norma Martinez-Rubin on Small is Beautiful–Business Savvy for an Enduring Practice

I’m Norma Martinez-Rubin, an independent evaluation consultant with a practice focused on evaluating disease prevention and health promotion projects. Small-sized independent evaluation consultancies can offer clients the accessibility and nimbleness absent in larger organizations mired in their own bureaucracies. Our multiple roles as Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Informational Officer, and Chief Creative Officer require becoming informed about managing ourselves, our content, our service, and our client relationships. I hope the following lessons and resources will help you to be successful as a small independent evaluation firm.

Lesson Learned: Shifting career gears to launch a solo practice entails exploration, soul searching, and rethinking how to best balance personal life and professional interests. Hence, the attraction to sole proprietorship and its rewards: autonomy, schedule flexibility, and choice over the selection of work projects that coincide with personal values. Did you notice my exclusion of endless financial reward? That was intentional.

Going solo is among the riskiest career endeavors. I have learned that I must be ready to ride the financial waves associated with economic shifts and their effects on prospective clients. Contract work may not be as abundant when prospective clients are facing economic woes. The financial safety net (steady income, pre-packaged insurance and retirement benefits, paid travel, and professional development) offered by employers is absent. So, what to do? Short of obtaining a Masters in Business Administration degree, identifying a business mentor is of utmost necessity. Passion alone will not yield income to cover the costs of doing business.

Rad Resources:

  • Perhaps not so “rad” because of its governmental roots, yet a helpful orientation to the ins and outs of establishing and growing a business, the U.S. Small Business Administration is a resource for starting and managing a business, contracting, and obtaining loans and certifications as business progresses.
  • SCORE–previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives and supported by the SBA– offers counseling and mentoring.  Through the SBA or SCORE websites, one may set up free email news particular to a location.
  • Social marketing options can provide visibility and broad reach for small businesses. As a service organization, it is of utmost importance to identify one’s value to prepare a strong online presence. Susan Chritton’s book, Personal Branding for Dummies presents a fun, provocative approach to identifying personal value as a service provider. After all, along with your content expertise, the core of your business is you. To thrive during the ups and downs of the business of independent consulting, developing that core strength is essential.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the Independent Consulting TIG (IC) Week. The contributions all week come from IC 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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