IC Week: Norma Martinez-Rubin on Working Solo vs. Subcontracting

Hello, I’m Norma Martinez-Rubin, an independent program evaluator, public health practitioner, and occasional trainer and lecturer. This post is about working solo vs. on subcontracts.

Lessons Learned: As an independent consultant, working solo presents challenging opportunities to apply experiences and formal training that meet client expectations. Doing so affords you additional experience for even greater or more complex future projects, augments your skills and practice tools, and further strengthens the independent streak needed to build a work portfolio composed of sample work representing the successful relationships you and your clients have developed and fostered. Your portfolio validates expertise, distinctiveness, and sense of value about projects of your choice. Project schedules involve fewer parties in the work; you invoice for services directly, and get compensated in amounts that include your administrative, overhead, and consulting fees.

As the primary consultant to a client, your name, image, and reputation are at stake. You are accountable to your client and yourself with regard to project designs, communications, and completed tasks. These considerations are relevant to subcontract work with some variations.

Working on subcontracts requires greater coordination, communication, and occasional compromise about the processes related to submission of a work project proposal, completion of specific deliverables, and presentation of work that may be subsumed by another’s corporate image or reputation. It’s best to decide in advance of commencing a subcontractor relationship, what you consider proprietary, whether you will use your own templates or designs for evaluation processes and reports, and how your work will enhance the value of the deliverables to be met in concert with the primary contractor. Inherent in subcontracted work is the greater amount of time needed for a coordinated response to conditions that develop and may be unforeseen —either by the primary contractor or the client — after project initiation. When you are not the primary contact to the client, you’ll rely on the primary contractor’s communication skills, availability, and affability to best represent their and your interests.

Hot Tips: Subcontract when you and the primary contractor have agreed to work scope, timelines, and individual responsibilities for developing, proofing, and finalizing deliverables. Discuss each other’s understanding of client expectations. Be clear of your expectations of work product format(s), deadlines that precede final products to the client, and service payment amounts.

Maintain written agreements, outline agreed-upon tasks in a letter of agreement or mini-contract.

Working solo or as a subcontractor calls for trusting yourself and others. Acknowledge how well you can do so, in what instances, and proceed accordingly.

Rad Resource: For tax filing purposes in the U.S., acquaint yourself with tax form 1099-MISC applicable to independent consultants/subcontractors.

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.


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