At the end of every year you get loads of advice for how to approach the next one.
Lots of that advice centers around resolutions, words, or statements. I decided to do something a little different this year and give myself a list of how questions.
Will it be useful in the coming year? Who knows? But it did feel like a useful activity for today.
Here are my own questions and thoughts, and if you feel bold enough to share your own I would love to see them in the comments.
How can I make my business boring?
It’s now been well over 6 years since I went indie.
But it still kind of feels like I’m running a “just winging it” business. And you know what, I think it’s more than a feeling. I think that is the business I’ve built.
I tried a bunch of different things. Then I tried a bunch of other different things. Then I lucked into a couple really good clients. And those couple of really good clients have sustained me over the years.
And maybe that’s what it means to be an indie consultant. Or at least, what it means for me to be an indie consultant.
There are times I feel like I should be the motivational speaker companies hire to bring in and convince their employees not to leave and start their own businesses. Because as much as I love my job, I also feel like I’m one bad break away from failure.
This feeling comes and goes. But when it’s here I long for something a little more boring and a little less risky.
How do I get people to join my design workshop?
I relaunched my design workshop in the fall of 2021, and it’s still going strong. The workshop gives me a space to teach, show, coach, and mentor. And the feedback I’ve received from participants has been fantastic.
The workshop was built the only way I know how, through a continuous series of iterations based on feedback and live experiences. The constant changes forced me to ask hard questions about what I truly offer and what evaluators really need. If you’re wondering about the conclusions I’ve arrived to you should check out my new workshop page.
But one thing I haven’t learned is how to get more people to join. I have a few ideas, but this is certainly going to be an open question for the coming year.
How can I replace my best client and contract?
Back in 2019 I had a short conversation with Jan Fields of the Michigan Public Health Institute. Jan quickly became my best client, giving me the financial cover to keep my independent consulting business running strong. He’s also just a great person who I love working with.
Over these past few years I’ve been able to develop and facilitate a virtual Evaluation Community of Practice for the CDC’s Overdose Data to Action program. It’s been a mix of webinar facilitation, web development, digital communications, teaching, and community building.
But like all Federal contracts, this one will come to an end later this year. There is hope that it will pick back up, but as an indie subcontracting my way onto the overall project, there is definitely no certainty that my role will continue. I still have time but I fully expect this question to occupy my mind throughout the coming year.
How do I keep the comics flowing?
I enjoy drawing comics. They are certainly a differentiator and help to keep me in the public eye (at least inside the evaluation world). But it’s not like they are huge moneymakers.
As I tell my workshop participants, creativity is a process. And the process of comic making can also have value, especially in terms of networking and learning. I have learned more about evaluation through process of cartooning than through any other professional activity.
I expect that in the coming year I’ll be searching for more ways to keep the comics coming. What this will look like is an open question, but one I will definitely be addressing in 2023.
How do I successfully center my family?
The biggest reason I want to make my work boring is to take it off my mind at the end of the day.
The independent consulting life gives you a kind of freedom, but it also has a way of staying in your mind far longer than any other job I’ve ever held. It’s hard to leave work at work when you, as an individual, are the office.
This has been a constant challenge since I started my business. But I hope to be more successful in the coming year. Because what good is business success if it makes me less of a successful father and husband?
Can you come up with 5 how questions for your year ahead?
You don’t have to blog your questions or reasoning. But I found this to be a really nice exercise and totally suggest giving it a try!