As someone who’s self-employed with no line management, one of my challenges is trying to figure out just how good I really am – client testimonials are great feedback (and always appreciated), but I recognise they’re also very subjective. For example, not everyone likes marmite – and I’m aware that not everyone appreciates my approach at times (as evidenced by the rare occasions when my bendy people have been thrown back at me during training courses I’ve delivered…)
And this desire to reflect truly on my ability isn’t just for vanity’s sake – as a freelancer I need to know how I can best pitch myself to clients, and I also need to know where I should focus the investments I’m able to make in myself, to further enhance the service I can offer to said clients.
That’s why I’m always keen to find ways to benchmark myself against my peers and others. Earlier this year, this saw me publicly share the results of my having my approach to reporting my impact compared against the internationally agreed principles of social accounting – pleased report that compared with other consultants, and enterprises of a similar size to me, I seem to be well ahead of most others out there doing work around impact reporting.
It’s also why I try and offer my services through third parties and funded programmes – having an impartial project manager or broker between myself and a client can offer a more objective view of my services and performance. This is because they’ll have similar pieces of work to that I’ve undertaken to compare me against. One such programme is Big Potential – offering awards to social enterprises to allow them to ‘buy in’ specialist support from the likes of me, in their ambitions for growth and in exploring the relevance of social investment as part of those aspirations.
Unusually for such funded programmes, Big Potential annually publish a ‘performance table’ of all us consultants who it engages with, in supporting social enterprises. While this is a relatively simplistic table of measures (the number of our clients we’ve support to apply for awards from the programme vs. the number of those clients they’ve agreed should be supported by their chosen provider), it’s nonetheless a useful reference in offering another of the types of benchmarks that I’m looking for.
And the latest table reveals a few interesting themes when I looked at the figures – I seem to be the only active freelance consultant on the approved provider list (the others being larger firms), and there’s no correlation between how many clients a provider supports the applications of, and the likelihood of them being awarded support for them:
Oh – and running the numbers to create some simple averages, it seems that I’ve supported more than the typical average number of clients to apply to this programme, and they’ve had a greater than average success rate when I have!
So – as well as (most of) my clients saying nice things about how much they enjoy my working with them, there’s also a growing body of statistical data that shows I’ve better than the average consultant.
My mum will be pleased.