For many corporate employees, simply hearing the words "performance review" can cause dread or anxiety. In many cases, this is because performance reviews are associated with time-consuming sessions in which they feel scrutinized and often criticized, and left with the sense that performance reviews are a demoralizing waste of time. Why, then, would an independent consultant want to put themselves through this processes with a performance self-review? The answer is simple: performance reviews, when done correctly, can be powerful tools in evaluating what you've achieved, what goals you fell short of reaching, and how you can give your independent consultancy the best opportunity to succeed. If you are able to objectively evaluate the progress you and your consultancy made towards your goals, you can put yourself in a position to turn the performance review into what it should be: a tool to help you become better and more successful as an independent consultant.
An effective self performance review is not something that can be dashed off in a few minutes while multi-tasking. We realize that as an independent consultant, time can be both precious and scarce, making it hard to motivate yourself to make time for a task that you may feel is mundane or unpleasant. Whether you review your progress yearly, quarterly, or on some other regular schedule, you will get the most out of the process if you take the review seriously. Treat it as any other necessary work task; designate a block of time in your schedule that will allow you plenty of time to thoroughly reflect and evaluate your progress. Give yourself a quiet area to work, without distractions, and make your review the sole subject of your focus.
Even if you've given yourself a self-review in a past position as an employee, the process still included input, feedback, and prompts from management. Without any outside assistance, it can be difficult to know where or how to begin. It's also easier to lose objectivity when reviewing yourself. With the right tools and hard data in front of you, it can be easier to perform a review that is objective, efficient, and beneficial. Before beginning, gather the following documents, information, or tools:
With the latest iteration of your business plan or goals in front of you, review the objectives that you set for yourself and your consultancy. Ideally, these will already be in a form that can be measured or quantified; in other words, "Continue to grow client base" as a definition of success is more difficult to measure than "Gain five new clients per quarter." If you realize that any of your goals are vague and hard to quantify, make a note of this so that you can keep this in mind the next time you review your business goals.
If possible, breaking your goals down into increments and assigning a level of success to each increment can be useful in objectively assessing your performance. For instance, using the example of striving to gain five new clients per quarter, gaining one new client may be labeled "poor", gaining two or three new clients as "adequate", four new clients as "good", and five as "excellent."
With this breakdown of the goals you previously set - as well as any new goals that you realized you'd overlooked and now want to include - it's time to evaluate how well you performed in your efforts to meet each goal. Whenever possible, use the numbers and hard data to make these evaluations; in your mind you may feel that your income levels were subpar, but the financial data or software may show that you'd actually shown a steady improvement on a month-to-month basis. In between performance reviews, try to keep thorough records that document changes or achievements; factual data can be essential to eliminating any internal bias that might cause you to overestimate your success - or be too hard on yourself.
When you've created a self assessment performance review that's as complete and impartial as possible, it's important to try to maintain an unbiased mindset as you assess your review. Don't let your successes go to your head, nor let deficiencies make you feel defeated. Instead, try to make an objective evaluation of the results of your progress so that you can create a plan for improving areas in which you fell short, and recognizing successful efforts so that you can continue them - or even improve them further. If it's been a while since you last updated your business plan and the goals for your consultancy, now may be an ideal time to do so as you re-evaluate your goals and create a plan to achieve them.
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