Small staff associations are limited on time and money, but are often loaded up on duties. For that reason, you may find it is a good idea to bring on some consultants to help you catch up or take on a big, one-time project. A great consultant can be Heaven-sent, but the wrong consultant can waste your time and money or at worst set you back.
Here are some tips to get the most out of your contract consultant experience:
1) Be transparent about your need
With both the consultant and your association. A common problem with small staff association leaders is that an uninformed board expects the leader to handle everything when it’s just not possible. Be really clear with everyone from your board to your members about why this person is coming on, for how long, and what specific tasks he or she will be handling. Also be prepared to answer questions about why you’re not superman/superwoman and can’t handle it all. Try not to take it personally- usually the grilling comes out of a genuine place of concern for the health of the association’s budget.
2) Find a good one
Now that you have the budget on board, get the most bang for your buck. Ask association colleagues in your area whom they have had luck with or if they have any recommendations and be sure to shop around yourself. It might seem tough to get the right experience for the right price, but remember that most freelancers are self-employed and rates may have some wiggle room. It’s worth asking, anyway! Check resumes and LinkedIn profiles to find the perfect fit for your project.
3) Be super clear (even if it seems like overkill)
Once you have the right person, make sure it’s clear, and in writing, EXACT duties, terms of employment, payment, and even some clauses for unsatisfactory work on both ends. Then make sure every necessary person sees it and approves it, including your board and the consultant himself before work begins.
4) Have short employment periods with frequent reviews
Terms of that employment agreement should include frequent reviews to check in and be sure that both the consultant and the association are happy. Knowing these reviews are frequently coming will ensure that everyone is getting what they expect from the partnership; the work should be developed in a timely manner and the project should come in under (or meeting) the allotted budget. These reviews will also give you the opportunity to be as hands-on as you’d like to be, perhaps even learning a new skill for the future.
5) Ask for feedback
During these reviews and before and after the project is completed ask for a ton of feedback. Anyone involved with the project should be consulted. Then make a record of it! If the consultant delivered great work, remember his or her name for future projects. If the end result wasn’t up to your expectations, offer that information too so that both your association and the consultant can make different decisions and reevaluate future expectations.
I know what you’re thinking. This looks like more work for you. The whole point of hiring a contract consultant is to take things OFF your plate, right? Don’t worry. The first few experiences hiring a consultant or freelance employee are the hardest, and once you have protocol in place it’ll go more smoothly in the future. You CAN take a lot off your plate and save money!
If you’re thinking about hiring an emerging professional (which might be the best thing for your budget!) check out our guide to engaging and working with Gen Y, or “Generation Connected.”