Your Black Friday Guide to Shopping for Consultants

C Now Social Media 01Today is known as "Black Friday", when retailers attempt to recoup their losses by getting a jump on the holiday season. For many non-profits, social enterprises, and other mission-based organizations, this is an effort to perhaps begin shopping for consultants and freelancers.

As someone who is a freelancer myself (and who has a wide range of experience), I thought I would dedicate this week's post to providing insight into what to consider when hiring a consultant. There are some great resources outlining what to look for, including this post via Netsquared and a chapter in Diedre Maloney's The Mission Myth, but I'm providing you with some "insider" tips - things to look for and consider when hiring.

And now, the One Cause At A Time Insider's Guide to Hiring a Tech Consultant:

  • Perform Due Diligence and Check Us Out - Many consultants and freelancers have online portfolios and Linked In profiles - it's fair game to see if we can deliver on what we're promising. Even if you're hiring through a recruiting firm, doing your own due diligence can let you know whether an agency is attempting to match a person to your needs....or simply trying to "make the sale". (Plus, good consultants do not claim skills they do not have, and will often make appropriate referrals when necessary).
  • See What We're Saying on Social Media - This is especially true if you're looking to hire one of the many "non-profit social media gurus" that are selling their services. If their outreach is of the superficial kind - focusing either on their own lifestyles, what they ate, or simply "liking" an article - they may not be worth investigating further. If they prefer to "build brand awareness" over matching your business goals (whether it is fundraising, marketing, or reaching key audiences), turn and run away. As this blog advocates, you should really avoid promoting "slacktivism" at all costs.
  • When It Comes to Payment, Be Willing to Negotiate - Non-profits, social enterprise startups, and other organizations may lack funding, but keep in mind - consultants have to eat, too. We are willing to negotiate around payment terms, but if your organization's expectation is for a consultant to handle the bulk of work for minimal pay....that might be a key to consider alternatives like internships, or even moving towards a different model (a project basis versus an hourly rate, for example). Because, let's face it....
  • Everything's Negotiable - Some consultants have "my way or the highway" policies around where they work, their pay scale, etc. Good consultants will be somewhat flexible in the details, and although there are limits, keep in mind - we want to work with you. We just have to make sure that we can meet your expectations. And finally...
  • Get It In Writing - Whether it's a formal contract or simply a working agreement, be sure that all terms are agreed to and formally documented before moving forward. It sounds very formal, but you can find boilerplates via Docstoc or Scribd (or search what your looking for on Google with "filetype:doc" after the end)...and ultimately, having a formal agreement means less confusion - and an easier time working together - later on.

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of tips - just a good starter for discussion. If you've worked with consultants as part of a non-profit, social enterprise, or other mission-driven organization, please be sure to leave a comment below. You're more than welcome to follow us on Facebook, or drop me a line via private e-mail.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful holiday!

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