Maybe it’s (not a good fit) for me?
Sometimes, we are eager to take on new work either to collaborate on a grant proposal/an awarded grant that comes our way through a reference. After all, new work is exciting and good. Right! Right?
Well, maybe or maybe not. I think most of us here have learned a few lessons along the way.
Here are a few tips/approaches to help figure out a client from afar (by that I mean via emails, an introductory phone call, or a Zoom meeting before signing a contract or beginning new work).
During these conversations, do gather as much information as feasible: (Note: these items vary widely depending upon the size and timelines of the project).
1. Scope of work
2. Client’s expectations—deliverables, timelines, project team
3. (Know their) General understanding of evaluation
4. (Know their) Understanding of data–especially, how often, what kinds of data will need to be collected (by) when and whom — do they have capacity to help on site, if needed?
5. Have they worked with evaluator(s) before? What has been their experience?
6. Budget (labor/cost)
7. Do they appear personable, approachable, and/or relational in nature?
8. Is an evaluator considered a collaborative partner?
9. Are you getting positive vibes from the meeting(s)?
What are the tell tales that this opportunity may not be a good fit for you from your initial communication(s) and meeting(s)?
1. Believe it or not, a majority of the time, it’s the budget and probably an easy deal breaker
2. Understanding or the lack thereof evaluation in general and data
3. Lack of capacity and infrastructure on site to carry on the project well and/or collaborate on data collection/administration work on site
4. Impersonal nature / communication (sometimes this is very hard to gauge)
5. Your own personal ability and capacity (++ patience and endurance) to work under less than ideal conditions to complete a quality and timely product for the client and funding agency (but, everyone is different!)
But what if the relationship turns sour later?
Well, first off, try to not burn any bridges. And if you are really unable to continue working with them, then:
1. Be direct but civil and professional in communicating early and directly to the client to explain to them what’s not working for you
2. Check the termination clause in your contract, if you have one
3. Personally, I prefer to Zoom with a follow up email to close the loop on the contract closure / termination and make it official but sometimes, I have used emails (in a formal memo format) to communicate the message
4. Provide a plan for your exit/departure. And plan to complete your obligations, if any
5. Thank them for the opportunity, and
6. Learn from this experience and pray that it doesn’t happen again.