Back when I was working full-time as a direct practice social worker while building my consulting business on the side, I had two types of clients. The clients I had at my day job who wanted me to help them with tasks such as applying for Medicaid, finding housing, or accompanying them to their medical appointments. My business clients, on the other hand, were executive directors or program directors wanting assistance with facilitating a workshop, designing a program or evaluation, or implementing an evaluation. Two different types of color, two different sets of challenges and opportunities.
It didn’t matter whether the clients were either seeking services on their own or where coming to me by referral. The common thread with these clients was that, eventually, the relationship would end.
In social work and in other helping professions, there’s a process that takes place when working with a client:
Phase One: Engagement, Assessment, and Planning
Phase Two: Intervention and Goal Attainment
Phase Three: Evaluation and Termination
This process also takes place when you transition away from working one-on-one with individuals and begin working directly with nonprofits, community groups, and government agencies. Today, I’m focusing on Phase Three and how I’ve been applying it to how I reflect on the work I’ve done with my consulting clients.
Regardless of the length of time I’m contracted to work with a client, at the end of each relationship, I use this process. It’s very simple, and sometimes it’s more about quiet reflection, though I may write or type up how I’m feeling. I highly recommend using this process as it helps you to not only be reflective, but also be more strategic in how you choose your clients moving forward:
1) How did I feel about the overall project?
When a potential client fills out my client questionnaire , it gives me the chance to screen them before speaking with them face to face or by phone. It’s very encouraging when you’re contacted to gauge your interest in working for someone, and sometimes I’ve jumped at the chance to work with a client simply because I’ve always wanted to work with that group or organization. When a potential client tells you what they need and why they feel you’re the person for the job, it’s very flattering but I try to gauge my interest in working on the project based on my own interests, and if I can actually provide value to the client. Some questions to consider:
- How did I find out about this project, or how did the client find out about me? (Did the client contact me directly or was the client a referral?)
- Did I enjoy the focus of the project?
- Have I worked with this population before or did this project give me the opportunity to work with a new population?
- Did this project provide opportunities for me to learn new skills?
- Was this an opportunity for me to work with a group or person that I consider my ideal client?