The year I said YES to everything*

*well, not exactly everything, but I loved paraphrasing this:

I am so happy about another year coming to an end, as I very much enjoy year-end reviews (this my say something about my life so far, right? :)).

After such an amazing professional 2016 (as I was bragging here Forget Brexit and Trump, this was MY year!), how could 2017 have topped it? Well, it didn’t. It didn’t top it, it was just different.

At the end of 2016, I was still trying to figure out what freelancing could mean for me, this is why I had decided that in 2017 I will pursue any opportunity that comes my way, just to see where it takes me. So I started saying YES, to almost everything.

You know what? Saying YES to everything is not the fail-proof solution to happiness as a consultant. I ended up regreting some of these decisions… One of these decisions, to be more exact. The regret was not about the project itself (which was difficult, but very challenging and interesting), but about the relationship I had (not) managed to build with the clients. I will probably tackle the client-consultant empathy (AND chemistry, in my case) issue more in depth some other time, as it deserves a more serious discussion.

For more tips about when to say YES, NO or MAYBE as a research consultant I recommend Susan Sweet’s article:

Now, that I have complained worth of 200 words, let me tell you about the best things that saying YES have brought to me:

  • I used to be most reluctant to moderating in different cultures and languages from mine. I had done international work before, but mostly co-ordination and consultancy (workshops). Never actual fieldwork in another culture and language.
  • This year I finally did it, in many different ways: groups, ethnographies, interviews. In the respondent’s own language or in English, with a translator. Consumer or B2B work.
  • I have learnt A LOT. First and foremost about fundamental human values, which just emerge in your face, so strongly and powerfully as you engage yourself with people in a different culture, and realise… people are SO MUCH the same. Then, on how to use my own cultural biasses as a contrast substance for spotting those things that are NOT the same. I am still work in progress here :), and I guess this is the kind of work that never ends.
  • I’ve also said YES to most of the research-technology demo proposals I have received. More so, I’ve said YES to last-minute ideas to pilot some, in high-pressure projects: very large projects, with many respondents involved, with huge time pressure (already working more that 12 hours a day, no need for all the added technology failures drama:)), with many client stakeholders involved, huge pressure also on results to be implemented virtually immediately. But that is exactly what made the experiments so successful: the large scale of the projects meant that a lot of things happened, we got to really understand how the technology works and where it helps, and to leverage it to our needs.

How does a qualitative researcher know they have had an exceptionally creative year (as a result of all the YES-es, of course)? When they are having difficulties justifying certain expenses as business expenses to their accountant:

  • Earlier this year I bought clothing worth of many hundreds of euro, for a fun  experiment we did about how people care for their clothes (not only that the bill was huge, but the experiment also required all the clothes to be ruined at some point!!!).
  • My accounting documents also show several spa sessions that have been booked for less than ordinary focus groups in the luxury category.
  • Also, I have spent a lot of time and money in arts&crafts and boardgames stores – as 2017 seems to have been the year of innovation workshops and really out of the box techniques, by excellence.

Overall it was a very good professional year and pretty good work/ life balance also. Too bad I’ve just learnt, literally 5 minutes ago, that my taxes will be raised significantly in 2018, so I guess I should go enjoy this work-life balance thing while it lasts 🙂

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