Even Entrepreneurs Need Performance Reviews: 5 Tips for Conducting a Self-Evaluation as an Independent Professional

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Performance reviews are a useful way for managers to evaluate employee achievement, growth, and goals. While this process may typically be associated with a traditional work arrangement, that doesn’t mean self-employed business owners or freelancers can’t reap the benefits for themselves. Self-evaluation is important for both personal and professional growth, and this valuable tool can even help you figure out how to best move your business forward.

One of the benefits of being self-employed is getting to be your own boss, but without goals in place, it can be hard evaluate the health of your business. Everyone has weaknesses they can improve and strengths they can capitalize on. Taking time to conduct a self-evaluation and objectively assess your progress can better position you for success both today and in the future.

Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your next self-review:

1. Get in the Habit of Compiling Information About Your Business

In a typical performance review, an employee receives prompts from their manager to start a dialogue about the progress they’ve made over the past year. When you’re evaluating yourself, it’s up to you to start that conversation.

In order to give yourself a review that is objective, efficient, and beneficial, start by gathering data. Take a look at the most recent copy of your business plan. If you don’t have one, write down your annual goals or other success measures that are meaningful to your business. You will also want to compile major financial information, including data about your budget, as well as feedback from your clients. This feedback may take the form of formal reviews, notes from conversations, or even social media comments. Finally, if you have conducted self-evaluations in the past, gather copies of those evaluations.

2. Set Clear, Measurable Goals

A self-evaluation should walk through the goals or objectives you have previously set for your business. Ideally, these goals should be quantifiable and measurable. For example, “Grow my client base” is a little vague, whereas “Gain three new clients each quarter” is more specific and easier to evaluate.

Whenever possible, break your goals down into increments and assign a level of success to each one. For example, if your goal were “Gain three new clients each quarter,” gaining one new client might be “adequate,” two new clients might be “good,” and three new clients might be “excellent.” The more quantifiable and measurable your goals are, the easier time you will have conducting an objective self-analysis.

3. Be Honest About Your Progress

Throughout the year, make a conscious effort to keep thorough records of anything that documents your achievements, relates to goals you’ve set, or corresponds with major changes you make to your business. Having documentation readily available will mitigate any inclination to overestimate your success or be too hard on yourself.

As you conduct your self-evaluation, consider how well you’ve done in terms of meeting each of your goals. Take note of what went well and how you might be able to build on these successes. Review your work with a critical eye: Where did you come up short? Looking back, was there a better way you could’ve solved a problem or handled a difficult situation?

4. Keep an Eye on the Future

Recognize your flaws as learning opportunities. By being open to change, you can consistently improve your performance and prevent stagnation. As you conduct your review, think about the best way to grow and develop for the future. Strive for objectivity. Doing so will help you target areas that truly need improvement and recognize your successful efforts so you can use your strengths to your advantage.

5. Document Achievements and Challenges

Creating a way to document and track your self-evaluations will help make you more accountable to yourself. As a result, you’ll be more likely to conduct your self-evaluations regularly, and your documentation will allow you to easily compare year-over-year reviews.

Track major achievements and what you did to make the most of these wins. Also track your major challenges and what you did to overcome them. How did your plan work out? In hindsight, is there anything you wish you had done differently? Collect and organize your thoughts in a central location. This will serve as a valuable reference point for when you need guidance.

Taking the time to conduct a self-evaluation is an important part of being a self-employed professional. Reflecting, analyzing, and critiquing your results shows commitment to your business, ensures you remain fulfilled in your path, and paves a concrete way toward achieving your goals.

Bryan Pena is senior vice president of MBO Partners.

By Bryan Pena