OH5IPW0Do you miss the appraisal process as a freelancer or a self-employed person? You might have had a yearly appraisal at work with your line manager. The appraisal would have probably focused upon goals and objectives for the business, department and your professional development etc. If yes your company and line manager was doing the right thing by you.

Like them or loath them the appraisal will be keeping you focussed upon what you were doing well. Your challenges and what your next steps in your career are. Hopefully you got a monthly one-to-one’s to breakdown the goals and objectives; from the yearly appraisal down into manageable chunks.  Notwithstanding its your chance to speak up for your needs, i.e. training/professional development, coaching or mentoring to help take you the next level. All good stuff I am sure you will agree.

However, what happens when you don’t get an appraisal. If you are self-employed or a freelancer what then. Who is going to make sure you are on track and that you are meeting the goals for the business. Being self employed means you are spinning plates – lots of plates. So why spend time giving yourself and appraisal. I am sure by the end of this article you will see the benefits and might just give a yearly an appraisal a go.

Current state of play with appraisals

There are a growing number of organisations and companies that have decided not to give people yearly appraisals. Just opting for the monthly one-to-one check ins. Whether it is a recessive or a progressive approach only time will tell. However it might be said that there is something very empowering about talking about performance over the previous year. A chance to reflect and to  refocus on the upcoming year. All this can can be good for motivation, personal growth and a chance to plan for the year ahead.

All that aside, many freelancers and self-employed will find time for an appraisal tricky. Besides most are sole traders or one man/women bands. So no line manager to do the job for and with you. We need to ensure that there is accountability, an up to date business plan and the strategies for marketing, sales etc are all in place and regularly reviewed. There needs to be a mechanism to track your achievements and likely business challenges, along with new opportunities on the horizon. As a result, we may need to help the self employed or freelancer with the opportunity for that all important appraisal and end of year review. To support the responsibility checking that goals set are on the way to being achieved or at least on target. If they are not then this is where the appraisal can help out.

The Appraisal Plan

Here are a few ideas to make this a reality.

  • Take time to think about your achievements and challenges

Take time out of the hurly-burly to jot down every major event from the past year. Break them down into categories that you focussed on in your business or work. It may be client projects, presentations, leadership, teamwork, and personal growth for example. Be aware of the motivational tasks you enjoyed doing during the year that help you feel engaged. You know the things that made you feel good about what you do. The idea is to do more of the things that motivate and help you feel energised.

  • What have you done well?

For each accomplishment, give yourself or get someone else to give you some objective feedback. Try to be honest, fair, and outcome driven. Include qualitative and quantitative information from clients/customers and analyse the impact you have made. Qualitative measures include the narrative or commentary on your overall performance during the year. You may want to add attributes, such as “need to have a better social media presence or “redefine niche and core client group”, mainly to give you goals for next-steps.

The quantitative remarks rank your skills and achievements using a straightforward scale such as 1 to 5, where one is “need improvement immediately” and five is “outstanding.” For those areas you have excelled at, ask what skills or attributes you utilised to achieve these results. Just as you may need to ask the question how have the less positive outcomes during the year been allowed to happen. Is the goal you set yourself still relevant, if so what are the issues that have got in the way? More to the point what are you going to do to rectify the situation or perhaps those goals that are no longer relevant

When those quantifiable goals match numbers to your results, such as increased income/cash flow, cost reduction for example – it will help focus your mind on your achievements and challenges. As a result, it can help you determine how productive you have been versus being caught up with just being busy.

  • Compare and contrast your achievements & challenges

If you had given yourself goals for the year, get them out and to review where you are. Of course there will be a few goals and objectives you might not have achieved in part or in full. There may well be good reasons for that of course. We know working for yourself can take you off into unplanned territory and not what you had planned for. So the goals need to reviewed regularly.  Perhaps monthly (such as in a one-to-one) quarterly or at least 6 monthly to ensure relevance.

  • Get some objective feedback

We all have blind spots that trick us into believing we are achieving our goals. It’s always a good idea to seek out people who can give you this objective feedback. People you can trust and know they won’t be telling you what you want to hear. Listen to the feedback and pick out the common themes from the people concerned to feed into your own assessments of your performance. A little like a 360° assessment that helps employees get a better understanding of their performance and things to improve upon.

  • Set the goals for the coming year

Now is the time to utilise all of the data you have collected for your appraisal. Look to enhance the areas where you are strong. Remember a weakness is, in principle, an over played strength. So lets say you are a confident person when meeting people. It may be that your feedback highlights that fact and you feel confident in meeting new people. You may feel that this is your biggest attribute and begin to overplay the confidence, thus appearing overconfident and perhaps a little arrogant. Therefore if you know this is an issue you can wind back on the overconfidence till people feedback on your likeability rather than the less desirable trait of arrogance and self-importance.

During the upcoming year you will need to keep those agreed stretching goals in the forefront of your mind. Remember to give yourself stretching goals – goals you can achieve with some effort. Goals and objectives that are within your comfort zone or become overstretched (or in the panic zone), are unlikely to be achieved. Set your goals so they can be measured quantitatively and qualitatively as mentioned above. Then you can easily review them when the time comes for the next yearly appraisal.


Alright I know you are busy and giving yourself an appraisal is just another thing to do. Being self-employed or a freelancer is full on. You are the one that usually has to do everything – sales and marketing, delivery, accounts, operations etc etc. However, without accountability and some checks and balances in place, your performance and motivation may ebb away. Keeping a weathered eye on cash flow is all well and good as it’s the life blood of any business of course. However, it cannot be to detriment of your own development and achieving the goals you have set yourself.

In the end the choice will come down to how you monitor your progress as a sole trader/ self-employed or freelancer. Employing a coach or mentor will help of course though as with being in employment the responsibility for your performance is yours. You will need to achieve the goals and you will need to measure your progress. So what have you got to lose take some time out to give yourself and appraisal, you never know what you may find.


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