“When I first started as an independent research consultant, I thought I was going it alone. I’d never run a business before. I assumed everyone was competing against each other and in it for themselves. How wrong I was.
Discovering that you can work independently without having to do it all on your own has been a game-changer.
Everyone’s experience of collaborating as an independent is different. It could be the heart of their business model or simply a way to feel more connected to others doing similar things. For me, it has developed over time.
It started by joining research networks like the ICG. Then offering my services on projects that other consultants were leading. As my own business grew, I brought in associates if a project needed it. And then 18 months ago, I formally joined forces with another research consultant.
We see our partnership as one big research collaboration between two independents, bringing together the best of what each of us do. I specialise in quant, Emma is a qual expert. We could have done this on a project-by-project basis, but in the end decided all-in was the way to go.
Recently, we’ve been reflecting on how things have gone so far and, above everything else, we’re struck by just how much collaborating in this way has driven the quality and value of our research.
Why do independent researchers collaborate?
I’m not going to dwell on the many benefits of working with independents generally. You’re working with experts in their field. You’re paying for their expertise and experience rather than big overheads. You always work with them. The list goes on.
We do what we do because we’re passionate about research and the value it can add, so we want it to be the best it can be. Often that means working with other researchers or putting someone in touch with a researcher who is better suited to a particular project.
I think as independents we are very aware of what our strengths are. After all, it’s what we base our businesses on. And it’s this awareness that makes us more honest about what we’re not as good at or experienced in. We’re more likely to say no if we’re not the right people, but there’s a good chance we’ll at least know someone who is right for the project.
Collaboration isn’t just about working on projects either. There’s a wider value from independents coming together. We share our experiences and knowledge. Share our contact book. Run ideas past each other. We might even need to vent and let off some steam. The community of independent consultants in the ICG network is a great example of this.
What are the benefits?
Two heads are better than one
Being able to speak to someone about a project or a research problem and throw ideas around can make a difference. This is valuable at any stage of a research project. From deciding on the most suitable approach and methodology, through to interpretation of analysis and getting the report right.
Bring together a set of specialist skills
Some projects need a range of specialist skills. Whether it’s some mixed methods research or something more nuanced. There’s real value in bringing together different methods and approaches to a research project. And these won’t be any old skills, independents are experts in their field.
Lean on different experiences
It’s not just about research skills. We all have our own experiences and knowledge to bring to the table. I have client-side experience in the public sector and Emma has an agency-side background for example, so we often come at projects from different angles, consider different things and add value in different ways.
I think we need it. We learn from each other, picking up new skills and gaining experience. It could be anything from research techniques to software options or leaning on someone who has been there, done that. Me and Emma have very different skills and experiences. We’ve found that the more different we are, the more we learn from each other.
Whether we’re just picking up tips from networks or partnering up on a regular basis, clients benefit from our collaborations. The research is more rounded. We’re able to deliver bigger projects. We can bring in expertise specifically for the project requirements, not relying on what we’ve got under one roof.
The research industry benefits
The more that independent researchers work together, talk and share; it can only be good for the research industry, surely?
Feel the benefits
When you work with an independent researcher, you’re getting so much more. You benefit from our collective spirit. Our honesty and a need to do what’s best for the research, not us. Access to peer knowledge and connections. Opportunities to collaborate with some of the best in their field.
If you’re an independent researcher and you’ve not got these valuable connections, you’re missing out.
The ICG plays an important role in fostering this spirit of collaboration amongst research independents.”