What Can I Do When I Have Too Many Projects?

This evaluator suddenly has more projects than capacity but does not enough money to hire staff. It happens so often. We bid on several projects not knowing what our chances are and sometimes, it doesn’t rain, it pours! What do you do when you have too much work?

1.             Think about your needs

  •   Define the problem
Determine which tasks or skills are not being covered. Remember that you need to do the work you do best. Get help in support areas to keep your office running or collecting the data you need to write your final report. Or perhaps you need another “you” to do more senior work.

  • Quantify the support needed
How many hours per week? Full-time or part-time? One project or several? How long is this going to last?

  •   Solve logistics now
Where will this person work—your office or theirs? If it’s yours, think about office space, furniture, equipment, supplies. If it’s theirs, ask about telephone, computer, and software compatibility; sharing documents and files; security requirements to meet client needs. Develop a short-term contract to clarify work arrangements. If possible, stipulate that you will pay them when your client pays you.

2.        Consider various employment sources

  • Hire a sub-contractor
If you need specialized skills for a short period, a sub-contractor is a great option. You can often find colleagues who will work on a short-term gig at a reasonable rate. The best place to find them is through organizations like AEA or at your local university.

  • Hire a student or intern
Many colleges and universities have work-study programs where a student goes to school one term and works the next. Over the years I trained 14 Co-op students as research assistants, one at a time, and found that the benefits worked both ways. Departments like Political Science, Psychology, Criminology, and Sociology are good sources, although Evaluation programs are now a great option too.

  • Explore government back-to-work programs
Government agencies are frequently looking for employers in research or consulting, so you may find a wage-sharing program that fits with your needs. There is usually quite a bit of paperwork and reporting involved but the wage support you receive makes it worthwhile. I found one of my best research assistants this way and she then worked for me for several years.

Try some of these short-term solutions to solve your current capacity needs. Reflect on these experiences and see if growing your company is in your game plan. If not, you may have to use those terrific proposal writing skills a little less often!

Gail Vallance Barrington

Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter. March 2018.


Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.


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