After a day of back and forth discussing a potential project with East Dorsetshire District Council, at 9:01 am—on only his third day as a freelance researcher—Gavin has sent PRICS’ first quote.

All he can do now is wait. 25 minutes after hitting send on the email, this is already proving agonising. Gavin's patience and outwardly cool demeanour are being tested by rumours from an old colleague that Jason Dodd from Dodd to Dots Ltd has also submitted a tender.* His dogs Graham and Stuart are nonplussed.

“I wish I could be as chilled out as you two, curled up in the corner not a care in the world.

“And look at Roy out there on the fence. Y’can tell he’s not waiting for an email.

“ROY!

“ROY! LEAVE THOSE BLOODY BIRDS ALONE.

“The only present I want arriving in this house today is a new research project, not a headless blackbird. 

“Do you think Rhona has seen the email?

“She has to have by now.

“Do y’think she’s emailing Jason back instead?

“Do y’think he’s gone in with a lower offer?

“I bet he has y’know.

“Do y’think I’ve gone in too high?

“I wasn’t sure how long it would all take.

“I think it’s the quote.

“It’s too high.

“She wouldn’t have waited this long to reply otherwise.

“It’s been a good half an hour now.

“I’m emailing her back. 

12:30 pm. As Gavin checks that incoming emails are working by sending a third test email from his personal account, notifications simultaneously ping on his desktop, phone and tablet, ‘RE: Project Availability’.

Gavin has secured PRICS’ first project.

“Never in doubt, boys. Never in doubt. It’s the ol’ £5 off trick, y’see. Y’go in with a double-0 figure and it looks too expensive. Go back in with nine-five and the eyes light up. It’s classic marketing psychology. 

“Honestly, I reckon Dodds could have quoted much lower and it wouldn’t have mattered. He’s good at what he does but this job needs an all-rounder who relates to people like they relate to tech. Y’know what I mean? They’ve clearly seen those qualities in me.”

After spending half an hour before the phone call practising his introduction in the mirror, Gavin gets on the phone with Ann Dorigo. Ann feels that the best approach is to make the focus group session interactive. Keen to push his technical nouse, Gavin suggests running it on Zoom with Google Forms to gather feedback. Ann sees the funny side but it’s agreed that it’s a silly idea.

- “I’d like the session to get people moving. Can you do that Gavin? It’s a feature of our Tuesday meetings is all. It’s not good to sit around for too long. Brian Burrow’s brother David suffers terribly y’know if he’s sat around too long. He loves to be up and about does David.

“Not a problem, Ann. I think a good way to appr…”

- “And make sure there’s plenty of tea and biscuits if you want to keep them onside. Malted Milk only for Flora. She doesn’t eat chocolate.” 

“Great, yeah. No problem. I do love a Malted Milk myself. I think the best way to appr…”

- “Okay, Gavin. Lovely to speak to you. I’ll see you at the community centre next week. Bye now.”

It’s Tuesday, the day of the focus group. Gavin has the car packed with everything needed for the session – flipchart paper, pens, sticky notes, laptop, projector and projector screen, bluetooth speaker, biscuits and tea. The council has confirmed that hot water urns are available, but he thought it best to bring the kettle from his kitchen just in case.

The 15-minute drive to the Filbert Street Community Centre gives Gavin a chance to call up his old colleague Alan on the hands-free to fill him in on PRICS’ big first project.

- “Aw, I’m really pleased for you, Gav. I didn’t think this sort of thing would be for you though, what with it not being all that exciting.”

“That’s the beauty of being a freelancer though, Al. It gives me the chance to pick projects that make a real difference. The glamour projects will always be there for me to cherry-pick. This sort of job is a rare chance to help people shape the future. These 30 people in this room today, Al, are volunteers. They’re passionate about giving older people a voice. With me there guiding ‘em, we’re going to get into some important issues that'll impact how the council and local services are run. This research isn’t just helping people now, it’s helping our future selves, Al. It’s a humanitarian mission.”

- “Blimey. I didn’t think of it like that. So did you get the full £3000?”

“Eh?”

- “Did you get the full £3000 for the job? Jane told me the budget the other day.”

“Er, yeah. Well… I thought about it. But this one’s not about the money, it’s about me giving back, so I gave ‘em a bit of a discount.

- “Aw, nice one. How much are you doing it for then?”

“Y’what, Al? You’re breaking up a bit there, mate. Listen, I’m here now. I’ll ring ya later, let you know how it went.” 

Two hours early for the session, Gavin arrives to set up in the cold floor, harsh fluorescent-lit community centre hall. He hooks up his projector, puts on his ‘BEAST MODE’ playlist and lays out the tables, each with a freshly plated up box of McVities Family Circle and Malted Milks for Flora.

45 minutes later, he puts the biscuits back into their boxes in case they go soft before the group arrives. It’s almost time for Gavin to show why PRICS offers More Than Solutions…

*Jason Dodd never submitted a tender. He was tied up with a large scale Government initiative and is booked up for the next 18 months.

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