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The end of the year brings a great opportunity to reflect upon the past 12 months, the highs, the lows, the lots of in-betweens (and let’s face it, it’s been another rollercoaster of a year).
Having a sense of progress, that you’ve done meaningful work, had an impact upon the world, and even just listing the things you’ve done - all work towards supporting our mental health at work. Without spending the time to observe the progress we’re making, or the impact we’re creating, it can feel like we’re just on a treadmill - so taking time to really take stock of your work is super important, plus creates an opportunity to celebrate what you’ve done out loud (handy for marketing), with your peers (#annualwins is a thing too!) and even just for yourself.
But is there a way of doing this which is a little more than 15 minutes over a cup of coffee in-between the last-minute-before-the-holiday zoom calls with your client?
Community member Hannah Caddick, for example, used her anniversary of the day she went freelance last year by creating a celebratory video reflecting on her first twelve months in self-employment, which she describes as an ‘Annual Report’ - which not only helped her reflect back on her first year, but also created an amazing asset to help promote her skills to new clients.
Here are our tips for structuring how to reflect upon your year:
There’s a myth that ‘most businesses fail in their first year’. The reality is that 89% of startups do reach their first anniversary (ONS, 2019), but that doesn’t make it any less of a reason to celebrate reaching a key point in the calendar. If you’re a new business - congratulations for taking the leap. If you’re an established business, congratulations on pushing through a challenging year.
Think upon why you joined the self-employed community - is the work you’re doing reflective of that? What steps have you taken that directly reflects your aims and reasons for going freelance? Don’t forget - this isn’t a performance review, you’re not being marked - but rather observing where your work is aligned to your aims (and if some of it isn’t, as will always be the case, is the balance okay?)
Take the time to look back on the year and count the numbers. How many clients, how many projects, how many words you’ve written, files you’ve created, smiles you’ve generated. How many positive words of feedback and how many successful outcomes you’ve had. It’s really easy to keep your head down and focus on doing the work without remembering just how much we’ve achieved. Write it up and be proud of what you’ve done.
Look back on the projects where you didn’t find success, or where you felt you could have done something different. If there is a common observation you make, is there something you can consider doing to change your approach or a step missing in your process? Were there projects which you’ve learned from and relationships you’ve grown as a result of? And what were the ingredients where things did work? What patterns can you see which led towards better outcomes?
The end of the year is a great time to plan ahead and start to set some new goals - how will you push yourself a little further next year, or perhaps how will you give yourself some more time off? What objectives do you want to set and where do you want to be by this time next year?
Don’t just focus on the work - but remember, you’re your businesses’ most important asset. What did you do this year to take care of yourself, and what might you do next year to create even more space and time for you? Are there gaps in your support network, or things you’ve done this year which really helped you step up as an individual? Are you super proud of giving yourself permission to take that extra day off?
Consider your rate card and pricing, and see if it needs increasing. Not only does inflation mean the day rate you set last year might no longer be a good market rate, you’ve also got one more year of experience, and an increased portfolio of work to show for it. Do you need to adjust what rate you’re charging out at?
Whilst you don’t have 25 days of holiday to take each year like perhaps you did in a job, you still need to be taking time off to rest and restore. How are you getting on with time off, do you need to book some in? Were there any periods last year where things were quiet, so you can plan ahead for this year?
Capture all of the wonderful things you’ve done, and send it around to your existing clients, people you’ve worked alongside, and potential new clients as part of your marketing for the next year. Not only does it capture your year to look back on, but it also works as a great way of shouting about your business.
Don’t just keep your end of year report to yourself, shout about how proud you are of reaching the annual milestone, and celebrate it with others - your support network will be proud of the marker, and you should be too!
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