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It's the last episode of 2022, which means it's time for everyone's favourite format at this time of year: the annual review.
Do you review the ups and downs of the previous year? Do you set goals for the following year? We don't need to get too corporate about it, but since we don't have a boss to do a performance review, we have to do our own.
In this episode, I share my review process, reflect on 2022 and share three wins and three not-so-wins.
You'll also hear how I'm setting my goals for 2023 and how my business will have to change as a result.
Until next year, happy freelancing!
Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-size guide to being your own boss and building a business that works for you. I'm your host, Louise Shanahan. I'm a freelance health copywriter and on this podcast I take you behind the scenes, so you can borrow from what's worked and what hasn't as you grow your own freelance business. We'll also have some practical tips and tactics from special guests along the way, so you can skip a few steps on your own freelancing journey. So without further ado, let's get started with today's episode. If you enjoy it, hit follow so you don't miss the next one.
Louise: Hello, and welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, Louise here. This is going to be the very last episode of 2022. I'm going to be taking a few weeks off for Christmas and New Year and I hope you will be too. So there won't be any new episodes of the podcast or the newsletter over the next few weeks. But I might share some audience favourites from the archives instead. Then I'll be back in January with some new guests, new solo episodes, new ideas, new insights about building a freelance business that rocks the socks off 2023. So today, it's everyone's favourite format at this time of year, you guessed it, the annual review. How did your year go? I hope this has been a good year for you.
I know it's been a tough year in many ways. I hope you've still managed to have some wins along the way as well. This is a great time to take a pause, I think, it's good to take stock and reflect on what went well over the last 12 months and maybe what didn't go quite to plan.
Did you set some goals back in January, how are they looking now? When you look back over the year what are the things that you'd like to do more of next year? And what do you want to do less of? And if you remember, I have recorded a couple of episodes where I talk through the process that I use for setting goals and reviewing goals, so you can go back to those and take a listen. So today, I'm going to just kind of compress that down, I know that you need to hear that whole process again.
I'm going to share three wins and three, well, let's not say losses, let's put a positive spin on it, three things that I hope to work on and improve in 2023. And I want to include these not so great bits. Firstly, because this is just a part of my own review of the year, this isn't just a performative performance review for the podcast. I'm actually asking myself these questions and making notes and planning out for next year. But I also want to include the messy bits, because I know that there are a lot of folk doing recaps and highlight reels at this time of year. And obviously people tend to emphasise the good bits, we all do that. But if you see lots of people celebrating and you don't feel like things have gone quite so well for you, you might not feel great about seeing all these big wins that everyone else is sharing and the old comparisonitis can creep in. I don't want to give the impression that I've got things all neatly figured out. I've got some bits figured out. But there's still messy bits too, and there are always new challenges to figure out. So, take it all with a pinch of salt, it is not the entire story. I'm just sharing three wins, and three frustrations, not like every single thing that falls into each category, we would be here all day. So also bear that in mind. And bear that in mind when you see other people talk about their wins, too. It's just the part of the story that they've chosen to share. And I'm not saying it's not true, I'm just saying that's what they've chosen to tell you. And you get to choose how you feel about that and what you want to do next in your own business.
Before we start, I encourage you to go back and listen to the goal-setting episode that I did at the start of 2022 and then the six-month review that I did in July, those are episodes 43 and 66. There I talk about the steps that I followed to review progress and plan for the next six-month period. We don't have to get all corporate about it. But you know, when you work for yourself, you don't have these performance reviews that you get if you did have a boss or a manager, so we kind of have to do it ourselves.
My review starts with celebrating success and thinking about what went well over the last year. So I normally do this in six-month chunks, but seeing as it's December, I'm doing it for the whole year. The first big one for me has to be my amazing clients. My work this year was about 60/40 ratio of repeat clients to new clients. So that's a mix of retainers and ongoing projects or repeat projects with clients that I've worked with before and also some new clients sprinkled in there as well, which feels like a really nice mix. I feel like a lot is running on autopilot when it comes to projects. I've got systems for onboarding, for getting the client set up, for running the project, for closing out the project and getting testimonials and all of that stuff. So that all feels pretty smooth. One thing that I credit all of that, too, is having templates. I've got templates for proposals, for contracts, for different aspects of the project, for emails that I'm going to send at various points, so I don't have to figure things out from scratch every time, which saves a whole lot of time and brain space and fingers crossed I will be able to carry that forward into 2023.
The next win that I wanted to mention is this podcast. As you may know, if you've been listening for a while, I started this as a bit of fun in lockdown in January 2021 and here we still are. Thank you so much if you've been here from the start on this wee podcasting journey, I've been kind of surprised at my own consistency, to be honest and I think it's paid off. Spotify Wrapped have a version for podcasters, which tells you various stats about your podcast and it suggests that this podcast, 15 Minute Freelancer, is in the top 10% most shared podcast for its category, which is amazing. And I'm so honoured and so grateful that you've been listening for this time. We've had about 25,000 downloads so far and you know, if I imagine us all in a room together that really feels like quite a good party, doesn't it? So I'm really pleased with how things are going on that front.
The third win is the financial performance of my business over the last 12 months. I won't share the dirty details and also these numbers don't really mean that much anyway, because this doesn't line up to my accounting year. I set my goals on a calendar year basis so it's interesting to look at financial performance against that and it's grown on last year, which is amazing. And I'm really grateful for that too. It strikes me that there are levels to growing your business where you might start out with a goal of making a certain amount each month, eventually you reach that, and you end up being quite busy and so you have to refine your positioning and your prices, maybe raise your prices, figure out your processes, so you're able to level up as the government would say, and then you can make more money. But you know, with those more efficient processes, it's great for a while, but then you start to max out your capacity at that level too so you need to go up another level and so on, you're always refining your processes, expanding your capacity, eventually, that capacity bucket fills up. And I think I'm reaching my capacity in terms of the number of projects I can manage with my current setup and processes so this will be something to consider next year, how can I deliver even more for clients in a more streamlined way. You know that saying “what got you here won't get you there”. Well, I feel like I'm at the point where I need to figure out where there is, and what are the processes that will get me there.
I'm going to add a fourth win here, because this is an interesting one, that might be interesting for people to think about as well. I stopped using Instagram for Business this year, I still have an account but I pretty much just use that to occasionally consume other people's content, look up nice coffee spots, and home decor inspiration and that kind of thing. I'm not using it as a business tool to consume business content, or definitely not to post anything, not to post any business content at all. And that has also released a huge amount of brain space. I wasn't even using it that much, but all that faffing around with hashtags, when do you post, what's the algorithm doing, and do I need to do reels, it just wasn't really working for me, I didn't get that many clients through it. It just felt like a lot of extra work for not much payoff. I’ve also cut way back on Twitter, I've deleted the app from my phone and I'm really just popping on now and then to check that I haven't missed anything important. I think a lot of people are feeling like this now, I wasn't really enjoying it that much anymore. I do notice a gap with being able to share just the random thoughts that you have that might spark conversations, to connect with people in a less formal way than you might see on LinkedIn, for example. I also really liked being able to get news straight from the horse's mouth rather than having to wait for BBC to catch up. Business-wise, it does leave me wondering if I'm now putting all my eggs in one basket in terms of social media, because I'm really just focusing on LinkedIn, and not even really focusing, I would say. People always say you should do one platform well, rather than hopping across all of them. But what if LinkedIn were to shut down, then I've got all my eggs in that basket. So that's a question to consider, too. I'd be really interested to hear what you think about social media. How are you feeling about it? What platforms are you using? What platforms are you enjoying? Have you changed how you use it over the last year? That would be really interesting to hear about too.
So, what three things didn't go so well this year? What am I learning from? What are my lessons for next year? The first one is one that I kind of say every time I do these reviews, and that is time management. My daily routine is pretty solid, it works well. You can hear about that in the episode that I did called A Day in the Life of a Freelance Copywriter, I'll link that in the show notes. But I've talked several times about wanting to do four-day weeks, and I still haven't really succeeded at that. But I think when you set a goal and you repeatedly miss it, maybe you have to just be honest and say maybe this goal is not that important to me if I really wanted to do this, it would be a top priority for me. And I think when you're a creative driven person, you just have so many ideas, and it's hard to fit everything in, or at least not to feel like you're neglecting something. So the four-day weeks are kind of on the backburner at the moment. I think in terms of next year, my goal in this area is going to be trying to find a better way of fitting in all these new projects that I want to make a dent in, and figure out whether that means putting a pin in something else, putting something else on hold. I want to simplify things going forward, so that I can be really focused on a few important things and not split my focus with the latest shiny idea that pops into my head. So there's a bit of prioritising work to do there, I think.
The second one is about being more proactive in my marketing. Most of my work comes in through referrals and I use social media, I have this podcast which keeps my name out there. But at the moment most of my social media activity is around freelancing and podcasting, not actual health copywriting services that are at the core of my business. I think I need to rethink my content marketing plan to focus a bit more on how I want to reach my ideal clients. I think I'm gonna go back and listen to the episode that I did with Bree Weber on cold pitching and think about how can I do more of the outreach, outbound marketing.
The third lesson that I'm learning, another one that I should have learned by now, is saying yes to too much. I'm pretty good at not taking on more client work than I can handle but I do often end up volunteering for other things, events, talks, being part of different groups, all of that kind of thing. That really seem fun in the moment, and I do want to do them, I do enjoy doing them, but they do end up being a bit of a time suck. I'm not saying I haven't enjoyed them, but there are moments where I think is this really the best way to be spending my time. I'm calling myself out here for not sticking to my boundaries on this one, and I need to make decisions that future me will be grateful for. Deciding what to focus on next is always something that I find quite tough, I have so many ideas and at some point I'll have to be honest about where I'm spending my time and whether those activities are the right things to be doing, or just kind of a routine of doing the same activities all the time.
This podcast being one example, I'm in this routine of doing weekly episodes, which I really enjoy, but it does take quite a bit of time, money and energy to keep going. And while I love it, I do need to be realistic about what's possible. So perhaps next year, I'll need to think about whether we have maybe fewer episodes each month, or maybe running them in seasons, which a lot of people do which I think works quite well and probably makes sense in terms of being able to batch content. Feedback is always welcome to do let me know what you enjoy and what you'd like more of, what you'd like less of, I would love to hear it.
When it comes to actually planning and setting some goals for 2023, I wanted to mention Dr. Julie Gurner, whose newsletter I've just recently subscribed to and I'm devouring it, it's so good. It's called Ultra Successful and you can find it on substack. She wrote recently about planning out a loose roadmap for 2023 so I'm using this as a bit of a structure for my planning for next year. Basically, you start by plotting a timeline of the coming year, put in the big events and the milestones that you already know are happening, and then add in any other goals you want to hit and when you want to hit them. For me that focus is going to be growing my copywriting business, I have a financial goal in mind, I have clients that I'd like to work with and do more with, I want to double down on specialising in white papers, which I absolutely love doing. I also want to add a bit more, I want to be part of the conversation about where the future of health communications is going and also what technology and automation means for our industry, so I need to free up a bit of space for that as well.
Next, Julie says you should think about how you will get fast feedback to help you stay on track with those goals. So how will you know when you're on track, what will you be measuring. But more importantly, who can give you advice and feedback, is it your clients, is it your team, is it a peer mentor or a business coach. You can go back to Episode 57, where I talk about building your own board of advisors, which can be a really fun sort of hypothetical way to get feedback. A really tricky thing here, I think, is that maybe the people that you've been getting advice from up to now are perhaps not best placed to be the people that you need help from going forwards. And that's not personal, it's absolutely not personal, it’s not as if don't like them anymore. But you know, if your goals have changed, maybe you need to be in different rooms or different groups. So that's something to think about as well.
And finally, Julie talks about identifying your tendencies in uncertainty. And I love this point. It's not just about thinking about the risks or the possible obstacles to your goals and how you might overcome them, obviously you'll want to do that. But think about how you might react if things don't go to plan and how can you plan now to get out of your own way if and when that happens. And I think I need to think about this one, this feels like a journaling activity, doesn't it? So I really like Julie's approach there, so go and sign up for her newsletter and follow her on Twitter. And fun fact, supposedly, she was the inspiration for the character of Wendy Rhoades, the performance coach in Billions in the TV series, so I always read her emails in Wendy's voice.
Okay, that is really what I wanted to share today, whistlestop tour through my annual review. I know 2022 has been another challenging year but we've all stuck together in our little freelancing community. I hope that you know that people have your back even when it's tough, and I hope you have an amazing 2023 I can't wait to hear what you have planned. And if I can help with anything at all, you're very welcome to drop me a message to ask, send me a note with a question you'd like answered on the podcast, whatever, please just ask. As I said, I'll be taking a break from recording over the next few weeks, but I will be back in January hopefully feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready with some fresh episodes and new interviews.
So as always, thank you so much for listening and being with me throughout 2022, it has been a joy, and until 2023 happy freelancing.
If you've enjoyed this episode of 15 Minute Freelancer, please consider leaving a review or sharing it with a freelance friend. Hit subscribe or follow so you don't miss the next one and remember, you get even more bonus content when you sign up for the 15 Minute Freelancer newsletter. All the links are in the show notes and at 15minutefreelancer.com Thanks and until next time, happy freelancing.