In December each year I do a few of things:
- Reflect on the past year.
- Clean up and optimize.
- Plan for the new year.
In this three-week series, I’ll share exactly how (and what) I do in each step.
Let’s dive in.
Year in review
I split up my yearly review into two simple categories:
- What went well.
- What didn’t go well.
For each of the categories, here’s what I do:
First, I reflect on general things that happened during the year (and had an effect on my business). Then, I compare what I had planned for the year, with the actual things I managed to achieve during the year.
So while the reflections I share below are true for my own business, I’m sharing them so you can get a better understanding of the type of things I review, which will hopefully help you do the same for your business.
And when you do this for yourself, be sure to write down your reflections, rather than just thinking about them. This will be very helpful two weeks from now, when we talk about planning the new year.
What went well
Client work. This year I completed 18 projects on Upwork (previously Elance), worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies, and with a number of local businesses. In that sense, it’s been my busiest client related work-year since starting my freelance business 7 years ago. My typical client work included creating explainer videos and promotional videos for the brands and companies who hired me.
Writing weekly. On September 21st I introduced FreelanceWorks, and promised to publish a new detailed freelancing post every Sunday. Considering how busy I was working with clients, writing weekly wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy to do, but I managed to keep up with that pace. Even if it meant writing some of those posts at 3 am.
This weekly writing is one of the things I’m most passionate about – as it marks the beginning of the transition of my long term business vision from “helping brands increase awareness” to “helping brands increase awareness & freelancers grow their business.”
Money. One of my overall business objectives is keeping a consistent income growth year after year. Put simply; this means I need to make at least $1 more than the year before. And while I won’t say how much I earned this year (I’m not into that level of transparency), I will say that this year I was able to increase my total earnings from last year by +20%. And last year was a good year too.
Products. A few years ago I started selling Adobe After Effects templates on Envato market. These video templates are pre-designed and animated videos that anyone can purchase and customize for their own needs.
What does that mean? Say you’d like to promote your app. You could purchase my Mobi template, and then change the logo, screenshots, titles and music to suit your app. So instead of spending a few thousand dollars on an app promo, this solution would cost you only $48. Which makes it a great solution for small businesses with a limited budget, who want to produce a professional looking video.
The reason this is in the success category is that this year I crossed the 1,000 total template sales mark, while maintaining a 5-star review from all buyers – which is a very big deal for me.
Website. In comparison to 2015, my personal website (this one) had a +75% increase in traffic and +45% increase in average session duration – which means my readers have been finding my content helpful. And since I’m in this for you, seeing those stats boost my motivation to keep sharing a weekly freelancing post.
Based on several metrics, this year's favorite posts were:
- 12 Freelance Productivity Hacks That Will Boost Your Efficiency
- 15 Hidden Gmail Tips & Tricks
- How To Increase Organic Search Traffic By Up To 300%
- 4 Effective Strategies On How To Find Freelance Work
New office. In January this year I moved to a new office, in the same house. I realize this may sound a bit funny, but it’s actually been quite a big change. See, the reason I had to move to a new office in the house is that January this year my wife and I had our first baby! Which meant we had to shift things around to accommodate our new permanent resident 🙂
And the fresh start of moving to a new office allowed me to set things up in a way that will help me be more productive at work.
Vacation. I headed off for a 2-month vacation with my wife and baby from June to August. I did absolutely 0 (ZERO!) work during that time, and it was one of the best vacations of my life. We spent time visiting family & friends, sightseeing, hiking, cycling, swimming, and just spending time together as a family. It was amazing.
Productivity. With experience, you learn how to do things faster, and this year I figured out quite a few new ways to be more productive at my daily tasks. And that increase in productivity is one of the reasons for my increase in annual earnings despite working only ten months this year.
What didn’t go well
Products. Yep, products goes here too. In 2016 I failed to release any new products (templates) – in contrast to 2015 where I released 4 new products and 2013 where I released 3 new products. I also planned to release an e-book about freelancing, but failed. I don’t like excuses, but I’d say this has to do with an overload of client work.
Apps. I decided to remove my app (The Plus Editor) from both Google Play and the App store. Creating the app was a fun experiment. But even though I spent money hiring a professional to develop the app for me, it just wasn’t worth the time and effort I had to put into maintaining it.
Overworked. Despite having an incredible two-month vacation with my family, during the rest of the year while I was working – I worked very long hours, and often – very late into the night. This may have happened because I like spending time with my wife and kid during the day, and actually enjoy working at night. But even with that, I still feel like I spent too many hours in front of this screen during unconventional hours.
Websites. My website for selling and promoting my After Effects templates (amigo-productions.com) had a significant -45% decline in new visitors and total pageviews. Possibly because I ran a couple of unsuccessful experiments, but also due to the fact I didn’t release any new templates this year.
Self-development. I enrolled in a few Skillshare classes and purchased a couple of courses but didn’t have the time to fully concentrate and develop those new skills.
2016 was a great year for me.
Both business wise, and personal / family wise.
While I failed to release new products this year, and worked very long hours, I did manage to take a two-month vacation which makes it all worthwhile.
And add to that great experience the fact that this year was more profitable than last year (even though I ‘lost’ two months of work), it highlights what makes freelancing so special.
Now it’s your turn:
- How was your year?
- What did you accomplish?
- What worked well for you?
- What didn't work that well?
And remember this – freelancing is a process, a journey.
So even if 2016 wasn’t the best year you ever had, I can guarantee that there are at least a couple of things that you can take away from the past year and try to improve in the upcoming year.
Next week, we’ll talk about stage 2 – Cleaning up and optimizing. It’s going to be a cool post. And in two weeks (that’ll be January 1st, 2017), we’ll talk all about creating a game plan for the new year.