As the year comes to a close, I recently sat down and had an appraisal interview with myself. Which is as silly as it sounds, but actually also super helpful. For freelancers and solopreneurs it can sometimes be a little hard to get that much-needed pat on the back, that wonderful "well done, great job!" or also that constructive criticism on a specific project. So I take a few hours every 6 months to look at my income, the number of hours I worked on each project and client respectively and how things progressed since the last time I checked in with myself. You obviously need to know as much as you possibly can about your finances in order to pay your bills - nevertheless, it's important to not just look at the numbers, but also listen to your gut: Which projects did you enjoy this past year and why? Who are your dream clients and how did you land them? How did this year go compared to the previous one - what was great, what sucked? Trust me, the answers to these questions can often be more surprising than you think.
And because sharing what's important to me in an honest and open way is something I like to do around here, here's what I did in 2015:
- I realized I had COMPLETELY miscalculated future tax and social security payments and swiftly went into hysterics, saved only by firing my tax consultant and hiring another one who answered every single stupid question of mine. Knowing when to ask for help is one of the biggest lessons I learned this year.
- I booked 6 new clients, 2 of which I was able to turn into long-term retaining relationships. Every single one of these had something great in store for me, be it learning new skills, meeting inspiring people or coming across new ways to help clients.
- I said "no" to 3 projects that would have paid really well and kept me busy and not having to worry about work for at least 6 months because they did not excite me enough. Sometimes it's better to put yourself in a uncomfortable position in order to find motivation again.
- I said "yes" to projects I previously thought would not suit me or my skillset. Which is probably even scarier than saying "no", but also so much more rewarding.
- I started doing income reports and learned more about my workload, business and preferences as a consequence. I also learned that most people love to know how much money YOU make, but don't really share and compare.
- I decided to get serious about an idea that had been buzzing around in my head for some time. 2016 will be more about passion than pragmatism, in a good way, hopefully.
- I started a coaching course with Jen Carrington which immensely increased my feeling of clarity and my level of motivation.
- I got married and went on an amazing honeymoon in Vietnam and Cambodia.
- I wrote a guide on how to set up your business in NYC together with freelance journalist extraordinaire Lisa and sucessfully raised money for it with a Kickstarter campaign.
- I rescued a cat from a shelter.
- I got real with myself about which parts of my work I love and which parts I really don't.
- Here's an important one: I increased my income by 2/3 compared to 2014 and realized it did not make me feel 2/3 times as happy, fulfilled or successful than I was in 2014.
Here's what I realized: After running my own business for almost 4 years, it's gotten easy. Easy to find new clients, new work, book new projects and make money. But easy made me complacent. It made me a little smug, a little lazy. I realized one day that I was taking on projects not because I really wanted to do them but simply because someone offered them to me. I stopped chasing those things that I really wanted to do because I was too busy working on things that presented themselves to me and I had no good reason of passing them up. But here's the thing: Easy isn't always good. Easy doesn't always make you happy. Easy is sometimes just that: easy. So I decided that's not enough for me.
Taking all these things into consideration, there's going to be a few changes around here very soon. Some will be small, some big. Some will be super risky, others rather logical. If you want to tag along, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.
And now, I'd love to know: How was your past year, both personally and professionally?