Being a freelancer means being responsible for all aspects of your business. But busy schedules tend to force us to concentrate on the here and now. When you’re working on a tight deadline, who has time to look at the bigger picture?
The problem is that, if you never think about your overall business performance and strategy, you’re pretty much running in place. If you want to move towards a brighter future, it takes a plan. A yearly review of your business can point you in the right direction.
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Now, the word “plan” can sound a bit overwhelming to an already stressed-out web designer. But just remember that you’re a freelancer – not a multinational corporation. Taking some time to think about the year that was isn’t that difficult, really!
So, what should you look at? Here are a few places to start:
Revenue and Expenses
The first thing you’ll want to explore is your financial situation. After all, that’s going to be a huge factor in determining how successful your year has been. Among the highlights:
How did you do this year compared to years past? Of course, you’re hoping to see an upward trend year-over-year (or at least some steadiness). Still, freelancing has its ups and downs. Seeing your earnings picture will help you plan.
Your Biggest Clients
Take a look at the revenue generated by each client. If you use accounting software, it may be able to quickly generate this for you.
The idea here is not only to see which clients are producing the most revenue. It’s also good to know what percentage of your overall revenue they make up. Knowing this can help you determine if you’re putting too much reliance on a small number of clients.
Where You’re Spending
A web design business can often be fairly inexpensive to run. Still, it’s good to know where your money is going. A quick review could, for example, show you that some services you subscribe to are no longer needed. Or, you might find that there is room in your budget to buy some new tools to improve efficiency.
Tasks and Scheduling
How busy were you this year? Oftentimes the answer to that is a mixed bag. Freelancing can mean times of absolute bedlam and those where you’re searching for something to do. That’s just the nature of the beast.
But a quick review of what you did and when you did it will help you learn:
The Busiest (and Quietest) Months
Look back at the year and think about your busiest months. It may not mean so much the first time you do it. But over time it helps you see patterns. Maybe March is just insane while July is nearly silent. This could be a big help in figuring out the best time to boost your marketing efforts or even plan for a vacation.
When You Hear from Prospects
Just as we tend to have ups in downs in our workload, the same can often be said when it comes to finding new opportunities. You may find a pattern of when you’re most likely to be approached by prospective clients. Again, this is helpful in your quest to improve business during those slow times.
Time Spent on Business-Related Tasks
Billing, marketing and even time spent dealing with tech support are all part of running a business. How much of your time is wrapped up in these tasks? Estimate how many hours per month you’re spending here and look for ways to become more efficient. Time is money, as they say.
The Happiness Factor
Money and steady work are great, but they don’t mean much if you weren’t particularly happy with your year. Without happiness, it’s hard to call even a profitable year a “success”.
Happiness means different things to different people. Sometimes, we’re not happy because we really struggled to put food on the table. Or perhaps we made decent money, but the projects we worked on were simply boring or frustrating.
If you were generally happy with the past year, that’s a good indication that you’re on the right path. If not, then it’s important to find out why. While some things may be out of your control, there’s always something you can do to improve your situation.
Because you work for yourself, you get to make the big decisions. So, you might as well opt for those that bring you some joy!
How Was Your Year?
Once you’ve taken a look back at your year, you should have some actionable information. This will help you figure out what went right, what went wrong and what you can do about it.
The best part is that you’ll get to see how it all plays out in the future. Web design, like life, is all about evolving. The information you gather in a yearly review will help to ensure that both you and your business are moving forward in a positive way.