For us solo operators, it’s easy to get caught up (or bogged down) in work and never take a step back to see what we’re actually achieving.
Here in Australia, we’ve just started a new financial year, which makes now a good time to do a little progress review. All of us are halfway through the calendar year, so you needn’t wait for financial year-end to do this kind of review. Do it now.
Where’s the money coming from?
Looking at a few months or more of time and invoicing data should give you an idea of where your money’s coming from, and whether those new avenues you decided to pursue a while back are really paying off.
When I looked at my figures, I found that one of the new avenues I was pursuing wasn’t paying off at all. I needed to cull it, and focus on more profitable work, or look more closely to see if there were ways I could change my approach to make more from this area. Now I’m formulating a plan to see if I can make this area profitable, since I really enjoy the work.
Where’s the money going?
Seeing as I had Excel open, I decided to review my budget too. Yep, there were some scary figures in that baby — scary in that I couldn’t see a way to reduce some of the expenses I’d like to cut.
On the other hand, I discovered that my income and outgoings were in pretty healthy shape in relation to each other. This comparison provided some opportunities for me to assess the way I’m spending, and gave me a chance to weigh up how effective my earnings approach is in meeting my spending requirements. The short story? Not bad, but could (always) be better.
Who are the best clients?
The best clients aren’t always the ones that pay the most — this was brought home to me with Earth-shattering impact when I did my review. My best-paying clients in the last year are clients who use me very rarely, and for extremely specialized work. These guys are the icing on my freelance cake.
What I realized is that my best clients are the ones I enjoy working with, and with whom I get a lot of opportunities to work. From this revelation, I also concluded that my approach to accepting and turning down projects is working in terms of boosting my income, but also my sense of contribution. That may sound corny, but for a solo freelancer, it can be fairly important.
Where’s all this heading?
I could have just called this “What’s next?” but that doesn’t quite have the blow-you-off-your-feet factor that “Where’s all this heading?” delivers, does it?
The answers are overarching — “I like where this is heading, and I’m gonna keep at it” — and client- and work-type-specific. For example, before I conducted my review, I’d thought that my challenge for the coming financial year would be to earn at least what I earned this year, but without doing any on-site contract work.
However, as I looked at my clients, the areas of my work that had been most enjoyable and rewarding, and my income, I started to think differently. It occurred to me that for reasons of work direction and lifestyle (I’m a bit too social to work solo all year long), that may not be such a smart decision. What I thought was a good idea didn’t really add up on paper. If I hadn’t done my review, I’d never have known.
What am I missing?
A review also gives you the chance to ask what you’ve been missing. As I looked at the information I had, I began to see holes here and there — new opportunities and fresh possibilities both within my current sphere of work and beyond it.
These opportunities didn’t just relate to getting paid projects, either. New contacts, new experiments, and new approaches are on the cards. For me, this is one of the greatest advantages of freelancing — the ability it gives us to experiment with our lives. Without a review, I wouldn’t have had any direction for that experimentation.
Do you regularly step back from your freelancing to take stock of where you’re heading?