This Friday marks one year since I walked away from my career to become self-employed. I can’t believe it – it seems like it’s only been a few months! I’m taking some time this week to reflect on where I came from, where I am now, and where I hope to go from here.
In my first year of self-employment, I’ve noticed a common trait among freelancers and entrepreneurs – a complete inability to concentrate on one thing at a time. It’s not really ADHD; it’s more the opposite. Now that I have the freedom to choose how I earn money and what I do with my time, I am hyper focused on projects and ideas.
I keep a notebook on my desk at all times, as well as one beside my bed and one in my purse. I have screens and screens of notes saved on my iPad, a whiteboard on my office wall (that I’ve already decided is way too small), and a legion of Post-its stuck everywhere. What am I writing down? All the things I want to do when I have time. Which is hilarious because I’m not sure when I’ll ever have time.
Last month I asked readers to sign up as beta testers for some of the projects I’m planning for 2013. (P.S. It’s not too late if you still want to help out!) There are
three four five a lot of things I want to accomplish with my business next year and I’m thrilled to have a number of friends and readers who are willing to help. With any luck, my constant stream of ideas will turn into actual products and services over the next year or so!
Nuts and Bolts Media Today
As of right now, my business covers three main categories: Web design, web hosting, and support/consulting. While I don’t plan to deviate from that, I do want to expand in some areas and pull back in others. Here’s most of what I do all day:
- Website designs for WordPress
- Graphics: logos, social media icons, ebook covers, business cards, etc.
- Maintain my server and provide support to hosting clients
- Maintenance of clients’ sites – updates, malware scans, backups, and troubleshooting as needed
- Consult with bloggers, small business owners, and beginner web designers via phone, email, and Skype
- Repair/support for technical issues like malware, broken themes, coding problems, RSS feed issues, etc.
- Plugin installation/optimization, website audits, and SEO tutoring
- Migrations from other blogging platforms to self-hosted WordPress
Sounds like fun, huh? (Actually it really is, most of the time!)
What’s Changing in 2013
There are so many things I want to do in 2013 I can’t even begin to list them all. Mainly, though, I want to focus on my goals for the year and choose the projects that will better enable me to meet those goals:
1. I want to remain self-employed for the entire year. This one is pretty obvious but it still needs to be said. In order to do this, I need to increase my income and keep busy with client work. So far that hasn’t been a problem, but I need to make sure it stays that way. Instead of raising my prices to ridiculous rates (though they have definitely gone up since I started!), I’m working on developing several new income streams that require less time and attention. My hope is to schedule fewer design projects each month so I can spend more time and energy on each site. I’m also planning to do more marketing on a local level; I was going to do that this fall, but things didn’t slow down like I expected.
2. I want to leave my comfort zone. I never want to get to a point where I think there’s nothing more to learn. Next year, I’ll be trying a few new things like video, which is a major source of anxiety for me because of my southern accent. But the equipment is on my desk right now and I’m doing it anyway! I’m also looking into trainings to improve my skills in PHP and Objective C, both of which I want to “speak” fluently by the end of the year.
3. I want better work life balance. This goes with #1. I love, love, LOVE what I do, but I work constantly and I’m tired. In 2013, I’ll be taking every Thursday off to work on my own projects, clean my house, and catch up on sleep. (Why Thursday? Because that’s the day I’m usually frustrated and unmotivated.) I will also take at least one weekend every month to unplug and do something fun for a change. It’s hard (okay, nearly impossible) for me to untangle myself from work at the end of the day, but I don’t want to end up burned out and hating my job.
What I’ve Learned That Will Help Me Next Year
I’ve learned a lot about running a business this year, something I didn’t know much about when I started. And while some of the lessons were learned the hard way, they’ve provided me with a good foundation to go into my second year as a freelancer.
Never work without a contract. This was one I learned the hard way! Since many of my clients are fellow bloggers that I consider friends, I haven’t always insisted on formalities like contracts and deposits when working with them. Most of the time it worked out fine, but a couple of experiences showed me it was a BIG MISTAKE. I will not be repeating any of those fiascos in 2013.
Always answer the phone professionally. I’m going to start using a business VOIP service next week, but in the meantime I’ve been using my cell phone for work calls. One day I answered the phone with a mouthful of food – I was sure it was a wrong number – and it turned out to be a prospective client. I can’t say for sure that my “HELLO?” is what scared him away, but I guess I’ll never know for sure.
There have to be limits on freebies. As I mentioned last week, I recently had to email my clients and encourage them to sign up for one of my support plans. That was really hard for me to do, but it’s amazing how my backlog of emails has gotten smaller as people now search for answers before contacting me. It has allowed me to focus on the things that do earn money, and while I still feel guilty about it, I’m forcing myself to be at peace.
Make it official sooner rather than later. I changed my business to an LLC in August and I really don’t know why I waited so long. I also opened a business checking account, got a business credit card, and transferred all my web properties to the business. Now my accounting is much easier because everything is separated, plus it just feels more official in my head.
There’s no room for doubt. As I mentioned yesterday, I started this journey with a lot of worry about whether I could make it. And in a lot of ways I think I could have done more this year if I had kicked all that to the curb in the beginning. Nothing is fail-proof, especially in my life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t accidentally do things the right way every now and then. I never want to be overconfident, but I know that I work my butt off for my clients, and their testimonials remind me that I deserve to be here doing what I’m doing. That’s the one thing I want to keep in mind every single day.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement in 2012. I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to review my experiences this week. Other than a celebratory post tomorrow, I’ll try to quit talking about self-employment for awhile, but you can always check out my business blog for more stuff related to websites, freelancing, and my business.