At the end of every year, I love spending some time reflecting on the past twelve months and thinking about the year ahead.
I think it’s one of the best ways we can check-in with ourselves, feel good about the progress we’ve made and readjust our course to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.
I’ve never had a set approach to how I do this. Normally I just crack out my journal, maybe find an online workbook to provide me with some prompts (I quite like Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year), but this is the first year I’m publishing my thoughts on my blog. I’ve loosely followed Chris Guillebeau’s method.
What went well in 2016?
- Solo travel: The year before, I set myself a goal of travelling alone, but I never did it. I told myself this was due to logistics, but this year I finally admitted to myself that it was because I was scared. So when my friend Jo suggested I fly out to visit her in Pula, Croatia and then spend a few days in nearby Rovinj on my own, I decided to go for it. I flew out on my own and spent the first night with Jo, then two nights on my own in Rovinj. At first I felt extremely strange by myself, but I quickly relaxed and had an amazing time.
- Bought a property: I bought an apartment near my hometown with my other half and his brother. It sounds like a bit of a strange set-up, but the arrangement works for all of us. I own a small percentage of the property, which means my mortgage contributions are smaller, which in turn means I still have the finances to travel.
- Travelled to eight places: Buying a property and setting up a new home has a lot of associated expenses! (Who knew?) So I didn’t get to travel as much I wanted to during the year. However, I still managed to go to eight different places: Cascais, Portugal (three weeks); Edinburgh, Scotland (three weeks); Ljublana, Slovinia (five days); Lake Bled, Slovinia (one day); Pula, Croatia (one day); Rovinj, Croatia (two days); Cauterets, France (three days); Maastricht, The Netherlands (one day).
- Created a successful online course: I worked with my friend Karen to create and run a new online course, Start Fiction Editing. I ran it twice, and both times places on the course sold out. The course was a big success and I’m super proud of what Karen and I have achieved with it. (And I’m super proud of all my students, too.) Note: this course has been discontinued, but you can check out my other courses here.
- Best business year to date: This year has been my best business year in terms of revenue since I first set out as a small business owner. This has been due to the success of Start Fiction Editing, having increased my rates from the year before, and having a pretty full schedule of projects from both new and returning clients. Go me!
What didn’t go well
- Uneven workflow: Even though this year I earned more than I had previously, my workflow and schedule was extremely lopsided. During the summer, I had so much work that I worked full time six days a week for two months. Then by autumn, I suddenly had no more projects booked in. This knocked me, since until then I’d been fully booked for the past two years. I thought I was past the feast-or-famine stage of freelancing and started wondering where I had gone wrong with my marketing efforts. Realistically, though, I think I subconsciously brought the quiet spell upon myself. I was exhausted from my busy period, and I had enough finances to cover my expenses for a few quieter months. I’d also put aside some time to create a new course (a venture that didn’t pan out, unfortunately). Next year I’m going to make a conscious effort to pace myself and schedule my projects better.
- Slow growth on the newsletter: Growing my newsletter has been a goal of mine for a long time, but I didn’t reach the goal I’d set for myself, which was to get a lofty 1,000 people on the list. Currently, Liminal Letters goes out to 271 people. A year ago, there were 219 people on the list. That’s a growth of 52. I’d set my goal too high, but I also didn’t do a lot to promote the newsletter. I need to rethink my strategy.
- Unhealthy lifestyle: Most of my goals for 2016 were health and fitness related. Yet I didn’t lose a stone in weight, I didn’t take up and stick to a new sport, and I didn’t do my physio exercises on a regular basis. I also didn’t eat particular well. Sigh. I managed a few stints of this, but I didn’t get anything to stick. Recently, though, I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome. I’m currently undergoing some new physiotherapy, and I have a few tests lined up in January. This diagnosis has a two-fold effect: firstly, I need to accept that muscle fatigue and joint pain is a real thing for me (I’m not just being dramatic); secondly, I seriously need to prioritise exercising or my pain is only going to get worse.
- Lack of travelling: Even though I did manage to visit eight different places, I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked. I was away for a total of about five weeks – which is nothing compared to 2015, in which I travelled for most of the year. Essentially, buying the apartment required a lot more time, energy and money than I’d anticipated. Don’t get me wrong – I understand I’ve sacrificed in one area to gain in another, and I’m massively grateful for and happy about the traveling I did manage to do, but travel is an important part of my life and I want it to be a priority while I’m still in the position to be able to make it a priority.
I edited 828,000 words in 2016. This is 138,000 fewer words than the previous year, but I’m happy with that. I took on fewer projects because I created Start Fiction Editing – and I also had a quiet spell, as I mentioned above. My editing speed stayed the same (approximately 3,000 words per hour on average). I increased my rate by an average of £5 per hour. I’ve managed to increase my per project fee by an average of £430 – through a combination of raising my fees slightly and taking on longer projects (which is really just by chance).
I critiqued nine manuscripts in 2016. Four of those were partial manuscript critiques or shorter manuscripts due to genre, and one I outsourced (with full discloser to the client) as it was written in verse, which isn’t my area of expertise. I didn’t track how long each critique took me, though, which is a bit silly. I’ll make sure to track these more accurately in the future! I really enjoy critiquing manuscripts and clients seem to find them extremely valuable – I’d like to do more. I think a lot of authors skip this kind of macro editing, and it’s a real shame because it can make a huge difference.
Time off is so important. I need it to recharge and reflect (and enjoy life!). I’m not sure exactly how much time off I took in 2016 because, stupidly, I accidentally deleted my digital business calendar a few weeks ago! D’oh! However, I’ve got a feeling I took around four weeks’ holiday from my business in total, spread throughout the year. That’s not a bad figure. Next year, I’d like five weeks off in total. In the UK, full-time workers are entitled to 28 days paid holiday a year (5.6 weeks) and I think it’s important to be able to provide this for yourself if you’re self-employed.
Goals and planning for the year ahead
- Conduct twelve critiques. Method: Increase awareness of the benefits of receiving a manuscript critique and showcase my knowledge of the area by blogging more regularly on this topic; experiment with running a Facebook ad to increase awareness of this service and reach a larger potential client base.
- Edit six manuscripts. Method: I’m anticipating that my existing client base will have enough work for me here, but I want to take on fewer editing projects again this year in order to focus on building and running courses. A few associated editors may be joining my team in 2017, though, so Liminal Pages should still be able to provide plenty of editorial support to new clients!
- Run Start Fiction Editing twice, at full capacity. Method: Write and publish two guest posts to help spread awareness of the course; spend thirty minutes a day being helpful in the SfEP Forum, the Fiction Editors of Earth Facebook group and the Editors’ Association of Earth Facebook group to increase my reputation as someone who is helpful and knowledgeable. (Also, chatting to colleagues is fun! I used to do it a lot more, and I miss it.)
- Create a Developmental Editing course and run it twice, at full capacity. Method: Plan content and create sales page in January where I’ll gather email addresses to assess the interest level; if at least forty people express their interest, start creating content and plan launch (most likely April).
- Reach 500 newsletter subscribers. Method: Reconsider the newsletter name (it’s currently Liminal Letters, which it perhaps a bit too woolly) and the freebie I send out to new subscribers; start asking people to forward the emails to friends they think would enjoy them; write about reasons to sign up to the newsletter in a more focused and tangible way; start blogging once a week again and record blog posts as podcast episodes to attract more people to my website.
- Travel for four months of the year
- Visit a country outside of Europe
- Go on another solo trip
- Visit a new UK city
- Go camping in the UK (maybe Scotland)
- Do my physio exercises every morning and evening of every weekday
- Only eat treat foods at the weekend
- Go swimming once a week (when not travelling)
- Buy a memory foam mattress topper
- Get a professional massage every month (when not travelling)
- Write in my journal at least once a week
- Adapt my Facebook account so it’s less overwhelming
- No gadgets after 9pm (except to listen to audiobooks!)
- Update my wardrobe (I have too many old items of clothing!)
- Keep a reading log
I’m not going to go into detail with the methods of how I’ll achieve the goals in these categories as they’re a less complicated than my business goals. I think my first three health goals are going to be the toughest to achieve, but I’ll give it my best shot!
It will be interesting to check in next December and see how many of these I’ve managed to achieve.
Here’s to an awesome 2017!