15 Minute Freelancer

66. My 6-month review: what worked and what didn't?

July 08, 2022 Louise Shanahan Episode 66
15 Minute Freelancer
66. My 6-month review: what worked and what didn't?
Show Notes Transcript

Are you on track to meet your freelancing goals this year? We're now halfway through the year, which means it's time for a 6-month check-in. In this episode, I dig into what's worked and what's been a bit sticky in my business over the last 6 months, using my 6-step framework for setting and reviewing goals.

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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.

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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.

Hello freelance friends, Louise here. I can’t believe it’s July but here we are. And that means it’s time for a six-month check-in. My company accounts actually run from October to September so it’s not really 6 months through my financial year, but my brain works in calendar years so what are you gonna do. It’s 6 months since I set my new year business resolutions so, it makes sense to me. And I know a lot of people do run their businesses from Jan to December, so I think this is probably a helpful time to cover this.

Before we dive in, I highly recommend going back to episode 43 and listening to that one first, because that’s where I talked about my goal-setting strategy for the year, and I’ll be referring back to that. This one will be a worked example of how I implement that strategy and review whether I’ve stuck to the goals I set back in January.

And I also want to give a shout-out again to my freelance buddy Emma Cownley, because she did a 6 month review on her YouTube channel, Kiss My A’s a few weeks ago which referenced my more of/less of goal-setting approach, and also reminded me that I needed to do my review. So I suggest you go and watch that video too for some inspiration on how to do a wee mid-year reflections exercise and think about where you might want to go next in your business.

So, let’s get started then. In ep 43 I shared 6 steps that I use to set and review goals, so I’ll go through those again here with what’s worked and not worked since January.

Step 1 is a nice easy, fun one – to celebrate success! I tend to live with quite a forward-facing attitude – I’m always thinking about what’s next, what do I need to do, where’s this going. But it’s so important to pause to reflect on what’s gone before and celebrate things that have gone well in the previous quarter or six months.

So this is me giving myself a wee pat on the back for continuing to show up, work hard, do my best to deliver for clients, and generally enjoy what I’ve been doing. I’m in a pretty positive place right now which is nice, especially as last year felt like a real slog in parts.

What’s gone well over the last 6 months? Consistent work, great clients, revenue is up on last year, all of that is great. One of my big goals in January was to take more time off, and while I haven’t quite managed the 4-day weeks, I have had a few weeks off here and there. I’d say that’s the one specific thing that I’ve done differently that’s really paid off.

Step 2 is about getting into the details of what went well and not so well, and then step 3 is about picking the things from each of those categories that you want to keep as you go into the next time period. This’ll help you figure out what you want to do more of and less of in the next six months. What were my favourite projects? What was fun? When did I feel like I was in flow? And then what were things that were a bit sticky, that felt awkward, that didn’t quite align with what I said I wanted to do.

What I’ve really noticed over the last six months is that thanks to setting up better processes in the previous six months, everything has generally felt a bit easier. I know exactly what the onboarding process is for each new project, I’ve got templates for the work, I’ve got systems in place that just make everything a wee bit smoother. I’m not having to stop and think “oh how will I do this next thing” so much – I can just do it. So I think I’m saving some brain power there. Services-wise there haven’t been massive changes. I’m still working with a few retainer clients, with a sprinkling of ad hoc projects. So going forwards, I want to keep that mix of projects. I’ve also been increasing my prices bit by bit which has also worked well. I talk about my approach to raising my rates on episode 15 and 47.

Another win over the last 6 months is this podcast! It has been fun! Last year there were times where I wondered if having a weekly side project was a bit too much to squeeze in, but again, having more processes has made a huge difference. I’ve passed over the show notes, transcripts and artwork to my brilliant virtual assistant Mary, and I also have Charles editing the interview episodes – he was on last week’s podcast. And of course, when you do a project like this and you start to see momentum, that’s always really motivating too. So thanks for your support – I’ll keep doing this as long as it seems helpful for you! I’m excited to announce that there’s now a 15 Minute Freelancer newsletter, which you can sign up to at 15minutefreelancer.substack.com. This’ll let you know when new episodes are published so you never miss an episode. You’ll also get a sprinkling of added extras, like: reflections on recent episodes and what I’m doing next to implement the ideas (my “15 Minute Actions”), resources and recs to help you start, build or grow your freelance business and hot tips to move your business forwards – never taking more than 15 mins, of course!

At the moment I’ve said it’s a monthly round-up of all the episodes in the previous month, but I’m aware that this means it’s a rather chonky email, with 4 15 min episodes and 4 15 min actions is actually about 2hrs work, and I know that when I get long emails I tend to save them and forget to come back to them. So please take a look at the first issue and let me know if you like that format or if you would prefer shorter weekly newsletters with perhaps a little bit more in the way of extra resources on whatever the topic is. You can DM on LI or Twitter.

One thing that I said I wanted to continue doing back in Jan was to keep investing in myself and my business. This can be a scary prospect sometimes, but in my experience it’s so worth it. And investing in yourself is also a sign to yourself that you believe in yourself, that you believe your business will continue to exist. Sounds corny but it’s true!

For me this has included hiring other people to either take work off my plate so I can focus on work that brings in money or just feel more organised and take a break even so I can recharge my batteries, and also people who are better equipped to do certain things. I’ve also been subcontracting more for specific project-related work including proofreaders, which means I can deliver better product to client. 

I’ve also continued to invest in coaching and training – I’m part of Kirsty Waite’s Thriving in Business Mastermind, and it’s so valuable to have a space with other like-minded people who are at a similar point in their business or have similar ambitions, but we each bring something different to the table so with Kirsty’s guidance and mindset magic we can support each other with specific business challenges. And spoiler alert, Kirsty will be on the podcast soon so keep an ear out for that.

I also like to do trainings on specific challenges or areas I want to improve on. It’s important to identify gaps in our skills and find ways to the fill them. One example over the last six months was wanting to outsource more work but always finding stumbling blocks – I tested a few approaches myself but I also did a coaching call with Kaleigh Moore who I know had the answers I needed. As freelancers, we need to be able to figure out solutions ourselves – and that’s really empowering – but sometimes that includes finding out how other people have done it and seeing what we can learn from that. I’m very happy to pay people for their answers and expertise so I can skip a few steps.

I also did Mai-Kee Tsang’s Converse with Consent workshop which was a really thoughtful and thought-provoking session for podcasters, coaches, interviewers and community hosts to create safe and inclusive spaces, which I highly recommend.

Onto the things that felt a bit less smooth, that went less well, where maybe there was a bit of resistance or frustration. Two things really. First, money – always worry about squaring the amounts in my online accounting software with what’s actually in my bank account and what actually goes on my tax return, taking account of payments on account and so on. I have a fantastic accountant, and I know it’s all fine, but it annoys me that I’m not more comfortable with this stuff. I’m pretty confident when it comes to setting rates and talking about money with clients, but the investing and planning and saving side of things is less comfortable, even though I know it’s not complicated. So that’ll be one for me to keep working on. I’ll keep doing my monthly reviews and making sure I set aside money for tax, money for my pension and savings and investments and so on. 

Another sticky one has been finding time for marketing. I notice that a lot of the content I create is about freelancing, and not targeted at my ideal clients, so that’s something I want to do more of. I’m lucky because I’m at a place where I have enough in-bound leads, but if there are specific types of clients that I want to work with, I need to make more of an effort to connect with them and make myself the obvious choice. So to that end I’m planning to create another newsletter aimed at the audience, yes, I’m a little obsessed with Substack now, and then my hope is I can repurpose that for social media content, and create more FAQ-style content about the specific services I specialise in on my website. I’ll say more about that on another episode.

Step 4 is to pick a priority from each list – one thing you want to do more of, and one thing you want to do less of. So in Jan, my ‘more of’ priority was to plan chunks of time off, which I managed to do, and my ‘less of’ priority was to stop saying yes to too many things, even though I hate feeling like I’m letting people down. I’ve definitely got pretty comfortable saying no to things. But there’s still some work to do to change my internal deadlines.

For the next six months, my one more of thing is going to be streamlining marketing efforts. My one less of thing is connected to that – to stop stressing about it. I can take actions to get things done, but if I don’t do that I shouldn’t beat myself about it. or complain – it’s my fault! Not needing it to be perfect. I feel like those are manageable goals.

Step 5 in my review is about the bigger picture. Again, like I said in ep 43, I encourage you to be ambitious when you think about what your business could evolve into over the next 6 months. But if you’re happy with how things are and you don’t want to change anything at all, that’s a really nice place to be. And also again, I want to remind you that while it’s great to take inspiration from others, don’t worry too much about what they’re doing and whether you measure up or whether you’re doing the right things. Your business is your business, so your goals might be different to other people’s. I liked what Sally Fox said in her newsletter a few weeks ago – you are not a goal machine. Bend the success rules and have some bloody fun. And that’s kind of where I’m at right now.

Step 6 – the final step! Is to figure out the systems to make your goals stick. When it comes to reviewing goals, if there are some that you didn’t achieve, it’s worth thinking about why you didn’t achieve them, and then if they still matter to you – what are you going to do differently to make more progress over the next 6 months? And for any new goals, what systems do you need to make achieving your goals a realistic prospect?

So for my marketing plan, I’m going to need to set time aside each week, use a Trello board, and see what support I might need from other people to make it happen. 

Ok, that’s all for today. I hope this has been helpful. A reminder that you can sign up for the newsletter at 15minutefreelancer.substack.com and leave me a message on LI or Twitter, or indeed a voice message at memo.fm/15 to let me know if you’d prefer weekly or monthly emails with all the extra bits for each episode. 

Thanks so much – see you next time!


You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.