#123: My 2021 Business Review and Questions to Help You

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In today’s episode, I look back at my time tracking for 2021’s Q4 briefly and then I dive into analyzing the entire year. At the end, I share some questions that can help you evaluate last year and plan for this year.

My average weekly time in Q4 was similar to the previous quarters. I was really proud of myself that I stuck to my “absolutely no work” plan Dec. 23-Jan. 3. And I took a four-week podcast hiatus. All of that was restorative and rejuvenated my creativity.

The biggest surprise for me was I earned more money last year than I ever had in the past—by a wide margin! I do track my money each month, but I wasn’t really adding up those monthly figures to see what I was making for the year.

While I’m thrilled with how much I earned last year, I’m not sure it’s sustainable. That’s not just pessimism talking. Two big projects I landed in 2020 continued into 2021, but ended or were cut back before the end of the year, and I cannot expect that income this year.

I analyzed where my work came from in 2021. Referrals are always my biggest source of work. In 2021, 37% of my income came from referrals. These percentages are based on income, not number of clients. I want to know where I’m earning the most money.

After referrals, 21% of my income was from my involvement in the group Associations, Media & Publishing Network, specifically the Associations Council. The majority of my clients are associations, so I’ve gone where my clients are. Where are your clients? There’s probably an organization out there where you can start to get involved and subtly show your expertise in the industry that you serve.

Next up, 17% of my income came from cold networking; 13% from letters of introduction; 12% from former jobs.

I also analyzed the type of organization I worked for. I want to focus on membership associations, but did my income reflect that? Yes, it did. I’m pleased to say that 77% of my work came from membership associations last year.

I also analyzed if what I want to do matches up with the services that bring in the most money. It hasn’t always matched up in the past, but I’ve been more purposeful about going after the work I love—managing editing—versus the work I “like”—copy editing and proofreading.

I’m happy to say my numbers in 2021 did match what I had tried to do. 59% of my income came from managing editing work, while 29% came from writing and only 12% came from editing and proofreading.

I encourage you to consider time tracking. I consider it a game changer. Analyzing your time tracking at the end of a big project—that you charged a project rate for—can tell you whether you met your secret hourly rate or whether you undercharged.

Questions to ask yourself:

1. What services do you love to do? Is that where you’re focusing your marketing?

2. How can you take your business in a new direction? What can you improve upon in your business in 2022?

3. What did you learn in 2021? What worked really well for you and your business?

4. What didn’t work for you last year? Do you need to drop clients, raise your rates, change your services? And be honest with yourself: Did you do anything last year that you’re frustrated by or disappointed by? What do you need to work on personally?

5. Where have you felt stuck in your business? How can you start to make a plan to get unstuck?

A solo business retreat in January is a great way to reflect on these questions and work ON your business, setting yourself up for success this year.

Biz Bite: Create a Success Jar

The Bookshelf:Miracle Creek” by Angie Kim


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