#134: My Q1 Audit—A Slow Start & 4 Big Decisions

How did your first quarter of the year go with your business? I’m recapping my Q1 in this episode, but I’d love to hear about your Q1 also. Please share in the Deliberate Freelancer Facebook group your successes, challenges, lessons and any questions you have for your fellow Deliberate Freelancers.

As I talked about in January, I had a slow start to the year because my mental health was struggling. I was definitely languishing. Things perked up in February and March, so I began to do a bit more work and have more energy.

Accounting for vacation time in Q1, I worked 299 hours over 11 weeks, which averages out to about 27 hours a week. Interestingly enough, without me keeping track of my weekly hours from week to week, that number is close to my average of 28 weeks last year. Therefore, that seems to be my mental lode in a good week. That’s what my energy level can take.

When I analyzed how I spent my hours, I was happy to see that although my paid work was way down, I was meeting or exceeding my secret hourly rate for my work, which I often bill as project rates or per-word rates.

In looking at the breakdown of my hours, I spent 50 hours on administrative work. What in the world was I doing in all that time? In quarter two, to keep better track of those little minutes here and there that I slot into “admin work,” I’m going to write down on a sheet of paper next to my desk what types of “admin” I’m actually doing when I choose that in my time tracker app.

I did not consistently hit my monthly financial goal, particularly since January was a slow struggle. However, this is where my savings account and cash flow are really important. I wasn’t panicking because I knew I had money in the bank.

In addition, I knew I could make up that income throughout the year. I also often tally two months’ income together and divide by two to see if I hit my monthly goal that way. A good cash flow allows me to do that. (For example, I went from billing only $4,000 in January to billing for $12,000 in February!)

A good cash flow also allows me to prioritize my mental health—and not beat myself up for not marketing, not looking for new work, for not working that much at times. This mindset was way healthier for me in quarter one.

I did a bunch of outreach in early March and even did a three-hour mini retreat to plan that outreach and brainstorm on some big decisions for my business.

During my mini retreat, I created a simple Excel client tracking sheet. I had one in the past but didn’t keep it updated, so I started over.

I also sent individual, personalized emails to about seven clients I hadn’t talked with in awhile, asking for new work or referrals. I think we sometimes forget how critical email outreach is. Surveys and studies consistently show it’s the No. 1 marketing tool, yet we sometimes focus way more time on social media—which might have a much lower return on investment.

I also sent out a mass email to my contact list (current, past and potential clients I had talked to at least once, plus colleagues and other freelancers). This was not a cold list. These were people I have built some sort of connection or relationship with.

That mass email netted two referrals to potential new clients, and I got work already in one of those cases. One of those individual, personalized emails also prompted someone I had talked about working with before to say, “let’s do this.”

Later this year, I want to create a new list of cold contacts and start emailing and tracking those people.

I also made four big decisions related to my business: dropping one of my anchor clients, no longer using a virtual assistant, changing my Deliberate Freelancer newsletter from weekly to quarterly, and going on a podcast hiatus this summer. Hear more about these decisions in the episode.

Biz Bite: Separate your work and your schedule into head work and heart work.

The Bookshelf: The Book of Cold Cases” by Simone St. James


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Episode #126 of Deliberate Freelancer: A Real Talk About Mental Health—and Languishing

Episode #123 of Deliberate Freelancer: My 2021 Business Review and Questions to Help You

My marketing strategist, Emily Broderick (I hired her for a VIP Day in fall 2021.)

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