• Advice

How'd you do this year? 6 tips for evaluating your freelance business

When I was a wee tot, the year 2014 seemed as remote and science-fictiony as a Jetson’s episode. And yet, here we are at the end of it, sailing on our jetpacks into 2015!

One thing I like about the end of the year (especially as a freelancer) is the chance to evaluate achievements and setbacks, to figure out what went well and use those lessons to improve. While sitting down and looking over the year is a great exercise, it’s important to focus on looking back in order to look forward – to concentrate on growth, instead of wallowing in regret.

Here are some questions I’m planning to ask myself about 2014 – and how I’m structuring those questions in order to promote momentum, instead of becoming discouraged. I share this list with you in the hopes that it might help you to review YOUR year in a positive, healing way.*

*I like to write down my answers, but taking an hour or two in a sort of concentrated meditation is probably almost as helpful.

1. What was the good?

What goals did you achieve? What specific feats did you accomplish? Where did you grow… and how does that compare to the year before? What (and who) is there to celebrate? I like to cover at least two sides of a sheet of paper with a list of things that went well and happy moments, even if I have to add minor triumphs. Sometimes I even break it down by month. Most of the time, I recall things that I’ve forgotten – and looking at a nice, long litany is very satisfying.

The resultant victory dance is optional.

2. What was the not-so-good?

What did you struggle with this year? Did you have to eat humble pie a few times? Are you closer to your goals, or is it time to re-orient? What are some steps you could take to head off nasty slip-ups next year? I limit myself to one side of a sheet of paper for this – a silly psychological sop, maybe, but it feels good to have the positives outnumber the negatives.

I like to also take this time to forgive myself for inevitable mistakes and screw-ups. There will always be bad to go along with the good – the important thing is to keep fighting the good fight.

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3. What were the surprises?

This refers not only to unexpected mishaps and blessings, but also ways in which you surprised yourself. Did you rise to any challenges? Did you develop skills? Did you find new weaknesses – and thus areas you can work on? Is there potential for development in these newly-discovered personal twists and turns? If you can begin looking at unexpected events (both internal and external) as opportunities for growth, what would that mean for 2015?

4. Where was your “luck”?

Sometimes, opportunities just fall into your lap. But you are best-poised to take advantage of those opportunities when you’ve built skills, expertise, and support systems beforehand.

When was your luck this year – and how did you take advantage of it? Where can you pat yourself on the back, and where can you offer gratitude for sheer good fortune? Now is the time to thank the Universe and your deity/deities-of-choice (or perhaps the goodwill of humanity or Chaos Theory or the Spaghetti Monster or whatever-you’d-like-to credit).

It’s worth not only evaluating your own participation in your growth, but the inherent role of chance in any year. I find that thinking about the intersection of chance+preparation helps me realize that while I CAN control some things, there are other elements that are beyond my ken… so I can afford to relax a little.

5. Who helped you?

None of us is truly independent. Who helped you this year, either materially or by offering support and love? Who gave you good advice? Who gave you a kind word when you were feeling down? Who helped you in the past – giving you the skills and fortitude to take advantage of all of that good luck?

It’s sometimes easy to overlook thanking those who’ve helped you. Take a few moments to thank – via card or email or phone call or visit or thought, if the person in question has passed on (it does happen) – those who have helped you. How can you pay it forward this year?

6. What can you do for next year?

Now that you have a nice, meaty list of 2014’s accomplishments, take a little break. Have a sandwich or some soup or a cookie.

After you’re full, start writing down some of your goals for next year – odds are they’ll be much more informed after this exercise. See here for some tips on how to make doable resolutions for 2015!

I’m really looking forward to evaluating 2014, in all its ups and downs. Because I’ve tried to frame it as an affirmative exercise – not a self-flagellation – I find that it helps me celebrate my development, be more objective about my mistakes, and accept inevitable change. Every year that we spend on this crazy, beautiful planet is a gift; a chance for growth, education, and self-expression. Looking back at a year’s worth of life really brings that home, and makes me feel gratitude – yes, for even some of the darkest moments.

How about you, freelancers? How do you size up a year?