It’s that time of year again where I force myself to sit down and ponder the last year in business. 2016 has seen my most successful year financially and the business broke the £100k revenue milestone. I must admit that as a one man business, that makes me very proud.
For those interested in getting the full whack of previous year’s learnings, you can find those posts here:
Right, onto the lessons I have learned in 2016:
1. Change Is Good
As a control enthusiast, I don’t often like change as with change comes uncertainty. But I have tried my best to embrace change in 2016. I have changed offices to surround myself with potential clients, friends and collaborators. I have changed accountants to ensure I keep my finances in order and improve the way I use FreeAgent. I have changed the way I sell certain services. All have resulted in positive experiences and taught me that, although change is scary, if you don’t change things, then nothing will change.
2. Dare To Bare
Recently I wrote a blog post entitled “F**k You Digital Marketing” in which I ranted about all the things that annoy me in the industry. I realise that it is brave to demean the industry that generates me my income but I believe that sometimes it is important we all say what we really think. So many companies and individuals work to please everyone rather than make themselves happy. The post itself actually did very well and received over 3000 readers in the first two weeks.
3. You Can’t Spell “PROFIT” without “FIT” (best I could do)
I think us sole traders often forget how much rests on us being able to get into work and produce for our clients. With coming up to the ripe old age of 30 (I know I need to update my bio pic), I wanted to start taking responsibility for my own health. That doesn’t mean I’m going to preach to you about not drinking and going to the gym 8 times a week. I just realised that I am a one man business who relies on being able to work to earn money. So I signed up to my local GP and got a full health check. I joined my local dentist and let them take a load of my dosh in return for some maintenance work. And I set up income protection insurance to cover bills if I can’t earn any money.
4. Burn The Basket, Keep The Eggs
In September 2016 I lost my highest earning client after Brexit forced them to relocate their marketing team back to the USA leading to many deciding to leave the business. The marketing manager was one of those who left and with her went my campaigns. This blow to my revenue made me realise how dangerous it is to rely on one or a few select clients for the majority of your income. Since then I have taken on new clients that spread my revenue evenly and should help me avoid a large loss like in 2016.
5. Look For Life’s Lessons
A trip to the dentist in 2016 led to a sleepless night with my mind going through all of the parallels between the way they did things and the business I run. I ended up writing a post about them, simply to get it all out of my mind. You can find it here. This made me realise that life is constantly teaching us parallels and lessons that can be applied to our jobs or businesses. Next time you have an experience in your personal lives, see if you can pull out any learnings for your business or role.
6. Testing Times
Although not directly related to the business, in July 2016 I finally bought my first house/home. The house is built in a factory in Nottingham and then brought up on two lorries to be craned into place. This stressful process has been a massive part of my life for 2 years, so I couldn’t leave it out of this post. Lowlights included:
- 3 IFA’s
- 3 Mortgage Applications
- 2 Valuations
- 13 Months of Build Delays in Separate 8 Announcements
- All The Hurdles of Mortgages when Self Employed
There was stress and strain right up to the last days before completion and was followed by many weeks of logistics and home improvement work.
Luckily we have now been in for 6 months and I can sit here and say it was worth all the stress. With so many delays your patience is truly tested. You have to really want something to wait 2 years for it. We were told countless times that, based on our working situation, we wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage. But we were so determined that this was the perfect option for us that we ignored this advice and pushed forward regardless. During the 2 years the communication from the developer was appalling, even when announcing two 5 month delays.
This process taught me a hell of a lot about patience, determination and communication that I hope to apply to my own business in 2017.
7. Give Back, Get Back
Giving back doesn’t have to always be about charity and free work (although those things are often worthy causes).
In early 2016 I came to the realisation that the freelance and self-employed community in the UK have very little in the way of support or guidance. There is the odd Facebook Group or free talk but nothing dedicated to helping them survive and thrive. So I decided to set up an event called FREELANCEALOT that does just that.
- The first event was free and took place in April. It saw 55 people turn up to see 2 speaker talks and attend a social event with 4 resident experts.
- The second event was in September and saw 77 people pay to attend 2 workshops, 3 speaker talks, a discussion panel and after-party with live music.
Since the events, I have heard from several freelancers and those who have now gone freelance, about how the events helped them in some way. I am not comparing this to some sort of charity but I really feel that we can all give something to someone and that was my contribution for 2016.
In 2016 I also produced 7 blog posts and 9 external articles giving away free advice to those who care to read them. I also recorded two podcasts, one is live and the other will be streamed to freelancers around the globe at a virtual conference sometime in early 2017.
Don’t get me wrong, these weren’t all selfless acts. I also benefitted from the above. Be it expanding my contacts from the events, getting PR from posts or simply enjoying the process of producing something. Get on out there and contribute something to someone’s 2017!
In the spirit of giving back and acknowledging help, I wanted to thank the following lovely folks for their support and advice in 2016:
- Johanna Werb-Pieterman at Orcadia Design for all her help with my website
- Michael McCullion and Bright Ideas Accountancy for keeping me and my accounts in cheque (finance pun).
- Alan Whaley for being a superb chap to know and putting me in touch with my Dubai clients.
- Dan Root who’s brain I pick a lot when I need a 2nd opinion.
- Katy Carlisle for being a great support in organising the 2nd FREELANCE-A-LOT event and a true flag waver for freelancers.
- Beki Smith (aka The Mrs) for putting up with my jibbering at the computer whenever I work from home.
- Hector Kolonas for being my go to guy to test my ideas and for speaking at my first ever conference.
- Krystian Szastok for being my go to industry pro for bouncing ideas off of.
- Andrew Gorry for his support and superb work in 2016.
- Lucy Kirkness for her lovely client referrals.
- Richard Silver for being a particularly patient and proactive client.