Also a great new year checklist
Didn’t have time to get retrospective at the end of the year? It’s never not a good time to take a good look at your business and make sure your positioning, profitability, and goals are still on track. This also makes a good new year small business checklist.
Whether you started working for yourself this year, were growing your small business this year, or are planning to start freelancing soon, it’s probably been a whirlwind ride. We’re taking these last few days of the year to do a retrospective of the past year, and plan for 2021 at Hoodzpah. Here’s the small business year-end checklist / questionnaire we made for ourselves and our Freelance, and Business and Stuff video course students, so you can join in too. The answers to these questions will help inform how we get better and grow smarter in the New Year.
1. How much money did you make this year as a business?
2. What were your business expenses? Were the expenses necessary/beneficial? Can any spending be scaled back? Would any new expenses be a worthwhile investment?
3. Did you make a profit (how much money did you have left after expenses)? If not, how can you become more profitable next year?
4. Did you reach your income goals for the year? What are your income goals for next year? Consider updating your budget to help with these estimations.
5. Did you save any money?
6. Which of your services brought in the most income? Which the least? Depending on the data, should you remove any services and focus your expertise?
7. Did you quote at least one thing higher than you had previously?
At Hoodzpah, we like to send at least one quote that scares us once a year. Usually this means we’ve priced it higher than we ever have. Not in a predatory way, but because we know it’s worth it. Usually we do it at a time when we’re busy anyways, and not desperate for work. Better to test our limits than to stay in a safe place out of fear. How will we know what dream rates we can land otherwise?
8. How much of your income was passive versus active? Brainstorm products that might garner you future passive income. Make a goal to create one in the new year.
In 2018 our passive and product based income made up 12% of our Annual Revenue. That was the year we released our book (Freelance, and Business, and Stuff) and we realized how profitable it could be to hire ourselves, and how rewarding it was to make our own products that also enriched the design/creative community. So in 2019, we made a plan to focus on making more fonts and to build out our freelancing resources for our Hoodzpah shop. That year our products/passive income went up to 30.4% of our revenue. In 2020, as our speaking and in-person workshop opportunities came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, we decided to make our freelancing workshop available online, and to beef up the fonts even more. In 2020 our product/passive income went up to 46.3% of our annual revenue. So, what could your product be? What’s something you and your audience are passionate about?
9. Did you contact your Accountant and Bookkeeper to see that everything is wrapped up and tidy for the year?
10. How many new clients did you book in the past year?
11. How many of your proposals/quotes were rejected versus accepted? Do you have a compelling proposal to help land work? (We include a template in our Freelance video course).
12. Which clients did you enjoy working with the most? The least?
13. Which projects did you most enjoy doing? Which the least? Should you update your service list to remove some and focus on others?
14. Which projects garnered the best response from your audience?
15. How did your clients learn about you?
16. How many of your clients were repeat?
17. Which clients brought in the most revenue? Should you seek out more clients with a similar need/industry?
At Hoodzpah, we’re always fascinated by this information. Often, the name brands aren’t the biggest budgets. For us, our largest chunks of income came from projects with an essential oil company and a real estate company.
18. How full was your work capacity? Meaning, were you working most of your available hours, or did you feel slow?
19. Did you feel the projects you did this year highlighted your best skills? If not, how can you change your website and marketing to better attract your ideal project?
20. Has your target audience changed at all from last year to what you want next year? How can you adapt your marketing to appeal to that audience?
21. Where did your best leads come from this past year? How can you continue to support that funnel in the new year?
22. Look at your website traffic. If you haven’t already, install Google Analytics, or some sort of analytic platform to track this data. What blogs, portfolio posts, and pages were the most popular?
23. Where were your fans most engaged? How can you continue to nurture this relationship in the New Year?
24. Who are your most loyal fans? Are they potential clients? Peers in your industry?
25. Have you captured your audience somewhere besides on social media? Remember, you don’t own your social media profile. It’s more like rented space. If you ever lose your account or it gets hacked, you could lose all those connections.
26. Have you created your own email list yet? If so, how have you been encouraging subscriptions? How have you engaged with that audience via email (which is probably the most dedicated of your fanbase?)
27. How many potential clients did you reach out to last year? How will you continue to stay in touch in the new year?
This is something we really want to be better about this year at Hoodzpah. We have made so many great connections over the years. But those can become so fleeting if we don’t take care of them, staying in the minds of the people we’ve met. So we’re carving out more time to do this relationship management in the coming year.
28. How many old clients did you check in with to stay on their radar?
29. Did you update your website with new work from the past year?
30. Did you audit your website to ensure it’s still relevant to your goals? Remove any outdated work that no longer attracts your ideal clients/projects.
31. Did you update your website with things that instill trust: testimonials, previous client logos, etc?
32. Did you post recent work to springboard sites like Behance and Dribbble where art directors and clients might find you?
33. What is a unique personal project you could create to help promote your company in the coming year? Think of something that would engage your ideal audience, something that shows the kind of work you want to get. It could be physical or digital. Now give yourself a budget (time and money) to make this.
34. What amount of time and money do you want to set aside to work on marketing in the new year (that could include planning social, updating your website, running ads, taking time to reach out to leads regularly, etc). Protect the time you need to do this internal work.
35. How did you spend your time? Time tracking can be annoying, but try doing it for a week to see how you actually spend your time on average.
36. Did you feel overworked this past year? If so, consider raising your rates. If you’re too busy, you likely can support higher rates. Also consider limiting how many clients you take on at once.
This was the first year at Hoodzpah that we felt we had learned to say “no” enough when it came to client roster. We booked less than we normally do, but at higher rates. This past year we definitely stretched our rates beyond what we ever had. As a result, we landed less work, but what we did land was at the rates we wanted. And we weren’t as overwhelmed and overworked. We had more time to work on our internal projects (like our video course, and our new fonts).
37. Name the 3 biggest sources of stress in the past year. Now brainstorm on how to alleviate those pain points. Are there people or tools that can help? How can your process improve these experiences?
38. What did you procrastinate on the most? Is it time to outsource that?
Here at Hoodzpah, we finally caved and hired a bookkeeper. It was way past due, and it feels ohhhh so freeing to have that item off my to-do list!
39. What brought you the most joy?
40. 3 Things you’re most grateful for this past year?
41. 5 people you’re grateful for this past year? Tell them.
42. Did you invest in growing your own skills this past year in some way? How do you want to grow in the new year?
43. Did you have enough time to rest and recharge?
44. Did you take time to celebrate the progress you’ve made in a year?
45. Did you do anything rewarding that had nothing whatsoever to do with work?
Phew, that was a lot, haha. Hope this small business year-end checklist helps you think deeper about the why and how of what you’re doing. Wishing you all the best for a successful new year!
Jen and Amy