My top 5 mistakes and lessons-learnt this year: a 2016 balls-up round-up.
Here we are homies. The last day of what has been an historical year for so many reasons. But I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up 2016 than to reflect on the most awesome mistakes I made.
And hopefully, you might even be able to take away something from my flops of the year so you can cadge in on the lessons I've learnt too. Let's get stuck right in.
Mistake no. 1:
I worked on launching a product I’m not truly passionate about.
In the early part of the year, I did a bit of a pointless compare-a-thon with my peers and decided I should start up a wedding stationery line to try to stay relevant and compete – as that's what they were all doing.
Now there were two key fails that came to light here; the first was comparing myself to others. It seems so simple now. How did I think that was going to bring me any kind of fulfilment or joy in my work? What others are doing is exactly that: what others are doing. Not what I'm doing. There's one thing knowing your competition, but it's another thing thinking conforming to what everyone else is doing is going to help you or your business.
Secondly, even though I've done a few wedding stationery commissions in my 14 years as a graphic designer, the wedding industry has never been a sector I've ever been particularly passionate about tbh. Even when I got married myself. So why would it make sense to introduce that as a service in my own business? How would I convince a newly engaged couple to invest their hard-earned money in my service if I wasn't even passionate about it myself? The answer is = I wouldn't. So despite investing a good bit of time designing a launch collection and starting the seeds of marketing the line, I thankfully copped on to the error of my ways before I pressed the green light on this one. Phew.
Lesson-learnt for 2017 > always just focus on you and yours to grow your business.
Mistake no. 2:
I wasn't really there for my friends.
Some could argue (and my adorable friends would probably argue), that I've had a very good excuse for not being as present as usual in my friends' lives this year; the year I became a momma. But as the year's drawing in, I realise this isn't an excuse, no matter what other commitments I've had. Even if I haven't been able to pop around as easily as I used to pre-daughter, at least making time for texts and phonecalls should've happened, basically because life's too freakin' short and I want them to know that I adore them and am here for them no matter what! Yes I've had my hands full, but so have my friends and everyone else on the planet.
I've forgotten to check in with key milestones in their lives, I've left texts un-replied to, I've flaked out from commitments. Not cool. It's almost like I've needed a PA to help me keep on top of my relationships! Not anymore. Mistake noted 2016. 2017 take heed.
Lesson-learnt for 2017 > Set up automatic reminders to remember key dates, and prompts for regular check-ins with your nearest and dearest.
Mistake no. 3:
Being inconsistent with my blog.
I guess the same can be applied with my social media, (eep) but flaking on my design business blog has probably been the more poignant of the two.
And pathetically, despite knowing that fresh, regular content is an essential element of building organic website traffic, it wasn't until I did Sarah Akwisombe's No Bull Blog School during 2016, that I copped on to the fact that my readers want that consistently created content too, and with everything they have going on in their lives, they need that consistency of content and communication to remember I exist.
How could I not have seen that in the same flakeyness I've delighted my friends with this year, my readers wouldn't pick up on that flakeyness from my [lack-of] posts and forget about my business?
It really is Online Business 101 when you take a moment to step back and analyse it.
Lesson-learnt for 2017 > Whatever you're able to commit to creating content (posting daily, weekly or monthly), do it with heart and do it without fail.
Mistake no. 4:
Not prioritising my finances or my bottom line.
Sure I've been distracted by some pretty wonderful, exciting things during 2016 and I've always openly confessed to being the worst with numbers, but they're not reasons enough to overlook my finances like I have done. A number of invoices went un-chased and unpaid which subsequently made it more difficult to get them paid. And my book-keeping and VAT returns were ALWAYS last minute tasks [and sometimes late] with fines as a result. But I don't know why I kept thinking avoiding them would help me out, they were never going away! This all basically meant that arguably the most crucial part of my business never got the true time and attention it deserved this year. I didn't enjoy it, so I didn't put my energy into trying to enjoy it. Big ball-drop.
After the sting of losing cash set in, I knew I had to take charge, mainly as I'm the boss and no-one else is gonna do it! I've recently started using Quickbooks as a means to get a better grip on my monthly income and expenditure, and it also handily calculates your VAT return automatically (if you're VAT registered) #winner! So if you've always tried to use avoidance tactics like me when it comes to finances, then I'd definitely recommend giving it (or a similar service) a shot. With the colourful, interactive charts, it even makes seeing what you've earned a tiny bit fun. And I never thought I'd say that.
Lesson-learnt for 2017 > keeping track of your bottom line should at least be a weekly, if not daily task. Book time in your schedule for it.
Mistake no. 5:
Taking my health for granted.
This has been another ball-drop from becoming a parent, and being self-employed tbh. It's pretty shocking how you seemingly switch off your own needs, literally overnight, when you become wholly responsible for keeping someone else alive innit. Especially when you've a business to run too. Hunger and thirst can become irrelevant sensations, a solid sleep is a distant past-time and the prospect of conjuring energy for really working out seems decades away. As beautiful as being a mother is, your new role can feel that your sole purpose is now to give all of your being to someone else, with nowt left for you. And the same can be said for owning a business, particularly if you're the main breadwinner.
But I was so happy to do all that forgetting-about-me, I didn't even notice I was doing it! As a result of my poor me-management though, my diet has been shocking and I've been in and out of the doctors in recent weeks getting checked for all kinds of ailments. MRIs, pelvic ultrasounds and all. That was when I paused and naively questioned why my body seemed to be flailing. I'd totally taken it for granted that it was just gonna come along for the ride and do what I needed it to, no matter how I treated it. After undertaking the most incredible feat of growing a human, eating like a rubbish bin and managing on minimal sleep for an extended period of time, is it any wonder I was feeling so meh – I'd totally forgotten about me. Eejit.
Lesson-learnt for 2017 > look after yourself so well that you can be even more awesome at looking after someone or something else.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? Or more importantly, do any of these help you to review your 2016 and imagine your 2017 a little differently? They certainly help me go into 2017 with a more informed mindset – which really does make each and every one of my mistakes pretty priceless tbh. In fact, I might just high-five myself for doing so well at overruling my perfectionism and messing up for that very reason :) [with a wee *high-five* to my cure for perfection of course] oooooh, I wonder what mistakes I'll make next year! *clapping excitedly*
Buckle up 2017.