Last week, Spotify delighted me with my Wrapped, a super-fun interactive presentation of all the music I’d listened to last year. It’s similar to what companies do at the end of the year, with all their terrible blue-tone graphs, but with some life to it. I wondered what the version of my Wrapped would be for my freelance writing life. This is, of course, what businesses call annual reports.
Why did it take me so long to realize a freelance writer is a business owner, and I need to run my writing life the same way I would any other business? Why don’t most businesses realize that these reports can be as fun as Spotify made them? I tried for something in between.
Using my Writer’s Mission Control Center, as well as QuickBooks, I tallied up my last year. Running a business can be like a pointillist painting, with every task a dot. When you have the tools in place to step back, you can really appreciate the full picture.
Having QuickBooks finally set up well, I was able to see how much of my income came from each source.
With my Writer’s Mission Control Center, I was able to see how much work I’ve done in the last year, where I focused my efforts, and how I’d like to shift that for next year.
Here’s how I summarized my year of being a writer
Every year, your writing systems are going to get a little more sophisticated. It can be so easy to complete a project and then go on to the next. It’s important to take a moment to celebrate and congratulate yourself.
It felt so good to make something that felt like a To Do List, except in past tense. Done!
Submissions this year
Am I sending enough pitches?
My style is definitely fewer, high-quality pitches, but I want to be sending at least one a week. Done and done!
I try not to freak out about acceptance rate. You know why? Because I’m always pushing myself into bigger and better markets. That means, it’s competitive. Getting a ton of rejections is part of being a writer, which is why I put all my rejections on Instagram.
You know what’s funny? That I don’t track the inverse: the stories I didn’t have to send a pitch for, the ones that came to me. I can think of at least two!
Freelance projects this year
All year, it feels like deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. What did I actually do? 60 projects, that’s what! Holy crap.
Income from top 3 writing clients
Everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord, but you should definitely know which of your clients are supporting your business. Set fruit basket to XL for that individual business leader!
Top 10 places I submit
Am I really submitting to the places I most want to be published? This looks pretty good to me. Can you believe, however, that only 4 out of these 10 have published me? It’s hard out there, kids.
Published or accepted in
There’s just nothing like a wins list! This should be my Christmas card. Five of these 7 places were new to me this year!
Questions I wanted to be able to answer next year
Your systems will always be evolving. Once you get a good look at a certain part of your big picture, you realize the areas that are still fuzzy. This is what I want to know for next year, so I’m setting up the systems to track it now.
Let’s forget the numbers for a second
This is about the feeling I get when I look at them. I’ve come so far. I’ve done so much. It’s hard, but I’m on the right track. It’s about the opposite of how the day-to-day can feel.
Have you tallied up how your year went? Add in a pandemic and carry the one, then with gentleness and only an appropriate amount of hustle-mania, ask yourself: how did you do?
Have no idea how many pitches you sent?
How much you made?
How many projects you did?
That’s a sign it’s time to set up some more systems.
As I was doing my end-of-year calculations, I thought about how the business part of being a freelancer is usually the part we resist most, the part we hate. And it has been incredibly challenging. But it’s also the part that, when you start to get it, you feel like a real grown-ass business owner, rather than, you know, the image above.
If you need help in this area, my course “You’ve Got to Get Your Writing Life Organized” will teach you the ways!