This has been a challenging year for me, but not in the way that it was for many other people. While the economy eroded all around me, I actually enjoyed a record breaking year: I had more work, a higher rate, and higher revenue than at any other time in the past 15 years of my professional writing career.
While I’m certainly not complaining, that’s actually what made 2009 a challenge!
- Client changes: I realized in the spring that my mix of clients was not going to work for me so I spent from April to July cleaning up my client list, getting rid of those clients to whom I could not add any more value and signing on new clients who would a good fit. Today, my client mix is fantastic: They are a great group of people that desire a win-win relationship with me.
- New assistant: Administrative work is a grind and I brought someone on board to work about 20 hours a month on administration. This has helped me to focus on my core business and eliminate the details, which I hate. That challenge for me was figuring out what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to give away and how to delegate so that I get the work done in the way that I need it done.
- Laser focus: While I’ve always primarily written business, real estate, and financial content, I’ve only tightened that focus in the past year (and a half) and it has led to more work.
- Refined sales process: I made some fundamental changes to my sales process which streamlined how customers could contract with me. This made a noticeable difference this year (leading to too many customers from July to September) but I’ve found the right goals in my sales process to achieve an optimum number of customers for what I can deliver.
With these changes, and others, I ended up with far more work than I could handle several times this year and it was not unusual for me to put in 20 hour days for a couple of weeks (in June, July, September, October, and November). Not ideal but necessary at times to keep my clients happy.
Realizing that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t!) sustain that kind of schedule, I spent November and December rolling up my sleeves to creatively fix my scheduling problem. For me, procrastination isn’t an issue; the real problem is over-commitment. I created not just a new schedule but a new approach to work. Spending two months on it was well worth the effort because I was able to develop pretty innovative strategies to serve my clients with excellence while keeping my time locked down.
Part of my new approach to productivity is simple a matter of working ahead. Like surfing, I need to try and stay just in front of the wave of deadlines. This isn’t a breakthrough concept, or anything, but my July to September over-commitment put me a behind so I was always playing catch-up and couldn’t quite get in front of it. This December, I’ve found a way to change that so I can work ahead and get the jump on 2010.
I’m going into 2010 with a strong business and effective delivery and my desire for this coming year is to take the “raw materials” (good clients, good systems) and strengthen them.