Why it is important to reflect on your work

This year has been notably better for me – both in terms of work-life balance and overall health of my freelance business. Part of it is because for most of previous year, 2017 – I have been in an adjustment phase. Pitching. Knocking on doors. A lot of hits and a lot of misses. Trial and error. Many-many times. I will tell you the gory details of that year very soon (I know it’s been a frequent tease, I promise to publish it soon).

But another part of why my 2018 is in a much better shape – is because once I found my footing, and saw what works and what doesn’t – instead of jumping in head-first, like I have done so many times before, I zoomed out and looked at the bigger picture. I reflected – on the workload, on the required skillset, on the market demand and client base, to see how that impacts my freelancing long-term. And surprisingly, the minute I was able to zoom out, a lot more stuff fell right into its place and became obvious…

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Pardon the huge time-jump, it is now September 2019, and this blog post I started on December 30th, 2018 – is about nine months old. See my point – so many things keep falling on my plate, it’s a real challenge to sit and reflect. Yep, I’ve been busy, and now this thing reads like a diary – but I think it’s important to keep the earlier version, and the conclusion all here, in the same article – to help illustrate the point. Plus, the sooner I publish it, the sooner I can get to other unfinished posts 🙂

Anyway, I needed to zoom out and see what efforts were giving me the highest yield, and what efforts – took the longest to come to fruition. This ‘meta-work’ is important, because without self-reflection, how do you really know if you’re doing well, if your business is growing? Merely sending out proposals, invoices, and receiving checks – is not an indication of healthy business. It’s indication of work, effort, daily routine – but what about growth?

So here is a quick self-check list, to reflect on how you work:

  • Is your clientele growing? Are you adding new accounts/clients/projects per clients? Do you expect to? Is the rate the same as earlier? Was that earlier rate a rare ‘spurt’, or normal operating pace?
  • Similarly, as your accounts age, and projects finish up (with web, some projects do come to an end, not everything is ‘indefinite support and maintenance’), do you expand beyond their current needs? Do you upsell clients on other services? Perhaps services that you do not directly provide, but can connect them to the right people who do?
  • Do you move your clients from ‘early’ phase in relationship to ‘mature’? Because you really should – expectations change, and the pacing will also change as a result.
  • And finally, how is your emotional state – with each project, each client, each invoice?

These are the questions we are rarely asked – because nobody in corporate cares about emotions; and we’re often afraid to ask ourselves – because we’re terrified to admit things about ourselves. But it’s important. You have to know if a certain client is making your day better or worse. If the relationship is productive and trusting, or if it’s manipulative and toxic.

These evaluations are needed – because it’s not always about the dollar signs at the bottom of an invoice. Run this checklist once a year, and then make them more frequent. Quarterly, monthly if you need do. Make a habit of looking back at HOW you work, not just WHAT you did and HOW MUCH you earned. Better quality of your work will lead to better quality of your life.

And yes, it’s perfectly okay to show the client the door, if you’d rather spend your time with better clients, better people, joyous work requests. That’s the only way to grow.

As for fear – it’s always there, it’s always scary to make a change, to say ‘no’, and I’ll tell you some of these stories soon. One thing I can promise – if you start with baby steps and tackle that self-reflection even in smaller doses, on smaller clients/projects – it will improve how you work in the future. Honest.

Now I’m gonna hit ‘publish’, it’s about time.

You should hit ‘contact us‘, and get in touch. It will be worth your time.