Every year that I have done this "work for myself thing," I've grown as a business person. My work load and responsibility has increased over the years, but overall, it's gotten a bit easier. I am better at juggling the projects, maintaining the blog and making decisions simply because I have had more practice.
But this year feels like the first year I can look back and say, "Yes, this thing that I learned will help carry me through my career." I have picked up a few concrete lessons in 2012 and I want to share them here today.
Say no to say yes. I have learned that I have to be more comfortable saying "No." Yep, it's awkward. Yep, I feel guilty. Yep, I hate writing "thank you but no thank you" in an email. But really, at the end of the day, saying "no" is better than me saying "yes" but not really committing fully to a project because it doesn't grab me or make sense for my life or schedule. Saying no to little opportunities (and some big ones) from 3rd parties and my own ideas, opens me up for other chances to say yes to creative projects and business ventures that truly work with my style, personality and passions.
Look beyond Plan A. I wrote about this in depth in this post a few months back, but this was a huge one for me in 2012. Thousands of dollars were saved because I pushed past a few plans and routines that were working just fine to find something that made more financial sense and saved time. I tend to get very comfortable with the status quo, so making changes and seeking out better options is not something I am likely to do. Seeing the savings on paper this year was a big reminder to make sure that even if I settle for Plan A in the interim, I don't give up on the potentially better Plan B down the road.
Pursue "just for fun" projects. These are the projects that at the onset have no monetary value. I decide to do them because I want to - not because I think I'll be able to turn them into an income source. As a freelancer (I hate that word) and as a blogger, these projects could be considered "spinning your wheels." When you're spinning your wheels you are not moving forward which means you're not working towards a profit. Not awesome if you're trying to get paid for this gig and definitely not something that you can do everyday all year long. But I have realized that a few "just for fun" projects are necessary for me to stay creative. The 26 Projects and 27 Materials would be considered exactly this. I get blog content out of them and cool stuff for my house for them, but I am not really making money from creating those items. There is no "future life" or "financial value" there as I am not trying to sell versions of them or teach workshops on how to make them.
But opposite of the 26 Projects and 27 materials is Project Life, which began for me as a "just for fun" adventure. I started at the beginning of the year because I wanted to do something with my photos. It had been a long time since "scrapbooking" in any form had interested me (yep, even minibooks!) and I was excited about something different. From this came two big opportunities in 2012. Becky asked me to design a kit and I started the stamp shop. I would have never gone the stamp direction if I wasn't consistently playing with paper each week and, of course, I would have never gotten the design job if I hadn't attempted and shared my Project Life spreads.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely recognize that this is a crazy situation mixed with a large handful of luck and something that will most likely never happen again in my career. But all of these projects - the birthday ones, Project Life, even covering my desk in colorful tape - are a great reminder of the value in pursuing things that I am excited about for no other reason than I am excited about them.
I imagine it goes without saying that I enter 2013 more nervous than I was was in 2012. Part of me wonders how I could I make anything like this year this happen again. I can sort of see the next six months clearly, but then, of course, everything gets hazy after the baby's due date. It's impossible to plan for such a life upheaval (even such a joyous one!) and I recognize (and folks love to remind me) that even best intentions will mean nothing when I haven't slept in five days, the baby is crying and I can't find my camera charger. ;)
But man, I am still excited to see what's next. I can't make it all work (that's impossible), but I can figure out how to make it work for us.
And one thing is for certain, I get an undeniable high from the beginning of a new business year, a fresh planner & an empty income and expenses spreadsheet. They are crazy inspiring and I am so ready to see what will develop in 2013.