Many people want 2020 to end yesterday. I gave up going out on NYE years ago and stopped making NY resolutions too. I spend a few minutes every so often adjusting plans based on what is working. So long as you have an idea of what your intentions are this is easy.
But, has 2020 produced anything worth me saving? This is a personal account and maybe not relevant for you. Same storm, different boats remains my go-to analogy about this pandemic.
For some of us this bit was relatively normal. I made the difficult choice of which of my three voluntary roles I would give up and I did my last shift at my local BHF shop. I chose to continue with the roles where I would learn new skills, not knowing then that they would be on hold from the end of March and still are.
The enforced hiatus in my roles in a school and hospice have shown me how important volunteering is in my working life. I only appreciated them when they were paused.
In February I swallowed my nerves and went to Birmingham to attend a #SmallBusinessSunday event hosted by Theo Paphitis. I took my husband because events that size freak me out. But because I knocked down that big domino, making the transition from F2F to online networking from Q2 was a total breeze.
We often start small and work up and that can work well. But smashing a big goal first makes the smaller ones seem a cinch. I will jump on big opportunities if they arise.
I was due to finish with a client at the end of March to sidestep complications from IR35 legislation changes. I would usually have taken a break, but by the middle of the month it was clear change was coming so I immediately started another three-month project with a different client. Fully remote, I have never met them in person.
This was not in my plan. Neither was Covid-19. I learned to trust my gut, be flexible and keep options open. I became more business astute by necessity and I am sticking.
I do not have children. I have worked mainly from home for over three years. In a fully kitted out office. I am a home bird who enjoys mainly indoor pursuits. The day- to-day changes to my life during lockdown were slight. All I missed were a couple of comedy gigs, festivals, and weekenders. I felt a bit guilty at times to be honest.
My life was set up that way long before Covid-19, and I cannot change that. 2020 was full of useful little tests about control, a lack of which is something I still struggle with.
When lockdown began, I had been a business owner for 18 months. I had a clear idea of what I did and did not want to do, it is one of the major perks of being self-employed. I was asked to include something I tend to avoid because I have not ever enjoyed. I agreed because, well, it is 2020. I needed the gig; they needed the thing.
What I did is now part of my regular service. I had excluded it due to remembered bad experiences when I was employed. Have replaced it with positive, real experiences.
Seemingly years ago, in the before times (Feb 2020) I had discussed an opportunity with a local business, then the pandemic ripples hit them. I designed a project to run from July. My husband and I also agreed to look after our three-year-old niece a few days a week from July because her nursery closed, her parents are key workers.
After initially panicking, I recalled that I used to manage teams, people, and several clients at a time. This was just another project management task packaged differently.
Summer was tiring but fun. We went to our favourite pub a few times, but it has now shut down for good. We learned new skills looking after our niece and found that our employer and client were flexible and understanding. The date for our planned trip to the Netherlands came and went. Yet another gig was postponed by a year.
I like familiarity and 2020 denied that. We have all learned new routines and processes, so I am glad that I extended that to personal and professional challenges too.
Time has bent and stretched this year, playing tricks on us all. Without the markers of long weekends months raced by. Without the punctuation of coffee break meetings, some days felt interminably long. As someone who is prone to workaholism, having a three-year-old shout ‘look at me not your phone!’ was ace.
With less leisure plans and volunteering, I needed to work harder on boundaries between my life and work. The three-year-old is gone, but those boundaries remain.
I celebrated two years in business in September. Revenue up because I worked longer than planned. I have a cushion to draw down on if times get lean, and I think that they probably will. But unlike earlier in my career, I am now better at knowing when to stop and change course.
Instead of giving into the temptation to line up yet more client work I planned an intentional step back in the final quarter to work not in but on my business.
Some of the work I did was visible: changed social media strategy; dropped a couple of marketing channels; started networking with real purpose; rebranded. The rest was less tangible: I read up on introversion, took part in a freelancer’s workshop and sought out then joined some communities to help with specific issues.
Everything I did started with a conversation, often with a stranger. That is not easy for me, but I have finally realised that it is the key to me moving my business forwards.
I have done more valuable networking in the last three months than in the last three years that I have been self-employed. Figured out that it is not only about lead generation. The penny dropped about how a network operates. And that follow up is the secret sauce.
I have taken networking off my to do list because it needs to be habitual. In fact, I did that for every repeated task in my personal and business life for the same reason.
I combined a few more business ‘firsts’ (starting an email list, writing something lengthy, promoting it) by making an eBook. Obviously, I learned about the mechanics of all those moving parts but that was not really the intention. The aim was just to make a start with a different kind of marketing. I had to make a wager.
That took me so far outside my comfort zone, I had to bet money on myself. You bet I got it back. I now have a template to work with and increased confidence.
Are you still just counting down the hours until 2021, facing forward and determined not to look back? If you can just find one good thing to save from 2020 you will start 2021 winning.
Happy New Year.
Please ask before reproducing my material partially or wholly for commercial use.
© Jo Gordon Consulting Ltd 2020