I finally did it. For the first time since committing to full-time freelancing at the end of 2017, I’ve drafted an annual report for Castle Walls Editing.
While the report is for my eyes only, putting it together has been tremendously helpful, and I’ve already started my 2022 report, which I’ll be updating throughout the year.
Benefits of Creating an Annual Report
I didn’t create a report for the first three full years of my business. For the most part, I am my business, and no one was asking for it. I had work in front of me, and creating such a report required time I could spend earning money and completing jobs.
But now that I have the report (printed, in fact, and within easy reach), I couldn’t be happier that I put it together, and I’d encourage anyone else, no matter how small their business, to do the same.
The following are the main benefits I found from creating an annual report:
- The report made me take a hard look at my business. It’s easy to ignore realities when they’re not staring you in the face. It’s easy to work and work and work and focus only on the job in front of you. Creating this report forced me to take a hard look at my business, the good and the bad. Seeing the bad isn’t easy, but it’s the first step toward addressing what isn’t working and heading in a better direction.
- The report captured all areas of my business in one place. The report gives me a comprehensive scan of all areas of my business in one easy-to-access resource. I expand more below on the areas of the report, so I’ll just say here that having a quick resource for reviewing and thinking about finances, training, clients, and other areas of the business helps me keep those areas top of mind. And this has already prompted me to think more about the business even while I’m working in the business.
- The report made me feel more businesslike. I was working at home even before the pandemic, and I do my best to create a businesslike atmosphere. I maintain fairly regular work hours, and I have a professional properly outfitted workspace. But I’m working alone in my home, and it can be easy to lose sight of the business as a BUSINESS. The report lends weight to the significance of what I’m doing, and it encourages me to think of the business as a business, something that’s often a challenge for freelancers.
- The report let me celebrate my successes. I could do better in many areas of the business, and that will always be true. I never want to stop growing and learning and doing better. But it’s not easy to run an editing business and pay your bills and make your clients happy. And I’ve done this for four full years since leaving in-house employment to pursue this dream. That’s a hell of an accomplishment, and I’m proud of it.
What I Included in the Report
Although I didn’t create a report for 2018, 2019, or 2020, I added income and client information for those years in the appendixes. For each year I created a pie chart with share by client, and this let me see areas of the business that have grown or shrunk over those years.
Another helpful visual was a line graph of my income by year. I dipped a bit in 2021, but in terms of income, 2020 and 2021 were both well above 2018 and 2019, so the graph is still satisfying.
The following are the main areas I addressed in my report. In my overview, I spoke honestly, in a conversational tone. In a sense, I am indeed having a conversation with myself about my business. I wanted to be honest, I wanted to be fair, and I wanted to be kind.
- 2021 Income
- Equipment and Tools
- Appendix A: 2018
- Appendix B: 2019
- Appendix C: 2020
- Appendix D: Books Edited in 2021
- Appendix E: All Courses
The 2021 report served as a good start for my 2022 report. I simply carried over information that would apply and moved around information that could shift (for example, I moved my 2021 financial information into an appendix).
I didn’t break my 2021 report down by quarter, but I plan to do that this year, and it will be fairly easy because I’ll be doing it each quarter rather than at the end of the year.
For items like training, I can add courses as I go.
The report is and always will be a work in progress. This year I plan to add a section on my web presence and social media. I hope to take a more in-depth look at my clients. I’d like to add a section on lessons learned and goals for the following year.
I’ve also rededicated myself to consistent time tracking, and next year’s report will contain more breakdowns of that data, so helpful in estimating fees for clients and seeing the kinds of jobs that are most profitable.
Have you run an annual report for your business? If not, I’d highly recommend doing so. It’s been wonderful for me, and that should translate into a better business for my clients.