What I'm reading: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
What's on the iPod: Babel by Mumford & Sons
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So how the devil are you? I've taken an unannounced vacation and enjoyed the peace and quiet and disconnection. That disconnection was further amplified by Verizon leaving us for nearly 24 hours without phone, Internet, or cable. Ever try to call in a service outage without a phone? Thank God our cell phones are through AT&T. When my husband got through to them nearly a day later, they had no idea we were without as the outage covered a huge area. A little snow causes such chaos, I tell you. These people around here need to get a bit of a backbone when it comes to weather.
We had a lovely snowstorm, too. It was just over three inches, but it looked like feet it was so welcome. And it's remained cold, so the snow is still with us, amen. Our walks are somehow more peaceful with snow on the ground, and it causes us to marvel just a little more at what's around us. In fact, we found a familiar friend at Valley Forge park yesterday (pictured here). He was minus his real live Christmas tree, but the spirit of Christmas was clearly his. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown (and to whoever made him for all to enjoy)!
So today and tomorrow we start looking ahead. For some, the idea of coming up with resolutions appeals. I don't like them because they're usually pipe-dream wishes that we never act on. Instead, I like to plan.
So maybe this year, plan -- and act immediately -- to sketch out on paper your plan for growing your business. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that November and December were about getting your business plan together and working with contracts. Next month we'll concentrate on online marketing and networking, and as the months go by, you'll get help from me and guest posters on ways to improve your plans and add some punch to your efforts.
Where to start?
Look back. No good plan can come together until you know what worked and what didn't this year. Jot down efforts you've made that scored clients, and make note of those that seemed like wasted time. Don't toss those aside entirely, for it could be the idea was fine but the implementation sucked. Go over exactly how much effort and how much follow up was put into those failed attempts. How can you resuscitate that method?
Look ahead. What do you want to accomplish next year? Do you want more clients and more money (do I hear a "Hell yes!"?) or do you want fewer clients, higher fees, and more free time? Whatever your hope is, now is the time to commit it to paper. Write down your goals. Once you do that, you'll find yourself committing to it psychologically. That way, any plan you put in place will have those goals in mind.
Add your accountability. Just like I do here every month, you need to face the music when it comes to your own efforts. If you decide to go for a six-figure-income year but you don't answer to anyone when the first three months are far below what you need to reach that, what good is having the plan? Find a friend, a mentor, a fellow writer, or a blog where you can check in at least once a month on your progress. Nothing motivates you better than knowing you have to report in to someone. Not that you'll get chastised -- you'll probably get encouragement or useful advice -- but knowing you have to reveal it helps keep you on track.
Get creative. Who says you have to follow top bloggers or the book of the minute when it comes to blazing your business trail? Be innovative -- come up with ways to reach clients, make your services stand out from the crowd, find business where few people look, and set rates that make sense to you. Want to send out a brochure? Why not send something different, something that will make them look twice and think "Wow, this person knows how to get my attention"? We're creative people -- let's show it in every aspect of our businesses.
Decide your own fate. Make this the year you stop listening to people parroting the same, regurgitated advice and peppering that advice with absolutes. You MUST do it this way, blah blah... Truth is, advice is best when you can tailor it to your own situation. No one has all the answers, including me. If I tell you how to conduct cold calls and you hate them, ignore the advice for you'll never succeed at something you hate. Find those things that suit you, your business, and your own style. Make them your own by tweaking them to fit the way you do things.
How will you plan your business this coming year? What will be included in that plan? What has worked well for you this year? Why do you think it worked?