Wednesday, December 3, 2008

30-Day Biz Planning Challenge: Checking On Progress

Day 3's goal: Reflect back.

Yesterday I wrote about what I hoped having a business plan would have done for me this year. Did it work?

My general sense is yes. I've had an incredibly abundant year. You wouldn't know by looking at my business we were in a recession this year. My income is near the highest it's ever been--whether working for myself or for someone else full-time. Plus, I've had time to do a lot of the things I love and take care of myself.

But the goal of a business plan is not to plan based on my general sense. It's to be concrete and see what worked. It's an inventory.

So let's get to brass tacks. In last year's biz plan cheat sheet, I listed six goals: an income goal, a time goal, target markets, outgoing clients, major new expenditures, and marketing goals.

Here's how they played out (with some generalities to protect a teensy bit of my privacy):

Income Goal:
Set at: A third more than my 2007 income.
Why: Calculated what I needed to live on plus goals for the year.
Result: I didn't hit the mark, but I will have increased my income by more than $10,000 this year if my projections for December are accurate.

Time Goal:
Set at: Spend five hours a week on querying. Record work hours by task (income work, non-income work, querying, and networking).
Why: To keep my business growing and break into target markets; to know how I'm spending my work time.
Result: Mostly successful. I didn't do it perfectly, but I did record my time from March through the end of the year. Aside from two weeks where I spent nine and 10 hours, respectively, querying, I didn't hit the five-hour-a-week goal.

Target Markets:
Set at: Five consumer pubs and about 20 custom publications.
Why: To do more of the work I love, to earn a sustainable income and be able to use my business to support a rich, full life.
Result: Some progress. Of the five publications, I dropped one, queried another four times, and have another publication considering a story idea after building a relationship with the editor through regular querying. The other two, I've queried only sporadically. Of the custom publications, I queried only a few.

Outgoing Clients:
Set at: Three clients who were no longer fitting in my business model.
Why: Either because of pay limitations or because my professional interests changed.
Result: Imperfect. I parted on pretty good terms with one, did one final story for the second and, for the third, I'm working on a story for right now. But I did drastically cut back with all three.

Major New Expenses:
Set at: Some personal (vacations, saving for Xmas without using a credit card, and moving); some professional (health expenses, computer repairs and an ergonomic office chair).
Why: To have a rich full life that clears my mind for great work, and to work more productively and healthfully.
Result: Mostly good. I saved enough for Xmas presents without having to go into debt and I did get to take vacations. I also saved enough money to start going to the chiropractor and see a nutritionist, which are huge for me. I'll be buying the office chair this month. The only down side? I still haven't moved.

Marketing Goals:
Set at: Send three queries a week to higher-paying markets. Do no query markets paying less than $1/word.
Why: To increase my income, do more features and write the stories that I want to write.
Result: I'm happy to say that I did this fairly consistently. There were some weeks when I didn't query at all, of course. And some weeks I queried more than the requisite three.

Now, does it mean the plan wasn't successful just because I didn't achieve all my goals? Not to me. The point of planning to guide myself in the direction I want to head--not to reach the destination. It's to help me track what that path might look like and give me some concrete steps to take to get there. I don't believe I would have accomplished what I did without the plan.

Do you have goals for those five categories? How did you do compared to what you'd hoped to accomplish this year?

No comments: