My 7-step guide for new year planning in your business
At the time I’m writing this, we’re slowly coming up to the end of a year, which always has me pondering what I want to work on next. Generally, once about mid-October hits, I start to plan out the remaining weeks and aim to tie up my client projects by mid-December. This gives me some downtime before the holidays to take it slow, work when I feel inspired, and be with family and friends when that feels more important.
It’s a great time to assess your business in terms of what’s working, what’s doing alright, and what’s not working. It’s also a good time to take a look at what you want to focus on in the coming year.
Today, I want to share the steps I take when I’m starting to feel that new-year-itch and end-of-the-year slowdown.
Here are the steps I take to reflect and plan:
STEP 1 | Reflect on the past year
There are 3 main questions that I ask myself first:
- What worked well?
- What worked ok?
- What didn’t work?
I like to do a general brainstorm about everything that I think went well with my business. Anything from client projects that went super smoothly to processes that worked to keep me on track and organized, to blog posts or social media posts that were popular - get it all down on paper for a bigger picture at what’s working for you in your business.
After that, I jot down a bunch of things that were just meh...ok. Things that worked, but might be able to be improved on or made better in some way or another. For me, this included tasks during my client process that yes, are working, but could be even better for my brand experience. It also included some systems and processes that worked to get the job done, but that I think could be more efficient or less time-consuming. ty
Lastly, I jot down the things that just didn’t work for me during the past year. In my business, that happened to be things like my accounting software not being able to accept international clients (an important feature for me), bookkeeping that I kept putting off time and time again, a blogging process that had me procrastinating every time I tried to sit down and write.
STEP 2 | Reflect on your numbers
The second part of reflecting on the past year involves taking a hard look at the numbers within your business.
I pay the closest attention to:
- Overall income that year
- Monthly income
- Number of client projects I took on
- Number of sales I made on digital and physical products
- Revenue broke out by revenue stream to assess which parts of my business I should focus my energy on most
- Social media and email community follower growth
It’s important to have a good sense of how your business is growing over a year. It also helps to go into a new year if you plan on setting any kind of tangible goals or financial targets.
STEP 3 | Brainstorm Session for the new year
Once I feel like I have a good handle on how my past year went down, I am ready to tackle a brainstorm session for everything on my mind for the new year. I start this process by setting a timer or just giving myself the freedom to take as long as I need to get everything down on paper. I grab a notebook and a pen and I just start jotting things down.
There’s not much organization to how I do this. I just simply write out everything I’m thinking I want the new year to encompass. That usually means I jot down things like:
- Projects I’m thinking of working on
- Client projects that will go into the new year
- Financial goals I’m thinking of
- Words to focus on
- Processes to refine
- To-do lists...etc.
I usually end up with about a page of randomness that I can then start to organize later on.
STEP 4 | Work through The Brand Planner
I’ve started to incorporate The Brand Planner into my routine for new year planning and it’s really helped me get a solid grasp on the big picture of my business. I work through the exercises to remind myself of my “why” as a business owner and to help keep me focused on what’s more important to my brand.
Once I have the information from The Brand Planner in combination with my brainstorm notes, it’s time to get organized!
STEP 5 | Break down financial goals
Referring back to my brainstorm session and notes from The Brand Planner, I start to break out all of my expenses that I am projecting for the new year.
I usually make one section for personal expenses. Things like:
- Mortgage or rent
- Food costs
- Nice-to-have things (like date nights, day trips, self-care)
And one section for my business expenses, like:
- Office space
- Cell phone
- Apps and software
- Email marketing costs
From here, I make a break down of my financial goals. Usually, my formula looks something like this:
PERSONAL EXPENSES PER MONTH
BUSINESS EXPENSES PER MONTH
SAVINGS PER MONTH
VACATION FUND (MONEY PUT ASIDE EACH MONTH FOR A TRIP)
30% BUFFER FOR TAXES
= MONTHLY GOAL
One more step for the financial stuff. Once I have a good idea about how much I would like to make in the coming year to support the lifestyle I want to be living I can start to figure out how that will break down in terms of how many clients I will need to book or how many products I will need to sell.
To get this info, I get an average of all of my packages available. I also consider the passive income streams I have and think about a reasonable, but still challenging goal for those.
I have 2 main income streams at the time of writing this. I have my design services and I have The Brand Planner. So if I take the monthly amount I would like to be making next year and multiply that by 12, I get a yearly amount.
For the sake of showing math, let’s look at some pretend numbers:
Let’s say my financial goal for the year is $100,000 to keep a nice rounded number. Based on my findings from last year, I might be able to know that I make 90% of my income from design services and 10% from my products. If you don’t have any info from the past year, don’t worry. Just make a reasonable estimate.
So, if I’m thinking I want to expand on my product sales in the coming year, then let’s say 85% of my income next year will likely be from design services (as opposed to maybe 90% it was last year). That’s $85,000, and if my average client project costs, let’s say $3,500.00. That means I need to book about 24-25 new clients. It also means that my products might account for $15,000 next year and if each one sells for $50 then I need to sell 300.
Thus... an exemplary new year for Function might mean 25 new clients and 300 book sales!
This is just some simple math to get you thinking about tangible ways to meet your financial goals. I’ve even gone so far as to break this out with my actual plan for next year and draw out the number of clients I want to take on as circles on a sticky note so that every time I take on a new project I can fill in a circle. Tracking things visually excites me (obviously) and helps me stay focused.
STEP 6 | Organize a plan
Based on the brainstorm session I did earlier in the process, I now start to pick out some of the bigger ticket projects and tasks I want to tackle. I’ll list them out along with tasks on another page in my notebook. The Brand Planner also has a nice, tidy section on setting priorities in your business and how to break them out into manageable tasks!
Step 7 | Decide on my 3 words
Each year, instead of committing to new year resolutions, which I think are great, but don’t really work for me, I set 3 intention words for the coming year. These are words I want to embrace and focus on in any aspect of my business and/or life.
My words for the coming year: connection, real, sustainable.
I’ll break it out in a little more detail for you:
- Connect more deeply to the people I’m already speaking to and communicating with instead of trying to focus on exposure or finding new people within my audience
- Connect more deeply with my clients in a collaborative way
- Listen more intentionally
- Collaborate and connect with fellow entrepreneurs by supporting each other’s journeys and sharing people’s work that I believe in
- I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the same old. I’m focusing on being even more transparent and real about this journey.
- No more doing things because other people said I should. I believe in connecting with people and helping bring visions to life. That’s how I plan on marketing and selling: by sharing and telling my own story.
- Even clearer boundaries and protection of my energy so that I can be the best version of myself in my life and for my clients and community!
- A focus on stabilizing my income month to month.
- Helping support small businesses by buying more from makers and entrepreneurs whenever I can.
- Being more mindful of my own consumption of things.
- Paying a whole lot more attention to my health and well-being.
There you have it. A 7-step guide to help you plan for your new year. A new year is a fresh opportunity to step back and figure out what you want this dream business of yours to look like and how you want it to support the life that you want to live.
Wishing you the happiest of planning sessions, you keen entrepreneur, you!
Ps - want a tool to make the planning process a whole lot easier?
The Brand Planner is a hardcover, hold-it-in-your-hands, take-it-away-to-a-quiet-place, no-screens-needed tool. It’s meant to guide you through your own journey towards brand clarity and business direction so that you can start living your own definition of success. Oh, and there is a digital version if you prefer that sort of thing.