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2018 – A Year In Review

Hey everyone and thank you for joining me on my year in review 2018. Buckle your seat belt, it’s a bumpy one. I am writing this post on new years eve. Although I have been thinking a lot about this post I decided I wanted to write it at the very last minute. I really wanted to write this at the end of the year so I can not only share with you 2018 in review but really take note of what has and hasn’t worked. This blog post is a mix of both business and a hint of personal because we all have personal lessons to learn too. I’m just going to go ahead and say now, 2018 was not a great year for me. It was definitely a ‘make or break’ kind of year. But I wave goodbye to it with a smile on face, I survived it and came off better. It taught me a lot and for that, I can only be grateful! So let’s dive in!

2018 taught me some big lessons: –

Lesson One | Trust your gut & Change your mind

So this year, was a crazy one. I went from ‘kind of’ freelancing to starting to get more serious about running a business. I then went to being offered a full-time job which I took. Despite the fact I love running my own business, there was still that snag in the back of my head that said ‘you need to get a ‘REAL JOB’ Hand up if you’ve had this? So, I took the job, I started the job, I quit the job. Yep, it was NOT for me. Although I love the design world and one day I may consider working in-house within a company in the far future, never say never. I just couldn’t stand the not having breakfast with my daughter in the morning or picking her up from school. Having to juggle her around just made me feel so guilty. You have to really think of what is most important to you. For me, it was that I wanted my work to juggle around her, she’s first. At that moment I knew, this isn’t for me, at least not yet. Never say never but from that moment on I dived right into my business and haven’t regretted or doubted that decision. Not once.

Lesson – trust your gut. It’s okay to try something to see how you feel, and it’s even more okay to change your mind and follow what you love.

Lesson 2 | Charge more & Work less

This next lesson came from a pretty huge burnt out. Things were going great, I had a giant to-do list and loads of work to create that I love. I don’t mind being busy and I don’t mind working hard. Especially when I love working with the people I do and running my business so much. But burnt out, is not fun. This came from working too much and not being paid enough, no one’s fault but my own. I kept saying yes to less money, yes to more work and didn’t set myself any time to take time off. Although without a doubt I love ALL my past clients and I’m so grateful and so lucky to have worked with such AMAZING and inspiring women. There was just no way I could keep going how I was going. I’d never run the business I dreamt of, I was there to run a business that worked for me. That allowed me to earn a decent income, to spend time with my daughter.

Lesson – If I wanted to work long hours, I would have stayed in that full-time job I spoke about. So I decided to charge what I was worth, work with a select number of people per year and put more time into running a successful business. And don’t forget, more time enjoying.. well, life. And that is perfectly okay.

Lesson 3 | Perseverance

After a lot of terrible things happening in my personal life, 2018 was definitely a hard year. It took a lot of digging deep and a lot of ‘surviving’. It took a lot of constant personal reflection on how I feel and how I can change things. At one point I actually considered giving my business up, although it was all I wanted to do. But eventually, it taught me a lot about who I am. Life is full of constant change and through that, we grow. Well let’s just say, I grew a heck of a lot this year. And that’s okay too.

Lesson 3 – Sometimes things happen way beyond our control that we CAN’T change but we can always change how we respond to them. Perseverance may not be fun, but it’s an important lesson to learn. Sometimes we can’t avoid the difficult, but we can reflect and learn from it.

Lesson 4 | Stand Out & Niche Down

As I began to commit to my business full time I started listening to podcasts while working, my favourite is Get Back To Design podcast, the information and value in this podcast are UNREAL. There were a few episodes that really sparked some ‘HOW OBVIOUS’ light bulb moments. From there, I learned a TON of lessons. Although this is all classed as lesson 4, there are really two valuable lessons I learned.

Lesson 4: Part 1 – I have to niche down and create a completely unique service. I decided to niche to photographers because not only do I know a lot of photographers, I used to be a photographer. I’ve studied photography as long as I’ve studied design, I did run a photography business for a bit too. I know all the good photography websites, resources and groups. They are my people. Why am I not designing for a community I ADORE. Duuuurr! Now, this doesn’t have to be your niche, I recommend looking at what you REALLY love, because that is what will make the difference. DO NOT niche to an audience you don’t enjoy. Love lifestyle bloggers and follow them? Do that. Youtubers? Go for it. E-commerce, Eco-Friendly businesses… Whatever your passionate about, do that. Now I’m not saying I won’t work with someone who isn’t a photographer as I like to make sure projects are a right fit for me no matter who it is, but how much easier if your marketing and business going to run when you know exactly whom you are looking to connect with? let me tell you, LOADS.

Lesson 4: Part 2 – Do what works for you even if that’s not what everyone else in your field does, and create a great experience. Obviously, niching isn’t enough. I needed my clients to go ‘wow’ when they work with me. Word of mouth is an important marketing technique and I really needed to get my process and experience down. Which I’m still tweaking and have a LOT of changes to make in the near year just to take it to that next level. Most designers I know have a project timeline of 6-8 weeks and that’s great. But it does not work for me and it does not work for my clients either. I like to block things in terms of time, spend one week on this and another on that. A longer timeline for me felt like it got drawn out, it becomes stale for my clients to. I came up with my 2-week brand experience and my 4-week brand and web experience. I take two weeks off in-between projects to buffer and to allow time for me to do my marketing and to really get my mind prepared for a new project. Do what works for you.

This leads me to my goals for 2019 and how I pln to achieve them.

  • I want to really immerse myself in my niche by creating amazing content that photographers will enjoy and really get to know some of the incredible people I want to work with.
  • I really want to nail down an incredible client experience by providing extra free resources, a great workflow and any personal touches I can give my clients to make them feel wonderful and excited!
  • Consistent marketing by creating consistent blog content, creating good free resources. I want to keep Pinterest and Instagram consistent and provide helpful content and be more engaged in Facebook groups where my target audience hangs out.
  • Take all weekends and a half terms off to enjoy time with my little lady and go on lots of adventures together!
  • Feeling inspired for me is important and getting out of the house and going to gallery’s and exhibitions is a big BIG love of mine. It makes me feel passionate and just all the good things. So my next goal is to go to more galleries and soak in as much design inspiration as possible. I signed up for the design calendar and I cannot wait for it to arrive! Plus I’ve not yet been to London Design Week despite pining for years to go. This year, I WILL be going, even if it’s the only exhibition I attend.
  • Generate other revenue streams and more passive incomes. It’s just good business sense really. I want to really understand my target audience and ask them what they need so I can really make something they will love so I can help ‘my people’ as I now call them.
  • Finish my degree. I currently study part-time on an open university distance learning course. Although I’ve been studying design for the longest time and worked with a ton of people, last year I decided to formally get my degree. I love it but I always find that it takes such a back seat in my life. I want to schedule one day a week to really focus on that. Which I have already booked in my calendar as Mondays!
  • Learn new skills. There is so much I still have to learn. There is no one in the design field that can say they know everything. I want to really improve my drawing technique, watercolour, illustration. I even want to start learning things like animation, UX and more website design knowledge. I plan to do this by spending half the day on Fridays taking online courses and just creating. I want to take more time for just focusing on at least one thing to improve and learn per week.

2018, despite its lows, has been an incredible year. I’ve gained so many amazing beautiful memories that I will never forget. I’ve learned a huge amount within my business and personally which I can already feel is setting me up for a great new year. I worked with some amazing clients in 2018, which I’ve put into a slider below. I worked on my most favourite projects this year and couldn’t be happier how they turned out. I’m truly bless to be able to do this for a living and to connect with such incredible women throughout the world.

Hope you all have a lovely New years, see you all in 2019!

Sarah xo

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