Reflecting on the Past Year…aka Starting Your Marketing Early

I’m starting a new series over on Handmadeology, with organization and planning steps to help you plan this coming year. I’m also taking all my own advice along the way, so if you are interested, you can follow along on my planning and perhaps pick up some ideas of your own.

It’s the end of the year: fiscal, calendar, it doesn’t really matter. Most of us are already thinking ahead. Lots of ideas, plans, and probably a sense of “how can I ever make this all happen?” If that’s your mind frame right now, then this series is for you. Step by step, let’s help you plan out the coming year so that it seems both manageable and practical. The best part? You can do this planning whenever you want; you don’t have to wait for an official beginning. You just start, whether it be an individual project, a month, or the whole calendar year.

Step 1 is reflecting on what you FINISHED. What did you get accomplished this past year? Let’s start here. Make a list of what you actually completed this past calendar year (since that’s what most of us work with). Consider everything: sales, new customers, teaching gigs, social media, newsletters, art shows, gallery entries, website development, blog writing, travel, new art work (definitely do not leave out the actual creativity!). WHAT DID YOU DO FOR THE YEAR? Now celebrate each and every accomplishment. You made progress.

This has been a productive year for us, with sales up about 10 percent. About a third of the income was from our participation in StashFest, a fundraiser for the La Conner Quilt Museum. Etsy is hitting its stride. Ebay was surprisingly quiet, especially during the summer. I entered shows for which I created very specific work (and didn’t get in), joined SAQA and Visions Art Museum. I did a newsletter each month starting with April. I created a tutorial for the SewCalGal free motion quilting challenge, got our work accepted in a book, and corralled a feature in the Martha Stewart Weddings issue for this coming March. I completed a pattern and had it reviewed and samples made. I have three out of four of my small seasons quilts completed. I revamped the website with some major changes, and I took apart five old quilts and requilted them. I also took a few classes. There’s more, but this is a good start.

Step 2 is identifying what you DIDN’T get done. This is hard, and sometimes it can leave us with a sense of failure. Not so. Get it out or paper, have the pity party, get over it, and you don’t have to think about it as much. There were reasons why these didn’t get done: not a priority, not enough time, too much money, family and/or job commitments. Identify them and let them go. It’s okay if you are working full time and don’t have a lot of creative time or space. Part of what will follow in later steps will be adding realistic planning into your goals.

As I am half way through my second year of retirement, I am getting used to working furiously for three or four weeks, and then taking at least a week or two to just relax. It is such a nice change from trying to make art during a crazy school year and then getting really productive in the summer, usually the few weeks before school is due to start again. I did have loose ends: a few art quilts that didn’t get completed, so they are still UFOs; the seasons pattern for autumn STILL isn’t done; a brochure for guilds with potential classes still not done; a collector’s newsletter still waiting. But I am learning to let it go. The important things are getting done, especially before deadlines, manufactured or actual, so I have to stop worrying about things.

Step 3 is starting a list of all that you actually accomplish this year. Add to it throughout the year. Then when you reflect next year, you’ve already got your list.

I actually started my list in May. I wanted to be sure I didn’t waste my retirement, so I started keeping close track of all projects I completed, deadlines I made, and business progress. It helps to read it over each time I add something newly completed to it. I can see on a regular basis exactly how I am doing.

Step 4 is sharing what you accomplished, on a blog, your website, a newsletter….or in the comments here. Let me celebrate with you. Working in isolation is tough, and since we have a cyber community, let’s take advantage of it!


6 Responses to “Reflecting on the Past Year…aka Starting Your Marketing Early”

  • great list. i always have a problem with #1, never give myself credit for what I accomplish.

    Have a happy new year

  • Jay:

    I really like your ideas for planning…I am a great list maker…but a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to following the list! I am going to try to follow you as you organize and plan!!

  • Ah, Jay, I so hear you! Great at lists, but sometimes I let the list control me, and then I don’t want to get stuff done. Follow along, because that will be good momentum for me to follow through myself!!

  • Angie, I think we are conditioned to pooh-pooh our own accomplishments and dwell on what didn’t work. So let’s both change that mindset this year!!

  • Debra Dodson:

    Great plan – Like Angie, sometimes I have a hard time actually acknowledging to myself what I’ve actually gotten done instead of burying that under what I want to accomplish or wondering how in the world I’m going to get from point A to point B. Writing down what I’ve done and listing where I want to go is a good way of pointing me in the right direction. I have a tendency of getting sidetracked with playing with lots of different ideas, but never really following through on a finished line/look/product. Maybe it’s my way of keeping from having to put myself out there and really start trying to sell my work. Either way, I’ll be following your suggestions!

  • Thanks, Debra, for your comment! I’m a tad slow getting back to things, as I am getting sidetracked early this year!! I’m glad the suggestions are helpful!

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