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How To Create A 2024 Plan For Your Business (That You’ll ACTUALLY Use)

Episode art
I've just returned from my year-end planning retreat in Chattanooga, TN, and DAMN it was awesome.
This is only my 3rd year doing this and considering I started my freelance journey back in 2009, I discovered this secret WAY too late…
Planning is the secret sauce to having your best year ever (which 2023 was for my businesses).
But here's the kicker – it doesn't have to be a mind-boggling, complex ordeal. A stupidly simple plan that you actually use is worth its weight in gold compared to some over-the-top, convoluted plan that just gathers dust.
Let me share a little secret with you. I tend to be the king of “overcomplication”.
I'd plan so intensely that I'd lose sight of the actual execution. But I learned my lesson, and now I'm all about finding that sweet spot in planning – the perfect balance.
As entrepreneurs, if we're just meandering through life without a plan, we're like driftwood caught in someone else's current. We get pulled INTO other people's plans, and that's not where we want to be.
In the world of freelancing, hanging out with that person with the plan often means working for an agency at a fraction of the price they're charging their big-shot clients. You become the outsourced work, not the mastermind behind the project.
That's probably not the dream you're chasing.
So, what's the alternative? We're going to craft our annual plan. This plan is going to be your North Star, your guiding light, pointing you in a direction that's infinitely better than aimlessly drifting along.
We're going to be intentional in our pursuits, not aimless wanderers.
That's the goal here, and it's a goal worth pursuing with all your freelance might.
So, let's create a plan that'll help 2024 be your best year ever, because remember… if you don't have a plan, you'll end up in someone else's plan.
In this episode you’ll discover:
  • Why you need a plan
  • Analyzing your income and expenses for a better business
  • Viewing your lifestyle with a realistic approach
  • Brain dumping the current year – and the future
  • Setting goals realistically
  • Looking at what areas of your business have room for growth
  • Understanding when your goals are completed, and creating milestones
  • Why you miss your goals
  • Planning ahead for your whole year

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Related Podcast Episodes

Lead Nurture Series (part 1 | part 2 | part 3)
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[00:00:00] Brian: This is the Six Figure Creative Podcast, episode 289. Welcome to the Six Figure Creative Podcast, where our mission is to help you turn your creative passions into a stable, reliable income. If you're in audio, video, design, photography, or really any other creative field, and you just want to learn from other successful creatives, you're in the right place.

[00:00:22] Brian: Hello, and welcome to the Six Figure Creative Podcast. I'm your host, Brian Hood. If this is your first time listening to the show, first of all, hi, hey, hello, welcome. This podcast is for you. If you are a freelancer who offers creative services and you want to earn more money from your creative skills without selling your soul, you're in the right place.

[00:00:37] Brian: For my returning listeners, Happy New Year. Hey, it's awesome. It's 2024. Who freaking knew we'd make it this far? I thought the world would end by now or I'd be gone. I don't know. Something tragic would happen. I don't know. My brain goes into, uh. Catastrophic thinking sometimes, but if I would have thought through, I would have had like the party hat.

[00:00:52] Brian: I'd have had like a little popper, who knows, but that would've been fun to celebrate the New Year's with you for the first podcast of 2024 and many more to come. We are now [00:01:00] nearing our 300th episode and man, things have looked a lot different from episode 1 to 100 to 200 to 300 now and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon.

[00:01:08] Brian: Today we're going to talk about, if you couldn't tell by the title, we're going to talk about the topic of Planning. So boring. So stupid. Creatives, why would you ever do this? Like, why would we want to plan anything? Well, you're either a planner or you're not. I am not naturally a planner. I am the person that like, I will just aimlessly drift through life if you let me.

[00:01:23] Brian: My wife's the person she wants to know what we're doing next Thursday in 2025 for like January 12th. She wants everything planned out, meticulously detailed. When we're leaving, when we're gonna get there, what we're gonna eat, what we're gonna order, what we're gonna do, like, who's gonna be there. Like, she wants every little detail of all things.

[00:01:36] Brian: And so she's the planner. I am not. So, in order for me to actually force myself to plan, I have to have a plan for the plan. And this episode is for you, if you're the aimless freelancer who needs to plan for your plan so that you can go plan, because without me maybe kicking your ass a little bit, you're not going to go plan for the new year.

[00:01:53] Brian: So, as of the time this episode airs, I will have just gotten back from my year end planning retreat. I'm actually doing it in that little gap between Christmas [00:02:00] and New Year's, getting a little hotel down in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I do like a little two or three day kind of thing down there. So this is like a simplified version of that to keep it simple because a stupid simple plan that you actually utilize Actually create and actually fulfill on is way better than a over complicated Ridiculous plan and I simplified my own planning over the years because I started super complicated because I over complicate things So when I do plan I go way too far And so again, i'm finding the happy balance for our listeners right now There's a quote that yogi bear said it it says, uh, if you don't know where you're going You'll end up somewhere else.

[00:02:29] Brian: It's kind of stupid phrase, but I love that. So as freelancers, if we're just aiming so different through life, we're gonna be pulled in the direction of what other people's plans have created. So when we don't have a plan, we're kind of in this vacuum and we're pulled or magnetized towards people who are intentional, who have plans.

[00:02:44] Brian: And if you ever see this in real life, like if you are in a group of people, the person who's not the planner, the person who had no plan, is going to naturally drift towards whoever has the plan. If you're at a party and somebody has planned for some sort of game or united activity for everybody, everyone else gets pulled into that.

[00:02:58] Brian: It's no different in your business. [00:03:00] If you don't have a plan, you'll be pulled into someone else's plan and as freelancers, we can't afford to do that. Someone else's plan usually means that we're working for an agency and they're going to charge us a small day rate and they're charging many, many multiples to whatever big companies hired them for the project.

[00:03:14] Brian: And so now we're the outsourced work because they had the plan, they executed the plan and we got pulled into it. That's not what I want for any of our listeners or viewers on YouTube. We're going to create our annual plan that points you in some sort of direction, which is infinitely better than just aimlessly drifting around to whatever you get pulled into.

[00:03:31] Brian: We want to be intentional versus aimless. And that's the goal for this episode. So let's talk about how to actually do this. First thing we want to do before we actually create a plan. And look forward to 2024 when you first look back to 2023, what worked, what didn't work super simple. And there's a million things you can look at.

[00:03:48] Brian: I want to focus at three main things. The first is your income, six figure creative. Obviously, we're centered around making money without selling your soul, obviously. So we have to look at income like we're businesses. And just quick side note, as [00:04:00] freelancers and creatives, we sometimes may feel guilty or sabotage ourselves and our money making potential because We fail to think of ourselves as businesses.

[00:04:09] Brian: We create value. The creative work that we put out into the world has value that we attach to it. And so we need to pay attention to this. So looking back 2023, what did you earn? Simple number, the one number for your total income for 2023. This is dollars and cents. We can't lie to ourselves about this.

[00:04:24] Brian: This is just the reality of what you did in 2023. What is that number? Now, this is where you have to actually analyze this number. What was the number? Let's just say it's 70, 000 to some. That's great. That's the best year you've ever had to others. This is awful. This is half what we made last year So we need to look at this number and say what did we hope to earn versus what we actually earned?

[00:04:41] Brian: Because this will help us down the road when we're trying to figure out why did this happen either something good happened? We earned more and so we need to figure out what are the good things that actually happened so we can do more of that Or bad things happened. Our income went to half. We were 140, 000 in 2022, only 70, 000 in 2023.

[00:04:57] Brian: What changed? What do we need to do differently? What's not working [00:05:00] anymore? What changed in the industry that I cannot fall into in 2024? So that's the first area is income. Then we would look at what we earned versus what we expected or hoped for. The next thing to look for for 2023, looking back, is our expenses.

[00:05:12] Brian: The big thing I look at here is, is your spending under control. Many business owners, myself included, we get bloated with expenses that we incur that we don't really need. I can think of off the top of my head right now, assuming I haven't already dealt with this for my, my year end planning retreat, two to three pieces of software that we still pay for that we shouldn't pay for anymore.

[00:05:28] Brian: Most of the time, these aren't exorbitant, which is why they just sit there and fester for a long time. But every dollar that I'm spending on things I don't need is a dollar less profit that I make. So the goal here is to just analyze all your expenses and make sure there's nothing in that that shouldn't be there in 2024.

[00:05:41] Brian: Cancel software, maybe stop spending on things that weren't giving you a positive return on your investment. And when we know our income and our expenses, now we have our profit. And just like income, look at this profit number and say, what do we expect to actually profit from our business this year? And what do we actually profit?

[00:05:55] Brian: Is it in alignment or not? Again, we're not doing any crazy financial projections. We're not doing [00:06:00] any sort of crazy accounting by now. You should have these numbers anyways, because end of year, it's tax season. Now you should be going through your books anyways, or your CPA show to your accountant, whoever you have that handles that stuff.

[00:06:10] Brian: Maybe it's you. And chances are you already know these exact numbers. So you've already done this part. Congratulations. Now we need to look to the third section. We talked about income. We talked about expenses. That's the mommy and daddy of your business. And the baby is your profit. They make a baby. It's your profit.

[00:06:21] Brian: It's a really weird analogy. Now we need to look at the third thing or the next thing. And that's the lifestyle slash life balance. This is something that I think when we start talking about without selling your soul, this is part of that as freelancers. When we work for work's sake and we never actually sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor or have any sort of real life outside of our businesses, that to me is pretty close to selling yourself for money.

[00:06:40] Brian: When we take on a bunch of bill paying work we don't want to do because we have to pay the bills. I understand we have to do it sometimes, but it's pretty close to selling yourself. So we need to step back and just look at our life for 2023, money aside, and we look at a few things when it comes to lifestyle or balance.

[00:06:53] Brian: The first is your workload, what we actually worked for the year versus what we expected for the year. If you want to make this super simple on yourself. [00:07:00] And you don't actually track your hours like a crazy maniac. There's a tool I've been using since 2016. It's called Rescue Time. It's installed on every computer that I own.

[00:07:07] Brian: Every laptop, desktop, gaming PC, everything. And it tracks all the apps, all the browsers, everything that I have on every computer. And it aggregates it for me. And what I do at the end of the year is I look back and I look at my productive hours. Every app has kind of a rating assigned to it, either very productive.

[00:07:22] Brian: So like if I'm in my CRM or I'm doing email marketing or I'm doing a podcast like this, and I'm in Riverside, which is what we use for the podcast. It's tracking that and it's set on very productive. And then there's things that are like productive. I wouldn't call it very productive, but productive, like bookkeeping, things like that that just have to be done where I just go back and review things, which I probably shouldn't do anymore, but that's a story for another day.

[00:07:41] Brian: And then there's like unproductive or very unproductive gaming, very unproductive. So what it will do is it'll tell me my total productive hours for the year. And that's the actual KPI that I look at for the year. So sometimes that number is way too low. And so I actually underworked. I sold myself short and I spent a little too much time maybe playing video games or [00:08:00] some other thing.

[00:08:00] Brian: And that's, this is just, we're talking about laptop time. We're not even talking about outside of the laptop in real life. But we're just looking at like when we're on a screen, what's our total productive hours. That's the easiest way that I know to track it versus manually tracking all your time spent.

[00:08:11] Brian: You can also guesstimate it, but that gets really messy. The next is enjoyment level, completely separate thing from how much we made, how much we profited, how much we worked. We actually have an enjoyment level. And sometimes people work nonstop because they love it so much. And there's a balance there somewhere.

[00:08:26] Brian: Again, everyone's different. So some people just they work all the time because they freaking love it. And the only reason. that they are charging for it so they can work more. And again, that's a great place to be. If you love what you do, there's some negatives that come along with that. If you don't have a social life or a personal life or a family life or something outside of your work, when you make your work, your entire identity, you have no hobbies outside of anything.

[00:08:46] Brian: Again, I'm not here to judge. I'm just here to point these things out. But our enjoyment level has to be factored in when we're looking at 2023. How much did you enjoy your day to day life, your work, your business, your personal stuff? And then one more kind of section within this lifestyle and [00:09:00] balance is Just your personal life, everything outside of the business.

[00:09:03] Brian: Do you feel like that is under control, under wraps? Do you feel like it's in a good place? Many people work all the time because they love it. They make good money or maybe they don't, but their personal life is in shambles and they don't realize how quickly that can leak over to your creativity. As freelancers, as solo business owners, solopreneurs, if you will, there is very little difference between us as freelancers and us as human beings in our personal lives.

[00:09:24] Brian: So if we have personal junk we're not dealing with, marital problems, friend problems, drama with family, Drama with friends, all that stuff. If it hasn't already, it will eventually leak over into your personal life. So we got to look at, are there things to address when it comes to personal life that will eventually affect our businesses?

[00:09:40] Brian: Because there's very little difference between you, the freelancer and you as a person. We are very intertwined here. So those are the three main areas to look back on. Your income, your expenses, your lifestyle. Now, when you're doing this, maybe you're doing it right now. Maybe you're reviewing this episode after you heard it.

[00:09:53] Brian: You listened to it on a podcast walk that you do because you listened to me and you said, Oh, Brian does podcast walks. I'm going to do podcast walks. Brian does [00:10:00] 10 steps a day. I'm going to do 000 steps a day. If that's you, cool. Maybe you need to come back to this episode. When you can sit down and actually map this stuff out.

[00:10:07] Brian: But what I like to do, I'm a typer. I was talking to my wife about this. She's a writer. She gets like a little planning journal and she writes all this stuff out. I can't think of a worse thing for me than to try to write things down on a piece of paper. My handwriting sucks. My hand gets cramped. I hate writing.

[00:10:18] Brian: Love typing. So my drug of choice is a Evernote or a Google Doc. And I just bullet point this out. It's awesome. So you just put in a headline 2023 review and you put income. What did I make? What did I expect? Expenses. What did I spend versus what I expected to spend profit? How much I got left over lifestyle?

[00:10:36] Brian: What worked there? What didn't work there? What sucks? What's festering? What was my workload? Like, what was my personal life? Like, what was my enjoyment level? Overall, these are all things to write down and just get out of your head. We're doing what's called unofficially. I call this a brain dump. It's kind of like brainstorming, but I'm just dumping all the stuff in my brain out onto a piece of paper written down by hand.

[00:10:52] Brian: If that's you or put into Google doc and bullet point style like I like to do. So now that we've reviewed our past. Now we're looking forward to 2024. [00:11:00] So if we just talk through our 2023 brain dump, we're going to do our 2024 brain dump as well. This brain dump is about our future. I've got three questions for you to ask yourself in order to kind of spur those thoughts that bubble up that you need to just spew out on the page.

[00:11:12] Brian: Question one, what do you personally want out of your business over the next 12 months? Again, 2024, we got January through December. What do you want out of this business over the next year? Maybe you want a certain income number. Makes sense. Easy to do. It's a number. It's quantifiable. It's measurable.

[00:11:25] Brian: You'll know whether you did it or not, or you hit that number or not. Number two is clout. This is one that people don't really think about. A lot of times as freelancers, we're really motivated by clout. An example from my background in music production could be getting a Grammy award. It could be having Billboard charting artists.

[00:11:39] Brian: I've had many of those, had no Grammys. But they're both essentially clout. Sometimes it's social proof. Sometimes there's a monetary incentive behind it. Like if I get a Grammy, I'm gonna start getting bigger and better artists to me, right? This is a personal journey for you. You know whether you're motivated more by money and the numbers that those things bring in.

[00:11:54] Brian: Or the clout and the status that are associated with that. It's important for you to be honest with yourself here. I'm not judging you. When [00:12:00] you look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, right before we get to self actualization, which is being the best version of ourselves, right below that is status, ego. So many people think they're in self actualization when really they're just trying to feel socially accepted, feel like their status, Is at a higher level than what it was the previous year.

[00:12:17] Brian: I had to confirm this because I was just making sure I looked up mesos hierarchy of needs We'll do a quick review real quick bottom level physiological needs water food shelter sleep clothing We need to get all that stuff taken care of before we can worry about the next level The next level is safety needs so personal security employment resources health property, whatever.

[00:12:33] Brian: So we need to now have those things taken care of before we can really worry about the next level, which is love and belonging. So friendships, intimacy, family, sense of connection, which is a whole other side note, which is we're trying to build our business, build our self esteem, be the best version of ourselves, self actualize, but we have no friendships, no intimacy, no family zone, no sense of connection.

[00:12:49] Brian: Interesting. But once we have all of those things handled, taken care of, secured, then we can look at the top two. We need esteem. Before we can really self actualize, self actualize, I can't even say the word. We need [00:13:00] to feel respected or be respected. We need self esteem. We need some sort of status or recognition, strength, freedom.

[00:13:05] Brian: These are some of the words that are associated with at least the one that I'm looking at here, the respect of others. And then we get to the top level, self actualization, which is creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, experience, purpose, meaning. inner potential desire to become the best that one can be.

[00:13:20] Brian: And if you lack air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, if you lack all of that, probably can't be the best version of yourself. So there's a quick side tangent on this, but now we're going back to question one. What do you personally want out of your business over the next 12 months? Where are you at?

[00:13:35] Brian: Maslow's hierarchy of needs can really help you. Get out of your head. What is it that you're missing? Do you need that clout, that self esteem, the respect of others? That might be why you're not doing some of the things you need to do. If you can't make yourself post on social media, be more public about the work that you're doing because you don't have the confidence to do it.

[00:13:49] Brian: This might be the area where if you are a music producer and you have multiple number one billboard charting albums and you have three Grammys, you probably have the self esteem and clout thing figured out, [00:14:00] right? And then next, when it comes to what you personally want in your business, is the lifestyle or the balance?

[00:14:04] Brian: What's missing there? Are you working too much? Is your life in shambles, friendships are falling away, your marriage is crumbling, whatever that is, what are your goals around that in the next 12 months? Again, when we say what do you personally want out of your business, it's really what do you personally want out of your life.

[00:14:16] Brian: As freelancers, we don't really get the privilege of siloing our businesses off from our personal lives like you would at a big company. Do you think Jeffrey Bezos personal life really affects Amazon day to day anymore? Probably not the fact that he's not CEO anymore, but even rewind five years. His personal life really isn't going to directly affect Amazon at a great level.

[00:14:36] Brian: Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm right. I don't know. But I do know that as freelancers, especially when we're selling creativity for money, which is a weird thing to say, but it's true. Not having a balanced personal life will spill over into your creativity. Now, I'm just going to make this argument, even though it completely contradicts what I said.

[00:14:51] Brian: I guess there's like the Taylor Swift argument, and that is you write your best songs after breakup. When your life is in turmoil, maybe we're fueled by trauma. I don't know. I'm not going to go down that rabbit [00:15:00] hole, but, uh, let's avoid that. I would prefer to have a life that I love and put out less good albums as a musician than to have a train wreck of a life and put out bangers.

[00:15:08] Brian: All right. Question number two, when we're brainstorming here, brain dumping, what are all the things that need to be done to reach those goals? Now we're getting to the real stuff. We want to reach 100, 000 this year. What needs to be done for that to happen? I want to have a great marriage. What needs to be done there for that to happen?

[00:15:23] Brian: I want to have a really robust. Wide and deep social life, something that's rewarding and rich. What needs to be done for that to happen? I want clout. I want the big clients who are going to look impressive on my resume, on my testimonials or case studies, ones that are going to level me up as a freelancer.

[00:15:42] Brian: What does that look like? What do you need to do for that to happen? Just list out other things. Maybe you need to start seeing a marriage counselor. Maybe you need to update your portfolio. Maybe you need to start taking lead generation seriously. Maybe you need to start actually socializing with people and not saying no to friends who reach out to you for lunch or for hangouts or for parties.

[00:15:59] Brian: This will not be [00:16:00] a fast process. When I say brain dumping, you're spewing things out on paper. Don't limit yourself. Don't try to like Have all the right answers here. Be free flowing, be in a brainstorming state or a brain dumping state. But also, don't breeze through this. This episode will be like 45 minutes long, maybe.

[00:16:15] Brian: I can't tell the future. But a good plan for 2024, for the entire year, the thing that you're going to be pointed at and say, that's what I'm going to do, is going to take more than 45 minutes to do. Be okay with that. In the brainstorm section here, what are potential bottlenecks or roadblocks that could prevent you from reaching those goals.

[00:16:31] Brian: So maybe you want to reach 150k, 250k. Maybe you want to do multiple six figures. Great. Do you have enough time to actually do the things that you need to do to reach that level? That's a bottleneck. Does it even make sense on paper without working 100 hours a week? Those are potential bottlenecks or roadblocks that hold you back from a goal.

[00:16:46] Brian: List all of those things out and now we move to the next section, which is organized. If you did this right, you might have dozens of things to sort through here. We're going to look through the list and we're going to organize them into categories. Some of these categories might be solo. They don't really fit in any of [00:17:00] the boxes that you can think of.

[00:17:01] Brian: And some of them, they'll probably fit into one of these categories here. We have lead generation, lead nurture, sales. Those are kind of three categories. We actually have series on all three of those things. If you are struggling with any of those things, we have podcast series. They'll be linked in the show notes at SixFigureCreative.

[00:17:14] Brian: com slash 289. And if you want to lump that into one big category, that's just the client acquisition category. Lead gen. How do we generate leads? Lead nurture. How do we stay on top of mind until they're ready to buy sales? How do we get people over the finish line? Those are the three kind of buckets there when it comes to client acquisition.

[00:17:28] Brian: Then we have fulfillment. How do we actually fulfill on the promise that we've given on the services we've provided? So if things are taking too long and you have a big bottleneck around time, maybe it's a fulfillment issue. There are categories around monetization and pricing. Maybe you've determined that your average annual client value needs to go up in order for you to hit your goals because there's no other way for it to work because on paper, you're maxed out as far as how many hours you're going to work.

[00:17:48] Brian: So the only way to do it is to make clients worth more while working the same amount of time. That means average annual client value goes up. There's a whole category for that in the monetization kind of category. And then finally, there's a kind of a personal category. If you just have like personal [00:18:00] things that you want to work on.

[00:18:01] Brian: Put that into personal category. Now you can categorize this however you want. I just wanted to give you some of my thoughts on how that might look. So we're trying to organize all the stuff we've just spewed out and dumped all over the page. Whether we're writing out by hand or bullet pointing it like me on an Evernote.

[00:18:14] Brian: We've categorized this list into maybe one of my six categories or maybe your own categories. And now the important part. We will create a list of projects that will attempt to solve these problems or reach these goals. And we're going to write something called a meaning statement for each of these.

[00:18:27] Brian: All right, I'll walk you through an example here. Example. Problem is our income has been stagnant year over year. Maybe it's gone down year over year, whatever that is. So some of the things that we need to do is increase average annual client value, level up to bigger and better clients, maybe that clout thing.

[00:18:40] Brian: And we're already working like 80 hours a week, right? So we can't work more hours. Well, if I'm splitting these into like actual projects that we're listing out, One of those might be hiring a VA, virtual assistant. And I actually might tackle that first because a virtual assistant will buy back my time so that I have more time to invest in some of the other things.

[00:18:55] Brian: Like, how do I get bigger, better clients? How do I increase my average annual client value? How do I even [00:19:00] have time to sit down and brainstorm on the stuff that Brian talked me through on episode 280 something when I'm already work to the bone all the time now. Hiring out help, virtual assistant, great place to start.

[00:19:09] Brian: So you've now created a project. that attempts to solve the problem of having a massive bottleneck around the amount of time you have to spend on your business or in your business. And that's hiring a virtual assistant. Now we're going to create our meaning statement. This is an important part of mapping this out.

[00:19:21] Brian: So it makes sense. And we know exactly what we need to do moving forward. So we're not just having a bunch of vague goals and vague things to do without any real specificity. So hiring a virtual assistant, meaning I've hired and trained a part time virtual assistant who can handle all the tedious non creative administrative tasks in my business.

[00:19:38] Brian: That's the first part. The next part is this allows me to blink. What does it allow you to do? It allows me to free up 10 hours a week, 20 hours a week. So I can invest that time into bigger, better things. Eliminate the 10 to 15 an hour tasks that I've been doing all the time because I have control issues that I can't release.

[00:19:57] Brian: And I've refused to let someone else do it because they can't [00:20:00] do it as well as I can. That's a lie you tell yourself. Side note for non creative tasks, if someone else takes it on and does it 80 percent as well as you, but it takes you 0 percent of the time that it took before, that's 100 percent awesome all the time.

[00:20:11] Brian: So do that as much as you can. We don't need our non creative, administrative tasks to be done to a meticulous level that you tackle your creative tasks with. I swear to you, it's not as important as you think it is. Unless it comes to like taxes and bookkeeping, then it needs to be meticulous. But I can promise you're not good at that.

[00:20:26] Brian: There's a final part of this meeting statement and it says, I'll know this is done when administrative assistant is doing all these things. They're all off my plate and I have saved X number of hours a week. So again, just to review. You're taking all of these things that we've brain dumped into the categories and we're creating projects around them.

[00:20:42] Brian: I need to get my time. I need to buy back my time. Right? That's a thing that I need to be done. So what are projects that will alleviate those things? Hiring a virtual assistant. Great. And then we create our meeting statements saying, meaning I've hired and trained a part time VA who can do all these things, handle non creative tasks, admin stuff.

[00:20:57] Brian: This allows me to blank. And I'll know [00:21:00] this is done when blank. If you've written all these projects out, and you've created these meaning statements for all of them, that makes the next part very easy. Now we need to create milestones for each of these projects. So I'm going to go back to the virtual assistant thing because it's just an easy example to give you.

[00:21:14] Brian: If we've created this project, we've created the meaning statements. Now we look at what milestones could there be for this specific project. that I can kind of check off as we do them. Think of them in sequential order as best you can. First would be like creating a job description, or maybe the first is learning how to create a job description.

[00:21:29] Brian: Next would be posting to job boards, or maybe you go with one of the placement services. There's tons of placement services out there that source and hire the virtual assistants for you. You're going to pay anywhere from like a small fee to an arm and a leg for the privilege of hiring their virtual assistants who are already pre vetted, whatever.

[00:21:43] Brian: But sometimes we're better off hiring somebody within our industry with a little more domain expertise. Depending on what services you need done. For example, if you need somebody handling stuff in your CRM for project related things, you might want a smaller, like up and coming person or intern in your field who has experience with this sort of thing.

[00:21:59] Brian: [00:22:00] Or even maybe it's not a virtual assistant. Maybe it's someone else who's like an assistant for your actual work. Again, every business is different for me in my world, music production. I just hired somebody else who was in that world that understood it and they were able to handle a lot of the things That I needed done instead of like a professional virtual assistant who is trained for all things virtual assistant So create the job description post the job boards or put out into your social network your friend group to get applications interview all qualified applications Higher end train and then schedule a 60 day review and the 60 day review you're talking over like what were expectations where they met.

[00:22:32] Brian: Are you happy? Am I happy? Should we move forward or not? 60 day reviews are really important, especially when you're doing a new role so that you're not just continuing on in like zombie land where like nobody's happy. You're not getting what you paid for. They're not really loving what they're doing. It allows you to just have a good point where you're going to intentionally talk about whether you move forward or not.

[00:22:48] Brian: Those are some milestones for this specific thing. And that was just me brainstorming quickly. You may have more or less, but what this allows you to do when you do this for all the projects is now you have a really good understanding of all the work that's going into this, [00:23:00] what needs to be done to actually achieve this thing, and now we can actually start to slot this in.

[00:23:04] Brian: So we get to the final kind of part of our annual plan. And that is creating our annual plan. We have like all these projects with the meeting statements, all the milestones kind of mapped out. We understand all these things that we want to get done. Now we need to put them in a logical order and we need to make sure we don't overload ourselves.

[00:23:18] Brian: I like splitting into quarters. Q1 is January through March. Q2 is April through June. Q3 is July through September. Q4 is October through December. So I'm recording this Q4 comes out first week of Q1. And because every freelance business tends to have seasonality. A lot of them do. You need to know when are your busy seasons or what your busy quarters and when are your slow seasons, your slow quarters.

[00:23:39] Brian: Those are when you want to put more things in the slow quarters versus the busy quarters where you know you're going to be slammed with project work and you may need to back off on these kind of like working on your business tasks. So generally speaking, I say one to three projects per quarter is a good kind of cadence to go through.

[00:23:54] Brian: Obviously it depends on how big the project is and how busy you are. But we need to put this in a logical order because earlier, I [00:24:00] gave the example where maybe your income has been stagnant year over year. You made 140, 000. You did 145, 000. You went back down to 140, 000 or 138, 000. That's a stagnation.

[00:24:09] Brian: That's two, three years in a row. In my entire life, I've had two down years, I think. And if you ever have two in a row, that's stagnation. One down year, we all have it sometimes. What's to me a healthy business is you've survived a down year and you've gone up to your best year ever after that. In an ideal world, we just always grow, but in that example, we have a series of stagnant years.

[00:24:28] Brian: We need to make sure we're prioritizing things correctly because we can't just throw a bunch of projects on our plate if we're really time poor. If we have very little time to actually do anything and we're stagnant because we have maxed out what we can charge in our niche, we can't charge more without maybe leveling up the clients or maybe like in my world, label projects for shrinking.

[00:24:46] Brian: Self funded bands. I was charging about as much as I could for those. So, I had to find other ways to creatively increase my income. And I had to hire help. I had to hire a part time kind of virtual admin assistant. And a part time assistant in the studio with me to do a [00:25:00] lot of the non creative tasks in the studio.

[00:25:01] Brian: Like in Pro Tools, editing, prepping files, naming things, uploading things, sending files off to people. Checking my CRM, all those things are non creative tasks that I had to address in order to break through that kind of down year or plateau year because I ran out of time. That was my big thing. When you run out of time, we need to focus on other things.

[00:25:16] Brian: So we need to know what is the bottleneck or the logical order that's going to solve these things in a way that allows us to keep up our momentum. Because the worst thing you can do is You put the worst project first, you start to do it, you run out of time or some other bottleneck gets in the way because you didn't prioritize this correctly, and then you never get it done, you're behind the rest of the year, you slowly lose motivation because you're not hitting all the projects and all the goals you set, and then we end up here in 2025.

[00:25:41] Brian: with this exact same conversation and very little has changed. That being said, you're still probably better off than making no plan because you at least had a direction in your mind that you're pointed towards, which is still better than nothing. But putting this into a logical order that makes sense for you is a very important part as you won't get this perfect.

[00:25:56] Brian: And in an ideal world, every quarter you have time set aside on your calendar to [00:26:00] review the past quarter. Doing this literally every quarter is essentially. The right way to do it, but I know most freelancers aren't going to do that, and that's okay. But the key for me to making this work is actually putting this on the calendar now instead of waiting until we get closer to the date.

[00:26:13] Brian: So if you're sitting here, you've got all these projects, let's just say one to three per quarter. Let's just say six projects on the table here. And we all have these wonderful milestones we mapped out, like writing a job description, posting the job, interviewing qualified candidates. We kind of have an idea of what this is going to look like.

[00:26:28] Brian: We may not have the best way of quantifying how long each specific step is going to take, especially if this is your first time doing something like this. So in these cases, it's best to just put it on the calendar. This week, I will write a job description. This week, I will find the job boards to post this on.

[00:26:41] Brian: This two, three, four week period, I'm going to do interviews and try to find the best candidate. And then for this three week period, I'm going to hire and train and onboard. And then the 60 day reviews a couple months after that. So I know this will take. For the hiring process, about a month, a month and a half on my calendar to do it.

[00:26:56] Brian: And then we'll have the 60 day review, which is kind of a one time thing. So that's not something I need to worry [00:27:00] about. But now you can literally put this on your calendar planning forward. And you do this for every project for the year. And you have a better idea. When am I going to do this? How long is it going to take?

[00:27:07] Brian: How long have I set aside to do it? And we can adjust and grow from here. versus overloading ourselves with a bunch of to dos that we'll never do. So once you've made this list, and you put it into a nice and neat place that you can review, all we want is this document. We don't need all the information of how we got there.

[00:27:21] Brian: We just need this document. You can print it out if you're going to do it digitally, or you can write it down if you're going to do it with your hand. We need a document that we can review. on a semi regular basis, something that we're going to see. It's going to be in front of us. It has each quarter, 4, and the projects we're going to do within that quarter with estimated dates for each one ahead of time.

[00:27:38] Brian: And just have that for us to review. All I need to do is just every few days, every week, every month, just be able to look at that and know that this is what I'm working on. This is the simplified version of my annual planning process. And it's served me well for the past few years. And hopefully starting next week, when I go out on my next annual planning retreat.

[00:27:54] Brian: It will serve me well for 2024. If you start going through this and you find that your biggest bottleneck or your biggest issue [00:28:00] is either lead generation, lead nurture, sales, fulfillment, monetization, aka client acquisition. If that's your big bottleneck or your big thing moving forward in 2024, feel free to reach out with us.

[00:28:11] Brian: We will help you put together a full client acquisition roadmap. That we can pitch to you, you can approve, and if you approve it, we can work together in 2024 to personally help you implement and reach your client acquisition goals. Just go to sixfigurecreative. com slash coaching, fill out the short application, and we'll see if it's a good fit for you or not.

[00:28:28] Brian: I don't know about you, but I'm excited for 2024. I think we all can say that it will be better than 2020. I think the first time I started taking annual planning seriously was 2020 might have been my first year in retreat in the 2019 early 2021 I was like very gung ho about it very excited similar to I am now and like that entire plan went out the window not entire thing but a ton of a change so I cautiously optimistic crossing my fingers that this is an amazing year 2023 my best year ever one of my favorite years of all time I've had a great [00:29:00] year.

[00:29:00] Brian: I've really enjoyed it. Personal life. Great. I can't complain about much of anything. Grown the team. That's awesome. And I'm hoping more of the same for you in 2024. And I can say that 2023 was my best year ever because of the plans I put in, started putting into place around 2020, even though 2020 was a dumpster fire.

[00:29:17] Brian: So take this stuff seriously. It helps. I look forward to hearing from you as to what you plan for 2024. So thank you so much for listening to the Six Figure Creative Podcast. Bye.

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