End of year business reviews

I found myself being absent from lots of social stuff in the last couple of weeks. I just about managed to pull it together to squeeze out a Much Love Monday and a Silent Sunday, but I’ve found it pretty hard going to focus on anything but work. For example, I don’t know how you spent your Saturday night, but I got my kicks from doing a business analysis (okay – interrupted by a dog walk and a very spectacular sunset…) Yeah, I admit it: it’s not the most fun a woman can have on a Saturday evening.

But here is method to my madness

September is always like the beginning of the year for teachers. January might be the real new year and spring might be the earthly new year, and April the financial new year (at least in England, if not in France) but it’s always good to do a little reflection from time to time. I guess most sole traders or autoentrepreneurs just keep going from year to year. I don’t know. Does anyone else think about what worked and what didn’t?

In all, I’m pretty pleased. Of course, work took a huge hit when I moved to rural France from urban England. In England, I was up and running with full books in a month. Here, well, it took some time to get to the same point. It’s not a bad thing to know that I managed to grow my business especially in the midst of a recession. That is no bad thing. Many businesses are folding. So I find myself having to put it in perspective.

Now I’ve got up to full speed, it’s all about streamlining in 2013-14. I only took off national holidays last year and I have at least two clients every single day of the week. Unfortunately, with François Hollande’s decision that schools in France should be open on Wednesdays, I have had to squeeze all my Wednesday morning clients in elsewhere. I delivered 968 lessons in 2012-13, which is more than most teachers do. It’s certainly more contact time than I ever had when I was in school. This is why I need to streamline what I’m doing in 2013-14. And I need to timetable days off.

The trouble is, on rare days where I have had no clients this summer, I have been doing other things like writing or marking. I’ve forgotten what days look like where I don’t work at all. So, as for 2013-14, I have blocked out two weeks at Christmas where I will be ON HOLIDAY and four days in November and April. That’s a pretty radical thing to do for me. Nobody ever says when you go self employed that you will be constantly ‘at work’ and never feel like you can have a sick day. I never had much by way of sick days when I was employed, but at least I got holidays. It makes a huge, huge difference not to be dictated to by a bunch of cockwombles (sorry Nana) but the price you pay is in giving up your life to work. This academic year, I’m hoping to reset the balance a bit.

As a newbie business, you take what you can get. You don’t have the security of contracts so you say yes to every single piece of work that comes your way. You work through the gluts hoping they will carry you through the famines. Plus, when you are dealing with children, it’s easy to want to help. If I can fit people in, I’ll always try to.

So what do I want to do this year?

A big part of it is to do with passive income. A fair chunk of my income last year came from royalties. That’s nice money to get. It’s a job that keeps on giving, even when I finished some books seven or eight years ago. I’m also hoping to maximise on those thousands of GCSE students who end up at my teacher blog needing something more as I plan on doing some monetised podcasts. Not sure how they will go. GCSE students end up at my blog. They don’t have credit cards. If they did, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind paying a little for my efforts in helping them. But I think for every 1000 blog hits, only 1 copy of my ebooks sell. To be fair, I haven’t promoted them as I could have and yet they still keep trickling in. That’s amazing to me. It means that at least some of the people who read my blog have decided that it is worth buying my ebooks. And I’m glad to have good feedback on them as well.

I won’t lie. It’s hard. I would write about literature all day every day for nothing if it meant that students got to read something that made sense to them and which was also enjoyable. But unfortunately, nobody will pay me for that job yet. Fortunately, the last – oh, I don’t know – five governments or so, have been determined to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And in an ideal world, nobody would need tuition, and nobody would have to pay if they needed a little extra, but the exam factories that are France and England seem quite determined to focus on quantifiable results rather than qualitative experience, and so I find more work than I am able to do.

I have got a couple of things that give me direction when focusing on an end of year review. One is the amazing Zen Habits blog by Leo Babauta, and in particular, this post about business start-ups. It’s funny, looking back on his advice, as a lot of it is stuff I did anyway. Especially starting lean and forgetting about numbers. I can’t wait for his Habits of Entrepreneurs series to start. I’m such a Leo-geek.

The other thing that has been guiding me is Leonie Dawson, an Australian life coach. Sometimes we hard-boiled cynical city girls need a bit of sparkle and pizzazz in our planning. I find it helpful to work through her qualitative steps for business review. It’s not all about quantity. Neither should it be. The day I stop enjoying what I’m doing is the day I don’t have an income any more.

So that’s what I’ve been up to in my radio silence. It might not be very exciting to you, but it gives me a bit of a kick up the pants to say the least.

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