3 Practical Questions to Make 2020 Your Best Year Ever

Year-end review for freelance successThe end of the year is a crazy busy time for freelancers. Along with keeping up with client deadlines and running your business, you’re also getting ready for the holidays. And you’re looking forward to some well-deserved downtime.

If you want to succeed and be happier in 2020, then there’s one more thing that you need to do: A year-end review.

I know what you’re thinking. You can’t add one more thing to your never-ending to-do list.

The 3-Question Year-End Review

A year-end review will help you answer 3 key questions:

  • What went right?
  • What can I improve?
  • What’s next?

It won’t take long. And the consequences of not making time for a year-end review can be grim.

“If you do not conduct a year-end review of your business, it’s likely you’ll begin the new year with the same troubled systems, processes, and problems. Even if you had a great year, you want to grow,” says Marla Tabaka in Here’s Your Guide to a Smart Year-End Business Review.

Your year-end review will help you do better and grow your freelance business in 2020. And it will help you be happier about your freelance work.

See the Big Picture

As freelancers, we rarely have time or energy to see the big picture and think strategically about our businesses. So we tend to drift along. Sometimes good things happen. But too many bad things happen too.

Taking a good look at the big picture is one of the keys to building a stable, successful freelance business. And the 3-question year-end review is an easy way to think strategically about your business and start moving toward your goals.

“A year-end review includes separating yourself from the business to access a bird’s-eye view. It’s wise to disconnect yourself emotionally by approaching the process with curiosity, rather than fear and criticism,” says Tabaka.

Along with being unemotional, be positive. What can I improve?, not What went wrong?, is the second question in my year-end review.  The question is intentionally positive. “When you focus on the negative you are subconsciously inviting more of it into your life,” says Tabaka. Being positive makes it easier to turn mistakes and bad experiences into opportunities to do better.

Your Simple Year-End Review

Set aside a few hours when you can just think and plan. I usually do things like this on Friday afternoons or sometimes on weekends. Mark the date and time of your year-end review on your calendar.

Start by just thinking about your answers to the three questions for a while:

  • What went right?
  • What can I improve?
  • What’s next?

Write your answers down.

Year-End Review Question 1: What Went Right?

Think about—and celebrate—what went right this year. “I bet you did some brilliant stuff this year when you think about it,” says says Claire Gallagher, a designer and website maker in How to do an end-of-year review.

Make a list of the things you are proudest of in 2019. Your list of key achievements will probably be longer than you think. Key achievements can be big or small.

Examples of big key achievements

  • Reached or exceeded my income goal
  • Got [NUMBER] steady, high-paying new client(s)
  • Fired [NUMBER] bad client(s)
  • Turned down [NUMBER] freelance projects that weren’t right for me
  • Did mostly (or only) work that I enjoyed

Examples of small key achievements

  • Got a professional headshot for my LinkedIn profile and website
  • Developed or updated my website and/or LinkedIn profile
  • Went to [NUMBER] networking events
  • Built stronger relationships with [NUMBER] networking contacts
  • Learned business accounting

Next to each key achievement, write why this was important for you.

Year-End Review Question 2: What Can I Improve?

Now comes the hard part: looking at your mistakes and bad experiences and thinking about what you can do better in 2020.

All freelancers make mistakes and have bad experiences. Mistakes are things that we do wrong. Sometimes we know better and make the mistake anyway. And sometimes we didn’t know enough not to make the mistake.

Bad experiences are things that happen to us, usually through no fault of our own. For example, you have a great client who pays you well and treats you right. Then the client hires a new staff member who’s in charge of freelancers. The new staff person is very difficult and makes working with this client unbearable. There’s not much you can do in this situation, except fire the client and find a better one.

Looking critically at mistakes and bad experiences will help you figure out what went wrong. “Learn a lesson, and do better next time,” say Gallagher.

Like key achievements, things to improve can be big or small.  Review your list of key achievements for things you want more of in 2020.

Examples of big things to improve

  • Reach my income goal
  • Find better clients
  • Work with higher-paying clients
  • Fire bad clients sooner
  • Reduce (way too much) stress

Examples of small things to improve

  • Update my marketing
  • Spend more time on marketing
  • Go to more networking events
  • Spend more time building networking relationships
  • Reduce tasks that I hate or that take up more time than they should (e.g., by outsourcing)
  • Reduce (somewhat too much) stress

And by the way, making more time for marketing and doing the right marketing will help you improve everything on the big things to improve list.

Along with improving your business so you’re working with steady, high-paying clients, use proven stress management techniques like meditation and exercise.

Year-End Review Question 3: What Next?

What’s next? covers how can you continue and do more of the things that went right and make the necessary improvements to move toward or sustain a stable, successful freelance business.

Critically review your answers to year-end review questions 1 and 2. Make some notes about what you want to do better in 2020.

Then translate this into formal goals. Goals help you focus on what’s most important and get past distractions. The right type of goals become your plan for freelance success.


Learn more about goals for freelancers

The Ultimate Guide to Goals for Freelance Success


SMART goals help you keep making progress toward the future you want. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound.

But even SMART goal can seem intimidating. Break your annual goal(s) down into:

  • Small, easily achievable mini-goals
  • The actions you’ll take to achieve each mini-goal.

Review your goal(s) every quarter. It’s okay to fall behind; most of us do. Get back on track or change your goals if you need to. Keep moving toward the freelance future you want.

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Learn More About Year-End Reviews and Goals

Content from The Mighty Marketer

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Other Content

Marla Tabaka, Here’s Your Guide to a Smart Year-End Business Review

Claire Gallagher, How to do an end of year review