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Looking Back: 2023 Year in Review

Stealing this from dev editor Kourtney Spak's Substack. Check her out!

My intention for this post is not just to shout about how great 2023 was for my business; rather, I want it to be an honest reflection on where I struggled personally and professionally with forward-thinking, hopeful thoughts for the year ahead.

1. What were my top 3 wins this year?

This is the easiest question to answer. In no particular order:

  • Meeting my project goal of 50 completed projects by the end of the year. Projects ranged from proofreading for traditional publishers, manuscript reviews and editing for indie authors, and even my first stab at interior book design.

  • Working with more publishers, especially in my areas of interest.

  • Connecting with local writers and authors at a book fair and writer's group.

I came into this year with three goals: 1) to network/make connections, 2) to diversify my income stream, and 3) to have consistent work. I'm proud to say, all of those goals were met!

2. What risks did I take, and what did they teach me?

Ha, just running a freelance business feels like a risk every year, but I promise that's not my answer. My answer is two-fold. First, making in-person connections, and second, investing in my business (literally) with mentoring and completing a new editing training program.

I am fairly introverted, though my life as a teacher gave me the superpower of being able to "turn on" energy and charisma for hours at a time when the need arose. Having a booth at a live event and meeting with writers and authors in the flesh was not on my agenda for this year, and to many, these actions might not seem like risks. But for me, they're all about putting oneself "out there," which can often feel difficult for me, in life and in business. But I confirmed to myself that I can do it (and do it well!), and even better, I learned there are some really cool folks who tell great stories and live close to me.

This year I also took on a program with the Professional Book Editors Association that required a financial investment, as well as time and effort into training, meetings, mentorship, etc. It's OK to be careful, especially when it comes to one's time and money, but as a business owner, I realized that you have to take risks in order to hone your business and grow.

3. Did I fail enough this year?

This is a tough question because I have the kind of personality that likes to say, "Failure isn't an option." Of course, we know as human beings that this simply isn't true. We're all going to fail at something at some point in our lives. It's what we do after the failure that matters.

So yeah, did I mess up this year? Personally, for sure (ask my husband 😅). Professionally, absolutely. I think, or at least I hope, I owned up to my mistakes and tried to make them right as best as I could. All I can do is let the past stay in the past and move on, keeping in mind the new insight I've gained through my experiences.

4. What new skills or hobbies did I learn this year?

Thanks to the Professional Book Editors Association training, I was able to begin offering manuscript reviews this year, which has proven to be a valuable service for all sorts of writers. This type of editing has required me to stretch beyond the sentence level and think holistically about the elements of a novel and how they operate together to form a cohesive narrative. It's not quite dev editing, but it's been a great way to dip my toe in the deep end of the pool.

Personally, I picked up and put down a lot of old hobbies this year. Nothing seemed to stick for a variety of reasons. I know the point of this writing exercise is not to send me on a guilt trip, but I have to admit that not a single new skill or hobby comes to mind . . . (I've got my 2024 goals cut out for me!)

5. What were my greatest fears of this year? What was I worried about last year? What am I worried about in the future? Which of these worries are rational or irrational?

Gosh, last year I worried about finances. This year I worried about finances. And ya know what? I think it's time I stopped worrying about finances. Everything turned out alright. Freelancing is a bit of a feast or famine scenario most of the time, but I'm getting better at anticipating the famine times by saving ahead of time, upping my marketing game, or just using the downtime in useful ways (rather than ruminating about the slow week I'm having).

Last year, I struggled with an overuse injury that has been almost impossible to shake. And here it is, still with me, seven months later. So I guess I'm worried that my lifestyle is such that it won't heal properly or that I'll get better but then injure myself again. That's some real anxiety for ya. The pain is greatly decreased since it first started, and I have had three total weeks in that seven month span that were essentially pain free (or at least, I felt normal).

Anyway, not to get too deep in the weeds, but I'm working through the chronic pain stuff, mentally and physically. It hasn't slowed down my work too much, but I'm thinking that maybe I should let it (just a bit, for the long-term benefits).

6. Who had the biggest impact on me this year?

Morgan Gist MacDonald over at Paper Raven Books turned out be my unlikely mentor of sorts (maybe not quite a mentor but certainly a business coach or advisor) in 2023. I am incredibly grateful to her for sharing her business and publishing insights that have helped my business (and the businesses of other editors) grow this year.

7. What drained my energy the most this year?

Can I say the internet, in general? I have never been on a computer more in my life than when I began freelancing, and last year, I felt like I just could not balance real-life needs and the tug of online stuff. More specifically, I'd say the temptation to compare and the temptation to take on more because of what I saw other editors doing was the biggest energy suck for me. By the end of the year, I'd say I was getting better at identifying what actions were serving my business and what were just deadweight.

On top of that, I'm a people-pleaser, and sometimes that means I'm terrible about setting boundaries. This resulted in some later nights than I wanted and some weekends where I had to cram in overflow work. That just won't work for me in the long run, so I know I've got to manage my time more efficiently this year (and get better at saying no!).

8. What made me feel the most alive this year?

Seeing authors, especially first-time authors, publish their books. Also, meeting with writers and authors in person and being in book-ish spaces with them. I absolutely want to do more of that this year. In my personal life, it was being with friends and family, which I always, always need to do more of.

9. How have my goals, identity, and values evolved this year?

I knew this but have definitely come to realize it more completely—I cannot be all things to all people. And, I am only human. Approaching work and other people from a place of humility and openness (knowing that I cannot meet all of their needs) has helped me be a better editor.

After this year, I wouldn't say that I care less about what others think of my business, work ethics, skills, etc., but I will say that after a few particular small online interactions in 2023, I'm inclined to ignore the bad behavior of others. Nothing is gained by calling it out or trying to fix other people, especially strangers (especially over the internet). There's enough sadness and hate in the world, and I don't want to contribute to it (anymore than I'm sure I do!).

I'm not here to compete with other editors. There are plenty of writers and authors to go around. Once you're out of a competition mindset, it's much easier to forge ahead and make meaningful connections with folks who share your values.

Finally, I won't be underestimating my worth anymore. I got better at quoting projects in the last year, making sure that I was being compensated appropriately for my time and effort and the level of editing. That said, I did allow a few projects to sneak in that were lowballed quotes, and in hindsight, I don't think they needed to be. I think the author would have booked with me regardless of price. I just have to trust myself (and if the author doesn't book with me, well, that's OK to. It's not always meant to be.).

10. What's my vision for a perfect day in 2024?

Get up early. Thank God for the day. Make breakfast (but not coffee because I have the best husband who makes my coffee before he leaves for work). Complete three or four hours of editing work (with breaks—I'm implementing the Pomodoro method for time management this year; more on that later), then break for lunch. Take the dog for a quick walk (or if the weather is bad or if she's being stubborn and refuses to go—possible!—then do a quick yoga video). Spend the afternoon completing the remaining items on my work to-do list, completing small household chores, and prepping for the next day.

No matter what the day looks like I want to incorporate rest, breath, prayer, and gratitude. In 2023, despite all the outward successes, I let my personal anxieties and worries and struggles get the best of me—a lot. Work was, in a sense, an escape, but it shouldn't be. I don't edit to relax or grow personally. I need downtime to do that. So a perfect day this year, for me, would have to include the continual effort to stop, to pause, to slow down and address the creep of chaos, stress, and worry that (if we're honest) plagues all of us. No more "just one more line" or "lemme just check my email real quick" or "what if . . . (fill in the blank with some kind of vaguely dreadful and usually unlikely scenario)?"

May 2024 be peaceful. May it be blessed. 🎉

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