Reflections on 2015 and goals for 2016

2015 was a big year for me. In the past, I’ve shied away from setting goals for my life. When you don’t set goals, you can’t fail … right? As 2015 comes to a close, I’m looking back on what I learned and making some real goals for 2016. Setting goals is scary. But, as my friend Avery says If it’s not scary, you’re not growing. I want to grow!

Reflections on life and business in 2015: what went well

I left my part-time job to go full-time with my web development business!

As I grew my web development business, I worked part-time at in the Visual Resources department of OCAD University. I documented artwork, photographed exhibitions for the university’s archives, and created accessible versions of required readings for students. I love documenting artwork and gallery exhibitions. Images I captured of the Getting Rid of Ourselves exhibition were featured in reviews in Canadian Art, and the Magenta Foundation.

When I left OCAD in January, I said goodbye to bi-weekly paycheques and the nine to five lifestyle. It was definitely a little scary to say goodbye to those paycheques! I knew if I wanted to focus on my business, I had to make the leap into full-time self-employment. I’m so glad I did. Now I get to focus on what I love doing: working with clients, sharing advice, and building amazing websites. 🙂

Focusing my services (lots of teaching and mentoring + no more design)

Mentoring and Teaching

I’ve always provided one-on-one website lessons for my website clients. In 2015, I started offering one-on-one strategy sessions. These strategy sessions are one of my favourite ways to work with clients. I love teaching and seeing those “aha” moments when people understand something they never thought they would. It’s so lovely to sit down over a coffee or Skype session and help people understand technology better.

I mentored the winter, spring, and summer cohorts of the HackerYou front-end web development program. I supported the instructors and students as they learned all about HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, WordPress, PHP, Git, Gulp, and more. It was amazing to see people with no coding experience learn SO much information, so quickly. (ps. My boyfriend Julian recently graduated from HackerYou’s program and is looking for a full-time front-end development role.)

At Camp Tech, I taught five one-on-one private training sessions and assisted at three workshops. I also went to the Mompreneur conference for Camp Tech’s “nerd station” service. This is such a fun thing to do! Camp Tech instructors and staff go to a conference and offer tech assistance appointments to conference attendees.

Focusing on what I do best (no more design!)

In 2015, I realized how much I prefer web development over web design. I’ve always offered full web design and development projects, so it was a little scary quit offering web design. It worked out well; I worked on eight development-only projects in 2015. I love that focusing on development brings more collaboration into my work. Sarah Hunter of Creative Cocktail and I worked together on three projects in 2015, and are planning for more in 2016!

I partner with a web designer for each new website project. We work together from the beginning and strategize on the best approach for our client’s website. The designer focuses on the design and I bring their work to life with responsive, accessible, custom WordPress theme. We consider every detail: user experience, ease of content entry for the client, website performance, responsive design, and accessibility.

Travel and vacations

Last summer, I took my first proper grown-up vacation. I graduated from university in 2012, and this was the first time I could afford a vacation. It was glorious. Two full weeks without my laptop? I’ve never been apart from my computer for that long. Julian and I spent nine days in California and five days visiting my family in Vancouver. My favourite place was Santa Monica. Our AirBnB was really quirky and I loved relaxing on the beach.

In October I went somewhere I’ve always wanted to go: New York City. I explored the city and worked out of coffee shops. I loved New York. My trip was short; I can’t wait to go back one day.

Conferences, conferences, conferences!

There are a lot of conferences in the web industry. With so many options, I choose the conferences I attend very carefully. My favourite conferences of 2015 were Beyond the Code and Gather North. Both conferences were small, emphasized women in tech, and offered plenty of time to connect with the other attendees.

Hiring experts (investing in my business!)

In 2015 I invested a lot of money into my business. I hired a designer, content strategist, photographer, and bought a new laptop. With a redesigned brand, professional content, and new images, I finally feel excited about my website!

Sarah Hunter of Creative Cocktail did a fantastic job with my business cards, logo, and website design. I love the content that Helen Tremethick of the Communications Distillery wrote for my Home, About, Contact, and FAQ pages. I’m thrilled with the images Jocelyn Reynolds of small traces photography captured.

Just launched – my new website! Thank you: @HelenTremethick + @s_robby + Lola ?

— Melissa Jean Clark (@melissajclark_) October 19, 2015

Blogging

In 2015, I finally started blogging. Sarah Hunter deserves all the credit for this! With my newly redesigned website, I’m excited to write blog posts. I wrote a guide on how to manage your WordPress website, shared how I use Evernote to organize client projects, and explained how to improve your website’s accessibility without writing any code.

If you’re reading this blog post, I would love to know what you want to learn in 2016. What confuses you? Is there something that’s holding you back from loving your website? What do you struggle with? Fill me in and help me plan my blog posts for 2016. I want to help you. You can fill in the poll below, comment on this post, or contact me to fill me in. You can also subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest tips and tricks sent straight to your inbox.

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Reflections on life and business in 2015: what could have gone better

Communication and setting expectations

Last year, I had a misunderstanding with a client regarding what was included in the project. We worked things out, but it served as an important reminder to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Many of my clients have never been part of a website development project before. It’s my job to be as transparent as possible and ensure everyone understands what’s included, what it costs, clarify any confusing technical details, and explain how long things will take.

Work / life balance (finances + health)

iMac on the cottage dining table

I’m still figuring out how to travel and work. As a developer, I can work from anywhere, but it’s not always easy. In July, I tried working at a cottage. It was beautiful; I could take a break and hop in the lake for a swim! Yet, it was a bit of a love/hate scenario. Next time, I’ll plan ahead and finish my work ahead of time so I can relax at the cottage.

When I think about what could be improved in 2015, it all circles back to one thing: work / life balance. I struggled to pull myself away from work, turn off my laptop and make time for myself. There were moments when I was so intent on coding a website that I forgot to eat lunch, or even leave my apartment. At one point, I was so focused on work that I couldn’t find the time to fill a prescription I take every day.

When I couldn’t pull myself away from work, I ordered in dinner. When I was running late for a meeting, I hailed a taxi. I just reviewed my credit card statements for the year and … holy shit, those take-out dinners, taxis, and lattes add up. November was my worst month; I spent $999 on eating out. That thousand dollars would be much better in a savings account, or paying off my student loan. Ugh.

2016 business goals

Get organized and share my expertise by blogging and speaking

In 2016 I will:

  1. Blog once a month
  2. Publish at least three guest blog posts for other websites
  3. Set realistic expectations for client work.
    1. I will not take on any rush work. Working nights and weekends is never worth it.
    2. I will be transparent regarding what’s possible within a requested timeline or budget.
  4. Offer more training and strategy services. I love helping people with their websites. I understand not everyone has the budget for custom development.  In 2016, I want to work with people on smaller website projects. This might mean helping people install a WordPress theme, or training them on how to manage their website.
  5. Start speaking. I want to share my expertise and speak at least twice.
  6. Improve my client onboarding process and finish all the Creative Class lessons.
    1. Reduce my administrative time and improve the process for my clients.
    2. Develop a system for booking projects, receiving deposits, signing invoices, and answering frequently asked questions.

2016 personal goals

Create a healthy daily routine (and stick with it)

I need to take care of myself. In 2016, I will make time for myself. I really have no excuses; there is a gym in my building and a grocery store right next door.

In 2016 I will:

  • Work out four times per week
  • Plan ahead and make healthy meals
  • Eat out a maximum of once per week
  • Close my laptop by 8pm
  • Consume less alcohol
  • Take a vacation without my laptop
  • Continue paying off my student loan

If you made it this far, thank you for reading! I’d love to hear what your goals are for this year. Let me know in the comments!

This blog post is inspired by some lovely year-in-review posts I’ve read recently. I loved Marie Poulin’s 2015 year in review and Avery’s lovely review of 2015. Want to write your own review? Chris Guillebeau has a great guide on how to conduct your own annual review.

  1. Anthony Fielding

    How are you getting on with your 2016 resolutions?

    Reply
    • Melissa Jean Clark

      I’m doing well for my business goals! I’ve gotten into blogging and am planning out my posts. I’ve booked a few different speaking and teaching opportunities too.

      My personal goals … I’d give myself a 7/10. I’m working out and haven’t been working in the evenings at all. But, I definitely got off track with reducing my spending on eating out. I’ve been way better than I was in 2015. But could definitely improve more!

      How about you? Did you set any goals for 2016?

      Reply

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