Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Year End Review - A Creative's Annual Report

For many creatives, a year-end review is simply pulling together income and expenses for their tax accountant, but it's important for creative businesses to also have a narrative year-end review that recaps some highlights and lowlights of the year, expresses changes to the business structure or direction, and tells a general story about what the year was like.  For companies with investors, this is considered an annual report, which is made publicly available and expected to have detailed numbers to measure.  However, freelancers and small businesses who do this can make it much more creative or interesting to their audience, and be selective about what they want to include.

I've been able to do a public year-end narrative review on my blog most years that I've been in business, and it's been a great way to look back on previous years to remind myself of the struggles I've overcome as well as how my business has changed over time.  For example, in the first few years of my business, my annual reports reveal how difficult it was to get my workflow and systems under control and how much it was impacting my business and personal life, but if you look at my last few annual reports, you can see how much more freedom and enjoyment I've had now that those problems have been solved.

Some creatives recap their year with a few "Best of 2013" style posts, sharing images from their favorite projects or themes, and while those are good SEO marketing efforts, they don't tell the story of how the business has grown or changed, as well as obstacles that were faced or overcome, which is really the purpose of a year end review.  So, I encourage you to be courageous and put a little more of your business out there.  Clients put more trust in a business that can reflect on its actions, admit mistakes, and demonstrate change over time.

Just for fun, here are a couple of annual reports that break the mold and inspire a different way to recount the year:

MailChimp's "Year by the Numbers" - takes a twist on the traditional annual number reporting by making it graphic and including random items

WarbyParker's "On This Day in History" -puts all the highlights, facts, and figures into a 365 day calendar format that makes discovering info more exploratory than linear

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer in New York, NY. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and smart solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.