Well, what a year this has been. If Twitter is anything to go by, I think pretty much everyone is looking forward to seeing the back of 2016.
But, for me, 2016 has actually been a pretty good year. I think it’s important to celebrate small personal goals, and remind ourselves that there still is plenty of good in the world. So, here are some of the things that have made my 2016 that little bit brighter.
My freelance business
Near the start of the year, I decided to set up a freelance business focusing on social media, writing and blogging services for small businesses. I’ve been doing it full time since March and – shock horror – I’ve been able to make a decent living out of it. I definitely don’t give myself enough credit for what I’ve achieved – especially as some people don’t see it as a “proper” job which kind of knocks your confidence – but I’m proud of what I’ve done this year. And hey, I’ve found myself writing for The Scotsman, so I must be doing something right eh?
I love what I do. I get to work with creative brands and companies that I admire, I get to have a flexible work week and I don’t have to deal with workplace politics. I work hard, but I also have time to myself and the freedom to do what I want – and for me, that’s much more important than sitting in a office, doing a job I hate for an extra £5k a year. I don’t earn as much as my friends do, but that doesn’t really matter – I’ve found something I’m good at and something that makes me happy, and if I can’t afford the same holidays as everyone else then so what? Maybe next year I’ll have the confidence to raise my prices and take on bigger projects now that I have started to establish myself.
Next year, I hope to continue what I’ve been doing so far, as well as adding some new clients to my list. Business-wise, I think I’ve been doing pretty well – I’ve just filed my first tax return and it all went smoothly. In 2017 I really need to make more of an effort to save money, look into pensions and that sort of thing – because when you’re self employed, that all falls on your shoulders. But aside from that boring stuff, I couldn’t be more excited about the year ahead and I can’t wait to see where my career takes me in 2017.
My blog has always just been a hobby for me but, around the same time I started freelancing, I gave my blog a makeover and started to take it a bit more seriously. I doubt it will ever be a full-time thing for me (and I don’t think I would want it to be), but it’s nice to be able to see it grow and turn into a part-time strand of my business.
During the past couple of months, I have been more regimented with my blog scheduling, on top of my SEO, and more pro-active about promoting my posts. I’ve seen a difference in the number of visitors to my blog, an increase in my followers on social media and more exciting emails from brands and PRs in my inbox. Money I earned through my blog during December paid for all my Christmas shopping – it’s pretty small-scale in the world of pro-bloggers, but I’m proud of that achievement.
I’m planning to continue focusing on my blog content during 2017 to create a variety of personal posts, brand collaborations and posts my readers will find useful. Earning money from blogging is a bit of a taboo subject, but I don’t see why it should be. We’re creating useful, quality content for people to read and enjoy for free – why shouldn’t we earn a little bit of money for all the time and effort we put in? I hope I can continue working with some amazing brands next year to create posts I’m proud of and earn money doing something I love.
Doing what I want to do
I’ve never been the sort of person who feels the need to please other people or do things I hate just because everyone else is doing them. But in 2016, in particular, I have got into a routine of doing things that I want to do and not apologising for it. When I was younger, I loved going to nightclubs and staying out drinking until four in the morning – but now I would much rather have a couple of drinks at a pub quiz or spend an evening playing a competitive game of Articulate with my friends.
Through blogging, I end up attending a lot of events and going out for dinner and drinks quite a lot – which I absolutely love doing. But even with such a busy and varied social life, some of my favourite evenings this year have been the Saturdays Owen and I spent lounging on the sofa watching X Factor with a huge box of chicken wings to share. Some people (my 19 year old self included) would probably find this incredibly boring, but it’s the little mundane rituals like this that make me happy – so I’m going to continue doing them.
Taking time out
One of the major benefits of working freelance is that I can take time off whenever I feel like it. Well, not quite – but in general I can be fairly flexible. I’m very lucky as if I’ve had a particularly stressful day, or if I’m not feeling well, or if I have to run an emergency errand, I can just take the day off and not worry too much about it. As long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter when I do it – so if I can afford to have a lie in on a Monday morning, I will. It’s amazing how much of a difference little things like this can make to your overall happiness and stress levels.
Whilst days here and there are no problem, taking a big chunk of time off for a proper holiday is more difficult when you’re self employed and don’t have any colleagues to keep an eye on things whilst you’re away. Although I wasn’t able to go off jet setting around the world in 2016, I did manage a week in Aviemore and it was just what I needed. When you’re camping – especially somewhere with terrible phone signal – it gives you a chance to completely shut yourself off from work, social media and “normal” life so you can properly relax. I had the best week exploring the forests, going canoeing on the loch, climbing mountains, having barbecues and drinking cider in the sunshine.
I hope 2017 brings more weeks like this – whether it’s a camping trip to the Highlands, a short break to Europe or even just a staycation at home – as taking time out is something that’s really important to keep me motivated and keep me happy during the rest of the year.
What has made you happy during 2016?