How annual planning can help gain fresh perspectives and meaningful insights (and quieten down that inner saboteur).
For many of us, January is the time to do our annual planning, to create or re-interrogate our vision, to beat the January blues with forward looking and goal setting.
This usually includes a look back, a review of the past year, its gains and learnings (note the omission of negative terms such as “losses” here – this is me putting learning into action and defying my occasional “glass half empty” leanings :-).
When I started my review of 2023, it initially fell quite flat. I felt that I had plateaued, that I hadn’t reached many of my goals, and that I could have achieved so much more had I only put my back into it properly.
But when I went through my diary month by month, I realised that the year had been so much better than I thought it had been. I had wonderful experiences with friends and family, and my professional network expanded beautifully. In my main role as Creative Communicator I work with inspiring creatives and companies and was fortunate enough to see some memorable performances and exhibitions. I created some beautiful jewellery pieces and received some amazing feedback for my coaching.
My main light bulb moment, however, was being reminded that I run three businesses. It’s true that one of them currently supports the other two because they are still developing. They are businesses because I treat them as such, and that is a lot of work. And of course, they can’t all grow at the same rate. The two “younger” ones need a lot of marketing attention, and even though marketing is what I do for a living for other people, it isn’t that easy to transfer my skills in that area to my own businesses.
Estimates of how long small business owners should spend on marketing reach from 30% to 40% and even 50% of their time – that’s long stretches where we don’t create or deliver, but research, analyse, build connections and communicate to make a business sustainable and more than an expensive hobby. And this is when we have worked out how to integrate marketing into our daily routine. It probably takes even more time while we figure out who our customers / clients are, what they want and how we best communicate with them.
This re-evaluation of how important and time-intensive marketing is for small business owners and freelancers also brings the significance of arts marketing back into focus for me. It goes without saying that without all the brilliant, talented artists and creators who make the work there wouldn’t be any need for arts marketing and communications. And the focus on intended audiences is often integral to the creative process and doesn’t just start in the marketing department.
But once a work is ready to be announced to the public there follows a continued and targeted process of communicating with the intended audience / consumer; the understanding of what it is different people want to hear / need to know before they make the decision to buy that theatre ticket, book, or piece of art. It is skilled work, it is creative, and it is ongoing. It is so much more than responding to requests like “Make this go viral” or “Can you just post on Facebook again; ticket sales are slow.” It is – or should be – an important and strategic part of any arts organisation. And even though I know all this in my bones, having worked in the arts sector for more than 20 years, it felt good to reflect on it in more depth.
So, with all this insight gained from reviewing the past 12 months, I feel more content with 2023. It was a good year for me. I had many wonderful, memorable experiences. I showed up for and developed my businesses – maybe not all equally, but so that they all moved forward.
And as I finalise my annual planning for 2024, I feel like giving credit where credit is due: I have done well in 2023. Here’s to more progress and learning in 2024!
 Jewellers Academy podcast no. 180, 8 December 2023: Energy Management is the New Time Management - with Patricia van den Akker (https://www.jewellersacademy.com/blog/2023/energy-management-is-the-new-time-management-with-patricia-from-design-trust)
 Sarah Short, A Coaching Business in a Book (2024, 2nd ed.), p. 40.