It’s a little bit late, but I didn’t want to neglect reviewing 2021 and looking forward to 2022.
What went well in 2021?
I celebrated 10 years of self-employment.
I left my employed job at Child’s Play in April 2011 and went to South America for 4 months before going freelance. I wasn’t sure if I could make being freelance work, so making it to 10 years is a massive achievement.
I invested in branding for my business
When I set up my freelance business in 2011, I chose my ‘brand colour’ based on the website template I liked. And they stuck. But this year I finally invested in branding and Jane McGrath at JM Creative designed me a logo I loved, and that original colour is still reflected in my new brand pallet. She’s also working on something exciting with one of my brand marks which will help demonstrate where the services I offer fit in the big picture of inclusion.
I took every Friday off, and most of the summer holidays
At the end of 2021 I started taking Fridays off and it made such a difference to my life – just to have that space to run errands, tidy up, or go for a massage. This has become completely non-negotiable for me. I was also incredibly fortunate that at the end of my son’s first year in school I was able to take most of the summer off between running two rounds of my Inclusion Incubator. I didn’t manage to take the whole summer off as I was asked to write the Diversity and Inclusion unit of children’s module for the OICP distance learning MA and an article for Mslexia magazine.
I had a powerful impact with a global publisher
I was contracted to deliver my Inclusion Incubator programme to 10 teams at OUP, which was incredible. Not only did they learn a lot, but I learned more about how to make the types of products I hadn’t worked on before (such as secondary textbooks) more inclusive, and the barriers the teams faced. I also wrote a piece for their education blog.
I worked with a team of freelancers who had done my training to deliver a big project.
I’ve sometimes found it hard in the past to deliver everything myself. Not only has my programme for freelancers in publishing (Foundations for Inclusion) helped broaden the impact of my work, but it’s also given me a team of trusted people I can work with to deliver large projects, as well as bounce ideas off. This has enhanced my work, as everyone brings a different experience and worldview. It also means we can bounce ideas off each other.
Featured on two podcasts
I became part of the Global Equality Collective
I’ve followed the collective for some time, so jumped at the opportunity to talk to one of the founders of an organisation whose values align so closely to mine. The GEC have developed a powerful framework to truly assess how well organisations and educational settings are doing at creating an ethos of belonging and supports them in building this further. I think every business should be signed up to this.
My fourth book was published
In October, my fourth book written in collaboration with Natalie Costa was published. Love Being You is part of the Level Headers series, and you can read about why this title is so special for me in the Q&A on the b small website.
I doubled my turnover
A combination of publishers showing a commitment to inclusion and working with a team to deliver projects meant that I doubled my turnover and will imminently need to register for VAT. I value my time and I need financial stability if I am to be at my best for clients (rather than being stressed and having to take on too much work). I’ve also backed this up by investing in myself and my business and am delighted to be working with Cat Walther, a copywriter, project manager, virtual assistant and designer to support me in delivering projects.
I got a camper van!
This is more of a personal one but was a big part of my year. Using some inheritance money, I bought a van and designed a conversion (that someone else implemented). In June I picked up the converted van (named Hilda after my Nana) and the adventures began. Freedom is one of my core values, and the van really embodied that this summer as my son and I had lots of adventures and made lots of memories.
What didn’t go so well and what did I learn?
The first three months of the year were quiet, which is where my word of 2021 – trust – really came into play. I held out and things came together in March.
I took on too much at once
I’m currently reading Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. In it she shares an anecdote about how she’s not good at estimating time. And I realised this is my issue. After 10 years self-employed I still overestimate what I can do in a week or month, and even though I’ve got better at this it’s hard to say no to projects when you want to have an impact. Having a team of freelancers to refer work on to and to work with has definitely helped, but this is something I really need to improve in 2022.
I struggled to maintain momentum in my CPD
(Even though it’s really interesting and I really want to do it). There are two reasons for this. See above for the first one! Secondly, the course I’m doing is self-directed, which means I find it much harder to maintain the momentum as there’s no accountability. I think drip fed courses with a live element help to keep people on track – which is why mine will stay this way.
I didn’t read as much as I wanted
I always read in bed for half an hour before I go to sleep, but I struggle to read in the evenings in general (instead of watching TV) as my eyes start to close and I’m at risk of falling asleep on the sofa.
Some of my habits faltered
I developed some really good habits in 2020, particularly around journaling, meditation and movement, but these dropped off a bit in 2021. If I want to achieve my goals for 2022, I really need to work these back in again.
I had too many video sessions
I’m an introvert so lots of face-to-face time drains my energy. Even if in the moment it energises me, by the end of the day I’m wiped. I’m making a real effort in 2022 to have meeting free days and even weeks.
Participants on the Inclusion Incubator struggled to fit everything in
I thought that spreading my programme over 8 weeks would give people plenty of time, but alongside a full workload it meant that people still struggled to do all the implementation work. For this reason, the programme is now delivered over 12 weeks rather than 8. Hopefully this will work better for the cohort starting in January.
Quickly needing to build a team to deliver projects
Towards the end of the year, I got a number of enquiries about audit projects so I needed to quickly build a team from freelancers I’ve trained. This was doable, but I want to look at how I can do this more formally so that I can offer this as a proper service.
My messaging about how my programme fits into inclusion in general wasn’t clear
I found it hard to explain how the Inclusion Incubator fits into a publisher’s overall DEIB strategy (even though it’s very clear in my head). A conversation with a freelance colleague made me realise that a visual might help, and Jane McGrath who did my branding is working on this at the moment.
What am I working towards in 2022?
Examining how I can achieve my mission
In 2022 I will be looking even more deeply at how I can achieve my mission of transforming the bookshelves of the next generation so that every children can see that it’s safe to be themselves (because they see so many different ways of being, incidentally, in the books they read. I do believe my programmes have the power to have a huge impact, so I want to deliver them to more publishers. But I’m also looking at how else I can support publishers (and I have a few ideas bubbling).
Investing further in myself
I’m going to continue to work on and invest in myself and allowing myself to think big. But also in effective support so that I can work more efficiently.
Expanding my business
I’m not quite sure what form this will take yet, but I’m exploring ideas and having some useful conversations. Part of this will probably involve expanding the teams I work with to be able to deliver large projects.
Building in more strategy time
Key to all of this is embedding strategy time in my work schedule so that I can develop ideas.
Summary of 2021
My word for 2021 was TRUST and this was an amazing anchor for me throughout the year. Every time I faltered or questioned myself, I returned to this word, and it served me well.
2021 turned out to be my most successful year in business ever, not just financially but in the level of impact I had. Training over 50 staff at an educational publisher in inclusion and equality, staff who influence books that go into schools, will have a huge impact on children and their sense of belonging.
This year I kept saying that things would be less hectic next month, but that never really happened. And this leads into my focus for 2022.
My focus/theme for 2022
EXPANSION and COURAGE.
My overarching theme is expansion. Not just of my business, but also of my mind, time, space, peace, environment and what I believe is possible. I don’t want to be rushing constantly. It’s essential that I create more space in my life for the little things – whether that’s cooking a healthy meal, exercising or meditating before starting work for the day or before I do the afternoon school run. For the good of myself, my clients and my family.
I’ve had to put this theme to the test already! The first week and a bit of 2022 has been full on, but every time I feel myself slipping into ‘busy busy’ mode, I stop. Breathe. And repeat the mantra ‘I have all the time I need.’
My word for 2022 is courage. This is going to be the anchor that holds me this year. I’m going to need it for all the aspects of expansion I’m considering. And every time I get scared, I’ll return to this word to remind me that I will only achieve the impact I desire if I choose courage over comfort.