You may be aware that the end of the year is rapidly approaching, and you’re probably hearing a lot from other podcasters and influencers about planning for next year. However, before you start planning for next year, you need to reflect on this year and really dig into the details so that you can see the big picture.

Sometimes we get so lost in the details that we can’t see the big picture, and sometimes we get so focused on the big picture that we really forget about the details. In this post, I’m going to walk you through a simple process that will help you conduct a thorough year-end review.

We’re going to start with four very simple questions. You’ll want to set aside some time for this. Now, I know that for side hustlers and parents, time is a precious commodity, but I promise you that this is time well spent. This is the time of year when either your business has totally cranked up or it’s kind of fallen flat.

There are not a lot of people who are looking for productivity coaching this time of year because ironically, they’re too busy to have a coach. Setting aside time between Thanksgiving and Christmas works for me to look at my big picture and then dive into the details.

I strongly recommend that you have a notebook when you’re doing this process. It will help you to get it all down on paper and make notes as you go along.

Your Successes

What went well in your business? What did you do that was a success? This could even be something that was unexpected. One of the things that was a success for me was rebranding my business from Busy Mom Collective to Side Hustle Moms. I pivoted the business in March, but I didn’t pivot the name to match my new message and my new goal and the vision of what I had for my company. In November, I transitioned to the new name.

That was a big win for me. Suddenly, I noticed that more people were finding my podcast because they knew what the podcast was about. More people were finding my website because when they look for side hustles and they look for how do I start a business as a mom, my site pops up. It makes more sense now and they click on it more because they think, “Oh, Side Hustle Moms – I know exactly what I’m going to get there.”

Pull out your calendar, take a look, and really take the time to think back through all of the wins. I got my first private client this year. That was a huge win for me. I secured other clients too, but my first win was getting my first client because that’s a big hurdle to jump over. That’s a milestone moment. I passed an income goal for this year, so that was a moment.

I was part of a mastermind this year. One of the things they did in the mastermind was to have us provide the positives we see when we think of the other ladies in the program. I still look at that piece of paper daily. That was a moment for me where I felt really successful, and it wasn’t anything that I did other than talk to these amazing women and be myself.

Go through and think about all of the things that worked well. Did you run a campaign that worked well? Did you run ads that worked well? Did you open a new social media account? Did you close an old social media account? Did you rebrand? All of these things that you did to improve your business, the ones that worked, write them down.

It’s important to do this because our first year in business can often be rough. Sometimes when you have a rough year, it’s difficult to see the positive and to find all the things that went really well. You may want to start all over. But when we take the time to sit down and reflect, we realized that not everything went badly.

Maybe we made some mistakes. We probably did. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t make mistakes in their first year of business – or their fifth year of business – but it’s important to see the positives so we know what to do again or what to build upon. It’s not all about what can we do differently. It’s also what should we do the same.

Your Flops

What didn’t go so well? Did you run Facebook ads that just didn’t perform? Did you hire someone who didn’t work out? Did you have a launch that didn’t go so well? Did you try a new logo and it was a flop? Did you try to start a blog and you just weren’t consistent with it? What did you try this year that didn’t work the way you thought? We tend to make this list a lot longer, but I want you to think honestly and objectively.

Stay away from making judgments – like Oh, I’m a complete failure. Only list factual, confirmable, observable flops. Things that you did or had happen around your business this year that didn’t go so well. You might find some things that are on both lists.

My first launch was a huge flop, but I was able to pivot and turn it around. I took the time to reflect and recrafted my message. In fact, I’m going to be doing a podcast episode soon about when to pivot in your business.

I don’t know many entrepreneurs who start a business and it stays exactly the same all the way through. We just pivot. You have to go where the market is. You have to learn about your customers. That is another reason why this year-end review will be so helpful.

I have a feeling this list is going to be easier for you to make, so I’m not going to talk a huge amount about it, but again, give yourself time to go through it. Think about what happened and reflect on what didn’t go so well.

Your Finances

How are your finances? This is one that nobody really wants to think about, right? Nobody wants to think about money, especially in their first year of business. A lot of us are in the red, and it’s hard to face. It’s hard to look at that number if you spent more than you took in. It’s something we just want to avoid, right?

If you have not been keeping track of your money this year, it is time to do that. It’s time to sit down and look at your books. It can be an intimidating process – I will give you that. I would highly suggest that you keep up with this month by month going forward, but if you are looking back over your year and you were not keeping track of your money, now is the time to do that.

I’ve got an awesome helper for you. I wasn’t intending on making a freebie, but when I sat down to do my year-end review, I realized that I was one of those people who was not keeping track of my books. I just didn’t want to look at where my money was going. I was just sort of spending and I wasn’t going into debt, so I was pretty happy with that.

However, I didn’t know exactly how much I was spending. I didn’t know exactly how much I was bringing in. I didn’t know if I was in the red or in the black or somewhere right around breaking even. That is a scary prospect because when you pour your heart and soul into something and then it comes down to numbers, it’s one of those moments that is easy to stress about.

I fully admit that I was one of those people who was putting off cooking the books, so to speak. Partly it was because math is not my thing. I’m tech savvy, so I created an Excel spreadsheet that does all of the calculations for me and I made a copy of it for you. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but I also made a video to guide you through it.

All of the equations are put in for you so that you can see where your money went, what months you were in the red, what months you were in the black, and how you ended for the year. Then you can make a copy of it for next year and do it as you go instead of waiting until the end of the year and making it a big process.

This is valuable because sometimes we feel a certain way about investments we make or tools we use. But when we sit down and see how much we actually spent on that tool or how much we actually invested in that person or service, does it measure up? About halfway through this past year, I realized that paying someone to manage my Facebook page was not a value I was willing to continue paying for at this stage of my business.

One of the things that I do invest in, and is a value to me, is outsourcing the editing of my podcast. She edits, formats, and puts it out there for you all to hear. That to me is a very valuable service because it takes a lot of time and I don’t have a lot of time. You guys know I’m a full-time teacher and I’m a mom and I have a blog and I have this podcast and I have private clients. So, with this spreadsheet, you can evaluate where your money is going and if that item is worth it.

I also put a section in the spreadsheet of expenses that won’t be paid out next year. They were either one-time expenses – like an SEO audit for my blog – or they are something I realized is not of value or not a good fit for my business right now. I made a whole separate section in the spreadsheet for those expenses that I don’t plan to continue next year. This makes it easy to see how much you spent last year, while being able to remove those expenses from the budget going forward.

Now, why?

This is, I think, the most important question. You can’t just look at what went well and what didn’t go well and where your money went and say, “Okay, there you go, there’s my big picture.” It doesn’t give you a complete picture unless you ask the question why? Because if you can’t replicate it, there’s no point, right?

If you can’t understand why that thing worked and this thing didn’t, you can’t do it again without potentially making the same mistakes again. This is the time when you look at the things that went well, why did those things work? The things that didn’t go well, what happened there? Were you taking advice from the wrong person? Did you go in blind? I’ve done that before where I thought, I’ll just tinker around.

Why do your finances look like they do? If you are raking in the money, why is that? You want to be able to replicate that next year. So why? What is it that you did this year that really brought in money? If you were in the red, why is it? There are a lot of startup costs associated with a business and next year, those costs won’t be there.

Did you spend your money on programs you thought you were going to use and you didn’t? Did you maybe invest in something for a year when you only used it once or twice? Why is a very important question in any solid year-end review, and it’s something I recommend that you take some time to do.

Complete Your Year-End Review

I recommend you do this process over the course of a couple of days. Find a couple of days where you can sit down and go through this process a couple times because you’re going to be in a different state of mind each time. You’re going to think of things between sessions and you’re going to have a more complete picture.

Once you answer these questions completely and thoroughly and honestly, then you can go through and look at next year. If you’re looking at next year without having reflected on this year, then you’re going to find yourself making the same mistakes. You will find yourself wasting time and wasting money and replicating things that maybe shouldn’t be replicated.

Additional Resources

For those of you who are saying, “Okay, that’s wonderful, but I just don’t know. I can do all these things. I can tell you what worked well. I can tell you what didn’t. I’ll go through the process if you insist that I look at my finances, but I don’t know enough about where to go from there.”

I totally get that. I’m a trained teacher. I am not an MBA. I don’t have business training – that’s not part of what they teach you in teacher school. For me, investing in a course was a good way to spend my money. And that was one of the first investments I made once I figured out what I really wanted to do.

I think that going through these questions really helps you figure out what you want to do. Sometimes in our first year of business, we are walking a long and winding road, right? We pivot a lot. We change course a lot. We change names sometimes. Once you get through that first year, it’s easier to see a straight path ahead of you, but you can also see all the obstacles on that path. This is where a good course or a good coach will come in.

There are two programs that I highly recommend – either through personal experience or through personal knowledge of the person who is running them.

The first one is Raising Your Business. Dana Malstaff was on the podcast a couple episodes ago. If enrollment isn’t currently open, you can get your name on the waitlist. Raising Your Business is basically completely structuring your business for success. That’s how I got started and that’s how I feel comfortable calling myself an entrepreneur at this point.

The other program is Micala Quinn’s Overwhelmed to Overbooked Course. She has also been a guest on the podcast. I’ve gotten to know her virtually over the last six months, and I am familiar with the work that she does. I actually hired someone out of her program to work for me. If you are looking to become a freelancer – whether it be VA work or freelance writing or freelance editing – then that would also be a great resource for you.

Make sure to download the budget spreadsheet to make it super simple to work out your finances! Don’t forget to follow Side Hustle Moms on Facebook, and check out my coaching packages if you’re interested in working with me. I would love to hear about your Year-End Review and how this process went for you. Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email after you have reflected on your past year in business.