4 Steps to Take to Plan for a New Year in Business

It’s December! With the holidays on the horizon, planning for the new year is probably the last thing on your mind. There’s Christmas shopping to get done, stockings to hang, and yes, client projects to wrap up!

Luckily, business planning doesn’t have to be a frustrating ordeal. At Any Old Task, we love guiding our clients step by step, from feeling overwhelmed at how fast their year has flown by to having an optimistic, hopeful outlook for the year ahead.

To make this easier we’ve developed a list of four criteria to help you evaluate where you’ve been and where you’ll take your business in 2018. We’ll cover everything from client work and finances to setting new goals that excite and challenge you. And the best part is you can totally accomplish this in one day!

So gather your team, make some hot cocoa with marshmallows and pull up a few comfy chairs – we’ve got planning to do!

1) Review Your Client Work

This is one of the most fun and creative parts of planning, because you get to look at all of your projects in the past year to ask yourself:

What types of work did I love doing? Why? (Get as specific as possible here – what made your favourite projects stand out above others?)

Which types of clients did I most enjoy working with?

In additions to the above a few specific questions to think about including:

Which industries were they in?
What were their personal characteristics?
Did we get along on a personal level, and did they share my values?
Were expectations clearly stated at the beginning, and respected throughout our time together?
Did they pay well and on time?
What other characteristics made them great clients?
How many clients would I ideally work with simultaneously, and over the year?

Now, let’s turn our attention to the opposite side of the coin. We all have the occasional bad client experience. Turn this into a positive by reflecting on what you’ve learned from those situations.

Which clients did I not enjoy, dread, or absolutely hate working with? Why?

Write down as many specific reasons you didn’t enjoy this work. This isn’t being negative; it’s helping you identify what and who to avoid in the future.

Were these specific to the people, or across their industry?

*You may not have enough data to draw any conclusions right now on this point, and that’s okay, too.

Which industries were they in?

Were there any red flags that I chose to disregard early on, that should have sent me running? What were the red flags? How serious were they on a scale of 1 to 5?

What were their personal characteristics? Any that really got on my nerves (example: chronic tardiness, unorganized, forever changing expectations and standards, stubborn, didn’t provide appropriate, timely, or constructive feedback, paid late or still has unpaid invoices, difficult to reach)?

What other aspects of the project or personal characteristics of the client will I avoid in the future?

Save the toughest for last: What would I change about the actions I took in these cases? What actions will I take in the future, and when, if a project or client starts to give me a bad feeling?

2) Check in on Your Finances

This is one of the scariest aspects of planning for most business owners, because reviewing your finances will be a reality check. But doing a thorough annual financial check-in (in addition to the regularly weekly cashflow review and monthly/quarterly financial review you should also be doing) will mean you’ll spot any problems while you can still correct your course, before concerns threaten your business. Here are the numbers to pay attention to:

  • Annual Revenue

  • Profit Margin

  • Losses

  • Expenses

  • Year-over-Year Earnings

Take a minute to look at your expenses and see if there are any unnecessary ones you may need to cut. If you have an Accountant (and you should) make sure you sit down with them to review where you are financially and what that means for you tax wise.

3) Update Your Contract

Your contract should be a living document, one you review annually to ensure it meets your current needs. When you think back on your projects this year, could the damage resulting from any of those bad experiences have been significantly reduced (or avoided altogether) if you’d anticipated these obstacles and included specific terms in your contract?

These terms may cover:

Project Management Issues

  • Restricting feedback, submission and approval of work to one point of contact

  • When and how passwords and access to client systems needed to complete your project should be granted

  • Communications systems or software you use

  • How you submit your work

  • Ensuring lead times are noted and rush fees outlined


  • Collections Process: When and how you’re paid (ex: On a retainer, project basis, day rate, or hourly? What forms of payment do you accept – cash, cheque, e-transfer, credit card through Stripe or Square? When are payments due? Within 7 days, or 30?)

  • How you submit invoices

  • What happens if payments are late, and at which points (ie – at the one month, three month, and six month marks)

Project Cancellation

  • Under which conditions can a project be cancelled by either party?

  • If your client cancels the project, what are your cancellation fees?

What non-negotiable terms should I add to my work life for 2018?

One resource we love is Amy Porterfield’s Planning Day podcast and worksheet. One big thing she talks about is establishing your non-negotiable terms (or deal breakers), whatever they are.

Maybe yours is that you don’t work evenings or weekends (in which case you should state your specific hours of availability in your contract). Or, maybe you’ve had one too many clients bringing on the drama and threatening to leave over easily fixable issues. Whatever your deal breakers are, take the time to write them down to yourself and repeat them aloud – it will be a powerful moment for you and your team or family!

4) Set SMARTER Goals

Here’s one our clients tend to struggle with! Some of us procrastinate on setting goals as long as humanly possible because it seems daunting, but it’s not so scary when we break it down into manageable chunks. If you skip this, you’ll forever be spinning your wheels and wondering why you’re stagnating, unhappy, and unfulfilled in your business, and no one wants that. And remember: once you set them, you’ll have concrete direction! January will seem like a time to start anew instead of a time you dread going back to work after the holidays.

We love using Michael Hyatt’s SMARTER goal setting methodology. SMARTER goals are:

Specific enough to focus and direct your energies

Measurable so you can keep track of your progress

Actionable with clear initiating verb that prompts specific activity

Risky enough to leverage our natural tendency to rise to challenges

Time-keyed so you’re prompted exactly when to act

Exciting enough to inspire and harness the power of your intrinsic motivation

Relevant within the overall context of your life

Let’s use Andrea as a case study (she’s a composite of several of our past clients).

Andrea wants to start her digital marketing business in 2018 because she has always loved writing and working with positive, driven, entrepreneurially minded people. She is a single mom who wants to improve her financial stability, get away from living paycheque to paycheque on her part-time job, and make a better life for her three kids.

She wants to bring on two new clients by March 2018. These clients will be life coaches with at least $150,000.00 in annual revenue. They’ll need Andrea’s help to create website copy, e-mail newsletters, landing pages, courses, and blog posts that delight their readers and convert them from prospects to ecstatic clients.

To achieve her goal, Andrea will contact 10 life coaches per week via social media (LinkedIn and Facebook), email, and phone. She decides she can contact two per day and track her progress and prospects’ responses for one month (30 days) to find out how she can improve her message and reach her market.

Compare Andrea’s goal to the types most people set, such as “I want to increase my Revenue by 50,000.” That goal means absolutely nothing; you may as well wish on a star. Using the SMARTER goal setting method you’ll find it easier to plan for, work at, and reach your goals.

Of course, your own goals and reasons for setting them will likely be vastly different – that’s a good thing! They should be personal to you, your current situation, and your business. Maybe you want to hit a specific revenue threshold, take on a smaller number of clients so you can work more closely with them, or start a podcast to grow your client base in a certain area. Perhaps your 2018 will be about taking more time for you, maybe scheduling some mindful self-care. What does that look like for you?

The goal can be anything you challenge yourself to achieve.

Pro Tip: Make sure you go through this process with someone who will call you out if you’re being unrealistic or not challenging yourself enough. Use them as your sounding board – bounce ideas off of them, and get excited! This is your year!

Whatever goal you set, use a good system to track your progress. Whether you prefer writing in an old-fashioned notebook or using a nifty digital online software program with a calendar and time-tracking abilities (or you use a hybrid, like I do!), pick something and stick to it. It will help you stay on track when self-doubt or time constraints creep in.

Wrapping Up

As business owners, we’re constantly learning and challenging ourselves, always striving to bust out of our comfort zones and be the first to take the next risk. There’s no better time to do that than during your year-end review and planning session! Business planning can be invigorating and an opportunity to look ahead with an optimistic outlook if you take the right approach and have the right tools.

Do you have any exciting plans for 2018? Tell us in the comments!

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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