At the end of each year, with the festive season in full swing, it can be hard to concentrate on your business and move the needle much further until the new year ‘lull’ comes round.
But if you can find a few quiet moments to begin thinking about the coming new year, you’ll be able to get back into the swing of things much more smoothly when the festivities are over, and focus on what matters most to grow your illustration business each year.
Here are 4 of our top recommendations to help you do this…
1. Review Your Biggest Lessons of the Past Year
Has it been the year you wanted? If not, why not? What didn’t work so well? What did?
There are a lot of ways to conduct an annual review, we like to keep it simple. Grab a pen and make 3 lists, as follows:
- What are you going to KEEP doing? (Because it worked well and it’s worth continuing with).
- What are you going to STOP doing? (Because it didn’t work well, never has and likely never will…if you’re truly honest!).
- What are you going to START doing? (Because you have a feeling it could work well for you and it’s worth a try).
This gives you a very simple action list that lets you (a) Review what’s happened (b) Clear the decks and (c) Re-focus your efforts on what matters.
2. Make a Plan for the Coming Year
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
If you’re typically a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ type illustrator, and it’s not been working out so well for you thus far, perhaps now is a good time to try something new…
Creative people and plans don’t often play well together, but there’s a strategic planning tool that Lea has developed that works well because it’s not a long-winded 30-page business plan, but a simple 1-page plan.
The crux of a good plan is this: Know what you’re aiming for…
What do you really want to be illustrating and who do you really want to be illustrating it for?
Until you really get clear on this, anything else you do for your illustration business is pretty pointless.
3. (Re)Focus Your Brand
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your work will do all the talking when it comes to your personal/professional brand – and sometimes it can – but if you interact on social media, attend networking events and generally perform other activities to market your business (which you should be doing!), then honing your brand for all these activities can really help.
Consider the following questions:
- What do you and your brand stand for?
- Are you and your work instantly recognisable?
- What sets you apart? Why should someone work with you and not another illustrator?
- Do ALL of your marketing activities present a cohesive and accurate representation of your brand?
If your work looks the same/similar to fellow illustrators, your brand – how you (re)present your work across all different channels and media (including you, as the illustrator) – can set you apart.
How well does your brand currently work for you? What can you do next year to improve it?
4. Create a Promotional Calendar
I’m sure we’ve all done this (I know I have)…you work on a lovely new promo mailer and send it out.
Then, several months later you think ‘Ooh, I haven’t sent out a mailer in a while’, so you create a new one and send it out. There’s no set schedule, it happens when it happens.
Creating a Promotional Calendar in advance can help you plan this into your schedule so you know what’s coming up, and can incorporate it into your workload.
The biggest benefit of doing this is that you will have an ongoing stream of marketing activities happening – to a plan – rather than the sporadic, ‘market when you need more clients’ type of approach so many creatives default to.