• Katie Earl

2020 Annual Review: The Year my Life Changed Forever

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Exactly 1 year ago today, my manager at my job tasked us all with writing a letter to ourselves. She would store this letter away and give it back to us in a year so that we could see whether we achieved the things we wanted to.

I received that letter in the post recently and it made me grin from ear to ear: I achieved everything I wanted to.

So what was in my letter? I thought you might like to read about how my first year in business unfolded, so here’s a bit of a highlights reel.

  1. I started doing something I love This was the main thing I wanted for this year. In my letter I wrote “2019 was filled with a lot of things, and I didn’t love all of them, so I hope in 2020 I’ve had the courage to change that” At the end of 2019 I’d progressed into a role that took me away from what I loved doing. I was doing a lot less editing, and a lot more managing. To start with it was fun, but it quickly got boring when I realised the work didn’t make my heart sing. This year, instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, I took matters into my own hands. I made sure I got to choose what I do every single day in my work, and it’s joyful. Now of course, running a business doesn’t mean you get to do the one thing you love all the time. I’m not spending every working hour editing. In fact, I’m probably spending even less time editing than I was in that job. But this leads on to my next point:

  2. I learnt something massive every single day It was never going to be easy, but luckily I bloody love learning new things. So I did exactly that: I learnt everything I needed to learn to set up a business. - I learnt that there is more than one way to run a business. - I learnt how NOT to price my services. - I learnt what sells and what doesn’t. - I learnt how to help people decide whether to buy a service from me. - I learnt that sales isn’t pushy or slimy but is in fact the most wonderful opportunity to help other people. - I learnt that there are people out there who genuinely want me to succeed without any agenda other than that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting other people. - I learnt that some business books are actually really interesting. - I learnt that money doesn’t have to be scary. - I learnt how to reconcile my books and take care of my own taxes (spoiler: this one involved outsourcing). And I could go on and on and on. All these lessons came not from online courses or textbooks. They didn’t even come from TED talks. They came from real people running their own business alongside me, which was another point in my letter: “I hope I’m talking to and learning from everyone around me”.

  3. I’m not afraid anymore I stayed in that job for a lot longer than I wanted to because I was afraid of what might happen if I took the leap of faith. I was scared I’d lose my house because of not making enough money, scared I’d look stupid if I failed, and all sorts of other things too. But when I wrote this letter, I already had the sparks of a fire in my belly. “I hope I’m not holding myself back because of nerves” I wrote. I knew that I was doing this when I wrote the words, but the confidence to call BS on that fear was within touching distance. I’m certainly not the perfect version of myself who takes action without hesitation - far from it still. But I’m so much closer to it than I was this time last year that I genuinely feel unrecognisable.

  4. I did things I never thought I’d do This wasn’t in my letter, but something really weird happened while I was pushing myself to achieve this dream: I started doing a bunch of other crazy exciting things too. Things I’d never dreamed might happen this year. Some of them include: - Moving in with my boyfriend (this wasn’t on the radar before lockdown happened!) - Letting out my flat and becoming a landlord - Spending 4 figure sums on personal development with a coach - Going to therapy to finally resolve some things that have bothered me since I was a teenager Isn’t it incredible what you can do when you start believing you’re worth taking a chance on?

It feels remiss to list all those amazing things and not acknowledge the bits that were really bloody hard though. So, something else that was not in my letter:

  1. I frequently doubted myself and my abilities Just weeks after I handed in my notice and announced my intention to go freelance, the UK went into its first full lockdown of 2020. COVID-19 had been bubbling away under the surface for some time, but had never felt close enough to be real, until all of a sudden it was very real indeed. Rumours of the worst recession in history were being bandied about, whispers about how the self-employed were falling through the government’s safety net grew louder, and my emergency fund that had seemed so secure beforehand suddenly looked like it might burn up more quickly than I’d ever imagined. Online, I was also learning some scary things: the skills I wanted to use in my business simply weren’t valued enough to be bought by businesses; cold-emailing organisations who might want proofreading services (thus far, the only sales tactic I’d ever heard of!) was not only uncomfortable but completely fruitless; there were a LOT of voices out there shouting more loudly than I felt I could and seemingly getting work because of it. To begin with, I floundered a lot. I poured hours into things that didn’t work, and I tried to take on every bit of advice from anyone I could find. But after a while, I started to find some things that did work. I found voices that made more sense, and communities that felt welcoming instead of frightening. Every day as a business owner is still baffling and confusing, but almost 1 year on, it’s starting to make more sense. I’ve learned that it’s totally normal to doubt yourself and feel completely confused, but that it’s also possible to pull yourself out of that place and keep going strong.

In 2021, I’m focusing on refinement: getting clearer on all the things I learnt this year and making sure the service I offer is really high quality. I’m going to write myself a letter again, just like I did last year, and store it away in the loft with the Christmas decorations. I hope I’ll be writing a blog just like this one, full of even more unbelievable achievements that I could never have believed possible as I write this now.

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Photo by Natasya Chen on Unsplash

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