Each year I try to make small improvements to my life, my work, my fitness, my well-being etc. Small incremental improvements are much easier to maintain in the long term than large overhauls (although I’m no stranger to those either!) 2019 has been mostly about making grown up decisions to improve my financial standing & the health of my business, which is now well into its 7th year of existence. Here are some of the things I’ve done this year…

‘Fired’ clients

As well as getting more comfortable saying no to work from the get-go (a scary prospect when you’re used to taking on everything all the time, because you’re terrified of a dry patch) I actually ended client relationships this year. This was horrific, and I hated every second of it. I still have moments where I think to myself “was that the right thing to do?” but ultimately I know deep down that these relationships weren’t working to my benefit or the client’s, and that they were better off finding someone else who could meet their needs. I can’t be everything for everyone, and I don’t want to stretch myself too thin trying to be.

Paid my tax bill on time

I’ve blogged multiple times over the years about how frustrating HMRC’s payments on account system is, and in particular how its payment timing (just after Christmas) makes it incredibly difficult as a parent to balance the needs of kids/presents/celebrating with actually paying your tax bill. 2019 was the first year since I started freelancing that I paid my tax ‘payment on account’ bill using Actual Money rather than credit or loans. I am on track to be able to repeat that early 2020.

Started making contributions to a pension

I had become increasingly aware this year that all of my sensible friends were talking about pensions and investments, and I’d done very little in the of putting money to one side for the future. As a freelancer, I knew I’d have to take matters into my own hands here and so started investing in a basic Nest pension.

I have to confess that my research was limited and I went with Nest because it’s the one that the government set up for the new(ish) auto-enrolment scheme. I intend to eventually consult an IFA and make some slightly bigger, even more grown up decisions about where/how/what to do with this “stash” but for now I’m of the opinion that something is better than nothing. I’m not actually paying much into it at the minute, but as I get closer to paying off some personal debts left over from buying out my ex partner over 5 years ago, I will be able to increase this amount.

Will I be living the high life when I retire, though? Probably not.

Set up a direct debit to HMRC

This is a more recent decision because I kept putting it off; it stings a little bit! I’ve actually set up a regular monthly payment to HMRC. It stings because this is money that could be feasibly sat in a savings account making tiny amounts of interest, rather than in HMRC’s pocket making them interest. However, I know for a fact that I repeatedly drain my tax pot over the course of the year for “emergencies” and the safest way to maintain my ongoing positive relationship with my tax bill (lol) is to take it completely out of my hands. I can’t spend money I don’t have: problem solved.

Closed up shop

Yes, I’ve actually closed down enquiries on my website several times this year – with the current ‘no work please’ sign having been up for nearly 6 months. I’d like to tell you that this is all because I’m a sensible person making clever decisions, but alas this isn’t true. My hand has been forced somewhat with some slipped deadlines on a big project. These things happen occasionally, and it’s a bit shit, but there have been things along the way with this particular project that I could not have foreseen. Nonetheless, I need to make rapid, large scale improvements to my project planning/scoping in 2020 to try and prevent this happening again.

So, I guess that’s next years incremental improvement sorted…

Lead photo by Headway