January 1, 2018 • Newsletter
Happy New Year! May your 2018 be full of creative empowerment, personal fulfillment, and professional success.
There are a handful of things to think about this month to get 2018 started off right. The first one (no surprise) is to set a few goals.
Aim to set three creative goals, three personal goals, and three professional goals for the year. Creative goals are tied to the work you produce – for others, for yourself, or ideally for both. These may relate to projects you hope to land, work you aim to complete, or clients you hope to work with. Personal goals have to do with your life outside of your creative practice. They can relate to self-care or health, goals with friends, family, or those you love, or even something entirely your own. Professional goals are for those administrative tasks that support your creative work. They may relate to your website, your social media presence, your record keeping system, your insurance protection, your savings goals for the year, or anything else you hope to work on in 2018.
You probably have a good idea of what you want these goals to be. As you percolate on them, take a moment to think about January 1 of 2019. (That’s not a type-o. I really do want you to think about the start of next year.) Next year at this time, you’ll be looking back – hopefully with pride – on all you accomplished during 2018. What sort of things do you hope to be able to say at this time next year? What creative projects will you be most proud of completing? What nagging professional task will you be happy to have finally mastered? What aspect of your personal life will have brought you the most fulfillment?
The answers to those questions may help you refine the goals you specified and focus on what is within your control when it comes to making progress. For example, “Gain gallery representation” may not be entirely within your control, but “List galleries to target,” “Attend four events per month,” and “Follow-up with gallerists” are all things you can do to work toward your overall goal.
Plus, next year, when you look back on 2018, you’ll be amazed at what you were able to do with this year.
Plan Your Calendar
While the entire year is still to come, it’s a nice moment to step back and look at your calendar holistically. There’s no need to plan out every appointment now. That would be crazy (and probably futile given the pace of change in the arts). But think about key dates, projects, trips, shows, and creative deadlines you already know about. Add those to your calendar. In permanent marker. If there are key dates in your personal life (vacations, major life events, support you want to give to others, etc.), add those as well.
Then think about the realistic amount of time you’ll need to prepare for each key event. Add this preparation time to your calendar as well. (This doesn’t have to be in permanent marker, but you should probably use ink to note the time. It isn’t permanent, but it is much harder to erase than pencil.) You may want to add recovery time as well. One of my friends shared that she always blocks off at least 24 hours following a trip to give herself “trip recovery” time to clean our her inbox, take a nap, and do a bit of laundry. That’s brilliant.
If you have tasks you have to do on a regular basis, add those to your calendar next (and use ink). These would be things like monthly bank reconciliation tasks, time to invoice clients, time to clean your studio or workspace regularly, and time to update your website, resume, CV, or artist statement. Whether you do these weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, you know they are going to happen. You may as well plan for them now while there is still room on your calendar.
Then go back to those goals you drafted. When are you going to plan to execute on those goals? For some goals – being better about monthly record keeping, for example – you have already built in a bit of time for this under your “regularly scheduled tasks.” Make sure it is enough time to accomplish your goal. I it isn’t, adjust your calendar. After all, you still have time to adjust it right now. It’s only January. For other goals – conduct deep, thoughtful, non-rushed research for a new project you have in mind – you might need to add new time constraints to your calendar. For important goals, whether they are creative, personal, or professional, it is important to give yourself permission to accomplish them, by prioritizing them on your calendar. After all, there will always be distractions to keep you from accomplishing them. But if the time is reserved on your calendar now, you’ll have the power to decide whether or not a distraction is important enough to change your schedule. And some distractions are. But other distractions aren’t really distractions at all. They are protection strategies against fear and vulnerability.
Clean Up 2017
Now that 2017 is officially over, it’s time to see how it went (financially) for you and your creative practice. Soon, you’ll have a full, complete picture of what you earned during 2017 and what you spent. Having this real, actual information and comparing it to what you thought would happen during the year is one of the best ways to make your 2018 budget easier – and more accurate.
In the next week or so, you’ll get your final bank statement from 2017. As you review that final statement, take a moment, to clean up the rest of your records. If you’ve been on top of your records, this may be as simple as printing out full-year detail and reviewing it to make sure nothing looks unusual. If you weren’t necessarily on top of your records for the year, this may be a longer process. It may mean catching up for the last few months of the year, or it could mean starting from scratch. Regardless of your approach, clean up your 2017 records before we get too far into 2018. After all, you’ll start getting tax forms toward the end of this month, and if you have the rest of your (business) records ready to go, receiving those forms and filing your taxes will be a (relative) breeze.
This is also a good time to review your record keeping system. Is it working for you? Is it meeting your needs? Do you still use it regularly? Are there features you aren’t really taking advantage of that you’d love to master? Are there aspects of the system that drive you crazy? If you are thinking about changing your system, now is not a bad time to do it. (It’s also not a bad time to contact your system provider and ask if they are running any specials for the new year that can lower your monthly cost. You’d be surprised how willing they may be to share those discounts with you. If you ask.)
Pay 2017 Taxes
And of course, there are taxes. If you made your final estimated tax payment at the end of 2017, ignore this section. Or, if you have W-2 work (instead of contractor work, freelance work, sales, commissions, or other type of work), you can ignore this section too. If you’re curious about tax changes coming in 2018, check out our recap here, and of course, stay tuned. As the details of the rules are settled, we’ll be sure to let you know.
If not, now is a good time to take the final net income amount for 2017 you calculated in the previous step and calculate your self-employment taxes for the year. (Form 1040-ES can help you do this.) Compare the final amount you owe for the year to what you paid in during the first three quarters of 2017, and if you need to pay in a bit more to avoid underpayment penalties, now is a good time to do that.
And while you are thinking about taxes, go ahead and mark the estimated tax due dates for 2018 on your calendar (so you don’t forget about them). They are April 15, June 15, and September 15 of 2018, plus January 15 of 2019.
January 2018 Tasks
So that’s it! That’s not so bad, right? January is a time for reflections and restarts, but you don’t need major restarts. Instead, you likely just need a little intention to set a few goals, connect them to the way you’ll spend your time this year. Plus, you can take this month to finalize your 2017 income and expense information. Then pat yourself on the back. You did it! And 2018 will be just as good.
- Set Your Goals (3 creative ones, 3 personal ones, and 3 professional ones)
- Plan Your Calendar (Holistically)
- Clean Up Your 2017 Records
- Pay Your 2017 Taxes