2017 Year in Review: Lessons, Wins, and Favorite Things


It’s the end of December which means it’s time to round-up 2017 in a post. I went through my gratitude journal, Evernote notes, and Passion Planner, and decided to share my lessons learned, wins, and a few of my favorite things.

I know you’ve read some of those freelance horror stories and thought: “Wow.. that’s f’ed up. Definitely gonna learn from their experience.” I thought the same thing. But there were some things that slipped through the cracks.

And as an anxious introvert, I can’t always be ready and so I went through some OMG + WTH moments. (As in omg… wth are you doing Marj?)

Now, these lessons may be common sense to some, but silly me didn’t know any better. So, with that, here are my lessons learned in 2017. Say “uh.. duh” with me. Shake your head + “damn girl” with me. It’s all good.

And if you’re new to freelancing, I learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Even if you started yesterday, learn from my mistakes and do great work in 2018.

Lesson #1: You don’t have to do #allthethings

Create e-courses. Host webinars. Write an ebook. Don’t forget Facebook Ads. Start a Facebook group. Get on Periscope. Post on Instagram 2x a day. Insert the next big thing you can do to grow your business in ten minutes.

Trying to do any and everything to grow your biz and stand out is stressful, yo. It may have worked for some folks but if you don’t have the time or resources (or you just don’t want to do that sh..), then you drive yourself crazy trying to find a way to be down with the cool kids.

And the joy you had when you started… all gone.

What to do: Detox your biz

I still can do my thing with the resources I have now. No extras. Just creating blog posts, Trello boards, PDF freebies, and sharing resources to grow your blog and biz. And when I’m ready, I’ll launch the things I want to launch.

There’s a lot of noise out there, so I unsubscribed to a whole bunch of email lists and removed myself from the random FB groups I joined. (I’m embarrassed to say how many I’m in.)

I simplified my services and got rid of the extra stuff I don’t want to do. Blogging and social media – half the time I don’t like doing it for myself so why am I adding this to my workload? Delete.

All this to say when burnout starts to creep up on you, take a step back and figure out what needs to be kicked to the curb. Keep it simple and focus on your priorities.

Copy this Sprints + Goals Trello Board to keep track of your goals.

Lesson #2: You don’t have to work with everybody

Working with service-based business owners is what I want to do. But when the dough was low (and my confidence), I took any project that came my way.

Some projects I could’ve added to my portfolio so I can at least say “look at me, I’m busy”, but it didn’t match my ideal client. So, after all that work behind the scenes (+ low pay – see next lesson), I don’t have anything to show for it.

What to do from now on: Stick to the basics

I’m a service-based business that works with other creative service-based businesses. They may have a shop and sell digital or physical products, but their main focus is serving their clients.

Years of working at Nine West and call centers – my admin and customer service skills are excellent. So I want to focus on updating my skills to become a better developer. I’m also starting from scratch and rebuilding my portfolio. I’m going through my personal projects I worked on to see how can I make it better.

For future projects, if I don’t have that “Hell yeah, I’m in.” feeling (read #3 on this post), then I’ll pass.

I’m not going to try to be a designer, copywriter, and a marketing pro anymore. As a coder with admin and people skills, I’m sticking with what I know.

Lesson #3: You don’t have to lower prices

Lesson #2 + lowering prices to get the project is bad for your skin.

No really.. stress = before picture in a Proactiv commercial.

You’re stressed out and looking for scripts on Google to find out how to cancel projects because the work was too much to handle and not what you expected.

Or maybe the project is complete and the word on the street is she can do it for the cheap. Then the referrals start rolling in and they’re expecting the same thing.

But that moment when your mother is asking you – in Kreyol: “You did this, this, and that + for how much? You should’ve charged more.”

Well, damn.

What to do today: Raise your prices

You and I know what we’re doing and we know we’re good at it. And we know how much work we put in.

Even if you’re a new kid on the block, when you add up the time it takes, the tools and subscriptions you have to pay to do the work, the bills and loans you have to pay, the 30% you have to put aside for taxes, plus the nice things you like to have — #realtears.

Please charge more. And don’t worry about that uncomfortable feeling you have now. You’ll get over it.

Need pricing help? Find out how to charge rates or how much designers and developers around your way are getting. Use this Client Screening Quiz for your web projects or get tips from Shopify on how to get paid.

And remember, higher prices = better clients.


Lesson #4: Set boundaries

They haven’t responded to my messages. Oh man, I hope they’re alrig.. Nevermind, they’re just ignoring me. Cool!

Invoice sent. Due date passes. Gives them a couple of days and continues to work because.. no reason. Sends reminder via email. Still nothing.

*Insert another story* …wonders if UPS is still hiring.

There were no agreements signed for earlier projects. Which means ongoing work with no deadline. And late payments.

And the other projects: still waiting for content and approvals. Still waiting for replies to messages I sent 2 weeks ago. Still waiting to figure out what was I thinking.

What to do today: Make improvements

I’m improving my processes as I go/grow but I found tips from seasoned bosses on how to work with clients, what to say when they be trippin’, and created a library full of scripts and templates to make my job/life easier.

I added clauses to my info packets, agreements, and welcome packets:

When content or payment is late – I stop working.
Need extra work that’s not part of the project – wait until the end and if you still need it, I’ll send a separate invoice.
No response after 10 days and several messages – project is canceled and invoice for completed work is sent.
Have planned trips coming up – have a safe trip and we’ll get started when you get back.


Sign up for Streamline in 7 – Free email course


If you need more tips and resources, make sure you read these posts and take some notes:

Client hasn’t paid? Here’s exactly what to do
“If they aren’t prioritizing their relationship with you and/or valuing your work, don’t invest your energy and time in them.” – Kate from Betty Means Business

Pick An Area of Innovation
“Your area of innovation is the primary method you use to differentiate yourself in your marketplace. It’s the thing you are known for… the way you stand out from others who do something similar.” – Michelle from Designing to Delight

Streamline Your Inquiry Process
“Streamline your inquiry process and say yes to portfolio-worthy projects that grow your business” – Christine from Designing to Delight


Talk about when you know better, you do better, amirite? #Iamrite.

Lots of roadblocks + lessons and I’m grateful for those experiences but I can’t forget about the good times. And if it wasn’t for my gratitude journal, I would’ve focused on the wrong things.

So, to end on a good note, here are my dope wins and favorite things:

Launched my first email course called Streamline in 7. This was something I needed when I started so I know a couple of you out there can use this course to grow your business. Let me know what you think.

The most popular post this year Resource Guide: 101+ Free to Affordable Business Tools. All that info-overload and research came in handy.

Went over my Goodreads challenge: read 16 books in 2017 and saved $700+ since using the library. Favorite book: Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times

Most used tools and apps: Zeal, Local by Flywheel, Visual Studio Code, Trello, Evernote, Udemy, Shazam, Passion Planner, Canva, and Spotify

Donated to United War Veterans Council, ACLU, Meals on Wheels, She’s The First, and The Innocence Project

Was on the 200 Black Women In Tech to Follow on Twitter. Dope, right?!

My Pinterest following grew thanks to Board Booster and my average monthly visitors: 47,315. And when your favorites start sharing your posts.. Woohoo!

Gained weight and my skin is 90% clear. (Not part of the plan, but ayyye!)

Volunteered as a tech tutor at the library and went to my first WordCamp

Learned how to create custom WordPress themes. The ideas are flowing and big things will be poppin’. And JavaScript doesn’t look like gibberish anymore.

2018 sprints and goals are set. This workshop from Mariah Coz was a lifesaver and the best part about this is I can reuse this process every year. I recommend taking the workshop and using this Trello board to help you out.

Favorite albums on repeat (mostly new and a few new to me):
Jay Z – 4:44
Gorillaz – Humans
Wizkid – Sounds From The Other Side
Little Dragon – Season High
Kelela – Take Me Apart
Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman
Ro James – ELDORADO
Ozuna – Odisea
Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva is a mighty long time
Tame Impala – Currents
BadBadNotGood – IV
Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love
The Black Keys – Turn Blue


And that is all, folks. I’m looking forward to learning, growing, and finding my new favorite things in 2018. (And not repeating mistakes above.)

To end on a better note read 99 reasons 2017 was a good year.


Want to share some lessons and duh moments? Have a favorite book or album people should know about? Tell me below or tweet me. Don’t leave me us hanging.

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