December 18, 2013 | Alyson Stanfield

Your Year-End Review for 2013

You survived another year as a working artist. Congratulations!
Now it’s time to step back and look at all you have accomplished. This is a ritual to take your mind off of the long task list in front of you and to remind you that you really have done a great deal.
While it’s important to celebrate the wins in your life, it’s also important to evaluate how you can get more of them. Stick around for the twist at the end of the article.
You can separate this exercise into personal and business, or you can combine them into a single report, as I tend to do.

Photo of Alyson's notebook
I like to use a pen and my Moleskine for annual reviews. This is a glimpse at one page in my 2012 notes.

Make time for your review.

Set aside time in your schedule. It’s too easy to neglect this exercise if you try to squeeze it in whenever you feel like it.
I have found that I can’t do this all at once, but I like 90-120 minutes to get started.

Gather your data.

Find the information you need for assessing your accomplishments. This might include calendars and financial reports.

Record the highlights of the year.

What went well?
Where did you make money? (See that it’s an actual profit and not just a sale.)
What opportunities came your way?
What did you learn?
How did your influence expand?
What did you read or watch that inspired or motivated you?
What did you win or receive?
What did you do that was new and helped your business bottom line?
Where did you travel?
What art did you discover?
What valuable contacts did you make?
And now for the twist . . .

Consider improvements.

There’s a lot to learn from looking at what didn’t work and thinking about how you might approach it differently next year.
What didn’t go as you had planned?
Where did you lose money?
Where did you miss out on an opportunity and why?
Where would you like to see better results?
What can you change/add/remove in your life or business in order to improve your results?
I’d love to hear how you approach your annual review. Share your insights in a comment.

20 comments add a comment
  • I always look forward to a facetime (or skype) conversation with my checkin partner, the amazing Amantha Tsaros, for our yearly review.
    Our weekly checkins are via email and we do monthly phone calls, but this end of year is a biggie. We schedule it and prepare ahead of time to look back and to look forward at where we are going. I think we spend about an hour on each person and it takes two sessions. This post is a good reminder to get ready for it!

  • This is a helpful post. I wrote an article for my loal paper about considering your successes instead of always dwelling on what you have to achieve. I didn’t go into it in such detail but I will do this exercise and look forward to an even better 2014.
    Happy Christmas
    Janet Keen from New Zealand.

  • Alyson, I just did this recently! Thought you might be interested in seeing my list:
    I completed about 50 new paintings, including several commissions delivered on time to happy clients. The “Cosmic Dance” series has grown in scope and sophistication, and I am filled with plans for next year’s work.
    I showed my artwork in several local group exhibits, including “The Forest” show at Art Tradition Gallery in Escondido, CA, featuring 16 of my most recent paintings. In April, one of my paintings was chosen for a national juried exhibit at Emerald Art Center in Springfield, OR.
    I completed the construction on my new 120-square-foot studio in the avocado grove in my backyard, moved in and began using it as my primary painting workspace. The studio is well-ventilated and has beautiful light pouring in through 2 large windows, a skylight, and large double doors. Quiet and private, it is the perfect setup for a work-at-home-parent of little ones.
    I founded a critique group for professional artists in my area and have organized monthly meetings all year. We now have more than 30 members and growing. Many close friendships have been formed as well as opportunities to help each other exhibit and sell our work.
    I taught art lessons to 20 local children in my home over the summer.
    In March, I attended the Art of Painting in the 21st Century conference in Davis, CA where I enjoyed a full day of informative and thought-provoking lectures on topics ranging from art supply demos to painting theory and technique.
    I visited a California redwood forest in person for the first time, taking hundreds of pictures to use as inspiration for future paintings.
    My blog was recognized as #35 on a list of the top 100 art blogs to follow in 2013. My online presence continued to grow on social media as well, as my Facebook page and Twitter profile gained hundreds of new followers.
    I released several new teaching videos on topics relevant to professional artists on YouTube, and one of my videos has now reached nearly 70,000 views. The huge influx of messages I’ve gotten from other artists requesting my thoughts and advice has prompted me to begin plans for writing a book of advice for aspiring artists.
    Things I would like to do in 2014:
    Have a sale just for my previous collectors.
    Get more reliable child care if there’s a way to make it happen financially.
    Spend way less time on Facebook! :)

  • Hi Alyson-I have been doing an annual review for several years that is similar. What worked? What didn’t work? What do I want to create in the next year. In the past I was in a class that suggested summing up the new year’s creation list with a catch phrase, motto, or theme song that could be referred to in a moments notice to stay on track. I like your list. I will look at the details in the questions you ask on your review for additional inspiration. Thanks! Happy Holidays! Brooke

  • I enjoyed this article! Its a more business twist on something I have done for years as my Christmas card preparation.
    Starting with January, I would review the families events, accomplishments, growing pains and travel and list them under each members name. I would amend it for the card but it always struck me as surprising and valuable.
    The one page record was sent with a one page collage of photos.
    I have kept each one in a notebook for each kid. A record of the family over the years. The readers digest version !
    thanks. I love the blue ornament. precious.

  • Hi Alyson,
    Your ornament really struck a chord for me. I have several cherished ornaments that were given to me by my mother and Grandmother, as well as hand written notes that came with pieces of jewelry that have been handed down through years and generations. These things matter; these things that tug at our hearts and stay with us.
    Regarding the year end review, I have enjoyed doing this at your urging, and find that I am always gratified about how much I have achieved, and this spurs me on for new achievements in the next year. Thank you.

    • Lynn: For those who don’t understand the ornament reference, it was a photo in my weekly newsletter with a story about my grandmother. If you don’t subscribe, I invite you to do so at
      Those notes are very special.
      I’m happy to hear you’re doing the reviews and are inspired by what you learn.

  • Lisa Dellwo

    I have two end-of-year lists: Accomplishments and Goals. Goals range from technical (getting up to speed on a software package) to entrepreneurial (get tax i.d.) to creative (expand a successful photographic series). Reviewing last year’s list of goals is an important and revealing part of my end-of-year review. I’ve usually accomplished at least 2/3 of my goals, but it’s the rest that are the most interesting, and often reveal misplaced priorities or bad procrastination habits. I like the idea of also reviewing What Didn’t Work and will add that to my review process this year.

    • Lisa: Good on you. The other thing that incomplete goals might reveal is that you didn’t need to do the tasks in the first place. So look at that first and, if you find that you need to stop procrastinating on it, make a new goal to finish in January. Get ‘er done.

  • Thanks Alyson for posting this great list of questions. I will indeed go over them and write down the answers. Most of these answers comes out while doing my finances for the IRS, but your words put a positive slant on a task I don’t especially enjoy doing. Thanks again!

  • Alyson, I copied your questions into a document and answered them. What an eye opener! Now, all I need to do is print out the results so I don’t easily forget them. They certainly cleared up some confusion, and especially helped me to work through what I want to leave out in the coming year. After reading Jack White’s post this morning and yours here, it seems clear where I need to spend my time – where I made the most sales last year… not on the venues that didn’t work.

  • I love this post! The last few years I have taken a couple of days during the quiet time between Christmas and New Years and look at all my numbers, partly in preparation for tax return. I take a very quantitative approach, looking at sales numbers and at expenses.
    Year before last I prepared a pretty formal annual report (what a geek, I know). But it was incredibly helpful, complete with pie chars, bar charts and commentary! I looked at sales ($$$) by customer, sales by type of work (paintings, prints, constructions). i charted sales by month, expenses by month, etc etc. It is quite amazing, you think you know how your business works, but you can get some really surprising insights that you just wouldn’t see without this kind of analysis. It helped me figure out where my time was best spent (painting) and where my time wasnt’ paying off (prints and constructions and small works). I even went so far as to make copies and bind them! I showed it to a couple of business oriented friends and got some very helpful feedback on the business side of what I was doing.
    Having read your post I am inspired to do this my detailed analysis this year (I kind of skimped last year).
    Your post also has me inspired to take a qualitative look also. I want to take some time to review the developemnt/change/growth of my work over the past year and to look at accomplishments from a non-financial point of view. It has occurred to me this year that I only think about “success” in terms of sales ($$$) and don’t take into consideration things like shows and competitions. Not to mentions the development of the work itself.
    And then the most fun of course is thinking about the coming year, think about goals, changes, expanding sales, where I want to take my work.
    Thanks for this post, and thanks for your inspiration the past four years. I read your book when I first started painting full time and it really did make for a great launching pad. I also took one of your on-line courses and
    had a private phone consultation with you. All tremendously helpful.
    Thanks Alyson!

    • Melanie: I am SO sorry for the delay in responding, but had to acknowledge your enthusiasm. I’m so happy this post inspired/motivated you. Keep up the good work! And thanks for sticking with me for all this time.

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