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2020 Year in Review – WTAF?!

I usually LOVE sitting down to write my yearly review blog post. It’s a tradition I’ve had now for almost a decade, and there’s something rather lovely about being able to look back over the year that was. But, wow, 2020, you really gave us a hammering, didn’t you? It does kinda feel like no matter what I say here, nothing will explain this year or what it turned out to be for any of us. But I’ll try, in some way, to make a little sense of the last 12 months, at least how it looked from where I was standing anyway. Get ready, the 2020 year in review is coming atcha!

The Year of 14629 Days

Let’s talk about time for a moment. Because all concept of real-time seems to have gone out of the window this year, hasn’t it? The year seems to have been almost interminably long. And I’m certain March lasted for at least six months. 

Trying to cast my mind that far back to January is quite a struggle. I’ve had to consult my calendar to be reminded about how life looked back then to find that January was when we went to New Orleans! Oh yes, I’d completely forgotten that! A fantastic trip to meet up with a friend for her 40th birthday and it totally escaped memory because of everything that followed on from that.

But let’s hang fire on recalling the year for a moment. Because a lot has changed for me in 2020 (Again! As Stu would say) so I’d like to pop back to a simpler time for a moment (2019, I’m looking at you) to see what I was aiming for this year.

Goals and Plans

I finished 2019 having decided to step back from wedding photography and focus mostly on copywriting. I had no idea how much that would change again this year, but I’ll get to that in a minute. 

And I ended the year excited about what would be my 40th birthday year and everything that was to come. I look back on end-of-2019-me now with a sympathetic smile on my face. Oh, what little she knew, eh?

Tree in New Orleans street

Pre-Pandemic

So, we sprung into January with high hopes for the year ahead. As I mentioned, Stu and I headed to New Orleans for our first planned trip of the year (and what was fast going to be our last for quite some time). I bloody LOVED New Orleans, or N’Orlans as I learned it should be said. It’s a city with an incredible atmosphere, and the historical French Quarter was amazing to wander around.

Sunlight on roses in New Orleans
New Orleans square with sunshine

As far as my business went, I was ready with a big list of plans and goals for the year for the first time, something that was a big deal for me! I started 2020 as a copywriter, branding and lifestyle photographer. I had plans to book in around 70% of my work with copywriting clients. The remaining 30% would be a mix of branding photography and portraits with couples and families. And I was ready to launch a whole bunch of services and systems to refine my business. 

The First Whisperings

The first inclination I had that there was something drastic happening was in February. My sister, who works for Airbnb, had a work conference planned in Seattle. She lives in Ireland, so she had taken the opportunity to see if she could extend her trip by a week and hop on a train up to Vancouver to come and stay with me. 

But with the pandemic starting to take hold in China, and a lot of the conference guests coming from Asia, the conference on hold. And so Hannah’s trip to come and see me was also postponed. 

That was the first clue that something was going on. But even then things didn’t seem too serious. Business had started picking up in February, with some awesome copywriting projects planned. So I threw myself into my work and my course.

Woman with purple hair laughing while sitting on bench
Woman sits on blue chair and looks into camera

And then the World Went Bang

For me, March was when everything changed. I’m sure I don’t need to go into details. You all had your moments of realisation that this was becoming something far more significant than we could ever have anticipated. And I’m sure we all reacted to it in our own ways, too.

For me, my reaction was to throw myself headlong into work and study. I started working all day, every day, even at the weekends. And I somehow did that for nine weeks before I completely burnt out.

It’s funny when I look back at my calendar now. I had a real rush of stuff scheduled in. I was recording podcasts, going to networking meetings and recording lives on Facebook to reassure people about the joys of working from home. I was studying most days, booking in consults and meetings and workshops and signing up for all the webinars I could lay my hands on. I went into total overdrive. And now I realise why… 

Because it all dropped off in the first two weeks of May when my parents should have been visiting for a month from Malta, but it had become clear that that wouldn’t be happening. Isn’t it funny what we do to try and avoid the thing we don’t want to face?

Woman leans on tree branch smiling
Woman leans against brick wall and smiles
Woman in red dress leans on wall and smiles at camera

Happier Stuff

Let’s go back, though, and talk about the good stuff for a minute, because some good came from all that chaos. 

The first thing was that my family and I started to have regular weekly Zooms. This is something entirely new for us all and, as a byproduct of this pandemic, it’s something I love that has happened. We are a family who are physically not close at all, with my parents living in Malta, my sister in Dublin, Ireland, and me now in BC, Canada. We haven’t all lived in the same country for 21 years now. Getting us all in the same place at the same time can be quite an effort too. So to be able to commit to these weekly chats has been excellent and has kept me going through this year! 

What else? Well, the pandemic has helped me to get clear about my business this year. As my second year in full-time self-employment, it hasn’t been the easiest of years. But, somehow, my business has grown and thrived despite everything. And midway through the year, I started to realise what I needed to do to make it a business I loved.

Woman smiles under willow tree
Woman smiles straight into camera in park
Two women stand together smiling in country lane

Bye Bye Bye

At the end of June, I decided to say goodbye to the biggest part of my business. No more weddings or lifestyle photography. That meant saying goodbye to all the couple shoots, family shoots, pet shoots, maternity shoots, boudoir sessions and so on. And in true Sarah-style, I went with the ripping off of the plaster/bandaid method and did away with it almost overnight.

But the gaping hole it left behind did make me stumble in the weeks that followed. I found myself floundering around, unsure what to do with myself now I’d removed such a massive part of my business. Folks, I went through a grieving process! 

But things always happen at just the right time, I find. And I stumbled across the 90-Day Planning Session the very lovely Andrea Jordan was offering. I can honestly say it was that session with her that helped me get back on track. And over the next 90 days, I completely revamped my business into the thing it has become now. No more Sarah Wayte Copywriting and Photography. Now it’s Sarah Wayte Creative! And yes, the new website is on its way!

Sketched logo with the words Sarah Wayte Creative around it

The Work

I’ve not been as good at tracking everything this year, it seems. Especially now I’m looking back through my calendar and seeing it all laid out. But I’ve photographed a whole bunch of fabulous business owners and entrepreneurs since February. I’ve shot some fantastic branding sessions with an awesome local branding agency. I’ve written for wedding, family, equine and branding photographers, coaches, counsellors, farm owners and even a woman-led construction company. I’ve written countless blog posts and website pages, sales pages, about pages, email sequences and biographies. And I’ve photographed motivational speakers, coffee shop owners, a toy store, bookkeepers, coaches, physiotherapists and chicken farmers and more besides. It has been one hell of a year when it comes to work!

The Play

And, despite this pandemic curbing our enjoyment, we did manage a trip to New Orleans. Then I had a wonderful birthday weekend in Keremeos organised by my family and Stu. I also had a couple of work-related trips, one to Sun Peaks and the other to a beautiful spot in Creston which involved a very eventful road trip and a roadside rescue!

Chipmunk eats from woman's hand
View of village from ski lift
Close up of hen looking into camera
Woman stretches on physiotherapy equipment
Hand holding mechanical tools

I’ve hiked a beautiful mountain, joined a gym and achieved a personal goal to do the Teskey Grind. And I’ve made some significant changes to my lifestyle this year, as well finally being able to call myself a Maltese citizen after years of meaning to apply for dual citizenship!

And while it hasn’t been the year I anticipated, it’s been A YEAR. I had high hopes for the year I turned 40. But I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t matter because there’s still time to do all the things I’d wanted and planned to do. Turning my business around in 90 days has proved to me that anything is possible. You just have to figure it out and go for it. 

And as we wrap up this horror of a year, I can only hope that next year has much brighter things in store for all of us. I won’t say any more than that, but always hoping for positive changes, right?

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