It’s that time of year again. A new tax year. (Well, it is for me, as I follow HMRC’s tax year, which I like to think keeps things simpler.)
While it’s also a good time to review your work over the last year, I also tend took look back a bit further … ten years, to be precise.
HMRC like self-employed people (such as writers) to keep our financial paperwork for at least five years after the deadline for that tax year. (So the tax deadline for filing your return for the last tax year, ending 5th April 2018 (2017-2018), is 31st January 2019. Therefore you need to keep that paperwork until February 2024.)
As someone who tends to err on the side of caution (and because I have a large enough box up in the attic), I actually keep my records for ten years.
So as my 2007-2008 paper records made their acquaintance with the shredder it enabled me to time-travel ten years. In some ways, a lot has changed. In others, not much.
The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule – that 80% of our work comes from 20% of our clients. Thinking about my current clients, and those clients from ten years ago, I have to concur there is a lot of truth in this. There has been a couple of changes in my core 20% clients in the last ten years, but the Pareto Principle is still at play.
Complete Closures. Partial Closures. New Markets
There were a few magazines I wrote for in 2007/8 that, sadly, no longer exist, such as Country Quest and The New Writer, and then there were markets I was writing for then, who closed the specific slots I was targeting. Many of the women’s weekly magazines for example (Take a Break, Best, Bella, Woman’s Own) had fiction slots, but later went on to drop them.
Yet despite these losses, I found new markets to target, including a couple of foreign ones. Indeed, some of those markets have become some of my 20% clients.
Evolving As A Writer
Those old 2007/8 records also show how I’ve evolved as a jobbing writer. Back then I was doing a lot more distance learning tutoring, whereas now I’m supporting other writers through editing/proofreading work. Back then I was writing a lot more short-form fiction, whereas now I’m working on longer fiction … as well as all of my usual non-fiction work.
So while we might not enjoy the process of collating all of our paperwork for this annual form-filling exercise and the story that it tells, looking back over some of our older paperwork may reveal a much bigger story about our writing. Perhaps this should be called the joy of tax?