Looking back at my first year(ish) as a solopreneur
This post contains affiliate links
I've read several "My year in review" posts on other blogs that I found inspirational, insightful, and motivating.
It's why I decided to write one myself and reflect on my first year(ish) in business - I put the "ish" because I didn't officially start this business until the summer but I wanted to write this in 2018 because it seems more appropriate as a point to look both backwards and forwards.
So first of all, starting and running a business - regardless of the company or the industry - is a wild ride. There are so many ups and downs. And becoming a solo-entrepreneur after many years of working as part of teams is a big shift.
This reinvention of my career has been both eye-opening and earth-shaking in the fears that it has brought up for me. There are a lot of things that I've had to conquer in myself in order to keep taking big leaps forward. It also requires a lot of puzzle solving from a strategic, processes, systems, and service perspective.
Let me give you the backstory so that you understand...
Although I've been a marketing consultant for almost two decades, almost all of that time was spent co-owning a marketing firm with a business partner. It was (and still is) a fantastic company with amazing employees and clients.
However, I live 5 hours away from the main office and was traveling a lot (planes, trains, and automobiles - erg!) to see clients and team members. While I loved my firm and my work, it was time for a change.
In the end of May, I signed the final paperwork to sell my half of it in order to pursue my dream of running my own online business. I also wanted to be able to be home more often with my husband and two feisty boys (2 and 9).
This meant that the first part of 2017 was spent transitioning my client accounts to other team member, building this website from scratch, and working with attorneys to get the business transition paperwork in place.
It turns out that selling a business was the least of the transitions that I was going to go through in 2017.
2017: CHAOS AND BAD NEWS
Looking back, I have to say that 2017 was one of the most chaotic and tragic years of my life.
In February, I got a call from my aunt (my mom's twin) to let me know that she was concerned about my mom's memory. Out of the blue, my mom was forgetting a lot of things and couldn't keep track of her appointments. She kept repeating the same questions about 30 times in a row and was very confused. This struck rapidly - in January her memory seemed fine and I had received detailed emails from her telling me all about a recent book she had read (we often shared great books with each other since we both love to read).
So, I immediately flew to Florida from Oregon to stay with my mom for almost a week in the end of March and help my aunt. By the end of that week, we had to move my mom into my aunt’s house because - in addition to her rapidly deteriorating memory - she was no longer able to drive her car or stay alone. She was also becoming less steady on her feet and had lost the peripheral vision on her left side.
As you can imagine, we spent that time taking my mom to various doctor’s appointments to see what was going on. The neurologist ordered an MRI for her brain and the results were not good. My mom had a very large glioblastoma (type of cancer) in her brain. It's a very aggressive form of malignant brain tumor which had already spread through her brain. It was inoperable and the doctor gave her 6-8 weeks more on the planet.
For the next couple of months, I flew back and forth across the United States trying to be with my mom while also trying to be a mommy to my little guys. On June 8th, my mom and aunt celebrated their 78th birthday. On June 19th, my mom passed peacefully. I was grateful to be able to be there with her.
I ran around like crazy for the next couple of weeks in Florida dealing with all of the logistics that it takes to close down someone's life after they die. As an only child, I will forever be grateful to my aunt for all of the care and support she gave to my mom and me. She was my rock.
Needless to say, the first half of 2017 was intense, chaotic, and heartbreaking.
Around this same time, I was working to get my new business off the ground. And there was good news to be had.
I brought on several amazing new clients in those first few months after starting my company. I also met TONS of online entrepreneurs in many different industries who were amazing. I felt so much gratitude for my husband, two sons, and community of supportive friends.
And I was able to accomplish more than I thought would be possible despite all of the rocks in my path (and I know my mom would be so excited for me right now!)
The reason I’m sharing the personal side of my story is because I want you to understand that life WILL throw huge obstacles in your way at some point. And they will often come at you from the place you least expect it. But even though challenges arise, you can still build a successful business. You can still follow your dream. Even when you feel like your life is falling apart, you can still succeed.
Always remember that.
Ok, now let’s get into the breakdown of how my year in business went:
WHAT WAS MY GROWTH FOR THE YEAR?
Except for Twitter, all of the other numbers below reflect my growth from 0. I built a new website and blog, started a new email list, Facebook group, Facebook page, and Pinterest profile.
- Email subscribers: 2,200
- Unique site visitors: 14,625
- Number of blog posts: 28
- Facebook group members: 2410
- Facebook page followers: 1830
- Twitter followers: 12,300
- Pinterest followers: 1214
My numbers right now are pretty small compared to many bloggers and online entrepreneurs. That said, I feel very proud of the growth that I've been able to accomplish in a short amount of time (especially with all of the transition in the first half of the year).
Also, I really don’t mind because the people in my audience are engaged and give me amazing feedback about my content and programs. They have invested in me and my ability to help them succeed.
My Facebook Group, Facebook page, Pinterest and Twitter accounts have had steady growth. And I am super excited about my email list. I am increasing the connection and engagement with people on my list and working on sounding increasingly like my authentic self and less like the spokesperson for a marketing firm who has to always put on a "professional" face and voice (whatever that means).
Now that you’ve got the back story, I'm going to take you behind-the-scenes of my business and go over what I did well along with the lessons I learned and the challenges I overcame.
HOW MUCH DID I EARN?
I'm thrilled to say that I am on track for realizing a 6-figure business. Most of my my income currently comes from serving clients on a one-on-one basis. I have rockstar business clients who are growing and scaling their companies like crazy.
In 2017, my one-on-one clients have included a website development firm, a hospital, a creative agency, a videographer, customer activation expert, and a commercial HVAC specialist. I have been helping them all to create systems and processes that help them bring in qualified leads who are excited to pay them a premium price.
Interested in finding out if I can help you do the same? I have a range of packages to help business owners at all levels of their business growth. Sign up for a free consultation here.
Another thing that excites me is that I earned around 20% of my income (in the last 7 months) from passive income - this was from a couple of small products I created along with some affiliate programs and products that I promoted.
- Total revenue from passive income: $9,414.87
I mean who doesn't love passive income? Money while you sleep and all that? Picture me laughing right now, because I think those lines are a big myth perpetuated on the Internet - my biggest learning lesson is that passive income is actually a TON of work.
That said, I have enjoyed developing new streams of income for my business. I've never done affiliate marketing or created digital products before, so it's been a good opportunity for me to learn a new way to do business. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to impact more people and has the potential to scale in a way that my one-on-one consulting and coaching does not.
I really don't have much in place yet. I am currently building digital products, tripwires, and automated sales funnels. So, I am looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish this year.
Pinterest has been a new place to grow my traffic and promote my affiliate products. Did you know you could promote affiliate products on Pinterest? I didn't either until recently! There are two programs that have been helpful for me to learn how to leverage Pinterest to bring in passive income through affiliate links
- How to Make Your First Affiliate Sale in 24 Hours by Elise McDowell
- Affiliate Influence by Elise McDowell
I INVESTED IN MY BUSINESS EARLY ON
Because of my experience running and growing my marketing firm, I understand the importance of investing in your business in order to grow it - both time and money. So I made smart investments from Day One.
I also purchased The Ultimate Blogging Handbook by Abby Larson, which has a ton of tools and strategies for earning passive income from your blog.
Then, I signed up for Convertkit (and love it!) to build my email list and I created multiple lead magnets to help people reach their marketing goals:
- Power List of Facebook Groups: I've put together a comprehensive spreadsheet of over 75 Facebook Groups for business owners & bloggers with links, host names, group focus, size, and a simple-to-understand Promo Day schedule grouped by day.
- Ultimate Guide to Getting Traffic: Get the ULTIMATE guide that shows you how to drive free high-converting traffic to your website, create awesome lead magnets that convert like crazy, and build your list with thousands of warm leads who are dying to buy from you.
- Guide to Getting More Likes on Your Facebook Page: Get the ULTIMATE Guide that shows you how to grow the engagement and likes on your Facebook page for business.
- Grow Your Influence and Build An Audience: Want my secrets to getting BIG VISIBILITY? Get the ultimate Guide that shows you how to grow your authority and build a following of engaged fans.
Next, I invested in automation software. SmarterQueue is my favorite - it allows me to post on my Facebook page and on Twitter multiple times a day and I only have to load it up every once in a while. (If you want to try it, you can use this link to get a free month.
I bought new equipment for my office including equipment to start hosting livestreams and webinars. If you want to see my list of everything I'm using, just go to my Resources page!
Finally, I wanted to make sure that my client time tracking was accurate and that I could quickly invoice my clients at the beginning of the month. I tried multiple software options (thank goodness for free trials) and didn't like most of the ones I tried out.
Thankfully, I found two tools that work really well. I am using Harvest for tracking my time with clients and Squareup for creating invoices. (Oh and for client meetings, I think Zoom is the bomb since we can video conference and bring in people from different locations!)
My investments are paying off every day, as evidenced by my quick list and social media platform growth.
HOW DID I EARN PASSIVE INCOME IN 2017?
So you are probably wondering, how did I earn almost $10K in passive income in only 6 months?
Well, my friend, here's how...
Passive Income masterclass: I created a masterclass and offered to my email list for $47. I had a bunch of people sign up to watch it and got great feedback.
Tripwire: I created a tripwire for that same Passive Income course that allows people to buy it for a limited time for only $17. A lot of people have grabbed the offer! If you want the $17 deal, you can get it here (but you have to grab it quickly or you'll be timed out!)
Amazon affiliate: Ok, this is almost silly to mention because the income is so tiny, but hey! you have to start somewhere, right? I earned $9.04 as an Amazon affiliate because I got really excited about a bunch of planning books that I ordered and I wrote this post: How to get tons more done (swipe my productivity hacks) and told my list and Facebook group about it.
As an affiliate for courses: This is the biggest source of my affiliate income. I promoted 2 things that I really believe in. One was the Influencer Summit, which I was invited to speak at and the other was promoting a course created by Courtney Foster-Donahue: FB Everything (which I took and it is truly magical).
WHAT WERE MY BIGGEST CHALLENGES?
My mom's death: Pretty understandable.
Learning so many new software systems: I've always been tech savvy, but moving to the online space to run a business took a ton of new software skills. In the span of 7 months, I've had to learn to use Canva and PicMonkey for creating graphics, Tailwind and Boardbooster for Pinterest, Squarespace for my website, Convertkit for my list, OBS for livestreaming, Camtasia for screencasting, How to go live on my Facebook page, SmarterQueue for automating social media, Zoom for client meetings... And I feel like I'm forgetting some that I currently am using - and I know I tested a bunch of stuff and didn't like the platforms. That's a heck of a learning curve!!
Balance and self care: Launching a new business takes a ton of time. Plus, I have a husband and two young kiddos who want my attention. So, the thing that was the easiest to push aside was myself. I didn't eat as well as I wanted to and I didn't work out as much as I need to feel good about myself. I'm making that a priority this year.
Worry about failing: Wow this was HUGE for me. Even though my new business is doing great, worry kept popping into my head. I just kept thinking, “What if this doesn't work?” Even though it HAS been working, I can really talk myself into a panic. Which is ridiculous - it's all in my head when really everything has been totally fine.
WHAT WERE MY MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS?
On the business side: My most important lesson is that email and making offers is where the real money making happens. Pretty simple lesson, but I want to increase value on my subscribers and create offers that they want. I created a masterclass in June and got great response, but they didn't offer it again. Big mistake. This year, I'm going to keep creating and offering. Then, I'll maximize the things that perform well.
For my one-on-one work, referrals and partnerships are key for getting new clients. I'm going to focus on building more of these. LinkedIn has also been a great place for people to see my business profile and past experience.
Finally, I'm learning to write on my blog and to my email list from a personal perspective (like in this post). After many years of writing for my marketing firm and for clients' businesses as a company voice. this has been a challenging transition for me.
It feels...vulnerable. But the more I tell my story and share my personal perspective, the more positive response I get from my clients and audience, so I'm gonna keep doing it!
On the personal side: Although it's always been a challenge for me, I am continuing to work on becoming more organized and getting rid of our clutter. I get easily overwhelmed with chaos and having two high-energy kids who make big messes can really put me into a state of paralysis.
Plus, I feel like the S%*@ just keeps accumulating in our house (where the heck does it all come from?!). I've been developing systems for where things go and and am hauling things out of here on a regular basis. Plus, I am so proud of my 9-year-old who is really stepping up when it comes to folding his own clothes and putting stuff away. My 2-year-old. Well he is another another story. We've nicknamed him "Captain Chaos" for a reason.
I've also been working on my mindset so that I can build more trust in ME and more trust in my audience and more trust in my new business to provide. I've come to realize that a lot of what is holding me back is my thoughts. My worries make me stress out for no good reason. So, I've started doing more work on calming my brain of worries (it's a lifelong effort).
Three books that have helped me with my growth mindset are:
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
- The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in Five Minutes A Day by Intelligent Change
WHAT AM I MOST PROUD OF?
I’m SO PROUD of my tenacity. It takes some serious courage and stick-to-it-ness to reinvent a career, leaving the known for the unknown. Looking back at 2017, there were some big waves crashing over me so I'm also proud for just getting through it and still having the ability to find lots of good in my life. After losing my mom in such a sudden way, I have a much higher appreciation for how quickly things can change and how every day that I am healthy and my family and friends are healthy is truly a gift.
WHAT WERE MY MOST POPULAR POSTS?
- How to introduce yourself in Facebook groups to get noticed & remembered
- How to quickly write amazing blog posts in 6 simple steps
- How to rapidly build your email list leveraging Facebook groups
- Build your personal brand: how to infuse your business with YOU
- Define your ideal customers and rapidly increase your income
- Time-management tips for people who are easily distracted
- The 5 revenue-generating activities you must focus on to grow your business
- Drive tons of traffic (& build your email list) using the power of Pinterest
- Why you should charge a premium price for your services
- Get more email subscribers: content upgrades boost conversions like crazy
GOALS FOR 2018
Get even more organized! I've been making good progress in this area, but there is so much more I can do. I ordered several awesome planners and started a bullet journal for this year, which has been really helping me focus.
Now that I have more of an understanding of how my new business will run, I am better able to plan out my days, months, and quarters. I have an amazing online business manager so I think whenever I can tell her my plans in advance, she can make great headway with the items I delegate.
Make more offers and become more visible in a targeted way: Since my business was brand new in 2017, I've done a lot of testing with what helps to get me exposure, what works to bring in income, and what works in my blog and business.
Based on that, I have a better understanding of what to focus on in 2018. For example, I've found that podcast, video, and livestream interviews are good drivers for visibility, while online summits take more work but are not as beneficial for visibility. This year, I will focus on the former and turn down the latter, So, if you would like to interview me, let me know!
Get more clarity on who I want to be as a business. After so many years as part of a larger company, that was my identity. I am on a process of reinvention to uncover who I am these days. I know I love helping my clients and celebrating their successes. I know I love marketing and business growth. But there feels like there is more to uncover that will allow me to help people in a bigger way.
Exercise more regularly. Exercise is such an important part of my life and it has been spotty. I have recommitted to working out with weights 3 times a week and have started to use the C25K app on my phone so that I can run 3 times a week as well. I think those 2 things combined will help my work-life balance.
WHAT ARE MY GROWTH GOALS FOR 2018?
- Email subscribers: 10,000
- Unique site visitors: 500,000
- Number of blog posts: 50
- Facebook group members: 5000
- Facebook page followers: 5000
- Twitter followers: 15000
- Pinterest followers: 8000
- Total revenue from business: $150,000 with $35,000 of it coming from passive income.
Some of those goals are pretty lofty, but hey why not go for the gold? Anything is possible and I’m determined to make this year REMARKABLE. Are you?
If you’re reading, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time with this epic post. I appreciate it! If you found any of it helpful or insightful for you, I would love it if you could share the post with your friends. (See those social share buttons on the left? Just hit one of them!)
Let me know in the comments below: What were your big wins in 2017? What are your big goals for 2018?