Happy New Year!
I kind of love the feeling of the first day of the new year. I have been putting together my plan of attack for 2015 for the past 2 weeks, so I feel like I can hit the ground running.
For me, the most important thing is knowing what I should be doing next, having things planned out just a few steps ahead, so that I don’t get stuck wondering what the hell I’m supposed to be working on. So I’ve worked out all those kinks, did some scheduling, and feel prepared to get to work on my 2015 goals.
I know most people would have already posted their “year in review” posts. I’m going at my own pace over here. Today I’m going to tell you what I learned in my business last year, what I’ll do differently this year (so you can learn from my mistakes) and what I’m investing in for my business in 2015.
Last year was big year for me and my little collection of lifestyle businesses. We (meaning my partner, myself, and the business) went on a 4 month cross-country road trip. We lived in our car, camped, and ran the business from the road. It was amazing/crazy/frustrating/awesome - and I learned a lot about what input my business needs from me to continue operating at full force.
I wrote a 400 page book while we were driving across the country (I’d wake up early and start writing at the picnic table in our campsite, or demand that we stop at a hotel for a night so I could write uninterrupted for 24 hours.) I wrote 3 more normal sized books by the end of the year (that are now in the design phase). For the majority of 2014, I wrote 5,000-10,000 words a day. I became a writing machine!
I graduated college in August 2014, at the gorgeous campus of Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. My partner and I ate creemees every day for a week while we were in Vermont, so that was awesome. (Creemees are a Vermont specialty - like a maple flavored soft serve ice cream but with high butterfat content. MMMM!). I visited 41 states, went to too many national parks to count, and really went wild with wanderlust and adventure.
I started Femtrepreneur in 2014, which has now become such a rewarding and fun experience. I love sharing all of my business experience and experiments with you. I love writing these posts for you. I love creating things for you! It’s just incredibly fulfilling and I’ve already made some great new friends just in the past few months of launching this blog. (Thank you for your support - your eyeballs on my words mean so much to me!).
I realized a few important details about my business this year.
Reflecting on what I learned will help me run my business even smarter next year.
1. You haven’t saturated your market yet - and probably never will.
After 6 months of selling products on my websites, sales began to plateau. For a few months, sales were the same each month. The numbers were almost exactly the same 3 months in a row. No growth, no decline - just the same. On one hand it was nice to see consistency. I felt like I count on a certain number of sales each month. A lot of businesses would be happy to get there.
But I wondered if I had hit a threshold, or if I could do better. I wondered if I had just saturated my market and had reached all of my potential customers already. I wondered if that was it. So I did an experiment to test it out, and see if I could get past the plateau and climb another mountain (on the graph of my accounting software haha - I climbed enough actual mountains this year on our road trip!).
I busted my ass creating a re-launch, I went balls to the wall with promotion for a month, I A/B tested and optimized my sales pages, and I reached out to everyone I knew. What happened? My revenue doubled that month. Turns out I hadn’t saturated my market - I had just stopped pushing for more.
You probably haven’t saturated your market either. Think about ways you can reach new potential customers. Think about how you can engage with more people. If you’ve hit a plateau, see if changing your sales page, copy, or design increases conversions.
2. You can’t do it alone - and you shouldn’t have to.
This year I joined Sarah Morgan’s Badass Babes E-Course, which began as a blogging and design course and has since evolved into a group of awesome pals that get to hang out every other week and talk about life, food, Taylor Swift - oh and blogging. We talk about blogging too. The course and those chats have become so important to me and I freaking love them.
The course helped me improve my blogs from a design and user experience standpoint. I learned how to actually use an editorial calendar. Blogging became easy and fulfilling instead of difficult and frustrating.
The chats and community forum have given me a community of bloggers to talk to, bounce ideas off of, motivate me, and tell me my ideas are a-okay. I used to spend days just pondering and mulling over certain decisions. Now I ask my babes, get an answer, and put it into action ASAP. It’s totally changed how I get things done.
If you feel like you’re working in a vacuum and no one understands you, find your community. I was alone in a vacuum for WAY too long. I didn’t realize how badly I needed any camaraderie until I had some. There are plenty of communities, courses, and groups you can join for accountability, support, and and friendship.
3. You are in control of your business - and if you want something you have to go after it.
I feel like I started out in 2014 just going with the flow of my business. I was reacting to things that were happening and responding to them. I wasn’t being pro-active about pushing my business in any particular direction. I wasn’t working for growth or change. I was just moving forward and following the direction my business seemed to be going in.
Yeah, I’m not doing that anymore. I’m in control of how my business operates, how big or small it is, and how I choose to run it. If I want to reach twice as many customers as I did last year, I am going to make a plan to do that and execute like a boss.
If you want to be booked out for 3 months in advance, you need to get hustling to make that happen. It’s in your hands. My business isn’t “happening” to me anymore. I’m steering it in the direction I want to go in. If I don’t like something I cut it out quick. If something new becomes important to me, I’m chasing it with intention and purpose.
4. The simpler your business is, the better.
I’m on a quest in 2015. The quest is to simplify my businesses to their most essential form, so that they are doing the most with the least input and resources.
(Yeah, I went to school for design and I’m a sucker for mid-century production methods).
In 2014 I tried to do a lot of stupid little things for my business. Many of them didn’t have a positive ROI. Some of them made no impact on my business, good or bad. I’m not going to do those things anymore.
Now that I have the testing and results from those experiments, I’m focusing only on things that bring a big, positive ROI to my business. I’m focusing on high-impact actions. I’m creating the best thing, for the most people, with the fewest resources (time, money, physical resources, etc) possible.
I’m constantly evaluating my business and looking for dead weight I can eliminate. No one’s buying that package? Ditch it. No one’s clicking on that sidebar banner? Lose it. I plan to continue doing this in 2015 and hopefully really perfect the essential aspects of my business.
Things I’m investing in for 2015
If you had asked me last year what I was investing in or spending money on for my business, I would have laughed at you. “You’re joking right? Why would I spend money on anything? What a waste”. I was bootstrapping big-time. I was saving every penny. I didn’t want to spare anything unless I knew for sure it would benefit my business. When I shelled out the money for my website, without knowing if I would make any money or not, I cringed.
I think bootstrapping is awesome. There are so many free solutions and programs and software available to entrepreneurs, in a lot of ways starting a business with no money is perfectly feasible. I’ve done it. I started with only the free version of certain software. I hacked together my own solutions if it meant avoiding paying a fee. I did everything I could to avoid spending the money I had just started making.
But over time I realized that spending a little bit of money can save you a lot of time and frustration. And when I had the money to spare, it made a lot of sense to invest it into things that will help my business grow.
This year I'm spending some of my profits on things I think will have a positive ROI. Things that will help me simplify my business and make things easier. I’m more protective of my time and sanity than I was 12 months ago.
This year I bought a banner ad on a site that I love and has sent me lots of traffic in the past. Last year I had my banner on the site for a trade. I would write guest posts in exchange for the ad spot. I collected a year’s worth of data (how much traffic comes from that ad, how targeted that traffic is) in 2014. But it’s become more difficult to keep up with the guest post trade as my own 4 businesses take off. I have more money and less time. So I spent the money on the ad spot for the year. I know that the site I bought the ad spot on is only going to get bigger and bigger (lots of recent press), so I’m happy to be a sponsor.
When I first found Laura Simms and signed up for her newsletter, I got this really calming and focused feeling from her. The vibes she puts out are just what I needed. I was feeling frazzled, spread too thin, and unfocused. Laura just has this way of writing, speaking and communicating that made me feel relaxed, in control, and focused. I was hooked right away. She was like the opposite of me and so I was very attracted to her work.
When she sent out the email announcing her year-long program “Cornerstone”, I jumped in and purchased it right away. I had never bought a program like that or any coaching before. I had never bought anything with so little research and without mulling and pondering! But it felt right. The price is fantastic and so affordable.
I need focus and accountability and since I’ve loved the Badass Babes so much, I knew I would like being part of another community for creatives and business ladies. My word for this year is FOCUS. I feel like Cornerstone helps me do that. It’s not so much a planning extravaganza as it is an intentional, flexible guide for the year so you actually do the things you want to do. I am excited to have Laura’s really good vibes in my life.
You can totally do your own taxes. I know many business owners that do their own taxes and accounting. I applaud those people.
But I am not one of those people. The idea of messing up gives me and anxiety attack. Maybe I’ll do it with an accountant this year and then feel more capable next year, but probably not.
Using an accountant will actually save me a lot of money in the long run, even though I will be paying for his services. I feel 100% content to be paying him to take care of everything. One thing we’ll talk about is what kind of exemptions are pertinent to bloggers.
I would suggest talking to an accountant (with a free consultation) and explaining your business and position to them. Ask them how much their services will cost for someone in your situation. If it seems like something you can afford and will give you piece of mind, go for it.
I have two questions for you.
1. What did you learn about yourself and your business in 2014 that will change how you operate in 2015?
2. What little things are you investing in this year to help you grow, simplify, or manage your business?
Let me know in the comments below.