WHAT. A. YEAR!
2019 absolutely knocked it out of the park.
So I’m back with another one, here’s the massive blog post recap of my business and life in 2019.
In this post I’ll show you behind the scenes of what was happening in my business/life, what went well, what didn’t, how much we made, etc.
So let’s get straight into it!
This year we more than doubled our revenue from last year. If you’re interested to see how the business revenue stacks up year to year, here’s a graph.
For background info, this business was my part-time side hustle in 2015 and 2016, and full-time in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
One aspect I’d like to point out here which I think would surprise a lot of people is, the business made the most this year, but it isn’t the year I worked hardest. By far I pulled the longest hours and worked the hardest in 2017. Hard work doesn’t equal financial success. Smart work does.
And here’s how we did month-to-month. (This is being written in December by the way, so as we don’t have our final numbers for December yet, it’s been left off the graph.)
How on earth did the business take off so much in revenue more recently?
Passive. income. products.
You can pull all the overtime hours in the world and still won’t even be able to dream about making multiple 6 figures in most jobs or businesses. It’s only once you really master passive income that you have any chance to truly make your income take off like a rocket.
So again, think smart work. Brute force hard work will only get you so far. It’s once you pair smart work with hard work that things really start happening. (Then you can relax a bit on the hard work and take a vacation… or 5 .)
Here’s the primary things that were happening in the business each month to make that revenue happen:
January: Tying up loose ends of business
February: Square Secrets course launch
March: Evergreening (*is that a word?) both my courses
April: Creating the Online Business Besties podcast
May: Square Secrets Business course launch
June: Hiring new team member, starting Facebook ads
August: Square Secrets course launch
September: Creation of new content for Square Secrets Business course, prep for flash sale
October: Square Secrets Business flash sale, creating online shop
November: Square Secrets Business course launch, launching online shop, Black Friday sale
December: Recreate Square Secrets course
Now I’m looking at that list … I have to say, those courses really do take up a significant portion of our year. Which I guess makes sense, as they also make up a significant portion of our revenue.
I’m very aware that it’s not good to keep all your eggs in one basket, so for that reason, it’s definitely been on my mind that I need to create some other revenue streams other than the courses.
I’ve had other revenue streams in mind for some time, but we struggled this year to make them a reality.
I had wanted to increase affiliate income this year, which I did successfully, but as the other revenue streams grew too, the percentage of affiliate income didn’t change much, it only grew by 0.9%.
I also wanted to get sponsors for the podcast this year, but I need to grow the download numbers a bit more first. Monetizing the podcast will be a 2020 goal.
I also wanted to launch a shop of digital products, including templates & mini courses to help people with their site and online marketing. I did make the first step in that direction with launching 2 items in an online shop on Black Friday, but I definitely have more work to go in that department to get the shop to the point I want it to be.
Lastly, I wanted to launch business building retreats. These are more a heart-filling rather than bank-account-filling endeavour, but regardless, they will bring in some revenue and diversify things a bit more. Also if these produce great results, larger events which could genuinely be profit-generating could be down the line as well.
This year brought up a really unexpected challenge in terms of marketing. SEO has always been a huge traffic driver for us, and our content does really well SEO-wise.
We consistently get a ton of visitors to our Squarespace related posts from Google.
Now we’ve been writing more on the topic of online business, we’re competing in a much large pond against really established businesses that teach online business building.
Not to mention, we’ve come to the realization that our ideal client, the one who is currently sitting in her 9-5 job dreaming of a different life, probably doesn’t even think that it’s possible for herself to run an online business, so she’s likely not even Googling ‘how to build an online business’.
Up to this point, we’ve been producing content on Squarespace, being a web designer and building an online business, but we’ve realized we are going to be facing an uphill battle to get our online business posts in front of our ideal clients.
We blogged consistently twice a week over the course of the year, and then also started producing podcast episodes once a week, but we haven’t seen as great of a jump in traffic as we hoped.
I put this down in large part due to the fact that we’re producing a lot of content on online business that struggles to rank.
Content marketing will continue to be an aspect of the business in 2020, but we’re going to need to get more strategic and not just write whatever idea pops into my head.
Anddd maybe do some more market research and chatting with our ideal clients to figure out how we might creatively reach the ladies we’re trying to help.
In 2019 we also worked with a Facebook ads team for about 6 months. We did indeed see a positive ROI after paying for both the ads and the management, but the two things together were eating away at our expenses budget at pretty quick pace.
Facebook ads is straight up an expensive marketing strategy and we want to focus on something that is lower cost going forward, which we can manage in-house and not pay an outside team to implement for us at such an expensive price tag.
In 2020, we’re going to finally give the people what they want and launch our much-requested affiliate program for our courses.
It also just sits a bit better in my heart to pay out our marketing dollars to our past students who trusted me and invested in my courses.
This year we also started playing with promoted pins. It’s something my assistant can manage herself and we’re not needing to hire an outside team to do.
One of our pin campaigns got about the same cost per lead as our Facebooks ads (but without the additional cost of the Facebook ads management). Another campaign was much more expensive, and we’re going to make some tweaks and try again on it.
The cheaper campaign drove to an opt-in related to Squarespace, the more expensive one drove to an opt-in related to building an online business. So as you can see, the challenge with that topic continues.
But regardless, we’re determined to help our ideal clients who would benefit from running an online business, so even if it’s more of a challenge to reach them, we’re still going to be working on it.
Unfortunately, the year wasn’t all just raking in revenue and sipping margs from the beach.
I faced some pretty significant challenges with managing the business this year. I’ve learned that the bigger the business gets, the more business challenges and therefore emotional challenges I’ll face.
I can’t really explain the challenges here, but I can just say that the business has thrown me on more wild emotional rollercoasters this year than it ever has before. Stress levels got so ridiculous at one point this year that I genuinely threw in the towel on working for a few weeks because I just didn’t feel up to the challenge to handle our problems.
The saying ‘your business will only grow to the extent that you do’ is the absolute truth. I had to grow mindset-wise this year in order to handle the challenges of the business as it grew more than ever before.
Anyways, challenges definitely arose and it wasn’t all a walk in the park. Regardless, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer in this post, so I’ll just leave that there and move on to what I normally discuss in this section.
At the end of the year I always reflect back on the business for the year and figure out how to move ahead for the next year. For this part, I am using a lot of the prompts from Amy Porterfield’s podcast episode #183: How to Create Your Promotional Calendar The New Year Planning Episode. (Solid episode to listen to if you’re looking to plan your own year!)
Time/money well spent:
Building out evergreen funnels
My assistant Dean!
Our new bookkeeper Ashley
Business trip to Bali
Refurnishing the office
Photoshoot in the summer, including props, photographer, makeup & outfits
Pat Flynn’s Power Up Podcasting course
Our cleaning man
Our cleaning man still comes in as the absolute best money we spend all year, followed closely by my assistant. Even if all hell broke loose, I would still do whatever it took to make sure I could keep paying those two.
Pat Flynn’s Power Up Podcasting course was a fabulous investment. It showed me exactly what I needed to do in order to launch a podcast, something I was completely clueless on before. It was step by step and extremely clearly laid out.
This year I enjoyed:
Vacations that were also really interesting experiences – eg. sailing in Croatia
Being able to invite friends & fam to the cottage
Being able to go home for a little uni reunion & my uni friends Christmas party
Both the process of redecorating our office and living room and the finished result!
A real work-life balance
Only having meetings with my team when they were actually needed
Upgraded seats on flights
Speaking! I walked out of giving my talks and presentations feeling on Cloud 9!
Having Charlotte to mastermind with weekly and go over issues with
Feeling like I found a new hobby and my thing with sailing!
Getting an idea I’m so excited about – business retreats!
Being asked for something, how to build squarespace templates, creating it and it selling super well
Finally launching a shop of online products!
Taking off days or weeks when I felt like it, taking as much holiday time as I wanted for the trips I wanted to take
One interesting thing from that list I’ll explain a bit more in depth . . . Something interesting we did this year was to have a set meeting day and time but basically assume the meeting isn’t happening. We only actually have the meeting if either myself or my assistant calls it. Myself and my assistant used to just have a weekly meeting because we had a weekly meeting scheduled.
I forget what book I was reading, but it mentioned something about useless meetings and I realized 1. A massive pet peeve of previous jobs of mine was useless meetings and 2. I was holding useless meetings. So we scrapped those pretty quick. We generally only meet like once a month now, as that’s all we really need.
It interestingly also happened again that when I shut up and listen to my audience, the product I create for them that they basically ask for sells super well. Now to clarify, no one directly asked me for a course on how to build Squarespace templates, but I noticed I kept getting questions on how building templates worked all the darn time from course students and I created a mini course that answered it (now available in my Square Secrets Business course).
And what do you know, when I launched 2 products over Black Friday, the how to build templates one killed it compared to the other.
What did I avoid doing but should have done:
Take dance lessons
Join a field hockey team
Pitching myself to major publications and getting great back links
Pitching myself to be on other people’s podcasts
Focusing specifically on how to grow the email list and following through on strategies to do that
Making time to launch new products
Alright ready for the most insane part of this whole year recap?
The amount of time I wasn’t actually working this year.
I’ll be honest, life took priority over business this year.
I was planning a wedding, figuring out how to legally get married to someone from another country (not easy apparently), getting a pre-nup, and learning German.
I also prioritized travel.
I know in a few years we’ll have a house and kids, and I’ve still got a pretty full travel bucketlist to get to, so I jumped at every opportunity which I had been dreaming of this year.
All those things together actually took up a pretty significant part of my year.
I don’t actually keep exact track of how much holiday and time off I’m taking, so the numbers I’ll mention coming up are rough estimations.
But basically I just take days off, work half-days, or just peace out for adventures as they arise pretty frequently.
Sometimes I was off for fun, other times I just couldn’t bring myself to work when I was too stressed out to handle our problems.
If I had to guess at how many full days off I took I’d guess I took off about 67 work days, or roughly 3 months.
I also then worked about 4.5 months part-time, 4 months of that while taking German language classes and another half month of me just working part-days here and there when I felt like it for some reason.
So basically I only worked a legit full-time job for 4.5 months of the year. The other 7.5 months of the year I was off or working part-time.
So where did I travel to?
Amsterdam, Netherlands – long weekend trip with my sister
London, England x 2 – funnily enough I went to London twice in the month of March, the first time as a mid-week break with a friend and another as a little business retreat
Mont Blanc, France – 1 week ski vacation with my fiance
Ærø Island, Denmark – long weekend with my fiance and our parents
Salzburg & the Alps in Austria – 1 week trip with my mom
Southern Ontario, Canada x 3 – I went back home for 2 months in the summer and traveled all around the province alongside working. My fiance and I also took a holiday while there and spent the most amazing 10 days in Canadian Cottage Country on Lake Muskoka with friends and fam. I also went home for a second time for a long weekend to go to a little university reunion/wine festival and a 3rd time to for early Christmas.
North Caronlina, USA – 1 week conference
Munich, Germany – Oktoberfest
Sankt Peter Ording, Germany – weekend trip with my fiance
Usedom, Germany – another weekend trip with my fiance and friends
Split, Hvar, Bol, Vis & Solta, Croaita – 1 week sailing lesson
Bali, Indonesia – 1 month working & playing
Ireland – 1 week vacation checking out the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher and Ashford Castle at the end of the year and over NYE with my fiance
The funny thing is, I’ve already been to every one of those countries, not a single one was new to me. I guess we’re all a little bit creatures of habit right?
There are SO many projects I’m dying to get to creating and launching that got put on the back burner in 2019!
I’m hoping to launch business retreats, begin speaking at conferences, create an affiliate program for our courses, create a podcast sponsorship program, add some more digital products to the online shop, and create a new course.
A lot of these were 2019 dreams that just kept getting pushed aside as I worked on creating free content, free content, and more free content, updating and fixing our evergreen funnels, working with our FB ads team, and adding content to my current courses.
As such, we’ll be switching up roles a little internally and bringing on a new team member in the new year. I’m going to get a lot more help with free content and managing the day to day of the business so I can get to creating new projects.
I hope to say at the end of 2020 that we’ve added a few new revenue streams to the business to diversify things a bit.
I’m also hoping to get out of working solo in my little silo and begin cooperating with other businesses.
In my 5 years in business I think I’ve written a grand total of 2 guest posts. I’ve never pitched myself to be on someone else’s podcast or a major publication. I’ve never done a joint webinar and I’ve never asked people in my field to promote any of my products. That is a real fault of mine which would be good for me to get over.
I’ll be ending income reports in 2020 for the reasons mentioned in this post.
While I intend to personally spend less time creating free content, the free content will still be coming out, just with more help from my team in producing it.
Our email list will continue to be our biggest asset and therefore an area of great focus for us.
We’ll be launching my courses Square Secrets and Square Secrets Business every 6 months as usual.
I intend to continue taking time off as I did this year, whenever the occasion or necessity arises.
Being able to let myself take a day or week off when I was feeling really brutal was definitely a good thing this past year. And the experiences I made on my trips this year were incredible.
I want to live my life like the Europeans, working to live, not living to work. While my time off does definitely interfere with how much work I can accomplish, I need to remind myself that work isn’t my whole life, nor do I want it to be.
I love what I do, but I also love my life and it’s worth taking time off for.
We have an extremely bright year ahead of us I can already tell.
I feel immensely blessed to have been accepted into a mastermind program with some of the absolute biggest names in online business. Many of the ladies I’ve watched and learned from for years are in the group.
I’m SO looking forward to the meetups that are happening with the group around the world, including a trip to meet Richard Branson on Necker Island.
I’m excited to both just make friends with some amazing entrepreneurs and to observe what are consistent themes with both the women and their businesses, because success leaves clues of course!
I’m also stoked for my wedding, some amazing travels that are already planned and *fingers crossed* buying a dream home!
That’s a wrap!
A yearly wrap up sounds to be also the perfect time to give thanks, don’t you think?
So I’d like to take a moment to thank you my fine friend, yes you!
This business and life I’m leading is possible because you make it so by following along, sharing posts, hanging out with me on webinars, giving me feedback, and of course enrolling in my courses.
I love this business I’ve built, it allows me to live exactly the life I want to and for that I’m ever so grateful.
I hope that this post helps you realize if you’re currently on the fence about starting up your own thing online that heck yes it is possible, and you can totes make it happen if you decide you’re going to.
Cheers and best wishes in 2020!