Well, well, well … 2020. Didn’t see you coming.
This was a very interesting year for all of us, to say the very least.
So today I’m back with my annual business in review post to recap my life & business for 2020.
In this post I’ll show you behind the scenes of what was happening in my business/life, what went well, what didn’t, and what I’m looking to change for the New Year!
So let’s get straight into it!
Ahhhh, back when life was normal and when you thought of the word Corona you thought of enjoying a beer, maybe garnished with a lime wedge during a nice summer evening.
I started the year with the MOST amazing trip to Ireland. My husband and I wanted to do something different for New Years, so we went and had the most epic roadtrip through Ireland.
After returning home, with Squarespace 7.1 coming out of Beta I had a slightttt heart attack because I knew I needed to entirely rerecord my Square Secrets course, BEFORE it was planned to launch again in February.
Pressure was on and I got hellah-focused.
For the first time in literally years I put the blog on the back burner, sat my butt down on my couch and missioned through rerecording and editing and reuploading a full 12 hour course, day after day after day.
I learned quickly that redoing a course is actually just as hard as creating a new one from scratch.
(You have to re-watch every video and make sure that you mention certain things in videos, so when you reference stuff in other videos, it all makes sense.)
So after a really wonerful trip, January was a lot of me sitting on my couch recording videos.
Gotta say, it was far from my favorite task I’ve ever done in my business, but I got there in the end. And maybe having the deadline of the upcoming launch was a good thing, because when you hate a task you tend to drag it out, and I didn’t really have that option.
February was also a full-on month.
My little two-person team prepped for our upcoming Square Secrets launch (while editing the last of the new rerecorded videos.)
I had also been thinking up solutions for increasing our course sales.
An affiliate program felt in my heart like the right thing to do.
Problem was, I had NO time to create one.
Thankfully my ever-reliable team member Dean came to the rescue and fully took over the project, launching us an affiliate program just in time.
I got back to blogging consistently, but also realized, in order to stay consistent on the blog with work in the business also always growing as the business grew, I might need more help with it.
I headed to LA for my first in-person mastermind event. (Also, though I didn’t know it at the time, it was also my last in-person mastermind event of the year .)
It was so nice to get to both meet new incredible business women and catch up with business friends, like Cassie from the Bucketlist Bombshells. It’s funny how in the online business world there’s a select few places where everyone meets up and can often be found. I had just seen Casie & Shay in Bali in November and then again in LA in January.
I decided that speaking at live events was a goal for 2020 (ironic) and coincidentally found a speakers training in Florida a few days after the LA mastermind meetup. Seeing as I was already on that side of the Atlantic, I hopped on it. It did mean I spent my birthday away from home, but I mean, a birthday in Florida? Life could be a lot worse.
I spent the day enjoying the beautiful Florida weather, shopping at the stores we don’t have in Europe, making a candle The Candle Pour and doing a dinner meetup with some email subscribers of mine who are local to Tampa.
After Tampa, conveniently some friends of mine in Canada were going skiing for the weekend, so I took a flight north and had such a wonderful time catching up with my university girls and flying down the hills at Mont Tremblant.
After that, it was time to get on a flight back to Germany (not knowing I’d be stuck there for a longgggg time) and finally time to launch Square Secrets!
This is the month that it really went down.
Personally we had found our dream home and convinced the owner to sell it to us.
We got approved for the mortgage the day Corona really got serious, right about the middle of March. Which was rather terrifying having to decide if we should buy a house with all the uncertainty in the world. Especially because I’d never run a business through a pandemic which the news seemed to be saying could lead us into a recession.
Looking back now, you can see house purchases fell off a cliff in March, we however were the crazy ones which went ahead with it, and I’m so glad we did.
I also started getting Dean to help me more and more with content creation. We slowly transitioned from it being on my plate of responsibility with her helping with bits here and there to the other way around.
In the business in March I had a new idea I was THRILLED about. A program called Select. Basically a small group mentoring program to help business owners build and launch a passive income product.
I spent the whole month with renewed energy and excitement putting my all into designing the Select program, preparing the materials for it, planning a launch, as well as putting together a sales page and process.
I launched it and while I had a solid number of applicants who I knew would be perfect for it, I definitely underestimated the amount that Corona was affecting people’s lives.
For me Corona and the first lockdown was a chance for a slower pace of life, and time to work on new exciting projects.
I (sillily) didn’t put myself into others shoes and realize that that wasn’t the situation for most of my followers.
One thing I noticed this year was that my audience is a couple years older than I expected.
I figured people following the blog would be just like me, in those in-between years of university & “real-life” in your 30’s, having fun and building a business for freedom of lifestyle.
What I learned however was that a lot of my audience is my age or a few years older, many women new to motherhood or with young children.
And what happened to schools in March & April? They were closed, meaning (primarily) Moms were left shouldering the impossible task of working a job/building a business and homeschooling kids.
(I’d just like to say, you have every one of my sympathies if that was you. I genuinely could not imagine and have so much respect for carrying that impossible load.)
There were a number of women who got in touch saying they were so interested in the Select program but with childcare so unpredictable, they’d want to join at a later time and give their all to it when they had reliable childcare again.
April was also the month we cancelled our wedding for the summer.
I was holding out hope every week, but a wedding with guests from 7 different countries wasn’t looking good. I’m so grateful that every one of our vendors agreed to reschedule us, without significant financial penalty.
In April we also heard that Facebook ads were dirt cheap because of many companies pulling their marketing budgets. We hadn’t run ads in almost 6 months, but turned on our old ads just to see what happened. Turns out, ads were indeed cheaper than expected and our old ads did just fine.
Between April’s ads experiment and May’s affiliate launch (more on that in a moment) we realized ads were going to be a key way we’d scale in the future.
May was when lockdown came to an end here in Germany and we jumped at the chance to get out of the house. We booked a hotel on a lake for the first weekend hotels were allowed to open again.
We found the most gorgeousss area in Germany I never before new existed (Google Plöner See). It really reminded me of home in Canada which I knew I wasn’t going to see for some time. Our summer was already full of home renovation & moving plans, so I knew it’d be a while until I got back.
May was also a big month for the business, we were going into historically our biggest launch of the year and this one did not disappoint. In May we launched Square Secrets Business and knocked it out of the park with one of our most exciting and energized and successful launches yet.
We made 1 small tweak to our sales page that significantly increased our revenue per sale and did a 1 week launch that brought us in well over $100k.
I celebrated with a Senreve bag I had had my eye on for a few months and deciding we were ready to bring on a new team member.
The affiliate aspect of the launch didn’t quite go how I wanted it to however. We realized that slightly more than half the sales which got accredited to affiliates were people already on our email list.
Meaning our affiliate program wasn’t bringing in new audiences like we wanted, but instead meant we were paying out affiliates for sales we likely would have gotten anyways.
It was also the month I got my SMART! We knew we’d soon be leaving the city and needed 2 cars. I never would have considered myself a Smart cart type person, but I have a very low level of patience for finding a parking spot in an overcrowded old European city that wasn’t designed with parking spaces in mind, so it’s actually the perfect car.
In June we hired a new customer service & operations VA so Dean could move over fully to marketing. We spent time posting the job, going through over a hundred applicants, giving out test projects, interviewing, hiring and training.
We also finally got the keys to our house and started preparing for renovations, meaning picking out floors and paint colours and 43 other things.
I need to give a shout out to my husband here who expertly managed a very complicated home purchase and coordinating about a zillion contractors for renovations. He truly took that project and owned it, kind of by necessity, because my German isn’t to the point I could manage something like that.
Regardless of why, he deserves some serious respect and thanks for what he did. He managed the house project to the point that I was just told “show up on this day and sign here,” which was so appreciated.
Being able to just focus on my job was such a gift.
This is also the month Paige Hulse and I started talks about me possibly joining the Creative Law Shop to help with marketing & sales. Paige Hulse was running two businesses and loved the legal aspect of both, but not the sales & marketing side. We were in early discussions trying to figure out what my joining the business would look like and what our future plans for the shop would be.
In July our new hire let us know the position was too much and we were back to the drawing board, Dean switching quickly back to her old role while we looked for a replacement.
We were getting to a crunch point a we had a launch coming up in August and needed someone to fill the role before then.
Our original plans of hiring someone and giving them plenty of time to get accustomed to the business before the craziness of a launch started was out the window. We went back to interviewing and hiring and training (at lightening speed).
I was also determined to further automate our launches. I have to admit, getting on Instagram to do a live every day for the week before a launch drained me and it was normally really complicated to pick a launch date that worked around my (non-COVID-time) travel schedule.
I wanted a launch to be able to fully run without me, so I worked on creating an automated challenge.
It somehow took weeks longer than I anticipated and I spent most of the month and the next working on it.
In August we were at the house just about every day after work painting, waging war against the garden (read: cleaning it up), preparing to move and (literally) bribing out contractors to get the house done faster. (They took 3x the amount of time they had originally estimated and we were running into an issue where our lease was up at our apartment but our house wasn’t done.)
After our contractors dilly-dallied for weeks, our moving date was pushed to be the same time as my launch.
We were ready to go and move in, but the house wasn’t. I had had just about enough of being cooped up in Germany staring at the same 4 walls for months, working alone and generally kinda bored by a lack of excitement, events, social time and friends in my life.
I have a tendency to go ALL IN on my business and work like a mad woman. Working just 40 hour weeks are not something I’ve ever managed. I just can’t stop myself from working when my brain is on work.
Working into the evenings is just what I do unless I have something else planned, like meeting friends, which obviously wasn’t happening much.
With months of social distancing, I had worked myself into a semi-exhaustion and mini-burnout.
My only way to stop myself from working is to go on vacation. Therefore my very (normally) frequent trips.
With Europeans allowed to travel to other EU countries, and STILL waiting for our contractors to finish the house, we booked a 1 week trip to Greece. We were both exhausted and over work (both house work and work-work) so we spent a week at a wonderful hotel doing genuinely as little as possible. We swam, read, ate and drank cocktails. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer break.
I figured the launch landing at the same time as the move wouldn’t be so bad as I had created a launch that truly didn’t need me, it was 100% automated and run by my team with the exception of 1 live webinar I’d do.
Lesson learned: Live launches need the excitement of live launches, and when you automate everything and don’t show up live, they don’t go well.
In the pre-launch week it was my job to pack our entire apartment, as my husbands job was getting busy and I really had only done a fraction of the work for the house up until that point. I was so grateful that the automated challenge was running because I genuinely don’t know how I would have done live videos daily in between boxes and the insanity that was our half-packed apartment.
The launch was far from our best, and I learned the hard lesson that if you build a personal brand business, you have to show up and be present if you want a launch to go well.
No one else can do it for you if you are your business and brand.
Again we noticed that affiliates weren’t driving us new customers, we were mostly just paying them out for sales of people that we already had on our list, leading us to the decision to press pause on the affiliate program.
I normally do 2 photoshoots a year, generally in Canada or abroad somewhere where it’s easier to organize a photoshoot in English than it is in German.
Without that being an option, I went ahead with planning a very European-inspired photoshoot. I hired our wedding photographer who (obviously) hadn’t yet photographed our wedding and we knocked out a 1 day mega shoot with 3 locations. We had such a fun time and the results were amazing! We now have plenty of new photos to use for the year to come.
In life, I was preoccupied with a lot of unpacking and setting up the house, as well as a trip to the hardware store or Ikea almost daily.
This was also my first month starting to work on the Creative Law Shop. I spent the first month getting a full look at the business, determining what needed to be done and my game plan going forward, getting to know the customers and doing research.
Now the renovations were done and we were all moved in with boxes unpacked, I had one goal: Go home and see my family and friends.
Friends were getting engaged and buying houses and I wasn’t there for any of it. I felt like a crappy friend and that life at home was moving on without me, with me becoming more and more distanced from it with every big life event of my friends and family that I missed.
It had been the longest I’d ever been away from home and I hadn’t seen my parents in 10 months.There were indications that COVID cases were rising, but I was hopeful and booked the flight anyways.
I did my research, knowing I’d need to quarantine for 2 weeks upon landing, and I organized everything for myself to quarantine up in a cabin on a lake with a solid wifi connection. I figured I’d do 2 weeks of intense work while quarantining and then go socialize.
Towards the end of the month, with restrictions in Canada getting more and more intense, eventually I decided if I went home, it wouldn’t be the reuniting with family & friends trip I hoped for.
So after a few tears, I cancelled the flight, ate some ice cream, watched TV for a day straight and just let myself sit in the sadness of my plans being cancelled, again.
(I actually haven’t even listed the total number of things I had cancelled this year, because something got cancelled just about every month. It was about 10 trips/work events & 1 wedding cancelled in total this year. I’ve definitely learned a lot of acceptance this year. )
This month we learned that our new team members old job that she was laid off from because of Corona was coming back sooner than expected. Meaning we had to hire and train for a third time in the year. Thankfully we had lots of practice and were able to implement the process pretty quickly & easily.
This month I also took on the mammoth task of redesigning the entire Creative Law Shop website.
For any web designers reading this I’ll just say one thing: There were 90 product pages. 90!
It was a massive task, but I had to get through it in October because Black Friday was just around the corner.
Again, I hunkered down on my couch and spent countless hours redoing the site, writing copy, creating graphics, etc. It was a project that went on for weeks, but thankfully I finished it just in time.
After a rather disappointing August launch, I was determined to put more effort and energy and my own time into our November launch. I made big changes to the launch schedule and content as well as the frequency with which I’d be showing up live.
And it paid off, which I was super thankful for.
When a launch doesn’t go well, there could be 50 reasons, and your job as the business owner is to figure out which reason is the right one and how you can fix it.
It’s not always obvious, I had about 15 theories about why the August launch didn’t go well, but my hunch was the live excitement was a big part of the problem.
Having very clearly fixed that in November, and the result coming out so differently, I knew I had hit the nail on the head of the issue and was really thankful for having correctly assessed the problem and not having it drag on from one launch to the next.
November continued with launch craziness as right after my own launch, I had to run the Creative Law Shop Black Friday launch. I whipped it together quite quickly and made some key changes to how they were running launches in the past.
Those changes DOUBLED the CLS Black Friday sale versus previous years!
And finally, in November we got serious about making progress on our YouTube channel. With Dean now finally being able to just focus on marketing and not always helping me hire and train people for her old role, she finally was able to focus on YouTube.
We’ve been blogging for years which is the #1 factor I’d put the success of this business down to.
And while we kill it in the #1 search engine, Google, we have never had the capacity to focus on the #2 search engine, YouTube.
Now we did!
Dean took a course (our favorite way to get a running start on any new project we’re unfamiliar with) on YouTube and got to implementing. I set up a whole video shoot studio in my new office and got to filming.
This year looking back I missed my list building goal, which is the most important goal in my business, and I was absolutely determined to not let that happen again in 2021.
I knew I needed the time and space away from life and daily tasks to just sit and focus on my business strategy, talking to customers, pouring over all of the hundreds of responses we got to our annual survey and generally figuring out where to take this business next and how to grow it to where I envisioned.
I wanted to get into a flow state just focused on one thing, planning my year with intention & vision. I knew I needed the mental space free of neighbours and family dropping by, cooking, running errands and all the distractions that normally come with daily life.
I determined that getting out of my house was going to be necessary to get myself in that environment and mental state. So I looked around at where the closest, easier to get to place around me was. Stockholm turned out to be the answer.
I booked myself into a hotel and got to work.
I created my annual survey, sent it off and literally spent days analyzing the results.
I also blocked out 16 thirty minute slots in my calendar and invited anyone who completed the survey to book a call with me.
And I learned a LOT! Those calls and survey responses were invaluable.
I now have a very clear understanding of how my audience has changed from a couple years to now, how I need to tweak my messaging, and what new product I should create.
So to anyone who got on Zoom with me or completed the survey, I’d like to personally say a heartfelt thank you. Your time spent telling me your thoughts & situation helped immensely.
I also ran another quick end-of-year sale at the Creative Law Shop and then took off for Christmas!
This year we kept on with what was working, blogging. We were hoping to increase the monthly visitors we receive and I figured better SEO-ed posts was the answer.
When Dean came on to help with content & marketing, she got way more strategic than I ever did about figuring out exactly what keywords we should go after, creating the most perfectly skimmable, SEO-ed to perfection, strategic posts.
Turns out, we feel like we might have hit a ceiling in what blogging alone can do for our traffic and list growth.
We needed new strategies.
Enter YouTube & an affiliate program.
I’ve talked about the issues we found with the affiliate program a few times, primarily it wasn’t getting us in front of the new audiences as intended, so we experimented with it for most of the year and then decided to focus our attention elsewhere. In 2021 affiliates won’t be a focus for us.
YouTube was what we guessed would be our next big opportunity.
I’ve known for years that video is the future of the internet, I just never had the capacity before to execute it. With a bigger team, I now had that ability.
Often when we were Googling the keywords we wanted to rank for there was a carousel of relevant YouTube videos at the top of the search results. We knew getting our videos in those spots would be key for more traffic and leads.
So I Googled away to figure out what video equipment was necessary, and thankfully once we moved into our house, I could set up an entire shoot studio.
That’s unlike in our old apartment where I legit took over our entire living room for days with video equipment, which generally meant the rest of our apartment was a massive mess with living room furniture stuffed into halls & other rooms.
I now have one room, my new own office, where I can put up my filming equipment and leave it up, which is the most massive time saver! While my husband and I enjoyed working together from our shared office in our apartment, my own room is greatly appreciated.
In 2020 we also turned our ads back on which a previous FB ads manager had created for us.
In my mastermind everyone was talking about how ad prices were at historic lows with so many companies pulling their marketing spend due to Corona.
I figured we should at least turn them on for a week or two to see what the lead price was. Problem was, I legit didn’t even know how to turn the ads back on, but thankfully my husbands cousin did.
Turns out they worked beautifully, even when we didn’t tweak them for months. (Which is NOT what you’re supposed to do by the way, we just didn’t know how to make new ones.)
As they worked so well even without doing them properly, we decided having an internal team member get fully trained on ads and doing them in-house was our next step.
So expect to see my smiling face in your newsfeed a lot more in 2021.
Oi, feelings in 2020.
I almost struggle to write something here because while the year was a challenge in many ways, I know my year was a walk in the park compared to others so I really don’t want to complain.
I’ll admit having my wedding cancelled and not seeing my family or having them join in the excitement of our new home due to travel restrictions was definitely disappointing, but otherwise, I’ll just count my blessings, because there’s lots of them.
I’m grateful to have joined a mastermind so that I had some people to talk to about running a business through COVID, I’m grateful for our beautiful home and all the friends & my husbands family who helped us move, do renovations and wage a war on our insane garden.
I’m grateful for the trips I did take, more time with my husband, and that I have a business which was already COVID-ready.
We didn’t have to make a single change to the way we ran my business, we were already fully set up to work 100% online with a remote team. And for all those things, I’m grateful.
Time/money well spent:
I won’t repeat things I have in the past, otherwise this list might get veryyy long. So here’s the new stuff:
Ashley our new bookkeeper!
Our copywriter! We had the copy rewritten for our sales pages & sales emails and they made the process sooo easy on me! I’m super grateful!
Facebook ads seemed to have a good ROI and were consistently getting us leads and sales
Facebook ads course
Our new legal & tax team! They’re a positive can-do-attitude type group and I so appreciate their expertise & calm approach.
Lesson 1. The most important key to a successful affiliate program is having affiliates with large audiences, who are experienced with launching, who have an audience that is completely different from yours.
Lesson 2. Facebook ads are the way we’ll scale.
When I look at the ladies in my mastermind, women who are doing multiple millions a year in their businesses, the most consistent thing between them all is that ads are a major part of their marketing strategy.
Lesson 3. Time off from your business is important, even if you can’t leave your house because of COVID.
From the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to the thought process of “well I can’t do anything else, so I guess I’ll work” seemed to be pretty common. Turns out, a year of straight work at all hours of the day, night and weekend can only go on for so long. That ends for me in 2021. I’ll be taking vacation weeks, even if I can’t go anywhere and be stopping work at 5 PM sharp (with the exception of calls to people in the US/Canada.)
Lesson 4. Having an emergency fund of 1 year of expenses will mean that when the world goes down the gutter, I can still move forward feeling calm.
Lesson 5. A proper workspace will greatly help with work-life separation. (You would have thought I would’ve learned this earlier, but apparently not. ) I’m working on actually unpacking the boxes in my office (the only room in our house which is still not fully unpacked) and getting actual furniture so I can use it as an office, and not keep working from the living room.
Lesson 6. My audience is not just like me, they’re a few years older and are squarely in the having a new family and needing a job which works flexibly with their life situation.
Lesson 7. Don’t predict income streams I haven’t created yet.
I always predict my income each quarter at the beginning of the year. I tend to have 37 ideas for new revenue streams but in a year I’m realistically lucky if I can create 1 new stream. In order for my financial predictions to be correct, I need to only predict a new revenue stream once I’ve created it, because the creating it is the part which tends to be complicated.
Lesson 8. I like doing conversion-improving activities more so than new marketing activities. In order to get to where I want to go however, I have to get strict with myself to do the needle-moving, marketing activities first.
Lesson 9. 4 launches a year is too much for my team and our list. We’ll be cutting back to 1 launch of each major product a year, 1 launch of Square Secrets Business and 1 launch of Square Secrets, not 2 of each as we used to do.
Lesson 10. Your audience has the answer for what you should create next.
After creating my 2 primary courses I was determined not to create anything else until my audience made it clear to me what they wanted. I didn’t create any new products in 2020 and that was a good thing. Now you all have given me clear marching orders through my survey and our chats however, I’m confident with my idea and that the next course will be another hit. I won’t share yet what the topic is, but it’s complimentary to the current ones and it’ll be released sometime this year.
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 2021!