Business Anniversary Year 3: What I made, what worked, what didn’t
(Sorry, the blog didn’t exist for the first 2 years of my business, so I don’t have any anniversary posts from year 1 and 2!)
So, it's been 1 year since I went full-time with my business, and 3 years since I started it as a side hustle.
Good news, I didn't go bankrupt and didn't the world didn't end. 😂
This time last year when debating going full time, I legitimately felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, about to leap into the unknown, no parachute attached. During my time deciding, I had this feeling inside my lungs like I had just taken a giant breath in and there was no more air to come.
I had some pretty intense fears running wild in my head. What if I make no money? What if it doesn't work? What if, what if, what if?
I decided to take the leap full-time while living abroad in Germany, so due to language and visa issues, if my business didn't support me, I really was up a creek.
I wasn't able (language-wise) or allowed (visa-wise) to go hit up the local Starbs for a job, so my business had to be profitable.
So if you're going through the analysis paralysis of deciding to go full-time, I'll just say I get it, I've been there and I know it's terrifying.
(Oh and, if you "burn the boats/bridges behind you", you'll be able to do it.)
Okay, so moving on from the basics, I was (more than) able to support myself and the world surely didn't end.
I want to share with you exactly what year 1 of my business looked like.
This post is really going to be a complete reflection of the past year, and what I'm changing in 2018.
My Year In Revenue
Yep, we're getting into the good stuff!
I'm going to share the income I brought in this past year, and share the behind the scenes of what was happening in those months.
I know some online business owners and bloggers do full income reports down to the dollar of what they made and where they made it, though to be honest it def feels a little weird to share exactly what I make online, so I'm not going to get quite that in detail, sorry all!
First let's start with what I made compared to previous years, and what I made month by month.
Important background info, during 2015 and 2016 I was doing a Masters degree full-time, teaching at my university part-time, and then running the studio on the side of those two things, as well as running a separate blog. (I'm crazy, I know.)
I went full-time January 1 2017, and my prices rose significantly from what I had been charging in the past.
I won't share specific numbers of what I made each month, but I will tell you that I made a whopping $570 in my first month. #killingit
You'll notice I only shared up until Nov. 2017, I'm currently writing this in Dec. 2017, so unfortunately I can't add in that data as the month isn't over yet.
Now, what brought in that money?
When I was still figuring out the whole full-time business thing I worked for 2 design agencies working on Squarespace projects for them.
I then worked through my own studio and made a little bit of revenue through affiliate sales. Granted, other than putting a few links in emails and blog posts, I spent almost no effort or time on affiliate marketing.
I plan to change that in 2018 however. Money while I'm sleeping for recommending the stuff I use and love to run my business? I won't say no to that.
The 2 Week Website sold ever so slightly more often than the 2 Week Website and Brand. I also did hourly work both for my own clients and a tiny bit for blog readers.
I will continue to complete hourly work for past clients in the future as I know it's important to them to be able to have easy access to a designer for small tweaks in the future, though going forward I'll only be offering that option to past clients.
Unfortunately I've noticed that the amount of time it takes to communicate, onboard and organize with a new client for a couple hours of work really isn't worth it.
I have however found Use Sixty, which is a fab option for anyone who needs a few edits to a Squarespace site, as opposed to a full site design.
Use Sixty does live video calls, so you can super quickly communicate what needs to be done, your preferences, and send over your design items for the site to a Squarespace designer who knows their stuff. It's a really good alternative to the past option of working with me hourly.
My year in marketing
The #1 reason this business took off?
The blog is responsible for so much great stuff that happened this year. And of course, it brought in lots of clients.
Now, you might not see 'blog' in my graph, but it was definitely involved.
A lot of my clients found me through Google.
Why am I ranking high in Google for the search term 'Squarespace website designer'? Because I've written more blogs on the topic of Squarespace web design than anyone else online. (Legit, I counted.)
Not all of those clients came through the search term 'Squarespace website design' but rather many of my clients had Squarespace questions, landed on my blog which had the answer and then they got in touch.
(Don't get how providing free info on a blog leads to paying clients? I explain this rather counter-intuitive strategy in this post.)
All clients that came through Pinterest also came through blog or portfolio posts.
You'll notice there is no networking really involved in the way I get clients. Because I spend most of my year abroad and am not in the States all too often anymore, I'm really at a disadvantage as I'm not able to network in person which could be a huge client-winner.
I mean let's be real, who do you generally trust more, a person you met face to face or someone you found online?
Granted, I wasn't going to let that stop me, I just found another avenue (the blog) that could be written up from anywhere, and would build trust with my ideal clients online.
Fun fact: I've only ever met 2 people IRL that I've worked with, they were both people I was friends or friends of friends with.
In my next blog post I'll be sharing my blogging strategy, and the exact traffic numbers of the blog over the past year. If you'd like to know when that one goes live, subscribe here!
My year in feels
For this part, the year in feel(ings) on this past year and thoughts on the one to come, 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). If you're looking to also plan for the New Year, it's a really great episode to listen to.
Time/money well spent:
Writing long-form, niche blog content
ConvertKit, Squarespace, custom Gmail email
Rebranding, rewriting my copy, setting the foundation of my business with B-School
Reading all the business books
Car crash bill while at a conference
Doing 'all the things' at the beginning of the year, working like a chicken with it's head cut off without a clear direction
Getting all the affiliate links, but not really putting effort into properly sharing them
Brand photos that didn't fit my style
What do I want my life to look like in 2018?
Building my business, from a beach with a frozen margarita in hand (not joking)
Working only with clients that are truly an ideal fit
Stop working hours into the night
Build passive revenue steams so I can alternate between client work and passive income work and not be so tired
Only take on 12 site designs in the year
Build authentic relationships with people who are doing what I'm doing, entrepreneurs who are running a creative online business
Be on more podcasts, webinars, interviews, etc.
This year I enjoyed working on:
Hosting webinars and interacting in a more 'real' way with my audience
Going to a conference with people who do what I do and 'get it'
Interviewing with the Bucketlist Bombshells
Participating in an online brand summit
Working on websites for non-profits with staff who truly are passionate about their cause
This year I didn't enjoy/felt it was difficult to work on:
SEO keyword research
All the webinar prep
Posting on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest
Doing my taxes
Dealing with my inbox
Working for design agencies because of drag-on deadlines
My Year in Travels
On to the fun stuff.
Why do I love running an online business? Why am I such a big cheerleader of others also starting up their own thing online?
Because it allows us the freedom to live a life we freaking love. I want that for all of y'all too.
Freedom to live a life you love looks different to everyone, but for me it looks like travel, and lots of it. This year I lived in, worked at and visited:
These were all repeat countries for me, with the exception of Belgium and Croatia. That brings my country count to 22.
I also did quickly go through The Netherlands and Iceland, but because I didn't spend at least 1 full day there, I feel it's not right to count them.
The only truly 'non-work' week was the time I spent in Cuba. There's very few countries these days with such terrible internet access that you really can't work in them. Cuba is one of them, granted I think it's a nice thing to be able to fully disconnect for some amount of time, so I don't consider not being able to work there a loss at all.
In 2018 travels I already know I'll be going to Austria, Indonesia, Singapore, Germany, the USA and Canada. I'm also hoping to get to Greece (Santorini) and France (to see Versailles!).
Your feedback I'm implementing
I also took time this year to really hear what y'all have to say, and there were some really consistent themes I heard loud and clear.
I collected over 1,000 responses to my survey, and hopped on the phone for ten 30 min subscriber chats (and then proceeded to loose my voice from talking so much).
What's a subscriber chat you ask? Basically, me just hanging out with a handful of y'all on the phone individually chatting about your life, your business, what your struggles are and why you follow the studio. Subscriber chats are one of my fav things to do!
Here's what I gathered:
You like to consume content in video-format!
You like authentic selling and no tricks style marketing. You like webinars that actually teach you something and then offer to sell something, not just someone hopping on a webinar and spending the entire time telling you what you can get in their paid product
You love online courses. The average price of a course you've bought is $571
You would prefer to get website building help through a course, worksheets and checklists.
See below in 'changes' as to how I'm taking your feedback and running with it.
changes in 2018
After having reflected back on my year, there's a few changes I'm really so looking forward to making in 2018.
First is a pretty major change to what I'm working on every day.
This year I took on back to back 2 Week Website projects, sometimes for months at a time, and lemme tell you I am straight up tired.
Turning around sites in that timeframe again and again and again is no easy task. Some projects are larger and more time-intensive than others, and with a few of the larger projects taking up all my time during the day, and then sometimes into the night too, I'd only have time for business tasks and blogging on the weekends.
Working the amount I do now isn't sustainable, and so I'm making some really intentional changes.
I'm intentionally cutting down on the number of projects I'm taking on in 2018, and adding other revenue streams.
That means I only have room for 12 web designs next year, and I really want to give those places to clients who are truly the perfect fit for the studio and it's unique process.
I've already referred clients elsewhere who were interested in booking spots in 2018, but who I knew would be better served by another designer.
So, what am I going to be doing all day if I'm doing just half of the websites I did last year?
I'll be focusing on 4 different revenue streams in 2018.
I'll be keeping custom 2 Week Website or 2 Week Website + Brand projects going, focusing a great deal more on affiliate sales (I bought the passive income expert, Pat Flynn's course on it!), I'll be building a knock-out online course (I've enlisted the help of the course-building expert Mariah Coz to do so) and creating an online shop full of site building resources.
I'm really happy that what you want (online course, a shop full of worksheets and checklists) aligns perfectly with me taking a step away from back to back web design projects.
I also plan to truly follow my dream in 2018 and take advantage of my location independent business. I'm heading to Bali for January, February and March, and will spend most of that time just working on building my course, no client work deadlines to be working towards.
I also seriously thought about the pros and cons of building a personal brand this year.
The Paige Studio is significantly too wrapped up with me as a person that if anyone wanted to buy it down the line, they'd have a rough go at it, as I am such an integral part of this business.
In 2018 I intend to bring you more behind-the-scenes with me to see how this business runs and what I'm up to, working on and struggling with daily. I already started this slightly with my monthly business recaps, and I intend to continue it, video format.
I'm going to test out a 30 day vlog challenge once I'm in Bali, so you'll be right there along side me working from the beach, meeting digital nomads and building an online course.
I'll do a 30 day trial run of the vlog, and I'll have you help me decide if it's worth continuing after the 30 days.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
There's a number of things in this business that are killing it that I have 0 intention on changing.
You can continue to expect blogs twice a week.
You can also continue to expect me to treat my email subscribers like gold, and for them to get all the perks, discounts, first-access offers and invites for subscriber chats. (Hint, hint, subscribe here.)
I'm also going to be continuing to make all my CTA's to join my list.
Having an interested and engaged list has made a world of a difference when I go to launch something, so I'm sticking with what works.
Email marketing works y'all. No algorithms? Heck yes, I'm all for that.
I'm keeping the 2 Week Website and 2 Week Website and brand the exact same as always. That process is perfect, my clients and I love it wayyyyy to much to even consider changing it!
I see books as the ultimate knowledge 'hack.' People literally take a life's worth of knowledge and write it all down in a book for us to consume and learn in a couple hours. Read that thing, and take at least 1 thing away from each book and you'll be so much further ahead than the rest of the pack.
Taking online courses will absolutely be continued. Every single course I've invested in this year ended up on my 'time and money well spent' and 'things I enjoyed working on' lists.
I know for a fact that I skipped a massive learning curve in building my business foundation with B-School, writing in a way that both connects with my ideal clients and actually sounds like me IRL from Copywriting for Creatives, and managing my life/business effectively with Asana HQ.
Had I tried to learn these 3 things myself through free resources online, I'm positive I'd be a solid year behind where I am now.
I love online courses versus traditional education because they're so easily applicable and tailored to my type of modern, online business.
Thank you, yes you!
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 buying my services.
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 2018!
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