2013: My Business Year in Review

It’s the time of year to kick back, pour a mug of something heart-warming, and do a little thinking over the past 50 weeks.

Most of the numbers for the year are settled (invoices, payments, etc.), all projects are either completed or near-completion (no new kick-offs until early January), and there are only a few productive workdays remaining before I gorge myself on holiday pastries.

I’ve never posted my year in review publicly, but thought this might be a good opportunity to share some of my successes and failures. Also hoping you’ll be encouraged to discuss your business year in review and goals for 2014.

Some fun facts about 2013:

  • Doubled my active client list from 2012 (Over 4o)
  • Averaged 1.1 full sites project/month (from scratch to launch)
  • Increased client-services income by 10% over 2012
  • Increased non-client income (affiliate sales, product sales) by 600% over 2012 (to be fair, I didn’t sell any products in 2012)
  • Increased overall income by 12% over 2012

Before you ask for a ride on my yacht, let me point out that when you start with nothing, it’s not hard to look good over the previous year. πŸ™‚ Overall it was a great year of growth in business, but it was not without its pain points.

Some un-fun facts about 2013:

  • Communication misses: Despite doubling my client list, I did not have the internal systems in place to efficiently handle communications and admin. The result was me dropping the ball on client communication. I never missed a deadline, but I said “I’m sorry” way too many times as a result of delayed responses. Customer service is something I’m pretty passionate about and my performance was personally disappointing.
  • Unscalable me: My business model to date is based on trading dollars for hours. I flat ran out of hours and inadvertently capped my income. My goals for 2014 will specifically address some solutions for this.
  • Missed leads: See above. I spent much of my time keeping my head above water with existing projects; no doubt I missed out on some good project opportunities for lack of availability.
  • Scheduling woes: Though purposeful about scheduling “full projects”, I performed a lot of maintenance tasks and small-scale work to fill in the gaps. As a result I had crazy weeks with deliverables to 5+ clients. That might not sound like much, but as a one-woman shop with no administrative help, that’s a lot of context-switching and divided attention in a short time span. Incredibly inefficient.

A New Year with New Goals

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

– Albert Einstein

Not this kind of mastermindFor the last six months I’ve been part of a mastermind group with Curtis McHale, Angie Meeker, Nowell VanHoesen, Amy Hendrix, and Justin Sainton. Part of our weekly meeting entails goal-setting for the upcoming week and updating everyone on the goals we set out the previous. Aside from the obvious accountability, the exercise of saying goals out loud is a powerful thing.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions and I likely dream too small on a regular basis just to avoid disappointment, but in the spirit of reviewing what worked and what didn’t in 2013, I’d like to say some goals out loud here.

Double my average project income.

This means taking on fewer, but larger projects. For most of 2013 I offered a “Genesis Tweaks” service that offered a low barrier to entry to work with me on Genesis projects. The idea was to fill in inevitable feast/famine gaps of consulting work with small projects. As I stated before though, this resulted in some grossly overloaded weeks where the context-switching between tasks made me terribly inefficient.

For what it’s worth to my readers, I have zero doubt there is a market for someone who specializes in helping people with their WordPress sites (drill down to Genesis sites specifically, even) on a task by task basis (i.e. take one of my tutorials and implement it for somebody). It’d take someone with better organizational skills than me and a systemized approach, but there’s money on the table.

Flex my consulting muscles.

The Muscle FlexerI’ve grown my client services primarily by offering a combination of good client care plus technical execution. A lot of projects I completed this year fall into the “brochure site” category. While there’s a definite market for that, I want to be more than just a person who can technically execute a task list. I have more value to offer customers than just coding skills.

I used to be a store manager with Starbucks. During those years, I managed annual sales in excess of a million dollars, I coached and promoted a number of partners to next-level positions, and I honed a level of customer service that I’m frankly quite proud of. Outside of that experience, in my years of freelancing I’ve consulted with more clients than I recall and helped others succeed in their business.

I want to work on web projects that reflect my broader skill set – I want to deliver more value to clients than just a website. To that end, in 2014 I’ll look for projects where success is defined by more than just launching a website. (And to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with “just making websites” – there’s money to be made there – I’m just ready to be challenged differently).

Grow product revenue stream

Everybody wants to make money while they sleep, right? Well, there’s no magic to it. Ask folks like Kim Doyal or Pippin Williamson if it’s easy to create products that have market value and people are willing to pay for. I’m sure they’d say it takes a lot of hard effort.

I’m ready to put in the work.

I’ve identified a passion for creating tools built for the Genesis Framework and observed a potential market for those products. My goal for 2014 is to reduce the time I spend on client services and spend it on product development (think themes and plugins).

Improve my processes

Let’s be honest. I’ve got room for workflow improvement in just about every area of my business, from client acquisition to site deployment. There are a lot of really bright people out there to be inspired by and I plan to study them, learn from them,Β engage with them, and even collaborate when the occasion calls. In short, I’m going to stalk smart people.

Change is a little uncomfortable, but I think I can work so much smarter (not just harder) by putting some better systems in place. Speaking of, I will learn to do proper version control for my code in 2014 if it kills me.

Here’s to a Saner (and more Successful 2014)

Believe it or not, I’m not quite done with the goals. I didn’t even talk about community participation, technical growth, or client care, but those things are on my radar, too. Dang. I’ve got a lot to do.

What about you? How was your year? What will you do differently (or what successes will you build on) in 2014?

33 thoughts on “2013: My Business Year in Review”

  1. Congrats on a great year Carrie and good luck in 2014! It’s funny because I was just taking a break from writing specific goals for 2014 when I read this.

  2. Go Carrie!! Sounds like you had a great year!! That’s awesome, I’m glad to see things striving with you, you definitely deserve it. God Bless you and your fam!

    Cheers to 2014!!

  3. Carrie, here’s one big thing you forgot to mention in your “successes” column: how much you help the developers who are coming along behind you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled Genesis tutorials online while struggling with a client project, and guess who’s lovely mug comes up? Yours. Over and over.

    And this doesn’t count the hours you’ve mentored me personally as I made my headlong dive into WP.

    You are a gift to this community, Carrie. And a brave one at that. Keep staring your business’s truths in the face. It challenges us all to do the same thing. And THAT’s a gift that keeps giving.

    Aimee

  4. Hey Carrie, love this post and thanks for sharing the last year with us and your insights and goals into 2014. I have had the pleasure of knowing you and seeing you blossom in this community. You are smart as a whip and you will go far. Plus, who can resist your smile πŸ™‚

    Yes, myself I have big, new stuff going on in the New Year as I have shared with you personally. Having been in business for myself for 25 years, you would think I would be settled and rich. Yeah, right! We have had to adapt and change with the times a lot, or your business will fail without that flexiblity. We have also abandoned things that don’t work, and continually find new ways to grow our biz. It’s been an incredible journey and there are days when I feel like “I’m just starting again”. But that’s OK.

    Cheers to a great 2014. And I look forward to our continued friendship and support.

    1. Bob, you’re so right. We’re in a continuous state of evaluation and course re-setting – and sometimes it does feel like starting over, but that’s okay. I respect your voice in the WordPress community and have enjoyed getting to know you better. REALLY looking forward to your “unveilings” in 2014. πŸ™‚

      Merry Christmas!
      Carrie

  5. Hey Carrie, thank you the wickedly honest post! You know, when you follow somebody, you think they got it all nailed. And we suffer the misconception that some day, we will also achieve the glory of nailing it all! … posts being posted, all clients & projects addressed in the proper time & space, the laundry done & folded and the garbage can containing something other than takeout boxes…

    Thank you for sharing your life so simply.

    Your words allow me to take a breath and not strain myself, hoping to arrive to a non-existent perfection in life & work. I can take a breath & get back to my work with a gusto, for the love of the craft itself & for the love for my clients and admiration for what they are striving to accomplish with their lifetime. From your words I gather the encouragement to turn to the whiteboard again, map out the aims for the 2014 & simply keep at it. … and, yes, feel like I am starting again. πŸ™‚

    Congrats on your 2013!!! Looking forward to your new products & partaking in helping you make money while you sleep. πŸ™‚

    … Time and time and again I turn to your tutorials on Genesis. Thank you for those too!

    much love, luck & blessings in the 2014

    1. Hey Eugenia,

      Glad to be an encouragement to you and thank you for encouraging me right back! You’re so right – life is far from tidy, so never believe anybody that says so. πŸ˜‰

      Best wishes for you in the New Year.

      Cheers,
      Carrie

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