Welcome to my 5th annual “business year in review!” I don’t have a lot of traditions in life, but it seems writing this post has become one.
Here are the previous years, if you’re interested:
The following is a recap of my business year. The older I guess, the less I remember and these posts help Future Carrie remember what happened. Ha!
I went places. I didn’t feel like I did much. Apparently, I did a lot. I ate yummy food (many times). I struggled. I spent a lot of time with good people.
And now for the expanded version:
For starters, I traveled. A bunch.
I don’t know if I traveled more or less than I have over the past few years, but this year felt like a lot of travel. In the first six months, I spent maybe 50 nights sleeping somewhere other than my own bed. That might not be a big deal for some folks (my husband travels more than I do), but I’m a homebody and that travel took a toll on me.
Here’s a quick recap of my (work) travels:
- January – SEO Bootcamp (Dallas, TX)
- February – Recording courses (Carpinteria, CA)
- March – WordCamp Miami (Miami, FL)
- April – Pressnomics (Tempe, AZ)
- April – Recording courses (Carpinteria, CA)
- May – SEO Bootcamp (Oklahoma City, OK)
- June – Recording courses (Carpinteria, CA)
- June – WordCamp Orange County (Irvine, CA)
- June – WordCamp Kent (Kent, OH)
- August – WordCamp Minneapolis (Minneapolis, MN)
- September – Camp Press (Somewhere in, OK)
- October – CaboPress (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico)
- November – WordCamp DFW (no plane required!)
I backed off travel as much as possible in the second half of 2017. While I was sad to miss WordCamp US in December, I made a good decision in staying home.
Those trips, along with some personal ones, were not enough to bump me to Gold Status with American Airlines. Boo. Thankfully I’m married to a Platinum Pro. 😉
The highlight reel (a.k.a. accomplishments)
So much of my focus has shifted to education in the last couple of years and 2017 crystalized that for me.
LinkedIN Learning / Lynda.com
I visited Carpinteria, CA 3x this year to record courses at LinkedIN/Lynda.com. Those trips are always loooong, but I love spending time in Southern California; I can view the mountains and the ocean in a single panorama.
I’ve made local friends over the years from my trips there and enjoyed spending time with them when I was in town (hi Jordon!).
In 2017 I published 5 courses, bringing my course total to 18 in the LinkedIN Learning Library Those 5 were:
- Introduction to CSS
- Responsive CSS Workflow with Sass, Bourbon, and Susy
- Advanced WordPress: Action & Filter Hooks
- WordPress Themes: Customizing Themes with Genesis
- Learning Genesis for WordPress
I’ve LOVED creating courses for LinkedIN Learning and learned so much about online education in the process. I look forward to more courses with them in 2018.
The Fearless Freelancer
In last year’s review post I mentioned my desire to create educational content separate from what I’ve done with LinkedIN. While my reach and exposure with them is significantly greater than anything I could do by myself, I don’t have a direct relationship with the people watching my courses.
I want to know as much as I can about the folks I teach because that helps me create the most relevant courses. So I’m trying my hand at publishing courses independently via my new project: The Fearless Freelancer.
This is still a work-in-progress, but it’s a project I’m passionate about. It’s a series of courses oriented toward the business of freelancing. I’ve seen so many talented developers and designers fail at freelancing for simple lack of knowledge on how to run a business. I can help people do better.
The first 5 courses are set to launch in early 2018. If you want to stay updated, there’s a sign-up on this page.
With the exception of my trips to Carpenteria, CA (where LinkedIN Learning recording studios are), the rest of my travel was for conferences.
Here are a few that stand out.
I got to play Robin to Rebecca Gill‘s Batman for two SEO Bootcamps, the first in Dallas and the second in Oklahoma City. (On second thought, I may have played Alfred.) At any rate, these were fantastic live learning events and even though I’d been through Rebecca’s DIY SEO Course, I still learned a ton.
In addition to the learning, I got to catch up with local-ish WordPress friends Stefanie Newton and Kristen Wright as well as meet some (new to me) folks in the WordPress community: Sara Dunn and Justine Pretorious. I’m so glad I met them.
Okay, I’ll be honest. I didn’t go to WCMPLS for the event, I went for a few days of co-working with people that inspire and encourage me.
This was the trip where I started to put a little meat on the bones of what’s become The Fearless Freelancer. I’m deeply appreciative of Rebecca Gill and Karim Marucchi for talking through ideas and helping me look at my various efforts through a larger lens.
This was also the trip where I got to meet Sherry Walling‘s family, share chocolate with “Anna from Drip,” see the latest pics of AJ Morris‘ sweet baby, kick off a friendship with Rian Kinney, and visit some extended family in the area I hadn’t seen in years. I also ate a lot of great food.
I’d debated whether to go on this trip because I was sick of traveling, but I’m so glad I went. This was a trip that was good for the soul.
My husband shook his head and laughed when I told him this was a work trip. He’s got a point – it is a lot of hanging around in a pool at a 5-star resort in Mexico with fruity drinks in hand.
BUT, when you get Chris Lema to put together this sort of pool time, you end up having deep and real conversations with some of the smartest people in the WordPress space. After what’s been a difficult year, this trip helped me push the “reset” button.
It also helped me with my tan.
This doesn’t really count as a conference, but I wanted to mention it. Created by Mendel Kurland and hosted by Aaron Campbell, Camp Press was an opportunity to completely and totally disconnect with tech and connect with great people in a peaceful environment. I got the opportunity to play and it was incredibly refreshing.
I’m a firm believer in the value of letting other (trusted) people get an unfiltered look into your business, especially as someone who works alone. The feedback, pushback, and encouragement are vital. While I sought these conversations throughout the year informally, I have participated in some organized groups.
This was an 8-week mastermind facilitated by three of my favorite people: Sherry Walling, Cory Miller, and Shawn Hesketh. The guided conversations centered around the unique challenges of entrepreneurship and the sessions were a wonderful, safe place to “let it all hang out.”
I walked away with a better sense of mindfulness and the knowledge that I’m not only one who struggles to make life and business work together.
Last year I read the 12-Week Year by Brian Moran (you can read my review here) and attempted to wrangle some friends together for a 12-week mastermind based on the principles of the book. None of us were/are rule followers and the group, while fun, sort of fell apart.
I met Holly Rose at SEO Bootcamp OKC and later got to talking with her about the book. Long story short, I’m now in the second cycle of a “12-week mastermind” with Holly and one of her colleagues, John. Holly’s approach is much more in line with what the book recommends and (as you probably guessed) the time has been more fruitful.
The three of us are in completely different industries and I’ve found a lot of value in meeting with people who aren’t in the same trenches as me. They’re incredibly insightful and encouraging.
(As a side note: If you struggle with goal-setting and follow-through, I’d highly recommend you read this book over the holidays and let it guide your 2018 Q1 planning.)
I added 27 episodes to the OfficeHours.FM podcast this year. The show continues to mature and I was very pleased to produce the first-ever “themed” season which was 10 episodes covering a project lifecycle from cradle to grave.
A note on my listener community
In 2016 I started (and ended) a membership-based community for the podcast. This year I started (and ended) a Slack community for the podcast. In November, I fired up a Facebook group for the community. What the heck am I doing?
— Sara Dunn (@Sara11D) May 1, 2017
— Tara Claeys (@TaraClaeys) November 3, 2017
Well, business is nothing if not a series of experiments to see what works and what doesn’t.
While the Slack group was successful as a platform for friendship and the discussion of ideas, it felt isolated from other things I was doing. As part of an effort to streamline and simplify my business (more on that later), the move to Facebook made sense. We’ll see if I still feel that way in a year’s time. 🙂
A note about sponsorship
I love podcasting: I love the people I meet, the conversations we get to have, and the value I believe it offers to listeners. I also love the relationships that have been formed because of it.
But I don’t have the luxury of doing it just for love. (Baby needs new shoes and all that. And, no, that’s not a pregnancy announcement.)
I’m able to continue investing time in the podcast because my sponsors make it financially viable. A very, very, heartfelt thanks to my 2017 sponsors who’ve supported the show:
I’m currently gearing up for Season 5 of the podcast with an ETA of February 2018. The theme is “automation in business.” If you want to stay in the loop, join my podcast list.
On a personal note
I know this is a business review, but since I’m writing it I reckon’ I can add anything I want. Plus, these posts help me remember and there are a few personal moments from 2017 that I want to seal and savor. (Pretend this is one of those braggy holiday letters…)
In January I participated in my first duathlon (run-bike-run) in Houston. This was my third race to do with my dad. It was cold, windy, and generally miserable but I’m proud that I finished and loved making that memory with my dad.
In May I visited Chicago with five dear girlfriends who have nothing to do with my work. I enjoyed being a legit tourist in the Windy city and ate some phenomenal food. I laughed until my stomach hurt.
In July Dave and I made a road-trip to Colorado. We hit up Pikes Peak, visited the Air Force Academy (the chapel is a sight to behold), and did a little off-roading in his cousin’s Jeep. We also wrecked the Jeep. Thankfully his cousin is good-natured (and Jeep bumpers are tough).
Over the summer I enjoyed spending time on various local lakes with my new paddleboard. That’s the closest thing to a new hobby I picked up this year and I look forward to paddleboarding plenty more when the water warms back up.
In August I “floated the river” in South Texas with some of the same girlfriends from my Chicago trip. Other than some days on the beach in Carpinteria and Cabo, those were probably my most relaxed and peaceful days of the year.
In October I went to Colorado to hang out with my 8y/0 nephew for a few days while his parents were out of town. I was unaware of how many times you can say “fart” in the space of 3 days (hint: it’s a lot). That time was precious to me and gave me, as a non-parent, a greater appreciation for the work that it takes to raise a human. Hats off to my sister and her husband and the rest of you parents out there!
What’s on the radar for 2018
Earlier I hinted at a theme of simplicity and an attempt to streamline my business. What did I mean by that? I’m thrilled you asked!
In 2017 (as with previous years), I’ve dispersed my energy over multiple projects. This year it was:
- LinkedIN courses
- The Fearless Freelancer courses
- Real World Freelancing (the book is coming!)
- My blog (carriedils.com)
- My WordPress theme (Utility Pro)
- Lite consulting and development work
As independent efforts, all of these things are too much. I stretched myself too thin and the result was a year largely spent in burnout mode.
I’ve got to manage my own scope creep.
No one-off efforts
In late 2016 I sat down with Diane Kinney to talk about how I could create a more cohesive brand presence on the web across my various endeavors. Diane code-named the project “Dils 360.” The idea was to stop with the independent efforts and start tying together everything I do.
I’ve made some progress on that front, at least in terms of “recycling content.” For instance, quite a few podcast episodes from this year were re-written as blog posts. Some of the content from those blog posts has been repurposed for the book and my courses. And so forth.
But even with that, I’ve spent time and energy this year on some “dingleberries,” things that were good in and of themselves, but weren’t in alignment (or directly contributing to) my brand.
That changes for 2018.
In a recent conversation with my mentor, Chis Lema, we (really he) talked about the idea of no “one-off” efforts. In other words, if I can’t leverage the way I invest my time in a way that serves multiple projects I need to re-evalutate if it’s something I should even be doing.
It’s not a new idea. This is what Diane has tried to hammer into my head. It’s a topic discussed regularly in my 12-week mastermind. It’s a derivative thought from The ONE Thing (an excellent book I read earlier this year). And it all crystallized in my conversation with Chris.
Before taking on any new endeavor in 2018, I’ve got to run it through this question:
Is this something I can leverage in multiple ways to serve my business?
If not, I probably don’t need to do it. I look forward to saying NO to things in 2018!
My Words for 2018
I’m not jotting down specific goals for 2018 as I have in previous review posts. While I’ve got some ideas in mind, I’m still noodling out the specifics.
So, instead of goals, I want to share the words that I want to be true about my business in the coming year:
For you fellow word nerds, there’s an acronym in there: STEP. They’re little words, but they mean a lot to me.
Wrapping it up
If you’ve made it this far, thanks. I write these posts mostly for myself, but I share them because maybe there’s some nugget in there that means something for you. If you write and post your own review, please leave a link to it in the comments below. I’d love to learn from you.