2016 Year in Review: My First Year in Business

I'm reviewing my first year of business as an online entrepreneur in this 2016 review! Kayla Hollatz

This blog post is special not only because it's a review of 2016, but it’s also a review of my first full year in business. As you may know, I launched my business last December and have been pursuing it full-time since last April. Since then, I’ve learned SO much about myself and the people around me. 

I thought this week would be a great time to look back on all of the top moments of 2016 while reflecting on what I’ve learned. There have been SO many good lessons. 

What I accomplished:

Running a VERY lean business that’s my own

This is something I’m really proud of. I don’t believe you have to raise a ton of money in a funding round in order to run a successful, impactful business. I also don’t believe you need to outsource every task on your to-do list, earn 6 figures in passive income, or work a 4 hour week in order to be successful. 

If you do these things and love it, that’s awesome! I just don’t want you to get caught up in what everyone else is doing like I did throughout parts of 2016. For my business, I like to keep my expenses crazy low and my income comfortable. For you, your business goals may look totally different but that’s more than okay. 

Launching my first successful online course

Well, the term “successful” is relative but I see the course as a win because I nearly met my student goal of 20 (one student away but to me, it still counts!) AND I got to connect more deeply with some of my most treasured community members. I can’t wait to relaunch the course, Crickets to Community, in late Q1 of next year with some exciting new additions. 

Creating a purposeful email marketing strategy that feels like me

This was a long time coming. After 6 different formats (yeah, you read that right) in my early blogging days, I finally scrapped my old list and relaunched a new business-focused mailing list in early 2016. I still kept the actionable spirit of my blog posts while mixing in some personal storytelling for a unique email marketing style I’ve fallen in love with. Now I get even more excited to write emails than I do blog posts! I never thought I’d say that. 

Also, ConvertKit, my email service provider, became the first “big” investment I made in my business. Before ConvertKit, I was too caught up in how my newsletters looked and kept changing my format every few weeks. Now I feel more confident than ever in my ability to connect with my audience and increase my conversions purposefully. Thanks ConvertKit!

Some other notable mentions from this year:

  • First time I was invited to speak at a conference about the importance of community, one of my biggest bucket list items!
  • Seeing my direct referral traffic go through the roof this year as more people became familiar with my name (personal branding win!)
  • Launching a weekly podcast that has taken my #createlounge Twitter chat to a whole new level. 
  • Embracing a new creative routine that doesn’t stifle my natural creative process but rather allows me to be intentional with my spontaneity and gives me true direction. 
  • Taking an at-home creative retreat last summer which revolutionized my creative process and allowed me to take a much needed break. 

What I learned:

Shut off the dang notifications

I don’t need a notification to show that someone retweeted me. I don’t need a notification that a new podcast episode just downloaded. I don’t need a notification that someone just liked my comment on Facebook. 

I’m so glad I said goodbye to those little red thumbnails on my phone this year. Before shutting off my notifications, I constantly felt distracted and like I was missing out on something if I wasn’t looking at my phone. I’m so glad I kicked this habit!  

Don’t let email be the first thing you check in the morning

I can’t tell you how many mornings I spent this year scrolling through my inbox on my phone, reading emails and then not replying to them until I got to my desk so I’d mark them as unread again. So dumb, right? I still shake my head thinking about the hours I wasted. 

There are two main actions I took that helped me to kick this habit:

  • Switching from a phone to a real alarm clock. When I used the alarm on my phone, it was too easy to roll over and scroll through email after I shut off the alarm. Now I have a clock placed on the opposite wall so I have to get up to turn off the clock’s buzzer and I don’t go near my phone. 
  • Making sure I have quiet time before I touch electronics. Toward the end of the year, I tried to fit in quiet, soulful activities to start the day with. It started with reading and journaling, but now I listen to sermon podcasts every morning and jot down notes while I eat my breakfast. I still wrestle with some guilt about not working on my business right away in the morning but this reflective time helps me get in a good head space before I jump into my inbox.

Be careful of who you welcome into your support system

Earlier this year, I let someone from my business circle into my most intimate support system that in hindsight I shouldn’t have. We had a fast friendship, becoming extremely close in a short period of time, but then she left my life as quickly as she had come in it.  

For a while, I felt pretty abandoned and lost. While I had friends who had grown distant at different times in my life before, this was the first time it happened in the wild world of online business. 

I learned a valuable lesson though: people need to earn their way into your support system. Also, that trust needs to be built up over time so you can discover who truly cares about you. The silver lining is that the experience helped me become more grateful for my family and long-time friends who continue to support me. I’m so thankful for that. 

There’s a time to DIY and a time to hire a professional

I’ve been a DIYer for as long as I can remember. I love having my hands on all of my projects and feeling skilled in different areas of my business. While it’s gotten me pretty far with my personal brand, I’ve hit a point where things are growing beyond my own capabilities. 

Because I’m making an exciting transition in 2017 (more details soon!), I’m confident it’s time to hire some pros that *really* know what they’re doing in the visual department. I’ll still be behind all of the written content of my website naturally, but it’s time to give my visual brand identity a facelift. I can’t wait to share more next month!

And cheers to you, my friend!

All the work you put into your brand really shows. I’d love to hear more about how 2016 shaped up for you and what you’ve learned this year in the comment section below.