2017 Brand Review: Biggest Highlights and Lessons

 

Since it seems like all the cool kids are creating brand reviews to ring in the new year, I thought I'd jump in and give you a look behind the curtains at how my business grew in 2017.  After working with 30+ clients last year on everything from website copywriting to launch email sequences to ongoing blog posts, I've officially found my rhythm. But with growth comes sacrifice and difficult decisions to make, all of which I'll share in the blog post below. 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Dyer Photography

Photo courtesy of Kristen Dyer Photography

(Before I jump into my 2017 brand review, you can read up on my 2016 brand review if you're interested. It will give you a more complete look at my first two years of full-time business.) 

My biggest wins of 2017:

2017 was oh-so-sweet to me. Between reaching sustainability in my business and pouring my energy into client work, I kept myself busy while taking an intentional step back from working as many hours as I did in 2016 with my consulting business

In December 2016, I ran way past burnout and found myself needing to scrap my whole business to have any chance of gaining my sanity back.

In December 2017, I was shocked when I met with my mastermind group (looking at you, Melanie and Allison - love you both!) and said I didn't feel I needed to change anything radical in my business. I just needed to make a few simple tweaks to my process and I'd be satisfied. 

Going from hustle mode to refining mode took a full year, but what a year it was. I'm excited to share some of my highlights of 2017 as well as my biggest lessons. 

Raising around $5000 for sex trafficking survivors through my charitable business conference

Giving back in a BIG way was on my list of intentions going into 2017. I think it's safe to say I crossed that off the list with Your Own Way Conference. I was an event planning novice (which is a nice word for n00b) so it taught me a lot about stepping way outside your comfort zone to create an experience worthy of the attendees who invested and the important cause it supported.  

I self-funded the conference so 100% of the ticket proceeds would go straight to Mission 21, a Minnesota based non-profit and anti-trafficking service provider. Seeing the founder's face light up when I said no funds would be taken from the top will be a moment I always remember. 

While the experience of hosting, speaking, moderating, and planning a conference took a LOT of my energy this year, I can see now that it was one of the most rewarding seasons of my life. 

Replacing my previous day job income (and then some) 

After working 80-90 hours/week with virtually no time off with my 2016 consulting business, I knew I had to scale back when I refocused on copywriting in the beginning of 2017. I was afraid I would take an even further dip in income but what saved me was my pricing strategy and ability to stick to my boundaries. 

Now I work about 30-40 hours/week (and a little extra if I need to) but ALL of those hours are hyper focused on writing client work. There are no hours wasted on social media (I do that in my off time) or scrolling through RSS feeds.

I've found my rhythm, which I believe was the "sweet spot" that helped me double my 2015 cushy day job income as compared to earning almost half of what I did at the agency in 2016. I still can't believe it!

Notable mentions: 

  • Winning a 2017 Minnesota Young Entrepreneur award from Minnesota Business Magazine and being featured in their August issue. 
  • Speaking on five panels and hosting two workshops (beyond all the speaking and moderating I did for Your Own Way Conference). 
  • Turning down what I would have considered "dream job" opportunities years ago because my business gives me more incentives than the jobs can offer me. (Can someone say surreal?!)
  • Many more that I won't bore you with. *wink* 
Photo courtesy of Kristen Dyer Photography

Photo courtesy of Kristen Dyer Photography

My biggest Lessons of 2017:

From the outside looking in, it seemed as though my business was growing at a rapid pace. I started receiving "overnight success" questions from other entrepreneurs and more people began asking if I could be their business mentor.

I laugh a little to myself when it happens because I started blogging in 2013 (hardly overnight success) and I still get tripped up over entrepreneur tasks, rules, and lingo. Remembering to pay quarterly taxes, updating your contracts over time, learning the rules behind tax deductions - it's all a learning process (and a big one at that)!

As a creative turned entrepreneur, I think it's important to not only celebrate the wins of last year but also talk openly about the biggest things I learned along the way. 

Tackle the "boring" stuff first 

One of the best decisions I made in 2017 was not jumping right away into the "sexy" stuff. When I relaunched my brand, I wanted to start with my new website design and planning my brand photoshoot. What I didn't want to look at was pricing, operations, and processes. #yawn

But I knew I couldn't go into my rebrand without a solid foundation, which meant digging into the not-so-fun parts of owning a business. I told myself in November 2016 that I couldn't touch anything creative until everything boring was done. 

And it worked! In a big way, might I add. By tackling all the things I didn't want to do, I was able to build my confidence and see that things like bookkeeping and creating client management systems weren't as hard to build as I thought. All of the creative stuff, then, became my reward for a job well done. 

Treat your business like a #1 client

I started 2017 by saying I would commit 100% of my energy to my copywriting and content creation clients. I was in "do or die" mode in my business, meaning I had to give it everything I had to see if entrepreneurship could sustainably work as my long-term career path.

While spending all of my energy on client work did help me prove my business model and level up my income, I didn't have energy left to draft blog posts or even make updates on Instagram. I'd just collapse after writing for 6-7 hours straight (which may not seem like a lot, but it tires you out). 

So has my business grown in terms of client work and income? Yes, but I took a few steps back in terms of growing my personal brand. I also gave up blogging for most of the year, which is how I got started in online entrepreneurship in the first place. I'll be making some changes this year to get back to my blogging roots. 

It's okay if you don't want to scale right now

This is not only a lesson but a huge mentality shift I adopted late last year. Since I refer about 80-85% of the leads that come my way, friends in the industry have told me I'm straight up c-r-a-z-y for not building a team of writers.

In a way, they're totally right. Scaling is the natural next step for most business owners when they hit a certain level of growth, but I'm building a lifestyle business. I want to be the one writing for clients rather than managing other writers and living in my inbox (well, at least more than I already do). 

Following what I desire for my business was a hard decision when I had so many friends I admire tell me I was missing out on a great opportunity. But in the end, I have to do what feels right for me.

So where does that leave me in 2018? Surely I want to keep growing my business, but it's going to look different than it does for most. I may or may not be exploring other ways to potentially scale (#tease), but I'm content with what I have right now. I think that's what most of us are striving toward anyway.

 

What were your biggest highlights of 2017? What were your biggest lessons? I want to hear ALL about them in the comment section below, seriously!