I've been meaning to write my 2017 yearly review for weeks now but my client work EXPLODED the first week of January and I just couldn't find the time or energy to put some thoughts together.
So now it's March, and I'm finally getting to it.
Ahh well, better late than never and better done than perfect, right?! 😉
2017 was even better for me than 2016, entrepreneurial-wise. I finally found clarity in what I believe I'm meant to be doing, I took a few more online courses to help me learn how to take my business to the next level, and I put as much energy as I possibly could into achieving my goals!
Keep scrolling to read about my 5th year as an entrepreneur, what I accomplished, what I didn't accomplish and the goals I have for this coming year!
2017 WAS THE YEAR OF FOCUS
At the beginning of last year, I set out to simplify my life by spending less time working on a variety of different things in order to spend more time working towards three specific goals I really wanted to accomplish:
- Paying off my credit card debt (I had $19,000 left).
- Increasing my strength in the gym (powerlifting).
- Rebranding and growing Whipped Dream (my design and marketing business).
I'm happy to say I have accomplished all three of my goals! 🙂
Let's go over each of these areas in a bit more detail and what each accomplishment taught me...
1. Paying off my credit card debt
So, I racked up $40k of credit card debt within my first two years in business (I like to justify this as my "self-taught entrepreneurship education tuition.")
I have been working very hard to make all of that go away and was finally able to pay off the last 19k I owed in July!
Entrepreneur debt + constantly learning new ways to grow my business + passive income from blogging = coming out on top! 🙂
Looking back, everything I've gone through has truly been worth it because I've GROWN in so many ways, both personally and financially.
Something I've discovered over these past few years is that I've always had a negative relationship with money. It was always one of those annoying things that I always worked really hard for but yet still never seemed to ever have enough of. I was always just scraping by, trying to save as much as I could, where I could, and constantly trying to figure out how to make more of it in less time.
In fact, just talking about money usually stressed me out so much that I would often find myself avoiding the topic altogether.
To me, having money in my bank account always meant more freedom, more security, and less stress.
Throughout most of my entrepreneurial journey, I rarely had any money in the bank. Even when I did, it was gone before I knew it, because, as we all know, those damn bills come up fast.
And don't even get me started on taxes.
I'm not a person who needs a lot, in fact, I live a pretty simple and non-materialistic lifestyle in general, but when it comes to the things I truly NEED yet can't afford because I don't have any money in my account, and I don't know how much or when I'm going to get paid next, I get f*cking stressed out, anxious and depressed to the max. Who wouldn't?
All of this has taken its toll on my health over the past few years, and I have suffered long and hard from insomnia, emotional eating, weight gain, migraines, low energy, forgetfulness, constantly getting sick and always feeling run down.
In addition, because I constantly felt like sh*t, my relationships with friends, family, clients and just people in general also took a turn for the worse.
If I don't have my health I can't be my best self or produce my best work. Self-care includes taking care of your health and overall wellness, which costs money.
We all need food, water, a roof over our heads, and clothing to keep us warm... so, making money is actually a form of self-care.
After being literally broke and struggling for so long, I now want to do everything in my power to never have to feel that way again.
So I've spent a lot of time studying money, finding new ways to acquire it and forcing myself to get to know it and how it works so that I no longer view it as this big, dark, scary monster that I constantly feel like I need to run away from.
Money is not evil, and it can lead to happiness and freedom... if used responsibly.
I think most people equate people who have money with greed, penny-pinching, and thoughts of "they have more than they need, share the wealth." I've definitely felt the judgments of that over the past few years, especially as my blogs and online businesses have really started to grow.
It's kind of ironic because now that I'm making more money and am finally living a comfortable lifestyle, I find myself being less of a penny-pincher than I ever have before, mostly because I don't have to be (which is such an amazing and freeing feeling!)
Plus, I'm passionate about what I do and love helping others who are struggling with the same things that I have in the past. People can feel your energy when you work with them (or try to work with them), so you need to be aware of what kind of energy you're putting out.
When I was struggling with both my financials and my health, I was internally stressed and desperate. I think people could feel that, which only drove them away from me.
Now that I'm not coming from a place of desperation and I'm more chill and relaxed, money actually flows to me easier. I'm not all about money, I'm about feeling happy and free as often as possible.
I feel driven to do what I'm passionate about, become excellent at it and provide extreme value to my audience and clients. The more I do all of that, the more I find that money comes to me almost effortlessly, which means less suffering and more freedom to do whatever I want in life!
I continue to work hard now because I'd like to grow my businesses and blogs enough that I can afford to hire more people to help me run them someday (that way I don't have to do ALL the work!) If I can increase my income, I will be able to create new opportunities for others and hopefully help make their lives better in some way.
In addition, I'd also like to start a retirement plan for myself and possibly invest in some property. I could live in this property and have a fixed mortgage, which would mean I wouldn't have to pay more for rent as rent prices start to rise. Or I could rent it out and make some passive income while I traveled the world.
Money = More security and freedom.
If you'd like to read more about how I got myself into debt and how I got myself out, feel free to check out my November 2017 Update post.
2. Increasing my strength in the gym
Although I had to take some time off from squatting and deadlifting due to a back injury that happened last March, I was able to work on improving my strength with the bench press.
By December, my 1 rep max was 185 lbs. Check out the proof here!
I also built up my arms and shoulders a bit more:
I started powerlifting in July of 2016... here's what I used to look like:
Through effort, consistency, time and focus you can achieve results in anything you do! Simple formula, you just gotta put in the work! 😉
Now that my back issue has been fixed, I'm looking forward to getting back into squatting and deadlifting this year!
3. Rebranding and Growing Whipped Dream
I spent my fifth year as an entrepreneur the way I wish I would have spent my first year as an entrepreneur: More focused on building my business and less focused on the freedom aspect of having my own business.
My first year, I spent too much time embracing my time freedom. I was my own boss, I could do work from anywhere, I could make my own hours and, in my mind, I could do whatever I wanted because no one could tell me otherwise. I had just gotten out of a controlling relationship and quit my 9-5 job not long after that so I was feeling completely FREE from everything and, for a lack of better terms, I just kind of went crazy.
I partied a lot, ate out all the time, went on shopping sprees, took all kinds of vacations, and just lived my life the way I wanted... happy and free.
Looking back, I now see that I wasn’t being responsible with my time or my money, and my choices certainly weren't getting me any closer to success.
I was living the kind of lifestyle I dreamed about, as my own boss, yet I hadn’t actually done anything to achieve that yet.
As time went on, my savings dwindled down to nothing, my checking account was in the red and I started accruing credit card debt. I ended up getting some part-time jobs to help me supplement my income while I grew my business, but these only ended up taking time and energy away from being able to work on my business.
I found myself working all the time (mostly for other companies and only a little for my own because I simply had no energy left), yet I still couldn't seem to make enough to make ends meet. By the end of year two, I had racked up $40k in credit card debt, I hit my rock bottom, decided to quit entrepreneurship and started looking for a 9-5 job.
While I was waiting to hear back from the companies I applied to, I decided to start reading this SEO book that a friend had given me when I first started out. My friend had always told me how important SEO was for business but I never took the time to learn it (big mistake, by the way.)
I ended up reading a good portion of the book and found that I actually understood it. Then I started applying what I learned to some blog posts I was writing and included some affiliate links. Almost immediately, I started seeing more traffic on my sites, and over the next few months I began making more money in less time and with a whole lot less effort (passive income.)
Learning how to do SEO was my big turning point and because of it I never ended up having to go back to a 9-5 job. It literally changed the game for me and that's when I really started to understand how important it was to invest my business.
Every year since then, I've made it a priority to spend more of my time and money educating myself, improving my skills and investing in my business.
At the end of 2016, I took a look at my income streams and realized that a lot of my income was coming from other companies. Most of it was passive income, which was awesome, but this also meant I didn't have much control over it. If one of those companies changed something about their referral/affiliate programs, that meant income changed for me... and sometimes not in the direction I wanted it to go in. Kinda scary, right?
I didn't want to be a so-called "wantrepreneur" who still technically worked for other companies, having to comply with their rules and regulations. I wanted to make my own rules, create my own things, feel more in control and ultimately become a true entrepreneur and "self-made success."
In addition, I craved security in knowing that if anything ever fell through with other companies I was working for, I would know what to do to get myself out of any financial trouble.
And so that is what my focus in 2017 was all about: creating security for myself and my future.
At the beginning of 2017, I decided that I wanted to put as much focus and energy as I could into building up my own brand and growing my own business.
Funny thing was, my original idea for the rebrand of Whipped Dream didn't quite work out the way I planned.
When I first started the rebranding process, I thought I wanted my business to be more passive income-based, and imagined myself creating webinars, video tutorials, and how-to blog posts, because that's what I kept hearing was the "up and coming thing." If you wanted to make more money, you had to get into videos and webinars.
That being said, my original rebranding goal was to create a sort of brand + business resource specifically for ambitious women, to help empower them to create their own successful businesses or blogs. However, as I started diving into all of that, I discovered I really wasn't great at teaching, plus I wasn't feeling any kind of desire to learn how to do video stuff.
Video stuff has never really been my thing. It's never come naturally to me and I've never been truly interested in learning more about it. I believe my rebranding process took a year to complete because I spent the first 6 months avoiding the work of having to learn video stuff!
When you're truly passionate about something, you will naturally be eager to learn more about it, you'll want to do it as often as possible and would probably even be willing to do it for free.
Through lots of trial and error, and tuning into my intuition, I recognized that video tutorials and webinars were simply not for me and that my true passion and purpose was in branding, website design, and blogging. So even within my rebrand process, I ended up rebranding the rebrand and going back to what I've always been pulled towards.
Sometimes, you just can't fight what you were destined to do.
A few tips I have about the entrepreneurial journey:
- Entrepreneurism is f*cking messy and weird... but also very enlightening. 😉 You just need to keep trying new things to see if any of them stick. If they don't, just drop them and move on.
- Don't beat yourself up over not being able to do something or feel like you're wasting your time doing something that's not meant for you. The whole journey is a learning process and you are just learning what you're best at, what's not meant for you and what you could delegate to others, should you ever decide to expand your business. Write that sh*t down in a notebook or something and keep moving forward.
- There are always going to various entrepreneurial and networking events going on, plus people will want to meet with you to discuss projects or even just to pick your brain. Time is money so you need to ask yourself is it worth spending your time (the most valuable resource because once it's gone you can't get it back) going to all of these events? Are you actually getting anything out of them? If not, cut some of them out, learn to say no more often (without feeling guilty about it) and spend more of your time actually working on your business.
- There are a lot of shiny objects out there claiming that this is the "next best thing for making money!" Money is an important part of the equation, but it shouldn't really be the #1 goal. You need to do something that's going to continue to motivate you and drive you long term. I believe that you should always listen to your own heart and simply do more of what you love and what comes naturally to you because that is what is going to help you create true happiness and success for yourself.
Anyways, after all of that, I realized that I wanted to put most of my focus into helping other female entrepreneurs and bloggers take their businesses to their full potential by creating a brand that is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. This means it not only looks professional and well put together but it also functions the way it should.
Through the building of all of my own blogs and online businesses, I've learned that branding plays a HUGE roll in how successful a business or blog will be. To stand out from the sea of other people out there in the world who might be doing the exact same thing as you, you have to create a memorable, trustworthy and valuable brand that emotionally connects with your specific target audience.
I now help women create an effective system (through custom brand identity and website design) that successfully communicates with their target audience and helps them get the kind of results they've always dreamed of. 🙂
10 things I've done that have helped me grow the rebrand of my design business the most over the past 6 months:
- I created a generous referral program for my current clients to help get the word out about my services.
- I started posting portfolio pieces, testimonials, helpful tips and empowering quotes 3-7 times a week on Instagram.
- I used IG stories to share more behind the scenes and personality-type stuff to help create an emotional connection with my target audience.
- I started writing more blog posts about logo design, branding, website design and online marketing and included a branded pinnable image in each.
- I started using an online project management tool to streamline my client's project workflow (my clients are loving this by the way!!)
- I started offering payment plans, especially for my bigger packages.
- I started offering both big and small design packages so clients could either get something set up and designed quickly or dive deep into creating a custom brand identity and online presence.
- I've continued to use Facebook groups to connect with and market to my target audience (I have been working with a lot of beauty business professionals).
- I did localized keyword research and optimized my whole site with better SEO (type in "feminine branding san diego" or "feminine web design san diego" and you should see me come up on the first page of Google, hehe. 😉 )
- I started growing my email list by emailing my list once a week with news, updates, tips, specials, etc.
Now, let's look at what my goals were at the beginning of last year...
THE GOALS I MADE FOR MYSELF AT THE BEGINNING OF 2017
What I crossed out = Accomplished.
What I didn't cross out = Not Accomplished.
Start my new business idea in JanuaryDone! Although, it's changed a little bit as time progressed but I feel like I'm on the right path now! Check out my rebranded site: Whipped Dream
- Sell digital graphics on Etsy or Creative Market
I haven't gotten to this just yet but am planning on incorporating it in 2018!
Sell custom Whipped Dream clothing and other merchandise on Etsy or StorenvyI ended up starting a shop on Threadless!
Start a Facebook group for Whipped DreamCheck out Ambitious Unicorns!
- Write an eBook
Planning on creating one in 2018!
- Create an eCourse
This may or may not happen in 2018.
- Create how-to videos for YouTube
This may or may not happen in 2018.
Move into a nicer place that has 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, a big kitchen with modern appliances, and is near the water (ocean, bay, lake, doesn't matter)So my boyfriend ended up buying a sweet, 2 bedroom, 2 bath lofty apartment in North Park so we could try renting out the spare room on AirBnB... which we've been doing!
Try renting out a room on AirBnB and see if I like it/can make enough money to potentially live rent-freeWe've been renting out the spare room to a traveling nurse! Although we aren't quite making enough to live rent-free (or mortgage-free) maybe that will change as we rent out to more people over time.
- Achieve the best body I have ever had
I have grown lots of new muscles this past year, however, there are still things I'd like to improve on.
- Do a powerlifting competition
I ended up hurting my back (bulging disc) in the spring and wasn't able to recover until December. Maybe I'll do a competition in 2018!
Pay off all my debt ($19,000 left)DONE! F*CK YASSSSS!
- Make at least $100,000 in a year ($8,000 a month)
I made $82,000! Almost there! That's the most I've ever made in a year, and is an increase of $16,000 from last year! 🙂 Trying for a minimum $100k this year, just to see if I can!
OTHER THINGS I ACCOMPLISHED THAT I WASN'T EXPECTING
After 5 years as a solopreneur, I finally decided it was time to HIRE PEOPLE to help me.
I struggled with whether or not to hire help for a really long time, which meant I also struggled for a really long time.
The DIY route ended up costing me about $8,000/yr. for 5 years, took me longer to reach my version of success, and was probably the more expensive route in the long run.
This is something to think about if you're at all like me, are starting your own business and looking to go the "cheaper," DIY route.
If I really think about why I held onto the reins so tightly, I would say it was a combination of all of the following:
- I wanted everything to be my way.
- I didn't want to have to depend on anyone.
- I didn't know how to go about hiring people.
- I didn't have the time to learn how to hire people.
- I felt like it would take longer to check the work of someone else to make sure it was right.
- It felt safer and more secure to have full control and to know how to do everything myself.
- My ego didn't want to be punctured by finding out I wasn't capable of doing something.
All that being said, I'm no longer afraid to admit that I'm truly not capable of doing everything myself.
I'm one person with 4 blogs/online businesses. Most people have 1 business (or none!) and I have FOUR.
If I want to continue to grow each of them, I have to continue to invest in them somehow, whether that's through time, work, money or... *gasp* hiring people to help me.
Now, I know that I am capable of learning how to do everything myself (after all, I've learned quite A LOT over the years!!) but I'm at a point where I can no longer maintain them by myself, at least to the standard that I would like to.
There are things that only I can do, so I should to focus my time and energy on those specific things and then delegate the things that other people could help me with.
This will not only keep my content up-to-date and valuable for others but also give me some time off every week so I can avoid burn out and stay healthy and happy.
At the end of 2017, I realized my Rideshare blog had great potential, but it needed some nurturing, as it was basically dwindling down to nothing. I wasn't getting nearly as many referral bonuses, but then again I also wasn't putting much effort into maintaining it.
After doing some research, I discovered that Uber and Lyft had changed a bunch of things in regards to how their referral bonus process worked, so my content was becoming a bit outdated. No one is going to take advice from a blog that doesn't supply them with the correct info, so I had to make some moves to get all of that updated.
Since I hadn't driven for Uber and Lyft in years, I didn't really know what was going on in the current rideshare world. I was also really busy with my design business, so I didn't have the time to do research and write content.
That's when I decided to face my fears and started looking for content writers to help me keep the blog up-to-date.
I ended up hiring 5 people (from Craigslist... and one from Fiverr, who ended up being a dud) and now have content scheduled out months in advance. I schedule a new article to post every week, which helps my blog stay active with up-to-date info. This is not only great for SEO but also great for my target audience: people who are looking to sign up to drive for a rideshare through a referral code (to get a sign-on bonus) and also learn how to make the most of their time on the road.
My writers write the content, and then I edit it, format it, gather the photos, create the graphics, do the SEO, publish it from WordPress and then promote it on social media. It still takes a bit of work from my end but, since I'm not out there driving anymore, I can't really provide the best tips and insights, so I'm just focusing on what I do best... which is all the nerdy computer stuff. 😉
I've had a few minor hiccups at the beginning, but nothing too crazy. For the most part, all of my content writers have been doing a great job and I've noticed that my blog is starting to grow again! My fears were nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real.
At the end of the day, all of this is mine and I get to call all the shots. I also know if anything ever goes south, I will be able to figure out a way to get myself out of it, as I've proven myself to be very competent over the years... a newfound confidence, if you ask me! 🙂
My goals for 2018
- Make at least $100,000.
- Write at least 1 new post a month on Whipped Dream.
- Hire more people to help me build my blogs and online businesses.
- Be able to increase my brand identity and website package prices by at least double of what they are now.
- Start creating branding style guides as part of my branding packages.
- Get booked out for months.
- Write at least one eBook.
- Connect with more San Diego entrepreneurs and go to more networking events.
- Add more branded clothing and merchandise to my Threadless store.
- Sell digital graphics and premade branding kits on Etsy or Creative Market.
- Travel to at least 2 new places I've never been to.
- Go home to Boston in the summer (instead of always going in the winter.)
- Get down to 20% body fat.
- Get stronger in my bench, squat, deadlift.
- Save up enough money to put a down payment on a condo!
A LIST OF BLOG POSTS I WROTE IN 2017
Just in case you wanna do some more reading. 🙂
- Friday Favorites #4
- Friday Favorites #3
- Friday Favorites #2
- Friday Favorites #1
- November 2017 Update – What I’ve Been Up To the Past 6 Months
- How to Make Extra Money – Ideas for Side Jobs + Quick Cash
- Strawberries + Cream Protein Waffle Recipe
- How to Start Your Own Blog
- Monthly Blogging Income Report – April 2017
- Personal Nutrition + Fitness Challenge – A Review of Week 5
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #25
- Monthly Blogging Income Report – March 2017
- 3 Reasons Why I’ve Been Working So Hard Lately
- Personal Nutrition + Fitness Challenge – A Review of Week 4
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #24
- Personal Nutrition + Fitness Challenge – A Review of Week 3
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #23
- Personal Nutrition + Fitness Challenge – A Review of Week 2
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #22
- Personal Nutrition + Fitness Challenge – A Review of Week 1
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals and Achievements #21
- My 5-Week Personal Nutrition + Fitness Challenge – March 2017
- Monthly Blogging Income Report – February 2017
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals and Achievements #20
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals and Achievements #19
- Why Powerlifting is my New Favorite Way to Train as a Female
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #18
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #17
- Monthly Blogging Income Report – January 2017
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #16
- 2016 Yearly Review + My Goals for 2017
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #15
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #14
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #13
- My Weekly Struggles, Goals & Achievements #12
THAT'S ALL FOR NOW!
I hope you found some of this info helpful, inspiring or motivating.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or blogger, do you write yearly reviews or write down what your goals are for the coming year? Do you have any specific goals you'd like to attain in 2018? Comment below and share your thoughts!