This year marked my second in self-employment, and it was a good one.
Wearing the many different hats of bookkeeper, marketer, financial planner (on top of delivering a service) makes it easy to lose sight of all that’s going on and everything you’ve accomplished—so this activity is a first in hopefully what will be an annual recap.
I consider myself a pretty private person, so sharing the details of my business and personal life is a little daunting. However, I feel like this post is the first step toward not just being more transparent with readers, but in celebrating achievements and reflecting on areas that could be improved upon in a more public space (that hopefully others can learn from, too.)
So let’s get started.
Focus on Copywriting
When I started this business two years ago, the focus was broad: I offered social media strategy and management, writing services, and my husband (Brandon) worked on graphic design/consulting elements under the umbrella of our business, Lumen.
But in 2015, I shifted my focus within the business to copywriting (or content writing, call it what you like) as a step toward niching down. Brandon built and launched a new website for my copywriting-focused efforts, and I got to work on establishing my name in the field.
This was probably the single most important thing I did in 2015. I realized the neccesity of finding my niche and connecting with fellow freelancers in my field. I started using Twitter to have conversations with other writers and people I wanted to work with, launched a Slack group with my writer pal Emma, and began participating in key Facebook groups. Staying in touch with like-minded people and having a sounding board for ideas has been invaluable, and takes the stress out of questions like, “What should I charge for X service?” and “What’s the best option for webinars?”
I started writing within a few new and exciting places, such as:
- Entrepreneur Magazine
And went from working with 16 different clients in 2014 to 41 in 2015—including the likes of Campaign Montior, Granify, Canva, Airstory, and more.
Compared to the prior year, revenue increased by 44% and there were multiple months where I billed five-figures.
I also launched a new copywriting-focused newsletter called A Cup of Copy as a place to share what I’ve learned about writing and life as a freelancer. So far, it has grown to include 128 subscribers in just a few short weeks. (I know that’s a small number, but it’s brand new and I’m excited about it.) The open rate thus far has been over 50% on both newsletters I’ve sent, and from years of sending email campaigns, I know that’s something to celebrate.
I traveled around the state of Illinois in 2015 speaking at meetings from Naperville to Rend Lake, Illinois and logged 1,000+ miles sharing what I know on writing, social media, and general marketing.
Some groups were 350+, some were as small as four people, and the audiences ranged from public officials to non-profit leaders. No matter what size the group, I always had questions from attendees at the end (and only one elderly gentleman fell asleep during all of my presentations.)
Although these paid speaking engagements made an impact on revenue, I realized that traveling for them often tied up quite a bit of time, which meant less time to write—so in 2016, I’ll be limiting my travel for speaking to maybe 1 or 2 highly relevant (and financially lucrative) events.
I do still love sharing information, and being a guest on podcasts are something I’d like to invest more time in during 2016. I really enjoyed the time I spent this past year on shows like Jake Jorgovan’s Working Without Pants, Sidepreneurs, Sales and Marketing Nation, and 33 Voices.
Working independently has its upsides and downsides, but one of the downsides I struggled with in 2015 was loneliness (I wrote in depth about this in my latest newsletter.)
To combat those sad feels, I decided to be more proactive about getting out of the house and expanding my brain by pursuing some hobbies this year, such as:
Yoga: 2x week (and classes at studios in Chicago and St. Louis while traveling)
Barre3: Tried this ballet fitness class while on a trip with Brandon in Tucson, AZ (loved it!)
Dance classes: Spent two months during the summer taking adult ballet and jazz classes at a studio nearby
Reading: Some of my favorites were William Finnegan’s A Surfing Life and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (I read 50+ books this year—want to see a summary post on all of them? Email me about that if there’s interest.)
Learning: I took Paul Jarvis’s Creative Class and learned so much—I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t yet
Painting: Winters are hard in central Illinois, so this indoor activity became one of my favorites
Brandon and I took quite a few trips in 2015—some of them grand, and some of them work-oriented. We visited Italy in May and explored Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Tuscany over 10 days and saw everything from one of the largest art collections in the world (Vatican Museum), to the sparkling turquoise waters and dramatic, lemon-speckled mountainsides of Sorrento. Hands down the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Other trips included:
- A week in downtown Chicago while Brandon attended the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
- Tuscon, AZ
- Asheville, NC
- Nashville, TN
- Louisville, KY
- St. Louis, MO
I enjoyed our time in Chicago and Asheville more than I even thought I would.
Chicago is such a clean, beautiful city and the fact that it has a beach set against the background of skyscrapers makes it a great place to visit in the summer. I walked so many places that were only 10 minutes or so from our hotel, which was such a nice change of pace.
Asheville was a fall heaven, and the Biltmore was fascinating. The Blue Ridge Parkway was on fire with fall colors—not to mention the food we ate while we were here…stuff of dreams, guys.
Goals for the Year Ahead
So, what's my plan for the New Year? In 2016, I’d really like to create some helpful resources for fellow freelance writers.
I’m writing this here and making it public knowledge so I have to hold myself accountable.
There are so many questions that go unanswered both in writing and in freelancing—and with what I’ve learned so far, I know I can create tools that will help make life easier for others. Whether it’s a simple template that speeds up time-sucking processes, or maybe even an eBook/Guide—the ideas are already rolling around in my brain. Stay tuned on that front.
I’d also like to continue to niche down my writing gigs to SaaS/Business-oriented clients. Over the past two years I’ve naturally gravitated this way thanks to my experience in eCommerce and digital marketing, and it’s what I most enjoy writing about.
- Continue increasing revenues for 3rd year in a row
- Run at least 5 miles per week, try more exercise classes
- Fine-tune my time management skills
- Take a new online course that makes me a better business owner
I honestly don’t have too many negative things to say about the past year, overall. I still feel extremely fortunate to be able to work from home at my own pace and with clients that are doing amazing work—and that I have the freedom to travel and work from almost anywhere.
Here’s to hoping 2016 is even better.