2016 Review – My First Year Going Solo

Map & Moleskine Notebook

Over the years I’ve sporadically written up some sort of year end review. Now that I work for myself I think it’s even more important. if I don’t do it – no one will. So if I want my next year to be better I need to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Now I keep a ridiculous amount of data. I could share a lot of different numbers like how many movies I watched, how many vacation days I took, how many hours I slept, etc. but I’d like to focus on three core areas.

Money

Let’s start with Money. I absolutely love e-commerce. Creating your own online property to control your financial future is incredibly powerful. Since starting out own my own this year I’ve focused on three areas:

Consulting – I’ve helped WordPress VIP agencies create proposals for big e-commerce sites. I love where this is going. WooCommerce needs a few more high profile sites to put in their showcase.

Product Marketing – I’ve helped Ninja Forms develop a marketing plan – primarily by doing user research to discover their strength’s & weaknesses.

Online Learning – I created a total of 5 courses for Lynda.com (4 this year: 1, 2, 3, & 4). It takes months to plan, a month to write the script, a week to record, and a month of post-processing just for one 2-3 hour course. And I love it. I love crystalizing my knowledge into a 2-3 hour structured course that includes a lot of technical information but also a lot of common sense e-commerce practices (that we as developers sometimes forget).

2016

Since starting my own business in September I made a decent chunk of money. I was really hoping for more recurring revenue but I made some mistakes.

  • One time – $14,068.77
  • Recurring – $3,655.13

And affiliate commissions have been especially disappointing. I have over 65 articles talking about WooCommerce and many more that reference WooCommerce. And between these articles I’ve earned less than $500 in the last couple months.

Next Year

Next year I want to see my recurring revenue increase to $16,000. I’m continuing to work on courses for Lynda which are slow but reliable money makers. I’m also considering:

  • A virtual summit
  • A tool (micro site?) to help you pick an e-commerce platform
  • A book about e-commerce marketing

I’d like to see how my recurring revenue comes in for the next couple of months and if it’s on track then I’ll keep plugging away on courses. And if not I will look into some other options.

And for my affiliate commissions I’m wondering if it’s worth putting in the time & attention. I don’t love affiliate marketing. I’m selling my reputation. And it puts into question my recommendations.

It’s too soon to call it yet. I’ve only been working on it 4 moths. I’ll go through 2017 writing articles and see what a full year of affiliate marketing can do. One thing is I plan to do at the start of 2016 is cancel all small affiliate deals. It’s not worth the overhead. That way I can focus more on other projects.

I’m actually enjoying the consulting. It’s a nice break from courses and it keeps my e-commerce skills sharp. Helping a VIP company put together a proposal for e-commerce was intense. I was able to point out several potential problems & several opportunities for up-sells. I just don’t want to rely on consulting.

Creativity

I do a lot of things to feel creative. I paint Warhammer 40,000 miniatures, I go to improv workshops, and I read. I’m going to focus on reading. It’s easy to quantify and it’s I love how I feel after I complete a book.

2016

Some raw numbers to start:

  • I read 27 books
  • that’s 8,190 pages
  • and 12 of the 27 were fiction

The book that had the greatest impact on me was Originals. It changed the way I look at learning, group dynamics, risk, idea generation, side projects, and company culture. I spent over 8 hours taking notes for this book and it was totally worth it. I’m constantly quoting the book. And that’s because I’ve improved how I take notes and thus my retention.

I also learned a lot from More Than Two which focused on how you can create healthy communication in your relationship. I started speaking more directly & plainly:

Hey Patrick where do you want to go to dinner?

I’m thinking Torchy’s Tacos. Sound good?

There’s still room for compromise but no question that I have a preference.

And my business wouldn’t be where it is without Profit First which teaches you the habit of profit. Most business owners hope for profit. I build it into my process.

2017

I’m very happy with 27 books. My goal was 24 so I rocked that. I could increase the number but that’s not the goal. The goal is to feel creative, learn, and enjoy the process.

Next year I’m going to set a goal of 24 books again and I’m going to use the recommendations of my peers to make sure I read the best books.

If you’re on GoodReads you should add me.

Here are the books I want to read (in order):

  1. The Four Agreements – recommended by John Eckman’s talk at WordCamp US
  2. Armada – I loved Ready Player One so I have a good feeling about this book.
  3. Big Magic – recommended by Sara Cannon’s talk at WordCamp US.
  4. Scrappy Little Nobody
  5. Platform
  6. Ancillary Justice
  7. Feeling Good Together – recommended by Cory Miller’s talk at WordCamp US.
  8. Confessions of an Economic Hitman
  9. Lock-in
  10. Linchpin – I love Seth Godin’s writing. Normally it’s very short and this book is relatively long. So I’m excited to give it a try.

You might notice that I try to alternate between non-fiction and fiction. I really like that balance. I can focus on learning and then read a biography which is interesting, or read about some space fort under attack. That balance works well for me.

I’ve planned out the first 10 books for 2017. Every one was recommended by a friend so I’m looking forward to reading each and every one.

I also plan to reread a few books. Probably More Than Two & Originals.

Fitness

This year I was really excited to get into rock climbing. I went a handful of times with my friend Kelly & Emily. I got some gear but it was really hard to sync schedules. Especially since I’m traveling and so is Kelly. I decided I should do rock climbing when & where I can but I want to focus on a solo activity. I’ve been running for years so it makes to focus on that.

2016

In 2016 I ran:

  • 26 runs
  • for a total of 109.5 miles
  • which took me 20 hours & 22 minutes
  • and burned 13,214 calories
  • The longest run was 13.1 miles (Horse & Dragon Half-Marathon)

That’s a run every other week. And actually most of them were in May when I had a big running kick. Most months had 0, 1 or maybe 2 runs.

2017

There is an obvious solution. Make running a habit.

I’m going to try to start running Wednesday mornings. I control my own schedule so I don’t have to do any meetings Wednesday mornings and assuming the weather isn’t horrible I’ll be running.

There will be the occasional weather condition and then I plan to run later that week. That shouldn’t be too big of a problem but I may occasionally have to run inside which I hate. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

For now I’m setting a goal of running 52 times in 2017.

Looking forward to 2017

I hope you’ve done / will do (it’s never too late) your own review. It was pretty darn useful for me. I thought I went running ~50 times until I looked it up.

I have my reading game down. I’ve built a system that fosters tons of reading. Now I’m working on improving my network in GoodReads to read the best books.

I have some pretty firm goals around money & fitness. They’re ambitious but not audacious. And I have a rough plan on how to get there.

Now it’s time to execute.

3 thoughts on “2016 Review – My First Year Going Solo

  1. Hey Patrick, love the post and hearing about the last year and what’s possibly coming up. And I understand your thoughts on affiliates… I know personally it takes some serious time to build them up and also strategy. Wish I was easier 😉

    Also, love the direction of consulting on bigger projects. I think that is a niche that needs filling and something larger sites can really use to make sure they are doing it the right way to begin with. And you are perfect for that!

    There is one thing that did pique my curiosity so I am sending you an email on that 😉 Cheers and here’s to 2017!

  2. Great Progress Patrick,

    I am a little ahead of you as far as the leap, but like you I am in a phase two mentality.

    Time for money must be constantly reduced. This takes a huge effort up front for rewards later. But this is why it is effective, because most aren’t willing to take months for something that will continue to work for you for years. I felt like this was an underlying theme of your annual review, perhaps I am off and it is just my current state of mind.

    I have the Originals recommendation to my Audible list. Thanks for that, I think it will be next in line when I am finished with my current book. I cannot get into fiction reading unless it is a comic/graphic novel. I am strictly a non-fiction reader when it comes to Audible or written word.

    Look forward to your updates in 2017.

    /fist-bump

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