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.

The JavaScript for WordPress Master Course

The JavaScript for WordPress Master Course

Today I want to promote a course that's not my own. There's no affiliate deal & no partnership. I just want to promote a project that I think is seriously undervalued.

At last year's WordCamp US Matt Mullenweg said, “Learn JavaScript Deeply”.

It was a powerful call to action for the WordPress community. The WordPress project is moving in that direction, the web in general is moving in that direction, and if you don't want to be left behind you should also move in that direction.

Unfortunately there aren't a lot of resources out there to help you learn JavaScript. At least not within the context of WordPress.

It can be hard to start when you don't know where the starting line is. I've heard about Backbone, Angular and React, but which one do I use? And when?

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How to Add a WooCommerce Announcement Bar

Announcement Banner

Imagine it's the week before Xmas and you realize you forget to get a present for someone. You start looking for the perfect gift and you manage to find it. It's exactly what this special someone would love.

You add it to your cart and as you start looking at the shipping options you realize you don't know if it will arrive in time. There's “free shipping” – who knows how long that will take. And there's “expedited shipping” which will probably get there on time but you don't know if it's worth the extra $20.

You start googling rates, prices, and shipping times and you go down a rabbit hole and might never come back to that site.

It's the holidays and we're approaching the cut off date to get presents on time. As a store owner you want to let your customers know the last day they can order and still get presents. This does two things:

  1. It removes uncertainty. If you're uncertain if the present will get there on time you might not order. Or if you have to do a bunch of work to guess if it comes on time you might just get lost down the rabbit hole and never come back and order.
  2. It creates urgency. When users come to your site and they see a banner that lists the last day to order it creates pressure. They don't want to forget the present and they don't want to miss the cut off date. They will be more likely to buy right now.

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How I Take Notes with Audiobooks

Person Taking Notes

Reading business books is one of the best things I've done for my personal growth & my business. I've avoided countless mistakes having first read about someone else making that mistake. But to get the most out of a business book you can't just read it and understand it perfectly. You have to retain that information before you can do anything with it. I take notes with audiobooks all the time – even while walking the dog. And now my retention is better for audiobooks than physical books.

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How to Be a Better Human – Lessons from WordCamp US

WordCamp US Banner

WordCamps are always educational. You hear about time-saving plugins, you see beautiful themes, and you learn about the latest SEO techniques. WordCamp US was no exception.

I plan to write up some of my favorite SEO techniques from WordCamp US but today I wanted to talk a little bit about the non-technical talks. Knowing the best plugin to promote your latest blog post is great. But if you can't work up the courage to write your first post then what good is the plugin?

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My First Mistake

Business Man Over Trap

In October I was in the very privileged position to write the “How I Left My Job” post. And it felt really good.

I talked about the smart decisions I made before leaving my job. I forecasted financials, set up client work, and padded my savings account. It felt good talking about all of my smart decisions.

And I wish I could share another smart decision. But I actually did something really dumb. And I thought if I'm documenting my experience that I shouldn't just share the good parts. I should share my mistakes too.

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Selling Videos with WooCommerce

Computer Screen Selling Videos

There are a few different WooCommerce Facebook groups and all of them have great discussions. Earlier today there was a question about selling videos with WooCommerce:

If I have video files in a cloud storage independent from my WordPress site can I link those videos and sell them as digital, downloadable products? I don't want to store videos in my WordPress site.

The short answer is yes – WooCommerce can sell downloadable videos (or any sort of downloadable product).

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How to Process Credit Cards Manually with Stripe

Entering Credit Card with Smartphone

Most e-commerce platforms let you create orders manually. That way even if you're at a conference or a potential customer calls you you can capture those orders.

While many systems let you create orders manually they don't always let you charge a credit card which kind of defeats the purpose. But even if your e-commerce platform doesn't let you process credit cards if you use Stripe you're in luck. They make processing credit cards really easy.

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