I have finally invested in some business coaching over the last month as my efforts have been increasingly unfocused and scattered. In 2013 my attention deficit disorder (self-diagnosed) has run rampant as I jumped from one idea to the next leaving me with a large amount of “in progress” projects on the go. I am hoping that working with a coach will allow me to select the ideas that are the most important or have the greatest chance of success as well as help me grow my existing business without having to work a 100 hours per week.
As part of the coaching process, I have been asked to write an annual review of my efforts and reflect on what I was able to achieve and some of the stumbling blocks or failures along the way. This will eventually lead into creating some goals for 2014 that I plan on hitting. I thought I would share the 2013 review on the blog for both accountability purposes and perhaps help a few people out who may be in the same situation that I’m in.
So first let’s start off with the things that went well for me;
Outsourcing of routine tasks
At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post about how it made sense to outsource tasks in your business that are already creating revenue and could be taught to others using a standard operating procedure. I was able to accomplish this to a certain degree with the help of a couple of team members I recruited on oDesk. With a well thought out SOP and a screen cast I have been able to set up daily and weekly tasks for my team that would have otherwise been my responsibility to complete. From a job satisfaction standpoint it has been a tremendous help as I was basically able to hire someone else to do the things I was not terribly fond of.
The cost of the outsourcing is passed along to my clients where applicable and in the end creates better value as I can cover my costs, add a profit margin and still reduce the amount of money that the client is saving compared to the cost if I were completing it myself on their behalf. The best part about this outsourcing is that I have it setup so it virtually runs itself. Moving into the new year I am starting to look at the majority of the things that I do to see if there is an opportunity to move additional tasks to my current team and perhaps expanding that team to reflect these new tasks.
Creation of some custom tools for my business
For quite some time I had planned on having some custom online scripts and tools created to help improve the efficiency of my business and I began accomplishing that in 2013. Once again using oDesk I found a couple of programmers that were within my budget range to work on these custom scripts which assist me in research, tracking and reporting. All of these tasks previously were done manually using spreadsheets. For instance, a large report for a client including the manual sorting, report creation and emails generally took about 2 hours to complete. With the scripts that I have created the same task can be completed in 30 minutes. This has been a huge time saver for myself allowing me to focus on other areas of my business and increase the services I am able to provide my existing clients.
This was just the first step in the process as I have other plans for my current suite of tools as well as others I am mapping out. Eventually once these are perfected I plan on converting them to tools other businesses in the same field can use or providing a self-serve option for clients like the ones I am currently servicing.
Increase in revenue
2013 saw my overall revenue increase, although I am uncertain of the exact amount as the bookkeeping side of things has taken a backseat as I continue to drive the business forward. I expect to have those figures completed by the first week of 2014. With the addition of a couple of key new clients, I am looking forward to a continued uphill trend in the New Year.
Much more personal time
One of my biggest difficulties as a solopreneur was balancing my life as a solopreneur with my personal life. All too often personal commitments were pushed aside as I dealt with client work or the need to boost revenue. In 2013 I have done a much better job of balancing those two out. An annual fishing trip in May was done without a smart phone in my hand constantly (we didn’t have reception anyway), I continued coaching my son’s soccer team and volunteered to help coach his rep basketball team, and spent more time with family and friends. I know I still have a long way to go on this one but I definitely began taking steps in the right direction in this area.
Now onto difficulties over the past year;
Google and the demise of my affiliate network
Once upon a time I had a successful affiliate network that brought passive income to the business. I wrote about this in a blog post in March and over the course of the year, the issue went from very bad to tragic. As a result most of the sites have been closed down and the few that had any value have been closed down. The changes in the Google algorithms, the lack of updated content and past SEO work that Google is not terribly fond of finally put a nail in the coffin for these passive income sites. I am starting to build some new niche and authority sites from scratch, which I plan on turning into passive money generators or properties that I can flip after a track record in regards to revenue and audience are established.
Lack of content production and a content marketing strategy
While I didn’t have any official goals for 2013, one item that I did want to approve upon is content marketing and creation for my business and even this personal site. Overall I failed tragically in this regard. Sure, I created and executed content marketing strategies for my clients and began creating an ebook on this topic. When it came to my own business I did next to nothing. The three information products that I planned on creating this year still sit partially finished on my hard drive, although I have gotten back to writing one of them in a end of the year push. This is something that I plan to dramatically improve in the New Year by creating a content marketing strategy for all my key properties, fleshing out an editorial map and using myself and my team to ensure I deliver quality, topical and helpful content to my current and prospective clients/audiences.
Poor record keeping and tracking of metrics
Probably one of my biggest disappointments of 2013 was the fact that I completely ignored my New Year resolution of tracking key metrics and bookkeeping tasks. This has created some difficulties business wise as its hard to know how your online business is doing if you are not up to date on traffic numbers, actual revenue, revenue projections and expenses. Heck, I still don’t have Google Analytics installed on some of my key websites. Again, another area that must be addressed and improved upon in 2014.
Reliance on self for unappealing tasks due to procrastination
While one of my successes for the year has definitely been the use of outsourcing for areas of my business, the fact that I didn’t do more of it also has to be considered a disappointment and roadblock to expanding my online business. There is no excuse for it other than procrastination as I can create a standard operating procedure and screen cast for most tasks in under an hour. As an example, one item that takes up at least two hours a week for one client is something I really dislike doing but continue to do each and every week. It is a very menial task. Time estimates on getting the materials created and training on of my team members via Skype is 90 minutes. Instead of spending 90 minutes to get everything in place to outsource it, I spend 120 minutes each week doing it myself. Doesn’t sound very productive, does it?
So there you have it. Some successes and failures / roadblocks for my 2013! I’m currently hammering out my goals for 2014 and that may end up becoming a blog post as well. All the best to you and your families over the holiday season!