State of the Union, 2018
(Not that I think I’m a president of this mailing list, or even slightly presidential—I just enjoy the routine of summarizing the year and looking forward to the next.)
What went well in 2017
Book: a tiny note in the 2017 state of the union mentioned that I was looking for an agent for a new book idea I had. This started a series of events which ultimately landed me a book deal, and I’m pleased to say my publisher accepted the final manuscript in the fall! I’ve enjoyed the process so much that I’m already working on the very beginnings of another book. Who knew that some weirdo on the internet who’s scared of people, has too many tattoos and pet rats would be able to publish a business book (PS: I sure didn’t until it was happening)?!
Writing: outside of writing the book, I was able to stay consistent with my other writing—namely, this newsletter. Once again, outside of scheduled breaks, I didn’t miss a single Sunday. I’ve got a streak going that’s lasted years, and I definitely don’t want to break it in 2018. So I hope you’ll enjoy these dispatches in your inbox every week for the year to come.
Audience: once again, my audience didn’t grow much in 2017. The newsletter seems to be holding steady around 30,000 subscribers and signups for my courses seem stable as well. In most businesses, this would be considered problematic since it’s not growing—but in my case, I’m actually quite happy. I have enough of an audience where I can make a great living and still have the bandwidth to actually talk to the folks in it who get in touch, reply, ask questions, or send notes my way. So I’m pleased it’s not growing, because it’s enough for me, for right now.
Products: I spent 2017 paring down product offerings to just 3 courses (Grow Your Audience, Chimp Essentials and Creative Class) and one software product (WPComplete) instead of lots of courses, products or offerings.
This approach really helped me spend a lot of time on a few things instead of a little bit of time on a whole whack of products and ideas. I can’t be sure, but I do think that this is why revenue from them was up a considerable amount for 2017.
Revenue/Money: I don’t personally think sharing revenue numbers or income reports make sense, and I’m still not rich like me, but 2017 was my best year to date. Which means even though the audience I serve isn’t growing, more folks in it are buying what I create. I kind of absolutely love that.
Because of the revenue increase, I was able to invest a whole lot more (index funds with super low fees, always cheap index funds… I’m the most boring investor ever). The way I work things out is that the amount of money I need to live and be comfortable doesn’t need to increase if my revenue increases. Neither do my expenses. So if I make more than I figured I would, I pay the taxes on it, and then invest. If my cost of living kept increasing when my revenue did, I’d end in a scary place where I always have to make at least as much or more to get by—which sounds stressful. I’d rather live as far below my means as possible, keep no or very little debt, and have the runway to still get by even if everything went to shit for awhile.
The only thing I did differently with money this year was to buy a bit of cryptocurrency. And by “a bit” I mean less than 1% of my savings worth of it. Because I bought it early in the year, it’s seen astronomical growth, but I’m not even close to being convinced it’ll net long term payoffs for sure. That’s why I like index funds, they grow slowly, fairly consistently, and as long as they’re averaging more than inflation, I’ll hopefully see decent results from compound interest in a few decades.
What didn’t go well last year
Overworking: I realized something in 2017: a lot of times I sit down to work because it’s routine, not because I have to. What I mean by that is that my business runs fairly well without a whole lot of time spent on my part—it’s become super efficient because I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve got things like automations for email dialled in quite well. Nevertheless I keep finding myself working for so other reason than it’s a weekday. I want to learn how to stop doing that, and stop working simply because it feels like I should be or because my routine is to work X hours a day, every day. I’d like to get better at enjoying non-work things, offline. If I can get by working 4 days a week or working 5 hours a day 6 days a week, I’ll be better off doing that.
The “what’s next” question: I struggled a lot with a mental block of “what’s next” for my work. I have a slew of ideas and interests I want to pursue, but I’ve been completely stuck what I want to pursue next. More books? Software products? More courses? Workshops? Consulting? Client work? A membership/community? It’s not like me to waffle on decisions, but I’ve completely waffled here. I’m still struggling with this question for 2018, if I’m being honest.
Focus: so many times my focus wasn’t where I’d like it to be. I’d sit down to write and end up on social media for an hour, watching videos of squirrels. Or I’d have tasks (like a list of updates to a course) on my todo list for weeks, and would never seem to get to them until they had to be done (i.e. the course was needing to relaunch). At the end of the year I found stride, resisted the FOMO devil and got back into working, but it was for sure a huge struggle for most of 2017.
Oliver: we treat our animal friends like family because that’s exactly what they are. So when Ollie the rat passed away very suddenly and without warning in December it was pretty rough—especially since I’ve never lost an animal suddenly before, they’ve previously always got sick and slowly faded. We don’t always get to say goodbye, and that’s been hard to accept.
What’s ahead for 2018
A focus on focus. I really enjoy having a theme for the year, where I can dig into it and come back to it when I feel lost. 2016 was a focus on the technical, which completely helped because I was able to launch a semi-technical course, Chimp Essentials, which is now my highest grossing course to date. In 2017 I chose service, which helped because even if I felt scattered, I could always log into my email, and work through support requests or questions from students and customers.
This year, my focus (however meta this may be) is focus. I need to get my singular, laser-pointy focus back—especially once I figure what’s next. The projects I’ve taken on in the last while are massive: books, courses and software. These aren’t short sprints but long marathons—for example Company of One will be a project in the two year range, plus perpetual promotion. Extended projects sometimes make it hard to feel like progress is being made. Day to day the needle barely moves. Such discouragement leads to spending more time on MotorTrends YouTube channel than working (I miss you so much Jason Cammisa, please come back!), some days. So I’d like to really pay attention to my focus, or lack of, and get better at either being present in the work or being present enough to stop working and take a break… instead of half-working for hours on end.
What’s to come?
This newsletter, the Sunday Dispatches, coming to you each and every Sunday morning (or Monday if you’re an Aussie).
All three of my courses will open twice this year, in the spring and fall. Details to come for specific dates. As of right now, the prices for each ($274) aren’t going up.
Laying the groundwork for the release of Company of One in early 2019.
Writing another book (which probably won’t be out until 2020 or 2021). Writing is what I love the most because it’s so challenging and stressful but oddly rewarding at the same time.
The bottom line
Although I hate resolutions and goals, each new year I endeavour to learn and adapt as best I can. The internet and making money on it continues to evolve and change—and I’m happy to learn, explore and experiment with it.
It was sad to see a lot of folks lose hope in 2017 due to shit going wrong in the world. And yeah, there’s definitely been some sucky things that have happened (I’m not diminishing that at all). But I think when we start to lose hope, we make worse decisions—for ourselves, for others, even for our work. I’m not some hippie-dippie PMA Instagrammer by any means (you’re never going to see me post motivational quotes). I’m even pretty pessimistic most of the time. But I do believe that hope is an absolute necessity, no exceptions.
I have no idea what’s to come in 2018 beyond a rough and simple plan, but I’m excited. Even though my style, outlook and writings are mostly “angry man shouts at the computer screen”, I’m actually hopeful. I hope you are too.