2021 was a good year.
I worked with clients I loved and admired. I got better at my website copywriting work and processes. I started standing up for myself and setting boundaries. I had my highest revenue year yet. I finally got clarity about what type of business I want to build beyond myself.
And of course, there were some aspects of 2021 that weren’t great. I had a period of mental health decline and burnout. I stalled out on creative work outside of my business. I pushed myself too hard with travel and speaking engagements.
Keep reading for the full breakdown of what went well…. And what didn’t.
What went well
Some of the decisions I made in 2021 turned out to be awesome for my business. I’m proud of myself for these — and excited to celebrate them with my readers!
I’m still working with my fantastic virtual assistant, Heather. She helps me figure out tech stuff that my brain has a knee-jerk, “No, too overwhelming” response to. She also helps me with the techy side of my client work. For those clients who aren’t working with a developer or designer, Heather implements the new copy into my clients’ sites. I love that this allows me to offer a done-for-you service no matter what.
Also, I took a major leap and brought on a junior writer to my team, Makeda Ayana! Currently, Makeda follows my systems for the research, brainstorming, and interview mining part of my work. Then I complete my client projects with the actual writing and wireframing.
Having her do this part of my client projects has been such a stress-reliever — it saves me so much time to focus on building my business. I’m looking forward to moving her into a writing role in 2022, with me overseeing her work.
Foundational brand work
This year I started working with Jeanne Carlier of Spark & Bloom Studio on my brand foundations.
Until this year, I haven’t had the space to consider — let alone write down formally — where I want to take my business in the long term. So, I’m thrilled that I was able to start doing this! Having Jeanne guide me through her system has also been priceless, as without that guidance I doubt I would have felt grounded through something as abstract as “brand foundations.”
So far, the process has given me clarity about what sets me apart in this industry, who I want to serve, and my ultimate goals for my business (more on that below!).
Moving into a new apartment
Throughout my 20s, I’ve lived with roommates in various cities around the world. And for the past 3 years, my partner and I lived together with two other roommates in a townhouse in LA (New Girl vibes, iykyk). While many of my past roommates are now my good friends (this is actually a great hack for making adult friends in a big city, ha!), it was challenging to run a business and have client calls with so many people in the house.
In 2021, my partner and I were in a good place to rent our own apartment in LA. We have high standards, and I’m happy we were able to find a place that fulfilled them. Best of all, I now have a quiet place to conduct business (that’s not my bedroom).
In 2021, I put myself out there. I spoke at 9 different events, summits, or conferences (all virtual), as well as hosted a few virtual workshops on my own.
This experience was helpful for seeing what content resonated with people and how I could improve the way I talked about my work. By the end of the year, I had iterated dozens of times, and now I have a presentation that works for audience members and for my business.
Also, these speaking opportunities were the primary way I grew my email list — by 600 people! I’ve started to see the fruits of this labor as well, with more new clients coming to me after first attending a summit I spoke at.
After I got vaccinated in the spring, I started booking travel for the rest of the year, eager to get out of the city. It kicked off with my brother’s wedding on a hazy island off the coast of Georgia. I also traveled to…
- Joshua Tree
- New York City
And we took our annual trips to my and my partner’s hometowns in Georgia and Oklahoma for the holidays.
It felt good to travel again.
What did not go well
Not everything worked out in 2021. Some decisions I made pushed me too far, and others just felt misaligned.
Too much speaking
I was so excited that people were inviting me to speak that I mostly said yes to every request without considering my bandwidth or whether the event lined up with my business goals.
This led to feeling exhausted some months after prepping for numerous events — not to mention all the promotion you’re expected to do leading up to each event.
In 2022, I’m planning on being a lot more intentional about what I say yes to (more on this below!).
Edit & audit service
I could put this one in the list of “what went well” because I did work with 10+ clients to edit their current website messaging, and they were all happy with the end result.
However, I’m including my edit and audit service in the “not well” category because it muddied the waters of what I offer.
Some potential clients struggled to decide which of my services (my edit & audit or my done-for-you service) was best for them.
It also doesn’t “stack” with my main done-for-you service, meaning that people couldn’t do both, and I had to market to two different types of business owners.
I like that my edit & audit service offered a lower-cost and faster way to work with me, but I want to figure out a service that is lower cost but also still permits people to work with me in a done-for-you capacity later on (more on this below!).
Finally, I found myself overdelivering with these projects because deep down, I don’t believe that an edit & audit offers enough. Most business owners benefit more from an overhaul.
Launching a coaching program
At the beginning of 2021, I launched a group program meant to coach business owners through the process of creating their own website copy.
It was a period of intense anxiety and resistance that I told myself was just part of growing a business. But when I had two people signed up, I found that I was dreading doing the coaching calls. Even if I tripled the cost of my program and had 3x the amount of students, it wouldn’t feel like enough money to do coaching calls, create a coaching curriculum, and market to a totally new segment of people.
So, I called it quits. I refunded my students and went back to my done-for-you work. Since then, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t want to be a coach — and that’s okay. In the online business world, it sometimes seems like everyone is pivoting to coaching to “make a bigger impact” and “scale” …. but it’s not right for everyone.
(Tentative) goals for 2022
If past years have taught me anything, it’s that what I want to create in 2022 will likely change a few times throughout the year. For instance, if I stuck to the goals I created at the beginning of 2021, I’d be a very unhappy copywriting coach right now.
That’s why these goals are tentative, but I know that the right ones will stick!
Be more intentional about marketing
In 2022, I want to actively pursue speaking engagements and marketing opportunities that align with my business goals, rather than saying yes to whatever falls in my lap.
In past years, I’ve been fairly passive about marketing because I didn’t have the confidence to pursue opportunities. I thought that I was only worthy of the opportunities that came to me — i.e. those I didn’t have to stand up and say that I want or “try hard” for.
As a result, I ended up feeling a lack of agency in my marketing. I was either way too busy with speaking engagements or I faced periods of no opportunities.
Start building an agency
My big scary goal is to create a full-fledged website agency to have complete creative control over client website projects!
I took the first step toward this goal when I brought on a junior writer in 2021, and I want to do a lot more outsourcing and team-building this year. I’d love to be able to step back from “doing all the work” and step more fully into running my business. Eventually, this will mean bringing on a designer, developer, and SEO specialist, as well as more writers.
Right now, this dream feels far away, but I’m happy to feel clear about what I want, finally. It feels aligned with my personality and how I want to work with clients.
Create a service ladder
I want to create a services suite that meets people where they are but also leaves open the possibility of working with them in a deeper way in the future.
I know this will include the Client Interviews service I beta-launched last year, but I’m not sure what else will be included yet. I’m looking forward to trying a few different things out.
Do creative work that’s just for me
Writing classes, art classes, acting classes — these are things I want to experiment with in 2022.
My work for clients is creative, and running a business is creative in its own way, but I miss the college course atmosphere of learning, creating, and discussing a piece of creative work … without it having to be “for” something.
Cheers to 2022!