How was 2021 for you?
For the last couple of years I’ve been carrying out regular reviews of how my business is progressing: weekly, every six weeks, quarterly and annually.
How does she find time for that, you may ask (and why would she bother?)
Because we don’t just work in our business, as employees who do what they’re told, we are also responsible for deciding on the direction of our business, and taking action to make things happen. And how can you do that if you don’t really understand what’s working (and not working)?
I typically share a fair amount with clients about my business decisions and what I’m learning, as they can often learn from my success and mistakes.
So, once again, here’s my year in review- warts and all. You can read last year’s review here.
Three important questions
There are three main questions I use, and I’d fully recommend you use them too:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well, and what did I learn?
- What am I working towards in 2022 and how will I ensure it happens?
What went well in 2021?
My group programme:
I started my business foundations group programme back in Spring 2020, having unexpectedly found myself with more time on my hands when a writing project was delayed. It’s a combination of practical small business skills, such as identifying a niche and business model, creating clear messaging which really speaks to your potential client, and using social media and organic marketing techniques to get the message out there, and mindset around building confidence, becoming more assertive, and managing boundaries.
I’ve just finished the fourth run of this programme, now called Flourishing Foundations, and the next run (starting February 2022) is filling up fast. I really feel this programme hits the spot, and the feedback has been excellent.
1-2-1 client work:
As well as Flourishing Foundations, I’ve also worked with a range of 1-2-1 clients, helping them to start a new business, or develop the one they currently have to make it easier to find consistent clients, more profitable, and more enjoyable. I’ve also helped with career development, and learning to manage stress and overload more effectively, but going forward, the emphasis will be much more clearly on business development (see below)
Raised my profile as a business and mindset coach:
The proof is in the pudding! I teach clients how to get known for what they want to do, and a big part of my focus has been on raising my own profile as a coach. How have I done that? Posting relevant (and hopefully engaging) content online, consistently, starting a series of interviews with ELT business owners and freelancers (mainly clients, though not all) on LinkedIn, starting a Clubhouse room, The ELT Entrepreneurs’ Room, speaking at conferences, and appearing on podcasts, continuing to build and look after my Facebook group.
Invested in myself and my business:
I really think this is essential, and over the past three years I have invested a lot in coaching in social media, copywriting and running a membership, business coaching, and help setting up systems such as Mailerlite and Dubsado. This year I have invested in a course to learn about all the legal requirements of running a business, including contracts, GDPR, IP and more. Such a relief not to feel like I’m fudging some of this stuff any more!
I’ve also done a course on creating planner and journals for sale on Amazon (look out for these soon) and done a couple of short courses with the business coach Julie Creffield. Julie’s style is very different to mine, and that’s exactly why I did it, because it’s good to stretch your comfort zone and consider different ways of doing things.
I’m currently working with Victoria Griffiths, who is helping me really dig down into my ‘why’ and refine and clarify my messaging even more. As a result, I’m changing the name of my business, and re-branding. (I’m also just about to start working with a branding coach, Amy Manning. It’s all very exciting, and I know it’s going to really help me get more focus, and help more people.
Doubled my turnover on 2020:
Last but not least, the sums really added up for me this year. Last year was a good start, but this year I’ve got to the point where I can go all in on the coaching and make a good living from it. And this means you can trust that I know what I’m talking about when I say I can help you grow your business.
What didn’t go so well, and what did I learn?
Trying to please or help everyone doesn’t work.
Ironically for someone who bangs on and on with their clients about the importance of having a clear niche and message, I realised this year that I have had one foot in two canoes (not a good idea, especially if the water’s rough!)
On the one hand, I’ve been known for my work on burnout, stress management and self care. On the other hand, I’m getting more known for my ability to help ELT freelance professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners to create and run businesses that work, and work for their lives.
The two things aren’t in opposition, because we can’t run a successful business without sorting out the mindset stuff, and learning to treat ourselves as the best asset our business has. But I’ve realised that I need to focus on freelancers and business owners, rather than everyone in ELT.
My mailing list has been three steps forward, two steps back:
I’ve done a lot of work this year on really thinking through the content I send out in my weekly emails, and making it as valuable and engaging as possible. I kind of know this is working, because a) people email me back and tell me how much they enjoy the emails and b) my open rates are between 30-40%, which is high.
But for every 50 people that sign up each month, at least 30 either unsubscribe or I unsubscribe them because they haven’t opened an email in six months. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit this, but at least if you’re finding something similar, you now know you’re not alone!
I’ve asked myself why this is, and I think it’s a combination of things. Firstly, people’s email inboxes are super busy, and once a week is quite a lot. But I also know that a lot of people do look forward to the email, and it’s good to show up consistently, so I’m sticking to weekly.
Secondly, a lot probably go straight to spam. I’ve tried to deal with this by asking people to confirm subscriptions when they sign up, and whitelist the address, but it’s inevitable I think.
Thirdly, I think it may also be the two canoes business. I wonder if those who signed up for mindfulness and stress management unsubscribe every time I talk about business, and vice-versa?
So, again, I’m planning to re-launch and make sure that my emails are more clearly addressing freelancers and business owners within ELT. (If that isn’t you, and you still want to stay on the list that’s fine too 😊 )
My second group programme, Empowered isn’t something I want to run again in that format:
I ran this new group programme over six weeks last summer, with the aim of focusing specifically on helping people build confidence, and learn how to protect their boundaries without feeling that they were upsetting people, or not being true to their desire to help.
It was a bigger group, at a lower price point, because I wanted to be more accessible.
The feedback was very positive, and I know the content was great because it was all stuff that I had developed and honed with 1-2-1 clients. But the format wasn’t right. It was too big a group to work on quite personal stuff.
I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the material I’ve developed, but I have a few ideas (watch this space).
Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes business ideas just don’t work, and the only way to find out is to try them. If we can work out why something wasn’t quite right, that gives us valuable information to take forward in our business.
What am I working towards in 2022, and how will I ensure it happens?
Here’s the big news. As I’ve implied earlier in this post, I’ve realised that I need to focus my business more. So, going forward, I’ll put all my energies into helping ELT freelance professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners to earn more, work less, and live more fully.
After 30 years in the business, and having seen so many excellent professionals being undervalued (by themselves as much as anything) and underpaid, while massively over-delivering, I feel really passionately about helping to spark real change in the industry.
I’ve worked with around 100 clients since I started the business, and increasingly I’m seeing them step up and make waves, and change their lives as a result of the work we’ve done together. And it’s amazing.
So, I’m going to continue with my group programme, and equipping the course members to take these kinds of steps forward, and working 1-2-1 with clients who want to make even bigger strides, more quickly.
I’ve also got another lower priced offer up my sleeve, but more about that next year.
This year has seen me go all in on my coaching business, and I’m so excited about what next year will bring. That said, I know I need to get more focused and stop trying to do too much at once! So, that’s my word for 2022: Focus.
Do you choose a word for the year? If so, what will your word for 2022 be?
Really nice to hear things are going so well and an interesting update. Go, Rachel!
Thanks, Patrick 🙂
A very nice and interesting review and I think that sharing something like this really works. Once again you give me and others the opportunity to step back and reflect on what we’re doing as professionals.
Thank you and see you in the new year!
Thanks, Roy, and looking forward to speaking in january. Have a good break!
Thanks Rachel. I related to a lot of what you posted, especially around my mailing list. Thanks for being so transparent and sharing.
Thanks, Kate. I do believe in mailing lists as a way to build relationships, but they’re tricky beasts!
This is a brilliant post! Very open & honest, and very helpful too. As a new-start business owner, this really hit a chord for me, and I will be implementing something similar for my own business as a result. Thank you, Rachael!
Thanks, Fiona. I’m really a believer in regular reviews, because that’s how we can manage to both wear our ‘boss’ hats and ‘worker’ hats well.
An honest post and an interesting read, Rachael. Thanks for the stimulating posts, Monday lives and Clubrooms over the year. Enjoy your break!
Thank you, Catherine. You too!
Thanks for sharing this and for your FB lives which really help me to reset! Enjoy the xmas break! Best wishes,
Fran Traynor (TESOLFran)
Thanks, Fran, and have a good break too!