For the last four years now I’ve written an annual review blog post, looking back at my year in business, and sharing what’s gone well, what hasn’t gone so well, and, most importantly, what I’ve learnt from it.

One of my core values is authenticity, and I believe that being transparent in this way is aligned with that. I also think we can learn a lot from sharing, and hope you get something useful from this.

What went well in 2023

My word for 2023 was ‘streamline’ because my aim was to streamline my business so that I could focus on those offers where I could a) make the biggest difference and b) work less and earn more.

At the beginning of the year, I had around 12 hours a week of contact time (coaching or running live training sessions). This is now down to around 4-5, while my income has stayed about the same.

How have I achieved that? (it’s the dream, right?)

Firstly, I decided to close my membership for Alumni of my group programme last spring. Not because it wasn’t doing well. In fact, I had grown it to 30 members, which was my ultimate goal, and financially it provided a nice income at around £1500 a month. However, because I had grown the group slowly, taking on a few alumni after each group programme finished, it now felt too big, and I was aware that members weren’t getting the attention they had previously. I could have put the price up and seen a natural reduction to a smaller group, but it also took up a lot of my time and energy, and so I decided to close it, and offer a different kind of follow up instead (more later)

Secondly, I finally stopped offering 1-2-1 (after a brief reprisal). I enjoyed working 1-2-1, but, again, it was a lot of time and energy, and I was aware that my group programme members were getting almost as good a deal for much less, because of the super hands on way the group programme is structured. It didn’t really make sense for either me or the clients, especially as I was aiming to work less.

Thirdly, I have changed the format of my group programme, to make it less intensive (I just kept adding more help and information in there!), and it will now run over 6 months instead of 3. There will actually be quite a bit MORE coaching, but more spread out, and I’ve also taken on two associate coaches, Jennifer Murray and Sandy Millin, who are going to be helping out with more specialist areas of copywriting and tech. There’s also an alumni option to re-join and get ongoing support and coaching for another 3 months.

Making all these changes and re-creating the group programme (plus a new self study programme for my membership) has been a lot more work than anticipated – I’m always over-optimistic about this stuff- but I’ve also had help from my amazing VAs, Cerian Scrivens and Nina Mistry.

What have I learnt? Getting focused and getting help (including automation), is a big part of the key if you want to work less and earn more, as is how you set up your offers and programmes in the first place. And, of course, I can help you do all this for your business on my new group programme, Designed to Flourish.

What have the challenges been?

As I mentioned, although my contact hours have reduced, there’s still been a lot of work again this year, setting up new ways of running my business, creating new material, and a steep learning curve getting my YouTube channel going (that’s also a win though).

I have managed to streamline a lot this year, but another word for 2023 could also be investment, of time, energy, and definitely money.

I was super excited to hit six figures this year (go me!), but I actually earned a few thousand less than last year when you take into account the nearly 37K I have invested in myself and the business.

When you’ve picked yourself up off the floor….

I’ve built up this business from making just under £3000 in 2019, and I know that this is due not just to hard work and a bit of a knack for this stuff (if I do say so myself), but also to the way I have consistently invested in coaching and training.

The YouTube coaching I did this year with Gulce Onager, and the Mastermind I joined, run by Gemma Gilbert represented a big chunk of my expenses, but were definitely worth the money in helping me grow my audience and scale and simplify my business. As I mentioned, I’ve taken on associate coaches. Then there’s the admin and tech help I’ve paid for, which has freed up my time to focus where it will have the biggest impact, and the software that has helped me both save time and create a more professional and smooth running experience for my clients.

Having said all that, there were a couple of expensive mis-steps too. I invested around 5K in Facebook advertising, which did not pay off. I’ve learnt something from the process though, and I’m going to try again next year (more effectively I hope!). I also invested in a platform for my digital programmes which has been pretty disappointing, and part of the reason I’ve been so busy this year has been moving everything from the previous problematic platform to the new problematic one and then to what I hope will be my third time lucky platform. (I’ll write a blog post about this soon).

I have also struggled to maintain the momentum of getting new members for my membership, The Confident ELT Freelancer Collective, since I switched to an always open model. I’ve discovered the hard way that people need a reason to join a membership now (rather than some time down the road). Doors closing can be this reason, but I’m not going back to that. Instead I’ve started scheduling regular promotional periods, and switched things up a bit so the membership now has a self study course at the heart, which is what you’re paying for, and the membership is a free bonus for the first six months. My retention rate is amazing and always has been because once you’re in you see how worthwhile it is.. but, another tip for would-be membership owners here- the difficulty is helping people to see that before they join.

So, the membership is not growing at the rate I’d forecast, but it is still slowly growing, and I still have about 70% of the founder members who joined when it opened nearly three years ago, which very much tells you something.

What am I planning or working towards in 2024?

I have four main goals for 2024.

Firstly, I want to consolidate and start to reap more of the benefit of the changes I have put in place. So, repeat after me, no amazing new ideas that will require a lot of work…..

Secondly, as for last year, I want to further grow my audience. This is absolutely key for any business that doesn’t want to eventually stagnate and wither. I’m going to continue working on my new YouTube channel. I’m planning to hit 1000 subscribers as close as possible to the 1 year mark at the end of January- there’s SO much useful stuff there for ELT freelancers, so if you don’t already subscribe, get onto that now! I’m also planning to grow my email list through the THIRD festival of freelancing in the spring, and trying Facebook ads again. And I’m going to double down and do even more on LinkedIn as it’s such a good platform both for me and the vast majority of my clients.

Thirdly, I realized this year that I am spending a huge amount of time creating content for social media, so this year I’m creating systems to reduce that and to use my content more effectively and intentionally to even better effect (also something I’m teaching on my group programme).

Fourthly, coming from a materials writing background, I am aware that my group programme has evolved into something which is more suitable for freelancers working B2C, so I have created a brand new programme, just for publishing freelancers (writers and editors mostly), all about pricing, negotiating and getting paid, plus a small self-study programme on niching and branding for this group. Watch this space.

Final thoughts

The word of the year I’ve chosen for 2024 is Flourish. This is a key word in my business, and appears in my group programme name. It’s all about thriving. For this year, I want to continue to grow, but also to give myself the time and space to do some more flourishing right now. More walks and other exercise, taking time to cook properly, trips, time with friends and family… generally I want to work less (and earn more of course- and probably spend a bit less too!)

What’s your word for 2024 going to be?

If you’d like me to help you flourish in your business, check out my group programme, or join my membership, The Confident ELT Freelancer.