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  • Katie Earl

2021 Annual Review: The Year Sh!t got Real

2021 was a huge year for my business; it was the first full year I’ve been working for myself and there were a lot of ups and downs that make running a business so exciting (read: terrifying!).


Reflecting on those ups and downs has been so valuable, so this year’s annual review contains not just a recount of the best and most challenging things that happened to me this year, but also a few lessons that I hope will be helpful to at least one person reading this.


So without further ado, here’s my 2021 annual review.


The best bits


I was lucky to have lots of successes in 2021. Here’s the highlights that really stood out:


1: I launched a monthly retainer service that flew off the shelves

At the beginning of the year, I was selling my brand new package of 10 blogs designed to help businesses launch a blog. Even though this met a need, I was hearing more and more people telling me that they didn’t need 10 in one go, they needed help writing a consistent blog each month for the long term.


So, after a successful beta trial of the 10-blog package, I applied the same processes to offering monthly blogs to the leads who had said this was what they needed.


I was blown away by the result. Within a week of launching it, I already had three retainer clients, and the number just kept climbing.


The monthly retainer became my most popular service, and continues to be the thing that most people approach me about.


2: I wrote 71 blogs for clients

This one is fairly self explanatory - but I’m so proud of that number! I wrote blogs for clients in many different industries: finance, medical statistics, ecommerce, coaching, counselling, and architecture, to name just a few!



3: I started using a CRM system to streamline my admin

Dubsado* was a word I’d heard a lot in 2020, and 2021 was the year I finally got my act together and jumped in headfirst. I decided to really focus on offering a slick, easy-to-use client experience, so Dubsado seemed like a really obvious thing to invest in.


With help from Louise Maidment, it was set up and ready to use. Granted, it’s not the most intuitive thing to use for the uninitiated, but between Louise’s training and the super quick customer service online chat, Dubsado has become a central pillar of my business and a tool I wouldn’t want to be without.


I knew it was worth the investment when several clients commented on how easy it was to sign up and get started. I couldn’t have asked for more!


*That’s an affiliate link. I will earn a small commission if you subscribe to Dubsado using the link, and you’ll get 20% off your first month or year.


4: I ran my first online summit

This was a big one, and it couldn’t have happened if I hadn’t relaunched a Facebook group for my business, which is the supporting success to this one!


I’d seen a few other business owners run summits, festivals, or other online events where they brought together lots of experts and did a big knowledge share of their chosen topic. I loved the idea, which initially came to me at the end of 2020, but it took until September 2021 for me to believe in myself enough to actually take action.


It was a huge success, boosting my email list, FB group members, and website visitors, but the even bigger successes were much more people-focussed. Creating a great atmosphere, strengthening existing relationships and creating new ones, as well as helping dozens of business owners to learn how to create effective content for their business. You can click here to read my full write up of the summit.


5: I raised my prices - twice.

I still consider myself very new to running my own business, as I only set up properly in May 2020.


Which is why raising my prices - in fact, in one instance I doubled them - is such a highlight of the year for me.


The decision was based on the incredible feedback of my wonderful clients, as well as me gaining a much better understanding of industry rates.


I also made the decision to publish my prices on my website. It’s a hotly debated idea by many in the online business world, but the reason I chose to do this is because it simply felt like the right thing to do. My website visitors know exactly where they stand, and I don’t have to worry about coaching prospects through money mindset blocks or justifying the cost on our discovery calls.



Learnings (that may or may not be useful)


I always think of the Sunscreen song by Baz Luhrmann when I attempt to offer advice based on my own experience. These lyrics in particular run through my mind:


“Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past

From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts

And recycling it for more than it's worth”


So with that in mind, and in case you were hoping you might be able to learn from my mistakes instead of making the same ones yourself, here’s what I learned this year:

1: It’s no use setting targets you don’t believe in.

A lot of the targets I set myself for this year were not at all useful or realistic. I allowed myself to get caught up in the whirlwind of £5k months and other goals that probably mean something to someone out there - but it’s not me.


When I looked back over my monthly reviews, I noticed that a lot of the time I hadn’t achieved what I had set as my KPI, but I had still made huge progress or achieved incredible things totally separately from those KPIs.


So in 2022, I’ll be more deliberate in setting targets. I’ll keep in mind the things I really need to get done and the things that truly motivate me.


I hope that by doing this I’ll be much better able to recognise when I’m making progress that’s meaningful instead of kicking myself for missing a target I was never really that committed to in the first place.


2: Success isn’t a straight line

Running a business takes you over lots of bumps in the road, and just because something starts to go well, doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels and expect it to all be onwards and upwards from there.


Things change, priorities change, and the offer that flew off the shelves in January might not secure so much as a cursory glance from your ideal clients in June.


So the learning here was two-fold:


Firstly, don’t ever think you’ve ‘cracked it’, because there’s always something waiting around the corner to trip your smug face up.


Secondly, go easy on yourself when that does happen. I had a fair few months when I thought I’d well and truly messed things up for good, but by rolling up my sleeves, remembering the plan, and following tried and tested processes that had been neglected during my more prosperous months I was always able to get back on track.


3: I’m no good with setting up systems

When I first bought my Dubsado subscription, it sat untouched for at least a month before I enlisted the lovely Louise to help me through the setup. Now, Dubsado is notoriously difficult to set up, but it still showed me that setting up systems and figuring out technology isn’t my strong suit.


In the future, when I’m ready to begin using a new system or platform, I’ll definitely be saving up so that I can afford to outsource the setup. It’s a valuable lesson to have learned so that I can play to my strengths moving forward instead of wasting time getting tied up in knots over something that someone else could figure out in minutes!


My word of the year


In my 2020 annual review, I picked a word of the year to focus on for 2021, and that word was REFINE.


I had spent 2020 learning lots about running a business for the very first time. I’d been a sponge, trying to take in as much as possible and realising that much of it was contradictory or not possible at my stage of business.


So I decided that 2021 would be the year I’d take all that learning and refine everything I was doing until it worked perfectly. I wanted to create processes to follow and a business that ran like a well-oiled machine.


The word refine guided all of my big decisions during the year - like where to spend my time, what to invest in, and even who to work with - and was a really calming mantra to come back to in times of indecision or worry. It stopped me from pouring hours into courses I didn’t need and meant I was more discerning about whose advice I took.


Even though I’m nowhere near having that well-oiled machine at hand, I have definitely been able to curate a set of processes that really do work for me. My proudest achievement as a result of all the refinement I’ve done is to have created a client experience that never fails to deliver. Every feedback form I’ve received has been so encouraging about the processes I follow and the way I supported them through the blog writing work we did together.


My plans for 2022

As I write this, I’m still in the process of planning out what I’ll be getting up to in 2022 (talk about down to the wire!), but I already know it’s going to take things up a notch.


I’m going to be reviewing all of my offers to make sure that the services I provide to my clients are the right ones, that get outstanding results as well as further developing the experience my clients have when they work with me.


I’ve decided that my word of the year for 2022 will be GROW.


I want to grow my network and connections so that I feel supported and part of something bigger.

I want to grow my understanding of my audience so that I can get them amazing results.

I want to grow in confidence so that I can make strategic decisions that enable me to stay in business for as long as I choose to be.

And I want to grow my understanding of blogging and content marketing even further, so that I can offer an outstanding service that stands out.


Want to join me for the journey?


If you’d like to hear more from me and follow my business growth through the year, the best way to do that is to subscribe to my email list.


I email my subscribers every Monday with topic inspiration, advice, and expertise about how to write blogs that grow your audience and nurture readers from strangers into clients. They’re also the first to know when I’ve published a new article.


Click here to sign up and receive my weekly emails from next week (or January, if you’re reading this in December '21!)




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