Photo credit: Moyan Brenn
2014 was one of the biggest years of my life.
Perhaps the biggest.
As I launch into 2015, it’s helpful to review how I got here. I’m most proud of two things this year: marrying my wife (the most important and amazing thing to ever happen to me); and my focus and attention to accomplish concrete, measurable goals.
My yearly review isn’t just about making a list. It’s about learning actual life-changing lessons that can be applied and repeated for better results. But before I share my biggest life-changing lessons of the year, I’ll first review the major milestones of the past 12 months.
- February – landed my first $10k contract as a consultant
- March – bachelor party! (not really a milestone but a ton of fun)
- April – married the woman of my dreams
- May – moved to a new apartment with my wife; adopted Mojo, our dog
- July – landed my first copywriting gig
- August – landed another copywriting gig; and another
- October – started turning away work and realized I was now running a business
- October – turned in my resignation letter because I was totally booked through 2014
- November – transitioned to 50% employment as I phased out my day job
- December – earned over $40k in annual revenue in my “side business”
- December – first month of self-employment…interrupted by an offer…
- December – joined Copy Hackers to launch Snap Copy
- It’s been a monster year for me – and my wife. As I reflect on everything that happened and was accomplished, I’ve taken a few key lessons.
Photo credit: Jonathan McIntosh
This year I spent a lot of money on myself. But it wasn’t just date nights and new Jordans. It was real investment. I spent countless hours taking courses, reading, listening to podcasts and practicing my skillz. Honing my craft. And it’s really paid off.
At some point in the year I built up the confidence to say “people actually get value from the things I say.” That was huge. These were my investments this year:
- Took 5 courses/membership sites (at least partially)
- Read 40 books (at least partially)
- Listened to 145h 20m of podcasts
- Read 1,000s of blog posts
That’s a lot of material. But here’s the big takeaway – I did it all in just 2 hours a day. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a year.
Be confident and declare who you are.
Starting down the path of self-employment required a mental shift. I was no longer the old me. I was now the new me with a slightly different set of skills to emphasize. It’s not like I woke up one day and became a copywriter and internet marketer – that took time, practice and relentless study.
But I had to declare it. The first time a prospect asked the classic “So what do you do?”…
It felt strange to declare it confidently.
Before I declared my new profession I was still me, but I was the Director of Marketing at an environmental consulting company. And here’s the thing: we enviros can be a highly judgmental bunch. I thought I was being judged by others for “abandoning my values.” The truth? I’m my own worst critic. And I haven’t abandoned my values at all.
But I needed to make the switch to honor the lifestyle I want and the passions I pursue.
So it had to happen. And once I declared confidently “I’m a copywriter and internet marketer,” it felt…different. It felt like a slightly different version of me. But in the end, it was the version of me that I liked. That I wanted. And people responded to it. Which helped me build confidence.
Now I declare it with pride and certainty. And I see how people react.
Photo credit: macrofight
This could easily be my biggest life-changing lesson of the year. Last January I made a decision to take a copywriting course from Copy Hackers by Joanna Wiebe and Lance Jones. It was an expensive course and I talked it over with my wife, and we decided it was worth the money.
My thought process: I could spend almost $2k on this course and become a better copywriter. There’s also the promise of leads being sent my way. But ultimately I was swayed by something much more concrete and guaranteed: the course came along with coaching sessions from Joanna. And I wanted to know her and how she’s been successful. How she thinks and does business. And maybe – just maybe – she would answer a few of my questions after the course.
Now we’re starting a business together.
I learned the life-changing lesson again when I took a course by Andrew Warner of Mixergy to learn how to interview people. It’s totally practical and tactical and…you guessed it, I really wanted to meet Andrew. And I have. And he’s made such an impact on my life through his interviews with entrepreneurs that I just wanted to say thank you. So, again, thank you, Andrew.
I remind myself of my goals every day. Well, almost…and sometimes twice a day. My goals are intentionally big, and I track my progress. If I don’t set my goals big enough, I’ll spend a lot of unnecessary time and effort to fall short of where I really want to be. I’ll give you a hypothetical example.
If my goal is to make $10,000 on the side this year and I make it 50% of the way there…how does that compare to a goal of $100,000 and only making it 30% of the way there? In this example, thinking bigger gave me a $25,000 gain.
Almost every day I reminded myself of three things:
- Where I want to be in 5 years and how I plan to get there
- My purpose in life
- My motivation to accomplish these goals
If you’ve read Think and Grow Rich, this all sounds familiar. I set concrete goals for myself and repeat them like a mantra. I’m honest about how I’ll accomplish them, in what timeframe, and what I’ll sacrifice to get them.
I now think more critically about how I spend my time – to a fault, just ask my wife. I approach every decision in consideration of my goals. That is to say, I’m conscious about finding ways to get the things I really want.
Got it? Good.
It’s okay to be boring.
Photo credit: Sheila Sund
My younger sister is 13 years my junior. She thinks I’m boring. By most measures, she’s probably right. Just look at how much time I spent reading, taking courses, and listening to podcasts in the last year. But guess what?
Things that are boring to a lot of other people are absolutely fascinating to me.
So I stay home and read, write, take courses and hang out with my wife.
Every day I do at least 1 thing to further my learning and improve myself.
Find systems and constantly improve them.
On Garret Moon’s fantastic CoSchedule blog, he points out that there are three ways to save time. I’ve changed them slightly, but I love his theory:
- Get faster/more efficient
- Add more tools (related to #1)
- Eliminate something
Valuing my time means I utilize all three methods at some point or another. I’m not so good at #3, but I work daily on to improve.
One of my biggest tools is having systems. So I have a system to check and respond to email; a system to follow up on emails; a system to sort through dozens of sales leads; a system to write; a system to analyze businesses and business models; a system to do the dishes; and on…
Having systems means I don’t have to make as many decisions. I automatically slip into a process of how I do things, then I do them. That’s it. It’s the same reason Steve Jobs wore the same clothes every day – it was one less decision he had to make, so he could save his mental energy for other things.
Systems address both the “get faster” and “add more tools” pieces of the equation. Every system I create is designed to a) do a job more efficiently, b) prevent mistakes and human error, c) eliminate the need to make unnecessary decisions and d) gain some time back.
Connecting with influencers isn’t as hard as you think.
This is super internet-markety jargon, but it applies to every profession. There are people who move and shake and make you say “damn, she has it under control.” When they speak, the industry listens and takes notice. These people are called influencers.
What I’ve learned throughout the year is that influencers are more accessible than I thought. A well-placed email, tweet, or post can grab their attention. Of course you need to be fascinating and have something to offer, but that’s on you.
The mechanics of reaching influencers are pretty simple. Just do some research about them, find a way to help them in some way, and compose a well-written email.
When it has worked – and it mostly has – I’ve been specific about what I want and am cautious to not waste their time. Each time I reach out to an influencer I realize that I may not have another shot at meeting them or grabbing their attention, so I make it good.
Work-life balance is harder when you’re self-employed.
Do you ever feel like you’re spinning plates? Photo credit: Antony Stanley
This is another end-of-year life-changing lesson for me, but it’s a big one. When I worked for someone else, it was easy to come in late and leave late. To take holidays and vacation without checking my email. And to completely unplug every night when I got home.
Now shit is different. I’m responsible for clients’ success. When I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And working from home means I’m always at the office.
I wake up, take a shower, have breakfast and coffee, then head downstairs to my office. There is no discreet place of business outside my home. As rewarding as self-employment is, I’ve learned that working from home and for yourself is a skill that requires development and attention.
I don’t have a problem with the self-motivation bit of it. I do have a hard time shutting off. Sounds like a goal for 2015, doesn’t it?
What are your biggest life-changing lessons from 2014?
Leave a comment – I personally read and reply to all of them.