2017 Annual Review: A Year of Change
It’s that time again! Every year I dedicate a couple days to reviewing my entire year, personally and professionally, so I can reflect on the health of my business, what I’m thankful for, goals I’ve accomplished, where I’ve succeeded, where I’ve experienced failure, and how I plan to move forward in the coming year.
The purpose of publishing this annual review is primarily for my own sake, but it provides the added benefit of holding myself accountable to my goals, being transparent with my students & readers, and perhaps it will provide inspiration for you to perform your own annual review!
The Theme for 2017: Change
As I look back on 2017, I realize the theme was “change”. Change can be scary and uncertain, but in reality, as the saying goes, “change is the only constant”. To hold on to the “status quo”, and fight change is to fight a losing battle. If you can acknowledge and accept change, I think that’s where something magical happens.
Here is a top-level summary of what you can expect in this blog post, and then we’ll jump right in!
2017 Review Summary
- What I made in 2017
- Why I stopped taking on client work
- I spoke at my first conference!
- I logged 743 hours of work time + my #1 most used app
- Some personal highlights
- Health news that changed my life (and perspective)
- The 2017 goals I achieved (and didn’t achieve)
- My 2018 goals
- What’s next
What did I create in 2017?
My Body of Work
When you run your own business, it’s easy to forget what you actually created throughout the year; things get busy and you’re thinking about now and the future. So when you take some time to truly reflect on your body of work, it’s surprising to see how much you can actually do in a single year. Here are the things I created:
I created 2 new online courses. Both were exclusive to my website, Code College. I plan to add CSS3 in 30 Days to Udemy, as well.
1. 5-Day Freelancing Automation Challenge
2. CSS3 in 30 Days
I also launched The Freelancing Freedom Course twice, once in March and once in October. Although it’s not a “new” course, I dedicate a significant amount of time and energy in the course, and I improve the course experience with each new launch.
My goal for 2017 was to prioritize blogging and posting more consistently, and I’m happy to say that I published 12 blog posts within the first 7 months of the year. After July, however, I didn’t publish any new blog content.
- 2016 Annual Review: The Year of Transformation
- How to Start Freelancing in 6 Actionable Steps
- How to Choose Your Freelance Niche
- Where to Find Your First Paid Client
- How to Onboard New Freelance Leads
- Must Have Tools for Freelancers
- How to Deal with Difficult Freelance Clients
- What to include in your Freelance Portfolio
- How to Make Sure You Get Paid as a Freelancer
- Honesty & Integrity in Online Business
- Am I Good Enough?
- What’s standing between you and [that thing]?
I discovered 2 things in 2017 that improved my blog consistency:
- Creating a blog post that originated from a video I filmed. It’s easier to re-purpose content from a different format, rather than create 2 separate “original” pieces. You know, as they say, “kill 2 birds with 1 stone”.
- Write without thinking. My last 2 blog posts of the year were my most popular blog posts ever, even though they were “stream of thought”, unformatted, and very short. They seemed to have a huge impact.
YouTube has been a wildly successful traffic source for my brand. In only a few years, I’ve gone from less than 50 subscribers to nearly 46,000! I publish free coding tutorials and freelancing tips, and they’ve been dominating YouTube search results, which gets me a ton of traffic. Serving my YouTube audience will be a huge focus going forward. I published 25 YouTube videos in 2017. Some of the uploads are original videos, others are webinar replays, livestreams or promotional videos.
- Kicking off 2017!
- My 2016 Annual Review
- How to start a Freelance Business from Scratch
- How to choose a freelance niche
- Where to find your first paid freelance client
- How to onboard new freelance leads
- Tools for freelancers
- How to deal with difficult clients
- Join the 5-Day Freelancing Challenge
- Include these things in your portfolio
- How to get paid as a freelancer
- Freelancing Freedom – Closing in 12 hours
- [Review] How I used JivoChat to launch my online course
- Honesty & Integrity in Online Business: Is it possible?
- Webinar Promo: 8 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Freelance Business
- Turn your coding skills into a freelance biz!
- Freelancing Freedom is live!
- Webinar Replay: 8 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Freelance Business
- Webinar Replay with Erin Flynn
- Battling pirates! I’m cracking down on illegal uploads of my content…
- Win a Lifetime Code College Membership
- Announcing the Lifetime Access Winner – 2017
- Coming soon! CSS3 in 30 Days [Out-takes]
- How to create 30 projects in 30 days with CSS3 [Free coding challenge]
- Let’s talk CSS3
How did I spend my time in 2017?
A breakdown of my focus
I use a service called RescueTime, which constantly runs in the background of my computer and tracks all of my activity on my computer. Not only does it tell me which software, websites and activities I’m using — it also organizes all of my activity into categories like “Business”, “Design”, “Learning”, “Communication”, and allows me to see how “productive” I have been throughout the year.
It’s a really useful (and free) tool if you want to know where you’re wasting time, when you’re most productive and how to optimize your workday (get RescueTime here: https://bradhussey.ca/rescuetime).
25% of my time was spent doing Business Activities
- Facebook ads
22% of my time in Design & Composition
- BradHussey Blog
- Apple Pages
13% of my time in Communication & Scheduling
- Messages (boo! texting while working Brad?)
11% of my time in Course Management & Learning
- Code College
8% of my time in Software Development
- Atom & Coda (coding, creating coding tutorials, web dev, etc.)
Top 5 Activities
- ConvertKit (writing emails, creating automations, etc.)
- Gmail (Last year this was my top activity, so while it’s nice to see it as #2, I’d like to not even see it in the top 5!)
- Code College (creating course layouts, managing course admin, uploading course videos, etc.)
- ScreenFlow (filming videos & screencasts)
- Brad Hussey Blog (writing blog content, creating landing pages, etc.)
- 70% of time spent on productive or very productive activities (-1% from last year)
- 30% of time spent on neutral, distracting or very distracting activities (+1% from last year)
Important metrics in my business
The Freelancing Freedom Course
- 2 launches
- 224 new students added
- 327 total students
Code College Paid Membership
- 90 new members added
- 240 total members
- 96,169 sessions (-0.89% from 2016)
- Top 3 viewed courses:
- The Freelancing Freedom Course
- Free Welcome Bundle
- Code College Membership
- 5,455 new students
- 661 new paying customers
- 106,186 sessions (+49.14% from 2016)
- Top 3 pages (excl. Home):
- Start Here
- 16,350 new subscribers
- 25,124 total subscribers
- 16,450 subscribers gained (+8% increase from last year)
- 1,955,097 video views (+63% increase from last year)
- 43,816 total subscribers (+62% increase from last year)
Profit & Loss Snapshot
- +5% total increase in revenue (compared to 2016)
- 80% profit margin (+10% compared to 2016)
- 93% product & passive income
- 7% service & consulting income
Quick overview of want went well in my business
Stopped Taking on Client Work
At the beginning of 2017, I made a scary decision… Stop taking on new client work. After reviewing my 2016 year, I realized I’d invested a significant amount of time & energy into client work that I really didn’t need. My online business demands so much time and energy from me that investing 1 hour of time into my online business yields a much higher return than investing that same hour into 1-on-1 client work.
While I did stop taking on new client work, however, I still had 3 client projects that I’d already signed on before the beginning of the year, so I was obligated to continue that work.
Looking back, I am very happy with my decision to stop taking on client work. Although, it still *really* feels wrong to say “no” and turn a new lead away… Honestly, at the time of this writing, I have 2 good leads in my inbox that I have yet to say “no” to. I find myself putting it off because I wonder if there is a better way to accommodate them, but the reality is that having less client work means that I had more time to invest in my online business.
Was it worth it to stop doing client work? Yes. I’ve been less stressed, I’ve spent less time in my inbox (55 hours in 2017 as compared to 92 in 2016), and my course revenue has increased.
Online Business Growth
The reason I stopped taking on client work was to eliminate anything that was not contributing to my new found focus and mission. Doing so truly allowed me to dedicate even more time to my online business (which as you can see above, contributes to 93% of my total income at this point).
In 2017, while I only added 2 brand new products (online courses/workshops), I refined my marketing efforts, allowed myself more time for research, experimented with Facebook advertising, and launched The Freelancing Freedom Course.
Code College Monthly Members
When you’re an entrepreneur, recurring income is key to a successful business. This is why so many businesses are embracing the “subscription model” — think Netflix, your energy provider, your cell phone company. With Code College, a student can purchase courses “a la carte” or they can subscribe for a monthly fee and get access to everything. This is clearly a much better value for many students who want to learn a bunch of material, rather than one single topic.
In 2017, I focused on increasing the number of paid monthly subscribers by refining my lead generation and marketing strategies. I put together a free bundle of courses as a “lead magnet” and to get people in the door. From there, my automated email marketing strategies take over and guide new students in the right direction — adding free value and ultimately promoting a paid product that would best help them on their journey.
The method that seems to work very well for everyone is this: I offer new students a 30-day trial, where they get access to everything for just $5. After the 30-day trial expires, they could choose to cancel their subscription if they didn’t think the value was there, otherwise, their account would be upgraded to the standard monthly subscription. Obviously, some people would cancel after the 30 days, but as a whole, this strategy increased my monthly paid subscribers from 150 to 240 by the end of 2017.
This year, I plan on growing the number of students in the membership, and dramatically increasing the value each member gets from the experience. I will do so by incorporating a better onboarding experience, a private community for new paid members, and clearer marketing copywriting.
One thing I’m really excited about this year is improving Customer Satisfaction for paying customers, as I now have 2 team members dedicated to helping students.
The Freelancing Freedom Course
2017 was huge for this course! I launched it twice and signed up 224 new students. Each launch was significantly easier to manage, as I knew what to expect. My promotion strategy was cleaner, better planned, and executed fairly well. At this point, it’s very clear to me that this course is serving a need, and I’m excited to continually improve the experience and serve my dedicated students in the course.
This year I hope to launch the course at least 3 times, but importantly, I want each launch to be smoother, more automated, and systemized so I’m not scrambling for 3 months prior to each launch (which is how I do it now…lol).
Hired an Assistant
Having a team is not a new concept for me, in fact, I’ve had a few people on my team for a couple years helping me with client work and a few other important tasks. However, up to this point, I’ve been performing the majority of the tasks in my online business, and it’s simply too much for me to handle all by myself. I have been a huge bottleneck in my business, and while I have experienced growth year after year, I know if I step out of the way, implement clear systems, & processes, and if I delegate 80% of what I do day-to-day, I can take my business to a whole new level.
At the end of 2017, I hired an Assistant to help me with my online business (in a big way). I am held accountable week-by-week, and I’ve already seen a huge difference in how things run.
Quick overview of some highlights in my personal life
We highly value travel experiences in my family, and I don’t necessarily mean jet-setting across the globe on luxury trips in foreign lands; sometimes those little weekend getaways to the mountains, or the lake have the same impact as a tropical beach vacation. We have two young children, and despite the travel experience requiring more effort and crisis-management due to less-than-rational little humans, we don’t let that get in the way of travel and vacation. In 2017, we were very grateful to have enjoyed an abundance of travel.
Family Vacation on Oahu, Hawaii
Hawaii has a special place in my heart. I really love it. Laura and I have spent significant time there in the past, and we also took our daughter there in 2013 when she was less than a year old. Ever since then, we’ve been wanting to go back, but the timing was never right — moving, pregnancy, having a new-born son, moving, buying a house, moving… But at the beginning of 2017, we finally decided it was time and booked our 10-day trip to Hawaii.
We spent a few days in Waikiki and a week on the North Shore. As a family, we connected, enjoyed the sunshine, played in the waves, ran away from beach crabs, and just had a beautiful time. In fact, we loved it so much that we’re going back again this year.
Craft + Commerce, Boise, Idaho
Okay, let me first start by saying this: before this trip, I’d never heard of Boise, and I only ever associated Idaho as a “flyover state” with a lot of potatoes. But oh my word, Boise is gorgeous. You should go there!
In June 2017, we packed up our family van and began our road trip down to Boise, Idaho for the first ever Craft+Commerce Conference hosted by ConvertKit. We made a couple overnight stops in Clancy, Montana and Idaho Falls to spread the trip out and turn the whole thing into more of a family vacation, not just a work trip.
The conference itself was amazing. It was the most valuable, informative, and fun conferences I’d ever attended. One of my main highlights from the experience was being invited by Nathan Barry, the CEO of ConvertKit, to attend a private Mastermind with a handful of really spectacular bloggers — many of whom I’ve been following for awhile. On top of that, I was asked to host a Workshop during the conference! My workshop was called “How to build a 6-figure service business”, and I taught a room full of attendees how to use the tools, systems, and strategies we use in online business to level up their service-based business to 6-figures. Oh, and guess who was sitting in the front row of my workshop? One of my Freelancing Freedom students! Wow, that was super cool.
I attended some inspiring, educational and actionable workshops and main-stage talks from the likes of Seth Godin, Chase Reeves, Mariah Coz, Melyssa Griffin, among other amazing people. I made some great friends, connected with other creators, bloggers, and business owners, and walked away with some massive actionable takeaways.
Fun tip: locals know you’re NOT from Boise when you pronounce it “BOY-zee”; the proper pronunciation is, in fact, “BOY-see”. I still have a hard time saying it the “local” way, especially since, to me, that word is French for “wooded”, and pronounced “Bo-ahz”. Also, as the story goes, it was a French-Canadian guide who unintentionally named the area after seeing the wooded forest near the Boise River Valley.
Kookanusa Lake Vacation with Friends
Not long after arriving home from Idaho, Laura and I packed the kids up in the van and road tripped with our close family friends to the beautiful Kootenay Region of Interior British Columbia. We rented a house on the Kookanusa River and had a truly wonderful time. Our kids played on nearby beaches, we paddle boarded on the lake, barbecued delicious meals, sunbathed, and just generally had a great family getaway with friends. #lakelife
Northern Saskatchewan Cottage Getaway
At my brother’s wedding in 2016, Laura and I road tripped 8 hours north to a beautiful regional park in Saskatchewan, Canada and loved the area so much that we decided to go back again in 2017! This time we took the kids with us and rented a small cottage near the lake for a week. We swam every day, we biked everywhere, I took Ayla fishing for the first time, we connected as a family, and we exchanged modern day conveniences for a much simpler, peaceful experience in the woods. I love this place.
Mountains, Montana, Mountains and more Mountains
We’re fortunate to live next door to the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range and beautiful National Parks. We took full advantage of our proximity in the latter part of the year and spent some time in the Crowsnest Pass, Waterton and Banff National Park. We also took a couple weekend trips in Montana, because it’s beautiful.
I took up woodworking as a serious hobby. I’ve made some cool things, including:
- A canoe paddle
- Many cutting boards
- A deck for a playhouse
- A crepe rake
- And some other stuff
It’s been a ton of fun, and I have a new appreciation for things made of wood. I find myself staring at tables and spindles a little too often, though…
This one is pretty personal, but I’m happy to share some insight because it’s important to me. Although I was raised Anglican, I’d been attending the Catholic church, albeit not very consistently, for about 10 years. Early in the year, I decided to register for the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Program with the sole purpose of seeking deeper insight into the Catholic faith and determining if it was right for me. After months of attending the RCIA program and educating myself in Christian apologetics, I was happy to commit myself and so I received my First Communion during Easter.
I found out I don’t have an inflammatory disease in my spine
I’ve had low back pain & stiffness for a few years, and it sucks. I spent a considerable amount of time in 2017 visiting my doctor, rheumatologist and getting X-rays and MRIs trying to determine what was going on with my back. For the majority of the 2016 and some of 2017, I was under the impression I had Ankylosing Spondylitis, an “inflammatory disease that, over time, can cause some of the vertebrae in your spine to fuse.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ankylosing-spondylitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354808). Needless to say, it was scary and discouraging thinking I might have this disease that could dramatically affect my quality of life.
In September, I had a final MRI that determined exactly what was going on…
In fact, I do NOT have Ankylosing Spondylitis! It’s a herniated disc.
Honestly, my wife and I experienced such relief upon receiving those results. Laura and I even like to joke about it, because it’s not very often that people literally celebrate after learning they have a herniated disc! Haha.
My doc says since I’m a young male in good health, as long as I’m active, exercising properly, and “doing more of what helps and less of what doesn’t”, it’s possible that the herniation can resolve itself over time.
What Didn’t Go Well
Some things that didn’t go as planned
I was too “slack” for my own standards.
I feel I took too much time off, and wasn’t as “present” and focused during my workday as I should have been. I’m revisiting my habits, routine and schedule so that moving forward into 2018 I can be “in the zone” while working, and completely offline when I’m not working.
I’m a huge bottleneck in my business
I’m unintentionally preventing my business from major growth. I do way too much myself. I wrote a list of everything I do in my business, and then I organized everything into two sections: what only I can do, and what somebody else can do for me. Out of the 55+ major tasks I could think of, only 5 of those tasks are things only I can do (i.e. filming a video, performing a sales webinar, etc).
Quite literally, 90% of what I’m doing in my business should be delegated to team members. Moving forward, this will change; I’ve already started restructuring and delegating more than I ever have in the past.
How did I do?
- 35,000 email subscribers (not quite. 25,000 so far)
- 50,000 YouTube subscribers (close! 46,000)
- 300 paid Code College monthly members (close! 225)
- Increase total revenue at least 25% (not quite. 5% increase.)
- 4 weeks vacation, spread out throughout the year (definitely did this!)
- Fly first class somewhere (nope.)
- Attend a conference (not only did I attend one, but I spoke! A longtime goal of mine.)
- Meet 3 influencers in person (met and connected with at least 10 influencers I look up to)
- Get featured on Smart Passive Income (Yes! My story about standing out, and meeting Pat Flynn in person by singing karaoke on a Yacht was highlighted in the SPI podcast here: https://www.smartpassiveincome.com/podcasts/stories-of-failure-turned-success/)
- Get featured on EOFIRE (nope.)
I like to set far-reaching goals because they challenge me to be creative, force me to take risks, and inspire me to achieve greatness. In previous years, I’ve made it a habit to list the kitchen sink of my personal and professional goals, and while I do have a handful of personal and professional goals for 2018, this time I’m only going to publish what I believe to be my business essentials for this year — they’re big enough.
As the saying goes, “Goals without action are just dreams”, so not only am I going to list WHAT the goal is, I’m going to outline WHY it’s important and HOW I’ll achieve it.
Here are some of the primary goals I’m planning to achieve in 2018:
GOAL: 2X total business revenue
WHY: This may seem like a very lofty goal — and maybe it is — but the last couple years, I’ve been shying away from trying to make big leaps in revenue growth, and I feel like I’ve hit a plateau. It’s time for a change; to do things differently; to re-structure, and while my business is doing well, as I mentioned above, I’m doing nearly everything myself and I’m a huge bottleneck and preventing growth at this point. Also, while 2X the revenue would be awesome, this goal is not because I want more money; my surpassing this goal would mean that I’ve finally made the changes I desperately needed to make for the last 2 years.
HOW: Some of the goals in the list below are a part of the big picture strategy of double business revenue, but some high-level strategies I’ll employ are:
- audit and document everything I do each day
- hire the right team members
- delegate 90% of what I do to my team
- craft a vision/mission / objective for the business so we all know WHY we are doing what we are doing in the business
- create a clear business strategy for the year, and hire help to execute it
- invest in mentorship from successful entrepreneurs doing what I want to be doing
- find my “zone of genius” and dedicate myself to it; everything else must be delegated to people way better and more efficient than I am
- focus on more sales
- work efficiently, and execute every single day (work days, not off days)
GOAL: 40,000 email subscribers
WHY: Wider reach, connect with more people, more sales. A popular saying in business is, “the money is in the list”, simply because a business needs leads in order to make sales. It’s simple math: if sales convert at 1% (a common conversion rate in online business), and the variable is the number of people on your list, then sales should be 2X with a list of 40k vs 20k.
HOW: Create a consistent content schedule, publish blogs & videos more consistently. Keeping in mind, quality of content is more important than quantity of content, so the pieces that are created will be promoted more consistently, and easy to share. Increase my email opt-in rate in high traffic areas (YouTube videos, popular blog posts, free courses, etc.) because it’s easier to boost an opt-in rate vs. boost traffic.
GOAL: 80,000 YouTube Subscribers
WHY: Traffic. When you have a significant following on any platform, you get significant attention and traffic on the content you publish. I’m in a unique position where my YouTube channel is continually growing at a rapid pace, and if I can boost the subscriber numbers, that means my videos get more views, and those views turn into email subscribers (see goal #1 above).
HOW: Publish high value & teachable content on a consistent basis. Maybe 1 – 3 new videos per month. Quality is more important than quantity here. Also, ongoing social media promotion and paid advertising of my popular videos will boost subscriber numbers.
GOAL: 500 students in the Code College Membership
WHY: Higher monthly recurring revenue (MRR). Each student in the membership pays a monthly subscription fee to access all of my coding courses and a private community, among other benefits. MRR is like gold for an entrepreneur — it’s like our version of a “stable paycheque”. It’s nice knowing how much money you can reliably expect next month.
HOW: A huge focus on active sales & marketing of the membership. Up until this point, my strategy for getting paid members have been pretty “passive”, unlike the active sales strategy for my flagship course, Freelancing Freedom. I’m going to experiment with ongoing live webinars and paid advertising. We’re currently revamping the community and level of support students receive within the membership, as I want it to be the most valuable place for Front-End Developers to learn and grow!
What’s next for 2018?
As you can see, I have some very big plans for 2018, and I’ve already been strategizing so I can start the year on the right note. Here are a few things you can expect from me in 2018:
Consistency. Whether that means fresh content on my blog and YouTube, regular workshops and webinars, etc. I will be less “reactive” this year (publishing new content when I “feel inspired”) and will put a plan in place, and a system in place to execute consistently.
Customer Happiness. My readers, my students, and my long-time customers are the reason I get to do what I do. It’s at the point now where I simply cannot be the only customer support person in the business, so as my team grows, and their responsibility grows, I want to make sure that each student, each email and each request gets the time of day it deserves.
Freelancing Freedom. This course is a valuable asset for me as an entrepreneur, but it’s also an even more valuable resource and experience for the students within it. I’m going to be implementing a strategy to get more freelancers in the door, and even more, freelancers achieving results within the course. Last year, I launched the course only twice, and realistically, I can only do those big launches twice a year. So this year, I’ll stick with two big launches, but I’ll also create a few opportunities in between launches for more students to join.
Join the waiting list for the next time the course opens up!
If you’ve read this far, I appreciate you taking time out of your day for me. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the primary reason I write these reviews are for my own purposes, but I publish them publicly so that my readers & students can learn more about me and my business. Perhaps it will inspire you to make write your own annual review, make a big change, start something new, or grow your own business in 2018.
Do you have any outlandish goals or big plans this year? Don’t be afraid to share some of your goals in the comment section, I would love to hear from you!
Cheers & here’s to a meaningful and transformational 2018!