The Year in Review: What I Accomplished in 2015 and What I’m Doing Differently in 2016
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bit discouraged because I still haven’t launched a product that I intended to launch in mid-2015.
I guess if this was the first year I had failed to launch a product, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But this has happened multiple times throughout the years due to prioritizing client projects over my own.
I’ve been freelancing for more than 10 years now, and creating and launching products has always been a struggle for me.
But I don’t like to focus on my shortcomings since not much positive can come from that. So I started thinking about what I actually did accomplish last year.
It turns out, I accomplished much more than I thought. In fact, so many good things happened that it’s silly to dwell on any perceived failures from the last 12 months.
What I Accomplished in 2015
So what did I accomplish in 2015? Here’s a partial list:
- I had my best year ever as a freelance copywriter (based on gross income and net profit), topping my previous best which I achieved in 2011. This felt especially good since my worst year ever was 2013.
- I wrote the sales letter and email copy for a product launch that exceeded $1 million in gross revenue. This was a big milestone for me because: 1.) my previous record for a product launch was around $250,000. And 2.) as far as I know (since clients don’t always share numbers), my best single sales letter generated over $400,000. So I more than doubled my previous record.
- I paid off $23,462.39 of debt.
- My wife and I went on a 2-day “babymoon” in Frisco, Colorado in May. We then welcomed our 5th child into the world in October. (His name is Ivan.)
- I read 32 books. (Missed my goal of reading 36 books this year by a little bit. I lost a lot of time this summer due to more home projects than expected. I then lost more time in October when Ivan was born.)
- I added 1/2″ of muscle to my arms (circumference as measured when not flexing) and 1″ of muscle around my back/chest.
- The last week of December I achieved my goal of bench pressing two 100-lb. dumbbells, 200 lbs total. It wasn’t pretty, but I was able to knock out four reps.
- I went on my annual bike trip. This year we started in Breckinridge both days and did Vail Pass on Day 1 and Swan Mountain and Loveland Pass on Day 2. What made this year especially challenging is I did both rides on a recumbent bicycle. (See the picture at the top of this post. That’s my bike propped against a rail at the top of Vail Pass.)
- I canceled more than 30 domains, got rid of 10 websites that had been languishing online, and consolidated five hosting accounts down to one (thank you, Jared!). This will save me about $1,700 a year in hosting and domain renewal fees.
- I FINALLY found a CPA who has been able to streamline my accounting and tax reporting. Basically, I spent 8 years with the same CPA. His processes required a lot of involvement from me. And I always had a HUGE tax burden at the end of the year. I went through two other CPAs before finding my current one. I now get monthly income and expense reports AUTOMATICALLY with zero involvement from me. Plus, he’s now running monthly payrolls and I’m paying in taxes monthly, which will help with budgeting and reduce the year-end stress I used to experience.
- I took my kids on two separate two-day camping trips, one to Mueller State Park and the other to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. (I do two camping trips every year with my best friend and brother. Three dads and nine kids… what could go wrong?)
- I took my kids on the Light Rail to downtown Denver for breakfast and sightseeing. Also took my three eldest kids on a field trip to see the Denver Symphony.
- I served on the leadership team for the local Denver chapter of CXO Collective, a company that buys, grows, and sells businesses.
- I set a goal of submitting at least two legitimate business deals to CXO during 2015, and I hit that goal.
So those are most of the high points from last year — even though I have intentionally omitted a few things so as not to bore you.
What I'm Doing Differently in 2016
While I’m grateful for all the things I achieved in 2015, I want 2016 to be different — particularly on the business side.
I want to finally have that breakthrough year where I’m actively creating and launching my own projects. And I think some of my business successes from this past year have positioned me to be able to do this.
Obviously, I need to change my behavior to achieve what I want. And really it all boils down to two specific disciplines.
Discipline #1: Saying “No” More Often
As a freelancer, I’ve grown accustomed to saying “yes” to most of the clients and projects that come my way. I have learned how to say “no” to clients and projects and clients that aren’t a good fit for me. In fact, I’ve already said “no” to a lot of things over the last year.
But I need to say “no” even more.
I’ve already begun practicing this. Starting in August I began referring out almost all the leads that came my way. I did this partially because I was too busy, partially because I had a baby on the way, and partially to make time for my own projects.
Right now, I’ve got a couple solid retainer agreements. I’m already making more than enough to cover my relatively low monthly expenses, so it’s easy to turn away business.
By focusing on ONLY these two retainer agreements and not accepting any new clients, I’ll be able to spend my extra time building a business that does not require my daily involvement.
Discipline #2: Using the First Hour of Every Day for My Own Projects
Along with saying “no” more often, I also need to be intentional about spending the first hour of every day working on my own projects.
This means I must avoid checking email or doing any client work until I’ve logged at least a full hour on product creation or writing sales copy to sell a product I’ve already created.
I’ve come to realize this is the ONLY way I’m going to experience a breakthrough. If I don’t commit to this daily practice, I know that other things will sneak into my day and crowd out any time I might have otherwise had for myself.
Not only that, by the time 5 p.m. rolls around, it’s far easier for me to do just a little extra client work for 30 or 45 minutes instead of trying to shift gears and jump into one of my own projects. Plus, even if I did jump into one of my own projects, my creative energy has already been mostly spent writing for clients all day.
So if I leave myself as the last priority, then most days I’m simply not going to give any of my time or creative energy to projects that will help me break free of client work.
And that is why I fully intend and commit to:
1. Saying “no” more often — especially to new or additional client work.
2. Using the first hour of every day on my own projects.
Why I Have to Guard My Time More than Others
A long time ago, I made the observation that many of the most successful entrepreneurs and online marketers are either single or married with no kids.
Based on what I’ve personally observed during the five years since I wrote that article, my opinion has not changed.
Are there exceptions to this “rule”? Absolutely. Perry Marshall has four kids. Jason Leister has seven.
Single people and people without kids simply have more time, attention, and energy to devote to their businesses. Their businesses are, quite literally, their “kids.”
I, on the other hand, have five kids now. And I’ve simply not been willing to sacrifice my time with them to do extra business work. That means I limit my work time to a traditional work week. That’s 8:30 to 5:30, Monday through Friday, with a break in the middle of the day for lunch or a trip to the gym.
As a general rule, I don’t work late and I don’t work weekends — although I will put in an extra hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday if I need to fulfill on something I’ve promised to do.
It’s because of my commitment to being a family man who’s involved with his kids that it’s been so difficult for me to break away from the traditional freelancing model.
How to Be Intentional with Kids
As you can probably tell from my list of accomplishments, one of my priorities is spending quality time with my kids doing things THEY want to do.
So this year, recognizing that my wife was pregnant from January through September (and therefore somewhat limited), I started by creating a list of activities that I could do with my kids. I then asked the three oldest kids to put their initials next to the three things they wanted to do most.
When I reviewed the list, I discovered there was only one activity that all three of them wanted to do. They ALL wanted to take the Light Rail train downtown for breakfast and sightseeing. That immediately became my top priority. I was not going to let summer pass without making it happen.
So my brother and I scheduled a time to go up early on a Sunday morning when it’s relatively quiet in downtown Denver. He brought his eldest and I took all four of my kids (Ivan hadn’t been born yet).
My brother and I tag-teamed it and had a great time. The kids did, too. It was one of their favorite things from this last summer.
If you have kids, you might try doing this with them, too. You’ll probably be surprised by the activities they’re most interested in doing. I know I was!
I plan to take my kids camping twice again this summer. And I’ll be using the process I’ve just described to plan a few other field trips and outings. This is one thing I don’t want to change. :-)
A Quick Observation about Goal-Setting
For one year from mid-2013 until mid-2014, I was part of a local mastermind group with Ryan Masters and Travis Campbell.
Masters and I came up with a specific process for our monthly meetings to help get the most value out of them as possible.
Part of this process involved setting a process goal and an outcome goal each month.
A “process goal” is something you commit to doing every day or every week. It’s something you do repeatedly. An example of a process goal might be: “I’m going to exercise at least three times a week for the next month.”
An “outcome goal” is an outcome you’re committing to achieve, regardless of how you get there. So an example of an outcome goal might be: “I’m going to lose 10 lbs in the next 30 days.”
It’s worth noting that process goals and outcome goals don’t necessarily have to be related.
Anyway, I’ve discovered that process goals are more effective for helping me achieve my goals. Outcome goals are still good, but they are less effective for me.
If I simply focus on the right process, then I know the outcome I want will eventually happen. Working on the right things consistently, every day, every week, every month is what produces results.
What things did you accomplish or learn in 2015? What things are you doing differently in 2016? Please share by leaving a comment below.
-Ryan M. Healy