This is the first time that I’ve written an annual review. I have mixed feelings about their usefulness to people other than the author, but I do actually enjoy reading other people’s. So hopefully you’ll enjoy reading mine!
This year has been a great year for me personally, but a mixed year for my business. It has been a year of transition and repositioning. I’ve been in the slow process of moving away from being entirely focused on Drupal consulting and education (I'm still doing it, it's just not my only speciality now) for a few years, and this year I accelerated this with a view to completing the transition. As a result, my business revenue took a bit of a hammering! More on all of that follows.
What went well
Everything I do is for my family - to provide for them, and to build a lifestyle business that helps me be a better husband and father. I have made some great memories with my family this year.
At the start of the year, we were in NZ visiting my mum. And then we decided not to travel overseas again (as a family) for the rest of the year. So we spent our summer vacation in Wales, which was amazing! Don’t tell anyone, but it is as good as Cornwall, and half the price.
My only overseas trip was a long weekend in Sweden for a dear friend's birthday, with another dear friend. We had a fantastic time and I definitely want to do this sort of thing again.
And then in October, my mother came over to visit us. It was great to have her here and to show her around the area (London, Surrey, East Sussex). She absolutely loved it here!
Weight loss & fitness
At the start of the year, I was overweight and had a long term illness as a result. I decided it was time to really do something about it, so my wife and I focused hard on eating better and exercising more. I also gave up alcohol for the first four months of the year, started spinning and weight training again. Within the first three months of the year I had lost 10kg and was back within the healthy weight range. The long term illness also completely cleared up.
As I mentioned in the introduction, 2019 was a year of accelerating transition for my business. I believe I’ve found my focus, which is a balance of interests, and builds on education being at the core of what I do. You can read more about this in the focus for 2019 section.
Loving my clients
Even though I didn’t have enough client work during the year (revenue was down), I love the clients that I have and I worked on some deeply engaging projects. These projects were right in my wheel house of fusing custom development, education, membership focus and marketing automation.
Delivering training and talks
I’ve delivered Drupal training sessions a few times this year. It is always a rewarding experience to be able to enable others to do their work more effectively.
I also delivered a few talks and was a panelist at local meet-ups. In one of them, I themed the entire talk around Game of Thrones, which was a real hit!
I launched blairwadman.com (this site!) as a second site (the first being BeFused). This enables me to have two focused websites, rather than one website and brand that was trying to cover everything.
This site is the home of my educational content for membership organisations and educators and is primarily focused on breaking down the barriers to marketing automation for them. It will also showcase my custom development and marketing automation services.
Launched Blogging for Developers
I launched a new email course called Blogging for Developers in November on BeFused. I haven't promoted it yet at all, but I will do in 2020 as I know it will help a lot of developers to better market themselves, and get better quality work as a result.
Other things I’ve enjoyed or accomplished
- We are into the fourth year for our Mastermind group. We often talk about the mastermind being like each other's board of advisors, and I wouldn't be where I am without them
- My wife’s business, Sugar Plum Bakes, is going from strength to strength. It is truly amazing to be able to talk shop with my wife and she is my most trusted advisor as well as source of inspiration
- I got a standing desk for my home office, and it's amazing!
- Having our new healthy lunch (homemade soup) with my awesome wife, every day
What went less well
As mentioned, I didn’t quite pull in enough client projects this year. As a result, my annual revenue was down, way down, on the previous year. That hurt. It is all for good reason though as it is pretty hard to transition without taking a financial hit. This year will need to be better, but I have done the ground work to ensure that it is.
Daily writing habit
I did improve my content output from 2018, but I didn’t manage to stick with my daily writing habit. This is something I’m committed to keep working on though.
I don’t want to get all political here, but I did find the whole Brexit and UK election process in 2019 to be tortuous and a massive distraction. I had big concerns about what was going to happen to the UK, and my business as a result. As it stands now, I feel like the country is finally moving on. I am too. Negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU, US and other countries is going to be hard and fraught with difficulty, but I’m not going to allow it to distract me anymore. There isn’t a damn thing I can do about it anyway, except make my business and my clients' businesses stronger.
I stopped most social media
This is both a good thing, and a bad thing. There are two reasons why I stopped. Firstly, the amount of negativity and people posting their political opinions on my feeds has increased to the point where I didn’t want to read my feed. Whether it was Trump, Brexit or the UK elections, it was a never ending source of negativity. Secondly, Slack seems to have replaced social media for me.
But I do miss Twitter in particular. I miss the engagement with people that I wouldn't otherwise have. Sometimes those engagements turn into real world friendships. So I want to get back to Twitter. I'm going to try and reduce the noise of overly negative and political opinions by muting or unfollowing people who don't have anything more valuable to share. And I'll focus more on people who are genuinely sharing how to build better online businesses (fellow entrepreneurs and educators), or a better web (fellow developers).
What did I learn?
Small projects can lead to cashflow issues
I actually did more projects in 2019 than in 2018, but some margin. But they were small to medium size projects, with some retainers. Whereas in 2018, I completed some large projects. To bring in the same revenue as bigger projects, you need more of them. And to get more of them, you need more deal flow. I didn’t have enough deal flow. Why? Year of transition. Yes that word again. Next year will be better.
Marketing automation systems at a deeper level
I’ve now worked with four leading marketing automation systems - Drip, ConvertKit, Pardot and Campaign Monitor. As I continue to spend more and more time on these system and implementing marketing automation strategies, I’m learning it at a much deeper level. Which is just as well, because I love marketing automation and it’s a key part of my focus going forwards.
I took part in Paul Minors' excellent Virtual Consulting programme. Why is it excellent? Because Paul not only outlines the strategies that he has used to build his successful virtual consulting business, he clearly walks through exactly how to set it up. It’s comprehensive, action packed and wonderfully presented. I’ve already started implementing it, and will continue to do so in 2020.
I’ve learnt a lot from Elizabeth Goddard over the past two years. She is a ConvertKit expert and online business coach. One thing that stands out in 2019 was her Anti-Planning workshop, which is part of her Business Playground programme. In a world of planning, goals and roadmaps, I found the anti-planning workshop to be a very refreshing take on it. The key idea is that you don’t need to plan as much as you think you do. And goals can be a dead weight hanging over you.
Focus for 2020
I’m going to continue to create content for my two primary websites, BeFused and blairwadman.com. Here is a high level view of the purpose of each:
BeFused: breaking down the barriers for developers to improve technical skills and market themselves.
This represents a shift from focusing just on Drupal education, to helping web developers more holistically. I’ll be focusing on shipping the following:
- Blogging for Developers: a free course helping developers get started, or improve, blogging (with a view to securing better quality work)
- Developer to Author: re-launch of a book I wrote a few years ago
- Conquer Drupal 8 Module Development: a new edition
- Improvements to my marketing automation and personalisation setup (a never ending process)
blairwadman.com: breaking down the barriers for educators and membership orgs to leverage marketing automation tools.
I launched this site in 2019 to serve two purposes:
- A place to teach marketing automation strategies and tools
- A place to highlight my consulting services
My consulting services are focused on educators and membership organisations these days. And that will remain my primary audience for this site in 2020. I’ve learnt a lot about marketing automation and personalisation in the past few years, and I have a strong desire to share that knowledge and break down the barriers for other educators to learn it. I’m also going to be creating videos for my new YouTube channel.
I’m now offering the following services on blairwadman.com:
- Coaching and training to help people to leverage tools like ConvertKit, RightMessage and Pardot
- Custom projects, such as new custom (normally Drupal powered) membership sites, e-learning development, strategic rollout of ConvertKit and Pardot.
Planning the year ahead
This is a brief summary of how I’ve been planning my years and quarters: I have a high level idea of what I want to change and what I want my typical day to be like at the end of the year. And then I create a plan for each quarter, with a similar idea of what I want business and life to be like at the end of the quarter (which is moving towards the year end vision). I've created a mindmap to work backwards from this end goal. And then in the mindmap, projects or routines will emerge, and they go into my task management app (Things 3) to action.
For the first quarter, these are the projects I’ll be working on:
- Re-launching Developer to Author
- Promoting Blogging for Developers
- Securing clients who need help with marketing automation & personalisation tools like ConvertKit, RightMessage and Pardot
- Increasing content creation for blairwadman.com, BeFused.com and my YouTube channel
My learning focus will be on deeper marketing automation and personalisation. A lot of this is through experience and experimenting, but there is no doubt that learning from others can accelerate it. I’m going to dive into Brennan Dunn’s Mastering ConvertKit as soon as I can in the new year, and I’m sure I’ll pick up more than a few advanced strategies from it.
After a less than ideal year in 2019, I’m feeling very positive about 2020. Everything seems to have come together and for the first time in a long time, I know exactly what I’m focused on and where I want to get to.
Building a small business is hard, but with the right combination of focus, people around you, hard work and willingness to genuinely serve your audience, it is not only do-able, it’s immensely rewarding.
Happy New Year to you all!