2019: Lessons from My Best Year Yet

December 30, 2019

Gosh, where to even begin? 2019 was such an incredible year and I feel like it was the moment that I finally came into my own as a business owner. There are so many things that I want to share for this post, so I’m going to break it down into a few categories for you:

  • Big Changes + Wins
  • Mistakes + Struggles
  • Money
  • Goals for 2020

Feel free to skip ahead to whatever you’re wanting to hear about the most because it’s probably going to be a long post. Ok, let’s dive in!

Big Changes & Wins

01 / Finding My Confidence

Of all the things that I did this year, working on my own confidence and mindset as a business owner has definitely been my biggest accomplishment. Back in December of 2018, I felt like I had hit a plateau with Wayfarer. I didn’t see myself as an ambitious, successful business owner and was convinced that I couldn’t set big goals or dream of scaling. I was unintentionally limiting myself and I think it all tied back to the way that I started Wayfarer. I didn’t start this from a confident, ambitious place. It was more of a “this is my only option, let’s just wing it and hope I don’t go broke” type of situation. I had held on to that mindset for over 2 years, sort of ignoring the progress that I’d made and refusing to acknowledge that Wayfarer could be more than a “let’s just wing it” business. So a lot of 2019 involved me trying to move past all of that and finally embracing my title as a business owner. And once I decided to stop being scared of growth, it’s like all these doors opened up! I did things that I never thought I would do and basically forced myself into situations where I needed to be confident. I did a few podcast episodes recently and I think that if 2018 Abbey listened to them, she wouldn’t even recognize herself because the way that I talk about my work and myself is just totally different. Money is great (and I’ll talk about that later), but simply having confidence in yourself can truly do wonders for your business.

02 / Lots of Moving

2019 had its fair share of adventures and although we’re pretty used to our crazy lifestyle by now, I was still impressed with how well we handles some of our moves this year. We started 2019 in Memphis, TN where my husband was playing basketball in the G-League (which is like a step below the NBA). Then in late January, he got traded to the team in Salt Lake City, UT. It was totally unexpected and chaotic! Tanner had to fly there immediately and I was left to pack up our apartment and move out there with our dog a few weeks later. It was a mess, but somehow we made it work. In April, we moved back home to WV and stayed with my parents for most of the summer. Then in late August, we moved to Portugal and we’ve been here since then. Another stressful move because it was our first time going abroad with a dog, but we figured it out. 🙂

Our lifestyle definitely isn’t easy, but we’re extremely lucky to get to experience so much and live in all of these places. And I’m so thankful that I can take Wayfarer with me wherever we go and be flexible even when we have to move unexpectedly.

03 / Scaling Wayfarer

2019 was also a year to try new things + grow my business. Like I said before, I did so many things this year that I never thought I’d do. Here are just a few:

Up until this year, I only had one avenue for making money in my business – client work. And as a one-person studio, I can only do so much client work at once. I knew that if I wanted to scale my business, I needed to diversify things a bit. So that was a big reason why I explored some of these new things. Outsourcing my web development freed up a lot of my time while increasing the value of my services. Then my course and shop brought in passive income so that I didn’t feel pressured to take on as many clients. And the podcast interviews and speaking gigs were all to help establish myself as an expert and gain trust with my audience. It was a lot of work to set some of these things up, but they’ve completely changed how my business works.

Mistakes & Struggles

01 / Saying Yes to Things I Shouldn’t Have

This is such a tough habit to kick. I’ve definitely gotten a lot better at picking up red flags with potential projects that let me know it’s not something I should take on, but I still had a few frustrating things happen this year that could have been avoided if I’d just said no. For me, it’s been a struggle to serve my clients really well without bending over backwards for them and, as a result, overworking myself. But this past month I was listening to an episode from the Being Boss podcast and they said something that really resonated with me – just because you have the capacity to take something on, it doesn’t mean that you should. Part of your job as the business owner is to actively reserve space in your business to handle all of the “boss” stuff. Space for making big decisions, working on your own business, updating your systems, working on personal projects, resting, and dealing with random emergencies when they pop up. I loved that shift in perspective because it can feel counterproductive to not fully book yourself, but it’s actually necessary if you want your business to run smoothly. And if you really want to transition from just being a freelancer to business owner, that’s something that you have to focus on. So to prioritize this more, I started implementing my #creativehealthday, which I’ve shared a lot about on my Instagram. It’s been a total game changer in helping me avoid burnout.

“Just because you have the capacity to take something on, it doesn’t mean that you should. Part of your job as the business owner is to actively reserve space in your business to handle all of the “boss” stuff.”

02 / Cancelled Projects

This year was the first time that I had clients cancel their projects with me. It really sucks to know that things weren’t working (and it also sucks to admit that happened), but I wanted to share because, well… it happens! Not every client ends up being the right fit and that’s ok. As the designer, I try my best to feel out if the client and I will work well together before they actually book with me. And like I said earlier, I’ve gotten a lot better at detecting red flags. But sometimes things slip past me or change during the project that I wasn’t expecting. It sucks, but it’s normal and I had it happen a fe times this year. Sometimes the problem was just miscommunication or something that could have been avoided. Other times, there were things happening on the client’s end that were out of my control. Either way, I just had to handle it professionally, learn from the experience and not take it too personally.

Money

Now we get to the juicy part – how much money I made! Now before I dive in, I want to talk about last year’s income. In 2018, I made around $15.5k with Wayfarer. ($12.7k after expenses) That’s obviously a low number for a yearly income, but I think it’s important to know and see how impactful all of the changes that I made this year have been. It’s also important for new freelancers/business owners to see what’s often the reality money-wise and how long it can take to make a comfortable income.

This year I saw a HUGE jump in my income, which was a result of all the new things that I was doing in my business. I ended up making $97.2k, which is CRAZY! I was so close to hitting six figures, which I honestly never thought I would be able to do with Wayfarer. And the passive income streams that I created played a big role in those numbers. My course and template shop brought in $52.5k, meaning I made $44.7k from my client work. It’s really amazing the difference that adding in another revenue stream can make.

Now the truth is that in order to make more money, I had to spend more money as well. I had $24.8k in business expenses, which is a lot and I’m hoping to spend less in 2020. BUT a lot of those expenses were crucial to all the changes that I was making. Around 40% of those expenses went towards courses and the the mastermind that I joined (which was probably my best investment ever). Since I was diving into all of these new things, I was eager to educate myself as much as I could. It was a little uncomfortable investing so much in this stuff, but I knew that if I could learn from an expert and set up my systems right the first time, it would end up saving me a lot of time and lead to me seeing the results that I wanted sooner. I also spent a lot more money on the systems that I use to run my business. I tested out new platforms like DubsadoTeachableThrivecart and Flodesk to help my business run more smoothly. I also invested in new contracts, which were a big expense.

Ultimately, this year was kind of a time to experiment and test out all the things, which cost some extra money. But now that I’ve found what works, hopefully my expenses will go down next year while my income continues to increase.

Goals for 2020

To be totally honest, some of my goals for 2020 are actually things that I planned to do in 2019 and just haven’t finished yet. But regardless, I’m still really excited about them! Here’s what I have planned:

  1. Launch my new website (first priority and very close to being done)
  2. Re-launch my course and make it evergreen
  3. Start doing interviews with other designers on my blog and more joint webinars (REALLY excited about this!)
  4. Be more selective about the projects that I take on + land some dream clients that I’ve been dying to work with (co-working space, coffee shop or restaurant and a fashion brand)
  5. Take 2 weeks off when we move back to the US in April/May. I’ve always been bad about not taking enough time off when we make our crazy moves. I know that when we get back to the US, I’m going to want to spend time with friends and family that we haven’t seen all year. So this time, I’m going to be more intentional about blocking that time off and not letting work get in the way (or feeling guilty about it).

Phew, that was a lot and if you made it all the way through – thanks for sticking with me! I feel like I barely even scratched the surface of everything that I learned this past year, but those were the key takeaways for me. Overall, 2019 was a year of tremendous growth for me. There were some growing pains, for sure, but it really was a great year. And I can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store!

– Abbey

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