End of 2021 Online Biz Recap

2021 Online Biz End of Year Wrap Up-Lessons Learned

It’s crazy to me that 2021 is almost over. This year has been WILD. All caps. 2021 has also been a pretty pivotal year in my online business so I thought that this would be a great time to talk about attending in-person conferences during the Corona, making money online and what I did to diversify my income. I’m also going to share what didn’t work and some of the strategies that I’m considering for 2022. Here are 12 lessons learned that helped grow my brand.

*In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please read my disclosure and privacy policy here.*

Listen to the Show

Related Episodes

Show Notes

  • Real talk, for the longest time I didn’t realize that I was building a brand. The longest time being 2012-2018. Seriously. I loved having conversations about money and I loved working online but I just didn’t know how to marry the two interests together in a way that made sense to other people and any brands that would want to partner or work with me. At the end of 2019 I kept having the feeling that the way my content was organized was a little confusing. I was a content creator in the personal finance space but I also loved talking about my state of Colorado, politics and building an online brand. I finally decided to do something that I’d been resisting, I pulled all digital business focused content off of my Michelle is Money Hungry website and podcast and tightened up the focus on that site. This gamble paid off. I’ve won 3 awards in the past 2 years, made more money and starting being approached by brands for collaborations. Sometimes you have to listen to your gut. Here are 12 lessons learned in 2021 growing my online brand.

Lesson #1 Diversifying Your Business Income is Smart

  • But, what no one tells you is that when you’re diversifying your business income that you have to be careful of having your focus “split.” It’s much easier focusing on one stream of income than it is on multiple streams of income at the same time. But, having diversified income streams in my business has helped balance out the pressure on different revenue streams within my business.

Lesson #2 Join a Mastermind Group

  • This year I was invited into a closed mastermind Facebook group that functions as a mastermind for high earning freelancers. I should mention that I’ve participated in free Mastermind groups since 2015 or 2016 and they’ve all played a huge, huge role in growing my brand. With the freelancers group I’ve seen the behind the scenes details in how these content creators have strategically grown their income with several members making $300k a year. I belong to 4 groups right now that have different areas of focus. I’ll share what they are vaguely.
    • One group is for POC content creators in the personal finance space.
    • Another group is for BIPOC podcasters
    • Freelance writers
    • A general group that I’ve been in community with for years.
      • You should outgrow your groups or expand your communities over time
  • This lesson could also be titled “It’s who you know

Lesson #3 Pay the Money-Hire Help!

  • In a previous life, I worked at a university. There was a point when the workload grew exponentially and we had to hire more staff which included student assistants and administrative staff. Hiring new staff helped me grow my role and I earned thousands more as a result. This year I hit a point in my business where I was at capacity and I wasn’t able to grow my income because I didn’t have time to do everything. So, I hired a virtual assistant and a podcast editor. While the onboarding was challenging because I was traveling so much, I absolutely loved have support. I spend between $500-$1,000 a month depending on my workload and what I need help getting done. My income has also grown significantly as a result. I’ll be sharing in upcoming podcast episodes how I found my virtual assistant and my podcast editor, what worked and what didn’t.

Lesson #4 Don’t Listen to the Naysayers

  • There are A LOT of content creators who believe the following:
    • That you shouldn’t start monetizing your podcast until you have an average of 10,000 downloads a month.
    • That getting paid .05-.08 cents a word for a freelance project is good pay after 3 years of freelancing
    • That it’s impossible to earn $10,000 a month with a small online brand
    • I’m here to tell you that they are all lies. LIES. Also, a lot of naysayers haven’t even put themselves out there enough to experience those wins. Unfortunately, in order to get to those numbers you’re also going to get in front of A LOT of rejection. That rejection hurts. But, it’s part of the process. You have to plant a lot of seeds in order to have projects and opportunities grown.

Lesson#5 Know Your End Goal and How to Get There

  • Not understanding your end goal trips up a lot of people. Your end goal could be:
    • Earning $10,000 a month
    • Time flexibility
    • Influence or Prestige
    • Publicity
      • Each of these goals impacts the actions that you’re taking on the backend of your business.
      • Earning $10,000 as a goal means having clarity around how you’ve decided to earn money, how many projects you would like to work on or how many products you need to sell.
      • Time flexibility is a business design conversation
      • Influence or Prestige often trips people up as they often believe having more followers=more money. It’s no the same and growing influence doesn’t equal earning more money. Those are two different systems that you would have to focus on.

Lesson #6 Let Go of What Isn’t Working

  • Sometimes things just don’t work in your business for whatever reason. It could be a product, service or a system. Be kind with yourself as you review quarterly what isn’t working and make changes to either get it to work or let it go. I have two examples I would like to share. I run a course called “Make Money with Ebooks” I absolutely love this course and the community that it serves. But, it hasn’t been selling. I put it on hold during 2020 because I just didn’t have the energy to deal with a global pandemic and creatives’ needs. Now I’ve had to really be honest with myself about how I want to sell this course. I don’t want to do launches. I want to sell it via a funnel. This means that I have to focus on list building in order for these sales to happen.

Lesson #7 Always Be Pitching

  • I’m referring not only to pitching organizations for projects but also creating content that helps to organically grow your brand without you having to constantly do it. This looks like:
    • Creating evergreen podcast content
    • Creating evergreen video content
    • Working on freelance projects or collaborating with other writers to grow your brand. This year I was on MSNBC, Apartment Therapy, Business Insider and More. Friends, family and strangers would reach out to me and share that they’d seen me out in the world.
    • Creating content so good that other people share it for you

Lesson #8 Thoughtfully Attend Conferences

  • Most people are attending way too many conferences. They are also underestimating how disruptive conference attendance is to growing their brands. I now alternate years when I attend most events and I’m trying to attend a maximum of 5 major conferences a year (including in-state events). If you’re providing content, speaking at an event, on a panel or just excited to travel-conference attendance takes a lot of energy and a lot of time to implement what you’re learning while at the event. This year I actually learned this lesson the hard way because I got way too excited about attending events in-person again. I attended: Podcast Movement in Nashville, FinCon in Austin, CampFi in San Diego and honestly, I’m exhausted from all the travel. This doesn’t include a work trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago.

Lesson #9 Schedule Rest and Create a Work Schedule

  • If you follow my social media feeds, then you’ll see that I go to the mountains quite a bit. I rest, I wander the forest, I eat good food and drink wine and I soak in the hot tub. It’s glorious and it’s necessary. I also front load my week and do deep thinking work at the beginning of the week and typically will work from a co-working space via my Deskpass subscription that allows to me check into a space wherever I happen to be. I also batch my content and really work hard to be ahead of my content distribution schedule.

Lesson #10 Set Harder Goals

  • The idea isn’t to stress yourself out if you don’t achieve your goal. It’s to push yourself a little harder so that you hit the sweet spot.

Lesson #11 Always Be Growing My Email List

  • This one is so painful. My email lists have been the one thing that I haven’t focused on and this shows in my passive income stalling out. I had to to be candid about my long-term goals and figure out the “gap” that was occurring between my goals and my results.

Lesson #12 Video Content is King

  • Currently, I produce no video content and this is actually a huge problem with my platform. I’ve decided to grow a YouTube channel and have been quietly working what that would like starting in January 2022. The idea is to supplement the other content that I’m creating via podcasts, etc. And to grow my email list.

3 Additional Bonus Lessons

  • Make time for what you care about-even if it’s not lucrative. One of my favorite projects that I worked on this year was a collaboration with another freelance writer on a piece about historical places of rest for African Americans. I was able to share Lincoln Hills a historic space located in the foothills of Denver that most people (Including African Americans outside of Colorado) are completely unaware of. Prioritizing these projects and collaborations helps keep me energized and focused on other parts of my business that sometimes…bore me.
  • Focus on Earning More-I plan on recording a podcast episode about underrearning in your business. But, if you want to stay in business-you have to earn more. This is a non-negotiable fact. And you may be your problem as it relates to underrearning. I was definitely mine.
  • Pace Your Projects-I write ebooks as part of the way that I earn passive income in my business. I way underestimated how much travel would impact my productivity and ended up writing 9 short ebooks at the end of the year. These aren’t my best books. I actually plan on removing them from the platform that I published them on, reworking them and then publishing them throughout 2022. While I’m super productive, the amount of work that I did during the Fall was unsustainable. I did learn another lesson-get it done.

Most people don’t understand that each platform does something different. Podcasts help grow familiarity with content creators, video helps to create trust and social media builds frequent contact with your audience.

Despite making mistakes by not growing my email list, not having video content, not showing up on social media all the time-I am ending December 2021 as my highest earning month ever. This year I won two awards, I leaned further into creating content that was 100% authentic and heart-driven. And, I decided to remove all business focused content from my Michelle is Money Hungry platform. I landed two big brand sponsorships and one even included being flown out to San Francisco to record a series of educational videos for a huge financial brand.

This year taught me to be bold. To be clear about my audience and who I’m serving. That I can get paid sharing content about what I care about. But what also made this a successful year was recognizing what wasn’t working. At the end of 2020 I signed on to be a part-time Community Manager. After one week, I knew it was a mistake. I ended up leaving that role at the beginning of February 2021.

Not being clear about boundaries specific to how I would like to earn money created bottlenecks within my business where I would spend an unreasonable amount of time trying to make a decision. I talked about this in last week’s episode about getting requests to be an affiliate for a product, or deciding if I should participate in a bundle with other creators or if I should continue writing easy but low paying posts (the answer is no to all of that).

Finally, this year has taught me that clarity of purpose and owning what I want is huge. I want to make money, I want financial freedom, I want time freedom and I love that my digital business is starting to help those goals come to fruition. The next episode for this podcast will release the second week of January 2022. It’s time to rest.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *