I started this exercise last year by publishing my annual review of 2016 on my blog.
I think it’s a great way to start your new year – reflect back on what you planned in previous year, what did you achieve, what did you miss and what’s the vision for the next year.
If you are an entrepreneur or running your blog as a business then you will learn from my mistakes of 2017 (look for “what went wrong” section). I am open to answer your questions if you ask in the comments.
Select Your Favorite Section
- What went well in 2017
- What didn’t go well in 2017
- What are the plans for 2018
What went well in 2017
Let me start with what I was able to achieve as per my 2017 goals.
#1. Helping people to start earning income online
One of my goals was to become a catalyst for people who want to start something online.
I set a goal to help 1000 people in starting online business.
It’s difficult to track the numbers as more than a million people read my articles on CashOverflow last year. Here is the snapshot of my annual traffic.
I wanted to track how many people are taking action.
So, I started weekly paid newsletters with two conditions
- Members have to take action
- They have to share their business progress with me
More than 500 people joined VIP Newsletters and by the end of year, 230 people are still updating me with their business growth progress.
I consider 230 as the number of actionable people whom I was able to help in starting or growing their online business.
#2. Building a team
This was not explicitly in my goal list but it happened very organically over the time.
One of VIP Newsletter members, Pavan contacted me for the work opportunity in June. But I neither had any plans to hire nor I had a hiring budget.
I interacted with Pavan over email and phone. I really liked his well structured thought process, his genuine interest in learning and willingness to work at less than market salary in the initial days.
He came with a background of product management having no experience in content marketing. I was not sure how he can help in my work so I asked him to work for a while to see if we have a mutual fit.
He never afraid to take challenges and always excelled in his work. We liked each other as person and we met each others expectations. He eventually decided to join me full time.
Pavan is managing all the content marketing at CashOverflow and other projects. We also have plans to execute bigger things in the future.
Later in November, I added another gem (Raghav) in my team. I know Raghav from a long time and he was helping me in writing content for CreditFrog. I loved his dedication to work and attitude of never giving up. He will write & manage the content of CashOverflow and side projects.
We are always looking for passionate people in our team. We may not be able to pay like a big corporate but you will get complete freedom to achieve excellence in your work. It doesn’t matter what education & experience you have. We look for future possibilities rather than past records.
#3. Sharpened Skills as Storyteller & Marketer
I have written this in my last year’s review & goals. I want to focus on story based marketing which can be practiced through blogging, email marketing, story decks, videos and visual graphics.
I am not good at creating graphics and videos but I can hire a team when I will be ready. The story is the soul of any great video or graphic work. That’s where I worked last year.
I have read books, blogs and courses to sharpen my storytelling skills. If you want to learn then you can start with book – Storytelling Made Easy. I practiced a little bit of whatever I have learned but it needs a lot of time to become an excellent storyteller.
2018 will be the year of practicing storytelling in emails, articles and videos.
#4. Establishing Roots of Conscious Business
I attended meditation retreats to connect with my inner self.
With time I learned that everything in our life is integrated – Food, Education (Parenting), Relationships and Business.
I started looking consciously at my physical and mental body – from there I became more aware of my food and lifestyle. My son is going to an integral education school where they focus equally on physical, vital and mental growth of child. We as a parents are participants in the education process and learned a lot about our conditionings & behaviour.
The same got reflected into our business ethics & processes. It’s not possible to become conscious in one area of life and stay unconscious in other areas. Business is an integral part of our lives.
We defined the three pillars of our business and the whole team is abiding by it.
Core Values as “The Dharma” of our business.
We are building a conscious business, that means as much as we love to make the money, it’s not the only goal of our business.
We are not maximizing wealth in terms of money but we always want to maximize the happiness & success of everyone connected with us directly or indirectly.
Our core values are based on three principles (Dharma).
What you are inside, the way you are outside.
If you understood that line, you know that genuinity, transparency, honesty and integrity will be included by itself.
Just being yourself is sufficient to be authentic.
Doing with a sense of offering.
While authenticity defines what you are, Sincerity defines how you perform the things. Doing things with utmost care, love and with the feeling of non-attachment.
Sincerity is not possible without being authentic at the first place.
Pursuit of excellence in our work is the end goal. The force that motivates us to do better than what we can.
It’s not about become best, that’s always in comparison to someone else. It’s not about achieving the perfection. Nothing is perfect in this world. Excellence is achieved by becoming better than what we were yesterday.
I am glad that I found a team who is willing to walk on the path defined by these core values.
#5. Re-defined the Audience for CashOverflow
It may sound funny but I was not sure in which direction I should take CashOverflow.
The target audience of CashOverflow was loosely defined as someone who is doing a job and want to start an online business to earn passive income.
2017 was the year of experiments.
I started following projects as experiments.
- VIP Newsletters (Weekly premium paid email newsletters)
- Premium Paid Facebook Community Groups
- A few new blogs on Travel, Credit Cards and WordPress plugin reviews
- A challenge to grow a brand new website to 10,000 monthly income within 6 months
- High value content marketing consulting for Startups
- Selling Paid E-Books
- Selling Courses on Content Marketing
I learned valuable lessons from each experiment whether the outcome of the experiment was success or failure.
After interacting with my audience, I have redefined my target audience as – Freelancers & Entrepreneurs who want to live Financial Independent life by earning from multiple sources.
I am yet to discover what level of help I can provide to this target segment. That I will figure out in 2018.
My content will be more aligned with financial management help to Freelancers, Marketers and Entrepreneurs in India. I will share hacks to save income tax, running business and setting up additional source of income.
I will share the excel sheets that I use to manage my income & expense records. If necessary, I can also make tools to manage income & expenses for easy reporting and paying taxes.
#6. Some Other Exciting Things happened in 2017
September: Started working as Growth Consultant for a parenting startup BabyDestination and later became their Chief Content Strategist
December: Attended Affiliate World Asia Conference in Thailand. Met interesting people and learned about hidden world of affiliate marketing.
December: CashOverflow has won the best personal finance award from IndiBloggers
What didn’t go well in 2017
#1. Three Months of Demotivation Period
Everything was going fine in terms of growth and revenues but somehow I stopped feeling motivated in September 2017.
It was a weird feeling. I was not excited to sit in front of computer to do the work like I was doing in March/April time.
This year I did a lot of hard work in running experiments at a fast pace. I thought that my body & mind is tired. I took small breaks but I could not bounce back.
I tried to change my work schedule. I tried many different things to fix the issue at the surface level but the root cause very deep
I will write a separate post on how I identified the root cause of my demotivation.
I came out of demotivation after closing down a portion of my business which was profitable. I will talk about in details sometime later but just telling you that I lost my energies while struggling in that demotivation zone.
#2. Closure of profitable business units
I started selling E-books and courses as an experiment and it worked out well.
I made more than 3,00,000 rupees by selling digital products. It’s like selling air. It’s one time effort to create a course (or E-book) and keep selling for lifetime without any manufacturing or delivery cost.
The only cost involved is the monthly charges of Email marketing tools.
I understood the business of selling digital goods but somehow I was not happy. Later on I discovered that it’s related with the demotivation that I started experiencing in September.
As I said, I will write a separate article on that someday, for today, let me close with this note that I am feeling much better after closing my courses business.
What are the plans for 2018
#1. Shifting mindset from Goals to Vision
Difference in setting goals and setting vision
Difference in expansion version concentration
Difference in going wide vs. going deep
Difference in giving value vs. extracting value out of someone)
Earlier my focus was largely on achieving goals. For example, to drive a traffic of 100,000, 200,000, or 1 million to CashOverflow. But, despite achieving or moving closer to these goals, I was not happy.
Setting goals put pressure on the mind, quality is often compromised in order to meet the goals and mind gets disturbed when goals are not met within time.
I now realize that goal setting is a skewed way of thinking and what was actually needed is a shift in mindset from Goals to Vision.
Goals are helpful and necessary but they have their limitations. But, a Vision is something much greater than that. A vision is your WHY. A vision is what you deeply believe in. It’s what that keeps you motivated from inside to go out and do whatever you want to do – be it life or business.
Upon some deep thinking, I realized that whatever my business venture, my vision has always been to impact the lives of people who can really make a difference to their lives and to people around them.
Keeping longer vision in mind, we set short term goals to track work progress but we are not attached with goals. We measure the success not in terms of meeting goals but how close we are getting to our vision.
Our focus will remain on people even if that means less revenues. Impacting the lives of 10 people is more important than hitting 1 million monthly traffic. However 1 million monthly traffic is good to have metric and we will get that organically when the right time will come.
Now, because of this shift in mindset, whatever I do in 2018 – be it CashOverflow, side projects, or my dream project of starting a liberal digital marketing agency, all seem to be worth it.
Importantly, this shift in mindset towards Vision helps me move away from the mindset of me, me, and me alone. In general, marketers try to sell you all kinds of stuff you don’t need.
They are just trying to extract something from you. They project that they are giving something which is of value to customers, but, more often than it is not. It’s all about selling their products after winning the trust of their readers.
I don’t want to do that. Rather, I want to focus on creating more value for my audience, for my inner circle members, for my clients, and for people who are interested in working with me.
Because ultimately, I know that when I give more than I take, I will receive more gratification and satisfaction.
#2. Conferences & Meetups
Travelling to attend global conferences
As I stated above, one of the exciting things that happened in 2017 was that I got a chance to attend Affiliate World Asia Conference in Thailand. It was my first International Affiliate conference.
Honestly speaking, I was not so keen to attend because I am not a core affiliate marketer. But I found side benefits of attending the conference.
This got me thinking and I now plan to attend many such conferences in the year 2018 spread across the below verticals
- Content Marketing (Organic Growth of Startups with Content)
- SEO Events (Meeting with SEO Gurus & Bloggers)
- Digital Marketing + Affiliate Marketing
Most of these conferences will be held by the leading marketers and top level executives from across the World. Attending such conferences will help me understand how fast the industry is evolving, check out the latest tech and tools in this field, exchange ideas with my peers,and network with founders & growth VP’s of startups.
Also in 2018, since I will continue to consult startups with their content marketing and growth efforts, attending these conference will help me to bring some new ideas to my clients.
First time in my marketing career, I got inspiration to try out paid marketing if that is based on viral content.
Regular meetups of Inner Circle
I have stopped taking new members into VIP Newsletters and changed the name of VIP Newsletters to Inner Circle for the existing members. I want to focus my energy on organizing meetups for my inner circle members.
This has been long due pending and many of my inner circle members have expressed their intent for meet-ups. The informal meetups will happen in cities like Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
The primary purpose being
- Meeting with like minded people who are working to become financial independent.
- Expose the members to new ideas which are difficult to share and discuss online
- To help them with their business growth by sharing my knowledge in the form of tactics & strategies
- To form deeper connections with members by knowing their background stories, ambitions, and learning from them.
- Push each other to achieve their business goals.
Lastly, I myself hope to seek inspiration from these meetups to give me that energy to achieve what I intend to for 2018. That inspiration is itself priceless.
#3. Free Education
(Free courses without any upsell of paid course (means no trick to convert you into a paid course after providing a low value free course material)
Free discussion portal and communities on Facebook
Free physical workshops (participants have to go through a filtering process)
Education and Health has always been FREE in Ancient India. Education as a business is a western concept.
I got into education as business model – mostly because all big marketers are doing it and it’s the most profitable business model.
Now I am changing my path:
We will charge only in cases where we will have to invest significant time on some person or organisation, like in the cases of consulting, multiple rounds of reviewing/feedback, or personalised mentorship/education.
Group education and online courses will be provided FREE without diluting the content quality. That means you will get the same quality of content that many marketers provide in their paid courses.
I and my team plan to conduct free course/workshop for people interested in learning content writing and marketing. But the participants will go through a filtering process and once we select the candidates, they will be put through the course.
We have to make sure that the quality education will be available to quality people to best utilise our time.
During the course/workshop, candidates will learn all aspects of content writing and marketing including SEO. We will give them the assignments from our projects and help them in writing high quality content.
The communities are very powerful by itself. I will spend more time in building & nurturing communities on Facebook Group in 2018. You can join existing group Blogging to Business.
We will share with them the necessary content guidelines, strategies, tips, and provide them feedback on their work. We will hand hold them till they reach a level of decent expertise.
If we love their work then we will involve them full time in our projects.
#4. Transparent & Liberal Digital Marketing Agency
This has been my dream project for sometime now. It is also the most challenging one to execute.
You see, starting a digital marketing agency by itself is not so difficult. But, I am looking to build something different. The DNA of my agency will run on the same three core principles that I mentioned earlier – authenticity, sincerity, and excellence.
Which means everything that associates with this agency- be it the people, the process, or the business itself will be focused on not only maximizing wealth but also the happiness and success of every participant.
Every process will be so transparent that every member would have access to client’s proposals, income/expense reports, resource allocation, and profit distribution.
Everything will be run on a voluntary basis. I will facilitate the process initially but hope to have the community running automatically after a few years.
What About You?
I am excited to start my 2018 and looking forward to your participation and support for making it awesome.
Leave a comment and let me know what are your plans?