Riding the small business roller coaster
Following 2020, we all had great hopes for 2021. We’ve had it relatively easy here in South Australia, but as my 2021 year in review shows, that doesn’t mean I escaped the influence of COVID-19, lockdowns and all the challenges that brought.
Even when things were good here in the Barossa, there was a feeling that the year was still a bin fire. It felt strange to be enjoying our freedoms while half the country was stuck at home.
But here we are, almost at the end of the year, and there’s a sense that we’ve turned a corner. There is still uncertainty about what ‘living with COVID’ will look like. As we head towards the summer break, I’m optimistic as I look back on another year in business and plan for 2022.
I thought we’d seen the worst of the virus. 2021 was going to be the year to scale my business. It was great to have several retainer clients who provided regular work and income. I was also excited about attending some in person events and being able to travel.
Ah, the best laid plans
Let’s start the 2021 year in review with stuff that didn’t go so well out of the way first.
COVID-19 started to mess with my plans in May. I was in Melbourne for the Huddle, finally spending some quality time with my TCCS and DMC buddies and Kate Toon. Arriving on Monday all seemed normal. But by Tuesday lunchtime, our Geelong event the next day and drinks that night were off, and I was frantically re-booking flights. I made it back to South Australia 4.5 hours before I would have needed to quarantine for 2 weeks. One night of isolation and 3 COVID-19 tests later and all was back to normal (whatever that was).
I was fully vaccinated by the end of June, but it all seemed for nothing when we went into a 7-day lockdown the day after my birthday in July. By that stage Melbourne was in lockdown and all of Sydney was stuck at home, so we could hardly complain. The weather was foul and there was work to do.
Outside of COVID-19 (because who wants to read a blog about it), overwhelm was a big struggle in 2021. After two years in business, it was great to have a regular flow of clients. But I soon realised that saying yes to everything straight away was dangerous. It took losing a few prospective clients and a few ‘sorry I’m late’ emails for me to realise I needed to manage my workflow better. I also needed to make time to work on my business.
2021 wasn’t all bad
It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘2021 was crap’ feeling. But sitting down to write this year in review post and looking at the past year, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t super happy.
May marked two years of working full time in my business. My income has increased. Because of the way I manage my money (thanks Profit First and Xero), I was ready to pay each quarterly BAS and my income tax bill.
A huge highlight this year has been being part of Kate Toon’s team supporting the TCCS and DMC memberships. Writing copy for such an experienced copywriter has been nerve-wracking at times, but the best way to learn and to improve my craft.
Other client work has continued to be varied. I’ve written about disaster resilience, local government, sustainable period products, rural finance, agricultural technology, real estate and climate change.
A referral from a friend turned into a regular stream of work with a boutique Adelaide agency. It’s great work and they are super lovely people to work with. I’ve provided copywriting support for their clients and worked with them to update their website copy and SEO.
Receiving a call from a major grocery chain’s wine brand one day was quite unexpected. I didn’t even realise the person who recommended me knew I was a copywriter. I wrote about 50 wine back labels in two weeks, which was both challenging and fun. And even more exciting when I saw the labels in the wild a few months later. That first job was followed by two more and what I hope is a semi-regular gig.
Working on my business
I have increased my profile thanks to new words and branding. I knew I would never prioritise rewriting my website, so I was glad to offload it to my friend, Cal Chikwendu. And when a discussion with one of my DMC members about colours turned into the opportunity to work with a designer starting out, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t expect to get a whole new brand identity, including my new logo, colours and brand elements.
I’m putting the finishing touches on my website and working with my amazing developer to make sure my website looks great, no matter how you’re accessing it.
Part of my profile building was the decision to sponsor the Quiet Achiever Award for SA Woman. The finalists were all amazing and it was a huge buzz to get up on stage and present the award at the dinner for 300 people in mid-November.
In October, I also took the big step of engaging Steph from Virtual Associate Services. I needed someone who could help me get some clarity about what I needed to do in my business and then hold me to account. It’s thanks to Steph that you’re even reading this year in review blog, because for far too long, I haven’t prioritised working on my business.
Happy clients = happy copywriter
Without a doubt, the best reward for this work is a happy client. From small businesses starting out to big companies, knowing I have delivered copy that will help them connect with their customers and supporters to sell their products and services is a huge buzz. And it definitely feels good to read the nice things clients have said about working with me.
Always learning, always growing
The other positive to come from 2021 was continuing to learn new skills. Whether through formal training, the actual writing or just running my business, I definitely feel like I am ahead of where I started.
2021 also taught me that there isn’t really an end point. As long as I am in business, there will be ups and downs. Projects that flow smoothly and those that are a bumpy and often uncomfortable. As long as I learn from the highs AND the lows and keep moving forward, I’ll be creating a successful and enjoyable business.
And the big lessons:
- Project management and realistic timeframes are key.
- I don’t have to say yes to every project (and it’s ok to make people wait).
- I’m a better business owner when I’m fit and healthy.
Plans for 2022
While doing this year in review, I started to think about my plans for 2022. And they’re pretty simple.
Just keep doing the do. Obviously, I’ll continue to improve the work I do and the way I work. I’ll continue to learn new skills, but not at the expense of getting work done.
I want to increase my profile. Until now, so much of my business has come from friends and clients who have recommended me. I’m planning my content for next year, which will finally include a newsletter alongside social media posts and regular blogs. In 2022, I want to do more speaking, at events and on podcasts.
Working with Steph has forced me to plan more and to be more realistic about the time I have for my business. Once our house renovations begin, I’ll need to be more disciplined.
Because of the renovations, one big change I will make is where I work. Once we start renovating, I’ll have a permanent desk at Workspace Barossa. Once we move back into our house, I’ll have a new space overlooking the garden. I’ll still use Workspace for meetings and a change of scenery.
2022 is also 30 years since I left Australia as a 17-year-old for a year as an exchange student in Denmark. This experience changed my life and my aspirations. I’m excited about getting together with a big group of Australians that shared this life-changing experience for a weekend in Victoria.
I think we have to accept business will continue to be challenging for many industries. I’ve been fortunate to grow my business in the last two years, but many businesses will struggle without specific COVID-19 relief.
One big goal for 2022 would be to have a consistent flow of work and income across the entire year and increased income.
How was your 2021?
Have you done a year in review for 2021?
Was it what you expected?
Have you started planning for 2022?
I’d love to hear from you.
Over to you
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