2013: A Year in Review

Before I sat down to write this post, I felt like I didn’t get a whole hell of a lot done this year. But then I remember that I only started this whole ‘make money from writing online’ thing a little over a year ago. I made my first pound (well, more like thirty) on 26 September 2012. I quit my job at the end of November 2012. Since then, all my income has come from freelancing or, as I later came to think of it, my writing business.

And then I wrote a list of all the things I’ve accomplished over the past year, and it looked more impressive than I expected.

What was my life like this time last year?

I was writing 500 word articles for under £5 apiece, and Untamed Writing didn’t exist.

I was going to pad this out a bit more, but I think that says it all.

What went well in 2013?

The World Domination Summit
I attended WDS for the second time this year and I can say, without a hint of irony, that it is life-changing. I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am now without it and the crowd it attracts. It’s phenomenal.

In 2012 I could only afford to go for a few days over the weekend. This year, I went for a full three weeks and had some fantastic adventures. Seventeen hour train journeys, staying with a dear friend in Modesto, visiting San Francisco for the first time, staying in a cabin in the woods (for free, and in the non-murdery way), dancing my ass off with my people. Oh, my people! I’ve found you and I love y’all.

The Hundred Dollar Club
I guess this is what you’d call a ‘mastermind group’. Basically, we’re a group of like-minded people that came together because of my good friend Rob, who I met at WDS in 2012. We chat on the regular in a private Facebook group and, even though we were strangers at first, I now consider them all good friends and I love them, and they’re who I turn to when I’m having a ‘What the shit do I do now, guys?!’ moment.

We also wrote a book together, which you can download via the website. If you want a concise yet comprehensive guide to starting your own online business, go get it. It’s free.

I came up with the concept of Untamed Writing
I didn’t brew up Untamed Writing until a couple of months into the year, and I launched it officially in April. Before then, I was operating under the name Deft SEO, which wasn’t very indicative of where I wanted my business to go. But it was a start.

If you’re stuck on what to call your business, just pick something and go with it. You can always change it later when you have a better idea of where you’re going. If I’d never taken those first simple steps back in September 2012, who the fuck knows where I’d be now. Still pouring pints? Having to work shifts till 2am for £7 an hour? Ugh. Don’t hang around waiting for the perfect idea. Just crack on and see what life throws your way.

I got some awesome photos taken
See all the photos of me around the site? Aren’t they fucking brilliant? They’re exactly what I wanted; they fit my brand perfectly. And they were free, because my brother is a super talented photographer. (Check out his other stuff here.)

You don’t need to spend a ton of money getting professional photos taken. Or a professional website created. Or a professional logo designed. Ask around. Maybe your friends can help (or know someone who can), maybe you can exchange services with someone else who’s just starting out, or maybe you can learn to do it yourself. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be bloody perfect. It just needs to be something. You can’t very well run an online business without a website, so figure out how to make it happen.

Untamed Writing Limited is a thing
That’s right, kids. I incorporated. I put on my big girl pants and decided to stop fucking about as a Sole Trader. I’m in this for the longhaul, so even though there are some bigger upfront costs than if I’d remained a Sole Trader, running a Limited Company will be more financially rewarding in the future. Did I just say ‘financially rewarding’? Yes, I did. Suck it.

Set yourself up for the business you want to have, not the business you do have. It’ll make things easier in the long run.

Accountants, bookkeeping and contracts
When I put my big girl pants on, I went all out – belt, braces, safety goggles, ear defenders… things like that. Um. So yeah, long story short: I got an accountant, who helps me with my taxes and stuff. I also started using proper accounting software for all my bookkeeping, instead of fucking about with tedious spreadsheets and hoping my home-made invoices had the right details on.

I started implementing contracts with all new clients too. Seriously. Get your business set up as officially as possible, as soon as possible. You’ll save yourself a lot of ballsing around and wondering if you’re doing things right. The accounting software I use is called FreeAgent, by the way. It’s cloud-based, does everything a small online business needs, and, most importantly, has awesome, hilarious writers on its team. (Use that link and you get a 10% discount, and so do I.)

I launched my first course
S’right. I’m a teacher now. I teach people how to get started with freelance writing the exact same way I did. The next class runs this coming Friday (January 3).

It’s always good to have a few income streams, though it took me a little while to figure out how to branch out with Untamed Writing. The first lightbulb moment was when I started outsourcing some of my content writing work, which left me time to work on other stuff, such as launching my writing class and finding copywriting clients, both of which are better paying than content writing.

What didn’t go well?

Ahem, you may have noticed. I never made it a priority, and in the latter part of the year, I decided to stop it altogether until I got my shit together. I was sick of scrabbling about and pulling a post together at the last second because, Oh, it’s been over a week since I last wrote anything. I’m a writer. I need to write more, and I need to think about what I’m going to write before I write it.

Reading business books
I barely read any business-related books this past year. Which is kind of good, because I still got on with things, and I don’t want to be one of those people who reads and reads and reads and never does anything with the information. But, you know… learning is good.

I did, however, finally finish reading Game of Thrones. Wow, that’s a long series. Which I started reading before I even made my first penny from writing. So that’s a thing.

Working to a set schedule
If I had to describe my working style over the past year, I would call it ‘wingin’ it’. Sure, I’ve done a great job meeting my deadlines, but I wasn’t exactly efficient about it. I can’t count the number of stressful last-minute days I’ve put myself through. I could probably tell you the number of times I got work done ahead of schedule though. Cough.

I need to focus and plan more, and not agree to hang out with anybody who asks, any time. Jesus.

How do I want my life to be different this time next year?

I’ll work harder
This is the big one, from which stem all over fablas things (shan’t bore you with all the details of said fablas things I have in mind. Will, however, continue to say ‘fablas’ because I think it’s hilarious). Anyway, I think this has something to do with working a set schedule or building some solid habits or something. I’m working on it. Pretty sure this brand spanking new daily planner is going to have a lot to do with it.

I’ll have moved out of my flat
I don’t know where I want to go, exactly, but I figure I’ll need to have moved on before the year is out. Maybe I’ll move into a place on my own in Edinburgh. Maybe I’ll just move into somewhere with a living room (oh god, how I dream of a living room. I know, it’s weird that I don’t have one, right?). Maybe I’ll take my business on the road (sort of the reason I started it in the first place). What I do depends on a whole bunch of factors – all I know is I can’t bear another winter in that old tenement flat. My socks aren’t thick enough.

I’ll have travelled more
I only left the country a couple of times this year. (The US in summer and Berlin just a couple of weeks ago.) Which isn’t enough for my restless soul. I intentionally started an online writing business so I’d be able to travel wherever, whenever. I need to take advantage of that more.

So that’s my year.