2014: A Year in Review

Holy shit, what a year, eh? I’m completely bemused at how it’s almost over already, although when I read back over last year’s review, I realise how far I’ve come. Something incredible dawned on me a few days ago: I haven’t worked ‘a job’ for over two years now, which is pretty fucking awesome. (Especially considering that I also have a lot more money in the bank than I did back then. I’m still not rich, but I’m working on it.)

ANYWAY. Let’s get to it.

What Untamed Writing Was Like This Time Last Year

I’d just started teaching my first freelance writing course, The Quickstart Class, which back then was just known as Untamed Writing School. I’d run the course twice in total, and was feeling excited at the possibilities.

I wasn’t blogging regularly. I was blogging incredibly sporadically. Not good. My ‘productivity’ and ‘work schedule’ were also pretty much non-existent, unless you count, ‘Oh fuck! I should really write something!’ Which I don’t. Obviously.

I’d just incorporated and taken on an accountant.

I still had a few SEO-article clients, had just taken on my first proper copywriting client, and had lined up a few big jobs for the new year.

What Went Well This Year

The Quickstart Class
Something I never envisioned when I decided to start this writing biz of mine was that I would become a teacher. But here I am, helping other people make their dreams of becoming freelance writers come to life. I saw a distinct need in the marketplace for a course that told people exactly what to do, step-by-step, to become a freelance writer, and offered feedback.

Here’s what I learned: people love to be told what to do, what order to do it in, and that they’re doing it right. It’s a magical combination. (Take note if you’re planning on starting a course of your own.)

So about halfway through the year, I started taking the teaching much more seriously. I had the course materials professionally redesigned, then I introduced a big old price hike and was relieved to find that people still bought the course. I knew it was worth more than I was charging, and I had very tangible evidence: my students were more than making their money back within weeks of completing the course.

I also created a self-study edition for those who either couldn’t afford the full fee, or who were happy to crack on and do the work without additional guidance from me. Oh! And I created a Facebook group for my students, which has worked out fantastically well. Definitely one of the best things I did this year. It’s a super active group and I often find my students’ questions have been answered before I even get around to looking at them. It’s a very supportive community, and I’m grateful to all my students who participate in it, and particularly to those who share their experiences and expertise with others. Y’all are awesome!

Leaving SEO Writing Behind
In the beginning, my business was based on SEO writing – that is to say, writing a specific sort of article to help businesses rank highly in Google search results. It’s what I teach in The Quickstart Class. It’s not very fulfilling work, because you can end up writing on all sorts of inane shit, and none of it provides much value to anyone.

I always recommend to my students that they don’t do this forever. That they either progress on to better quality writing, such as blogging or copywriting, or that they go the outsourcing route and hire people to write the articles for them. Basically, writing SEO articles is not a sustainable way to make a living, because you will go insane after a while.

I’d been outsourcing all of my SEO content throughout the year, but within the past few months I decided to bite it and part ways with ALL my SEO writing clients. I was making enough money elsewhere, and couldn’t justify the time I spent on editing and managing content any more.

Actually, you know what? That’s not the complete truth. I said I couldn’t justify the time I spent editing articles any more, but actually, I just couldn’t be fucked to do it any more… and so sometimes I didn’t. And I didn’t like that about myself. While I trusted all my writers (after all, I’d taught them! I only hired my own students) to do a good job, and would proofread the first articles they wrote for me, after a while I just sort of stopped. I wasn’t making any changes anyway, my clients were still happy, and I had less work to do.

But I didn’t like it. It made me feel wrong-headed and I wanted to stop it. But I also, as I said, couldn’t be fucked to edit the articles any more. So the only option left to me was to part ways with my SEO clients.

Remember, integrity matters, kids.

The Advanced Class
So, you know how I talked about how I don’t think my students should do SEO writing forever? Yeah, that. I first taught my SEO writing course in August/September 2013. That means some of my students have been doing it for over a year. And that, yeah… they probably were getting pretty tired of it.

Blogging – by which I mean ‘proper’ blogging, not the blogging SEO clients ask you to do – is a far more lucrative and fulfilling way of making money from writing online, so I decided to make The Advanced Class: How to Score Highly Paid Blogging Gigs. I’m currently working on it behind the scenes with a few of my Quickstart students, and hope to make it available to the public not too far into the new year.

I published a new blog post every single Wednesday this year. That’s a huge win, as far as I’m concerned, even though I could do a better job of it. [Note from the future, aka 2018-Karen: I deleted a few posts that were terrible, but I PROMISE I did actually publish a new post every single Wednesday in 2014.]

What Didn’t Go So Well This Year

I know, right? I just listed this as a good thing. And it is. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished with my blog this year, but I know I can do much better. Often my posts were rushed, and as a result the content was too light. I’m going to do better for you guys next year.

My marketing efforts have been absolutely pisspoor this year. I had two guest posts published which both had a considerable impact on my business and traffic… so why the fuck didn’t I pitch more of them? RIGHT? I rested on my laurels and enjoyed the fact that Untamed Writing ranks #3 on Google for ‘how to become a freelance writer’ and various similar terms, instead of striving to make my name known. Oh, and I also really suck at social media, in case you hadn’t noticed. I have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and I definitely don’t put either of them to good use. (Though my personal Facebook page is ON FIRE. As is the Facebook group. But neither of those things help with marketing.)

EU VAT Law Changes
In case you missed it, a new law is coming into effect on 1 January 2015, which affects the sale of digital products. What it means for me is that I’ll have to register for VAT (which I hadn’t planned to do for quite some time, as it doesn’t make financial sense for my business right now) if I want to keep selling the self-study edition of my course, and then for VATMOSS, in order to charge the VAT of the EU country I am selling to, as opposed to the one I am selling from.

What it comes down to is this: I’m not making enough sales of The Quickstart Class right now (see aforementioned pisspoor marketing efforts) to justify registering for VAT, dealing with VATMOSS, and paying my accountants to sort it all out for me, or to even think about how the fuck it all works before the new year. So I’m going to take it down until I figure out what to do about it.

I intend to put it back up for sale eventually, when it makes sense to do so for my business, but right now I don’t have the time to devote to it. (I mentioned I’m working on a new course, right? And hinted at the fact that my blogging efforts are going to go way up?)

My Productivity Habits
I experimented with a lot of productivity habits and techniques this year, but almost none of them have stuck. I’m very motivated by deadlines when other people are expecting things of me – that’s why I’ve gotten a blog post up every Wednesday this year (because I knew you guys were waiting on it) and it’s why I’ve been able to start work on a new course (because my students are waiting on it), but I fucking suck at doing things that don’t absolutely definitely HAVE to be done. I will just put shit off until the cows come home and watch another TV show marathon instead. (I’m embarrassed by the number of entire boxsets – or whatever the Netflix equivalent of a boxset is – I’ve blitzed through this year. P.S. Don’t ever watch past season one of Heroes. AWFUL.)

Plans for 2015

Last year I incorporated a ‘What I want my life to look like this time next year’ section in my review, but I’ve got much bigger plans for 2015 than I did for this year, so I’m devoting an entire blog post to my plans for 2015 next week. STAY TUNED.