Game plan for 2017

2016 was a good year, personally and professionally.

My business grew in its second year, and I have a much better idea of the potential for future growth than I previously had. I see a good bit of opportunity moving forward.

Personally, my wife and I loved watching our son grow into a toddler. He’s 18 months old now and he’s our absolute joy. Parenting has its tough moments, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Our travel highlight of the year was a two week trip to Europe, where we saw Paris, Vienna, and London.

Apparently I didn’t post my pictures from this trip, so I’ll do that in a separate post. But it was an incredible time, and we celebrated Evan’s first birthday in Paris. We might’ve been a little crazy taking him overseas with us for two weeks, but it worked out great. He’s a little trooper.

I also gained a nephew, James, this year. And my parents moved to Birmingham to be closer to all of their new grandbabies (and kids…). It’s been a great year family-wise.

I really fell in love with photography in 2016. I have much to learn still, but I know I love taking photos. I like video too, but it’s more challenging, and takes much longer to actually process. I developed a pretty good workflow this year so that I can take, process, and save pictures that capture important moments — both business and personal — throughout the year. Phones have great cameras in them these days, but a DSLR with a quality lens is tough to match. I’m excited to keep shooting and learning about photography and video in 2017.

Post Status continues to grow. It’s been a slow and steady process, but I’m very happy with where things stand. I launched the membership part of the site on January 21st, 2015. My one year goal was to have 500 members, which I achieved. My two year goal was 1,000 active members. It looks like I’ll miss that by about 15%, but still, I’m very proud to have ~850 active members. 1,000 was an ambitious goal, and even though my renewal rate is somewhere in the 80-85% ballpark (it’s frustratingly hard to calculate with my software), I didn’t quite hit my goal.

I have plenty of ideas for marketing and growth in 2017. I didn’t do much to market at all in 2016. More importantly, I got feedback and data. I had no idea whether people would renew, and since membership tenure is one year, I needed to wait until the site was about 18 months old before I could get a real understanding of whether folks thought Post Status was valuable enough to not only join, but to stay members.

Now I know that people like it enough to renew. Importantly, the rate of new members joining is significantly higher than the rate of members cancelling; so the site continues to increase revenues. Going into my third year at the end of January, some members will be paying for a Post Status membership for the third time. Knowing that people value the community — along with my analysis — enough to give me money year in and year out, is quite humbling. In 2017, I am aiming to continue to improve how I serve customers and deliver value to Post Status members.

In addition to Post Status, I have continued to stew over several business opportunities this past year. I had intended to start working on a separate “leg” of my business in 2016, but decided to wait it out and focus on Post Status. Post Status is, and will remain, my primary focus. But I do think it’s important for me to explore other lines of business, both for the sake of diversity in my own business, but to also inform my work on Post Status. If I’m not running a business and working through the same kind of struggles my customers are working through, then it’s tougher for me to provide quality insights for them.

With Post Status, I’m serving WordPress professionals of all sorts. My customers range from founders and CEOs of businesses worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to in-house developers and designers working for small agencies, to self-employed freelancers. I need to keep myself informed on many fronts in order to best serve my customers and provide the kind of analysis and insights they expect and deserve.

In order to do that, I’m looking at several opportunities for 2017 — all of which have stuck with me for several years now. One is a content-centric vertical that would operate similarly to Post Status, but in an adjacent niche. Another is a SaaS that I’ve wanted to attempt for a long time, and it would need to happen in 2017 if I do it, because it’s a seasonal market and late 2017 and early 2018 would be the peak time to get new business. Neither of these business ideas are specifically about WordPress, but both utilize it.

Additionally, there are two or three ways I want to extend Post Status’s own revenue streams this year. Two are obvious to people who follow the site: a job board (ha, ha, I know), and Post Status Publish. Publish went really well in December and I think round two has a great deal of potential to be bigger, better, and more profitable. There are a couple other things I have up my sleeve for 2017 as well.

I might also throw a couple other ideas at the wall in 2017 to see if they stick. I don’t want to be afraid of experimentation.

My big goal professionally for 2016 has been to gain clarity about what I’m seeking with my business. I don’t 100% have that in focus yet, but I’m close. In 2017, I know I want to do a few things:

  • Experiment with new lines of business, knowing I may fail on one or more fronts
  • Consistently deliver quality analysis and valuable resources for Post Status members
  • Do something new locally, in Birmingham — whether for business or some other way
  • Pay off remaining non-house debts

Taking the leap to working for myself had short term revenue consequences, with a big long term upside. I gave myself a significant pay cut in 2015, and even though I made more money in 2016, I paid myself about what I was making in 2014. I think 2017 has the potential to be a breakout year financially, so I’m setting some big goals.

I’m going to continue paying myself the same amount as I did last year, as it worked for us personally to pay the bills and maintain the lifestyle we want. In addition to that salary, I’m also setting a goal, for revenue that I can set aside into a different account that will go toward paying the remaining principle on debts at the end of the year. All of our debt is “safe” debt — no credit cards or anything. But I hate all debt. If I achieve my goal, it would cut our debt repayment tenure by four years, which sets us back more than $1,500 per month. It would also save us around $20,000 in future interest payments. The hard part is that it requires a 75% increase of my 2016 net revenue.

Reaching this goal would enable us to move forward with other plans. I don’t want to buy a yacht. But I do want financial security for our family. I might not hit this financial goal, and that’s okay. But if I don’t have a plan to make it happen, it definitely won’t.

More than anything, I’m excited that I get to do what I love to do every day, and the only person keeping me from going after my goals is myself.

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