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Or, 7 challenges I faced in my business and the lessons I learned

This year has been BIG for me.

Big, fat and somewhat, hairy.

It’s been a year of bravery in my business, of being fearless and that has – for those following along – all be part of my new #BEMORESHARK mantra.*

But, I have a tendency to forget my achievements, as I blindly fumble for the next big thing.

And I feel if I don’t stop and document everything that’s happened, everything I’ve learned, then I’ll just lurch into 2020 without stopping to appreciate.

Stopping to learn.

Stopping just to stop.

I also hope, that by rifling through my business underwear drawer, I will pass on a few nuggets of knowledge that might help you – dear reader.

So, here’s my year in review: the 7 big challenges I faced and the lessons I learned

*I first started banging on about BE MORE SHARK in around June 2018. My idea to promote fearlessness in business, it’s not going to be a podcast cast and book released in 2020. Sign up to my mailing list in the optin in thingy in the footer to be kept up to date.

Psst: Don’t want to read? Watch the video instead


BE MORE SHARK 1:  DUTCH STYLE

 

It seems like a lifetime ago. Back in February, as I sat on the train from Amsterdam to Nijmegen, my stomach was a small quivering hedgehog of nerves.

I was going to be speaking on stage at Yoast.con, my first international conference, with oodles of my peers.

And I’d been asked to sit on a panel with my SEO hero Rand Fishkin.
On a stool.
Next to Rand.

Oh. My. Glob.

And, while all this was marvellous in theory, practice I was tortured by the worst imposter syndrome I’d ever felt my life.

I mean,  who wants to talk SEO copywriting in front of Yoast himself and Rand Fishkin?

I imagined, eye rolls, heckling, impossible questions being pulled aside at the end of my talk for a quiet chat about the mistakes I’d made.

Of course, none of that happened.

WHAT:
Spoke at Yoast.Con in the Netherlands.

THE CHALLENGE:
Overcoming crippling nerves, flying on my own to the other side of the world, talking in front of better minds than mine.

THE OUTCOMES:   

  • Met the most hilarious and friendly group of humans (seriously most friendly conference ever) had lunch with Rand and Geraldine. #MICDROP
  • I did not embarrass myself too much.
  • My presentation while not ted talk level was well received. I could have done better, but it was a learning experience.

THE LEARNINGS:       

  • Speaking is scary, there will be smarter people in the room, but you bring your experience, your ideas, your humour.
  • A lot of marketing is opinion not fact, so while they might have a different opinion, it’s not usually a case of right and wrong.
  • It’s not a good idea to get drunk in Amsterdam on your own on a Friday night – you will end up in odd places.

Watch my preso here:


BE MORE SHARK 2: CRAY IN THE USA

tccirlSo, after terrifying myself speaking in front of my SEO peers, I thought hey, why not terrify myself speaking in front of my copywriting peers.

And so flew to New York to speak at TCCIRL – the Copywriting Club Conference with America, with super famous copywriters like Johanna Weibe, Bond Halbert – and oodles more.

WHAT:
Spoke at The Copywriting Club in Real Life Conference – New York

THE CHALLENGE:
Overcoming crippling nerves, flying on my own to the other side of the world, talking in front of better minds than mine.

THE OUTCOMES:      

  • My presentation was at the end of the day and was complicated (SEO Copywriting ain’t as perky as the motivational stuff) – I packed a lot in. I felt good about it.
  • Again made great connections, not least with my podcast co-host Belinda who came along to support me.

THE LEARNINGS:       

  • Having a niche gave me a bit of an edge in a room of super confident humans.
  • And of course, all the big names were just normal people, rather fun, silly people in actual fact.

Psst: I wrote about my experiences speaking at overseas events here.


BE MORE SHARK 3: LETTING GO

What with all this speaking and overseas travel (I also had a family holiday in Bali and oodles of other speaking gigs around Australia) meant I just couldn’t be as present as I like to be in my business.

The time had come to let go.

I had to stop being a Monica style control freak.

via GIPHY

And so I finally did.

And gave over day-to-day management of my business to my Online Business Manager Leanne Woff. (Love you Woffling)

WHAT:
Letting my OBM actually do her job

THE CHALLENGE:
Letting go of my control-freak self, not diving in to do admin when I had big things to do, trusting that certain aspects of my business could run without me.

THE OUTCOMES:       

  • I know have VA support of around 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.
  • I don’t open or read my admin emails. I have more time to focus on ‘big things’ like being the face of my business.
  • I also hired a real staff member 2 days of the week to work with me here, in the Tooncave.

THE LEARNINGS:       

  • Often people can’t show their true potential unless you let them.
  • Your staff might do things exactly as you do them, but that’s okay.
  • Hiding in admin stops you doing the big stuff you want to do.
  • I don’t need to replace me in my business I need to find people with different skills to me to fill the gaps.
  • I don’t need to be everywhere all the time.

BE MORE SHARK 4: OWNING MY SPACE

via GIPHY

 

Like many of you, I’m sure, I worry about not being good enough.
Cool enough.
Hot enough.

About not being in the trendy gang.

I don’t feel I fit in in the female entrepreneur world.

My Instagram isn’t cute enough, I don’t call people ‘hon’ and ‘babe’, I don’t shop at Gorman.
(That’s for you Cherie ;-P).

And I’ve struggled with this hard.

Because just like when I was the geeky emo at school, I sometimes long to be the popular kid.
And I began to feel a bit lost. #sadface

But it’s not me, I can’t fake it and that’s okay.

WHAT:
Understanding what makes me, me.

THE CHALLENGE:
To stop comparing myself to others and trying to be something I’m not. To actually embrace my Misfit self rather than just talking about it.

THE OUTCOMES:
I feel happier. I’ve become more confident in owning myspace. It’s encouraged me to rebrand my Facebook group and my podcast with just my name.

THE LEARNINGS:

  • Accepting that by being odd, I’ll have fewer fans, but more connection.
  • Understanding that Kate Toon – the brand is just Kate Toon the human, some going to like, it some are not and that’s okay.
  • Understanding that comparison will always be there are my darker days.

 


BE MORE SHARK 5: UNDERSTANDING MONEY, HONEY

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In the last few years, my revenue has increased, well, a fair bit.

And that felt kind of weird.

I’ve been in struggle mode for years. Scraping by, paying back debt, lurching from feast to famine. But in 2018, I worked hard to stop relying on the three launches of the Recipe for SEO Success course each year.

Instead, I built up monthly recurring income from my two memberships:

As well as via my shops, training and evergreen courses.

It worked.

And it freaked me out a little.

WHAT:
Not going crazy with money.

THE CHALLENGE:

  • Not to randomly spend my money, working hard not to be frivolous and to keep my expenses low.
  • Thinking about my future, so that I don’t become an old lady that smells of wee and has 28 cats.

via GIPHY

THE OUTCOMES:       

  • I implemented profit first, so I know exactly what money is mine.
  • I hired a new accountant.
  • I started doing revenue projects and monthly reporting.
  • I moved money into a savings account and didn’t touch it.

THE LEARNINGS:       

  • As someone from a Northern English working-class background, the mantra has always been work work work. STRUGGLE! And while I don’t want to rest on my laurels and become a smug fat cat, I need to stop and pat myself on the back that the struggle is paying off, literally, and that’s okay.
  • Just because I now have a bit of money to play with doesn’t mean I have to play with it.

kate toonBE MORE SHARK 6: REWARDING AWARDS

I’ve never entered an award.

Others have entered on my behalf when I was back in the ad agency world, and my copy has won a few bits and bobs.

But I’ve shied away from business awards as:

  1. The applications take ages and are boring.
  2. I knew if they did, I’d be thrown into a pit of belly button gazing and examining my self-worth.

But this year, I did enter the SEMRush Awards for Best Marketing Community.
I even wrote the application myself with a bit of help from my pals Melinda Samson and Angela Denly

and…

drum roll…

WON!

WHAT:
Winning SEMRush Marketing Community of the year.

THE CHALLENGE:
Completing the application form. Writing about my own achievements. Composing my ‘oh I’m so glad you won instead of me’ face.

THE OUTCOMES:       

  • It was thrilling to head to the Opera House with my OMB and my man!
  • I got to wear an awesome frock.
  • I was gobsmacked when I won. It was a real, genuine thrill – no fakery. I was ecstatic and totally uncool!

THE LEARNINGS:       

  • It’s made no real difference to anything businesswise, but I guess I feel a little validated.
  • I’ve previously felt a little overlooked by the SEO big boys, as I help beginners, not the superstar experts, but the award felt like a bit of recognition.
  • And did I mention I wore a great frock?

BE MORE SHARK 7: IT’S MY PARTY

via GIPHY

This year, more than ever before, I wanted to do things my way. My flawed, ridiculous way.
I also didn’t want to bend over backwards to be such a people pleaser.

So, I set boundaries.
No more late-night calls.
No more responding to rude, ungrateful people.

Understanding when enough was enough and that I AM ENOUGH.

My business is just that: my business. And I can do what I want with it. I don’t have to change on the whim of a customer.
I can listen to criticism, but I don’t have to take it in.

And no, I’m not going to turn up and speak at your paid event without even the offer of travel expenses.

 

WHAT:
Setting boundaries and not taking shit from shitgibbons.

THE CHALLENGE:
To stop trying to be all things to all people – and giving everything to everyone.

THE OUTCOMES:
I’ve limited late-night calls to once a week (for overseas humans on my courses). I’ve stopped letting the criticism (or the praise) affect me so much. I’ve stood up to trolls and criticisers.

I’ve pushed back on those who push for more and more.

THE LEARNINGS:       

  • This has been the most freeing part of 2019. Of course, we all want to be liked and we think that to be liked, we have to be people’s bitches, but no.
  • By showing up less, people want me more.
  • Saying no breeds respect, not hatred.

AND THERE’S MORE

copycon

Of course, there’s a lot more.

Other things I’m proud of, like 3 sold-out Recipe launches and continuing to push for my Digital Mentoring group (Digital Masterchefs) to work and making it work. (It now has over 150 awesome members).

I also ran CopyCon19 – my copywriting conference in Melbourne spoke at Artful Business Conference and took my small human.

I spoke at the Australian Medical Writers Association, WordCamp Brisbane, WordCamp Sydney, and Click Engage Convert.

I foolishly on a few copywriting clients for the first time in a few years, with varying degrees of success, but lots of learnings to pass on to my members.

And finally, I ran SEO and Copywriting training for some big brands, including Amex, and while it was challenging, it was a great revenue driver.

I’m proud of turning up relatively consistently despite some huge personal challenges.
(Tthat no, I didn’t blurt out all over Facebook).

Most of all, I feel like 2019 has been a year of growing up.

I’m much less of a dick than I was.

I take a breath; don’t react so much.

I’ve stopped looking outwards for direction and started looking inwards.

‘How woo woo’ is that?


 

QUICKIE BITTIES

My biggest wins

  • Speaking at Yoast and not weeing my pants
  • Letting go and letting Leanne take charge
  • Owning my space and my boundaries

Best investment

My team. My staff bill each month is pretty scary, but it’s worth every cent.

My biggest mistake

Taking on a copywriting client. I’m not sure I have the brain space to tackle large client copywriting jobs anymore. Not so much the writing, but the diplomacy and the admin!

Plans for 2020

I have three simple goals for 2020.

  1. Keep everything I’ve built ticking along
  2. Launch the Hot Copy Mastermind
  3. Write my BE MORE SHARK BOOK and launch the podcast


And
remain relatively calm, healthy and happy while I do it!

So finally

What were your big learnings for 2019 and what are your 2020 plans? Please tell me in the comments below

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