The money, the mindset and the woo woo
It’s been so long since I’ve written a blog post that I’m a little lost for how to begin.
But then being a little lost has been a daily thing for the last few years of COVID and lockdown.
My new normal.
My modus operandi.
So, I’ll just get stuck in.
I wanted to finish 2021 by writing this personal blog about how the last few years have changed me, my business, my money, my mindset and my daily life.
I also wanted to include a few little sound bites from my amazing team – you’ll find them at the end of the post.
PS I’m so sick of the words lockdown and COVID that throughout this blog, I shall refer to this period simply, as the Time of Oddness.
Let’s start with the money honey
Okay, let me start by saying my business did NOT suffer as many businesses have during COVID.
This is largely due to my business being almost entirely online and to me having a diverse set of income streams.
But I also worked like a git throughout the year – and that helped.
Full transparency, I got two amazing cash flow business boosts over the two years (but no other COVID-related payments).
My revenue increased:
- 2019-20 – 39% increase compared to 2018-19
- 2020-21 – 42% increase compared to 2019-20
My profit increased:
- 2019-20 – 29% increase compared to 2018-19
- 2020-21 – 32% increase compared to 2019-20
My income streams wiggled around a little:
- Speaking has only ever made up around 1% of my income, largely because I’m not famous enough to demand big money. So, no big whoop there when everything got cancelled.
- CopyCon not happening wasn’t a big hit for me, as it’s really a break-even event – not a money maker.
- Copywriting – I did a few copy jobs for the first time in three years to make up for lost revenue.
- Influencing – and also got a few sexy ‘influencer’ deals which was unexpected revenue.
Summary: Financially, I worked hard to find new ways to keep revenue coming in, focusing largely on a retention strategy – giving love to the people who had already invested in me.
I kept working hard throughout and when I noticed one product declining, strove to build up other areas (for example, the sales page course).
I also cut costs down to the bone, cancelling expensive daft subscriptions and saving a heap on fancy hotel rooms.
The vibe of my tribe
I’ve never been much of a one for tracking numbers of followers, but these days I’m asked for them more and more. So here’s where I’m at:
Since starting to track in Feb of 2021:
1. My email list has grown by 15%
2. DMC membership has grown by 13% and TCCS by 1%
3. My FB groups have grown by 13% (Misfits) and 8% (I Love SEO with Kate Toon)
4. I gained 10000 followers on Clubhouse ☺ (pfft!)
5. A 25% increase in Recipe for SEO Success pod downloads and a 5% increase for Hot Copy (even though we stopped this year)
6. Instagram has gone up a little, TCCS (15%), Recipe for SEO Success (12%) and Kate Toon (9%)
Summary: A little growth, not thigh-shuddering growth, but growth. This reflects my efforts to focus on retaining existing people rather than luring new people in. It’s super important to me that my memberships are steady because these are the people I care about most.
Productivity for the win
While I know we shouldn’t measure ourselves by our productivity, old habits die hard.
I had big plans for 2020 – global travel and speaking at lots of fancy events.
For 2021 I had smaller plans, including finally launching my copywriting courses.
It didn’t really pan out how I planned.
I didn’t write my new business book or relaunch my podcast.
Of the four copywriting courses I had planned, I was only able to launch one, the Sales Page course (which rather nicely sold out in ten hours).
I gave up on the Hot Copy podcast and am taking a break from the Recipe for SEO Success Show podcast.
- We did however run 52 Masterclasses across my membership, as well as over 100 hours of coaching, reviews and Q&A calls
- We launched both memberships three times and Recipe for SEO Success three times
- We revamped every single template in the TCCS shop
- We redesigned the DMC membership sales page, and the TCCS membership sales page and home page
- And rebranded the entirety of the Kate Toon website
Summary: Not too shabby, but obviously, pretty exhausting.
It takes a village
I’ve relied on my team a lot over the last two years and actually feel like this whole hoo-ha brought us closer together.
- I didn’t have to let anyone go. In fact, I hired a few new people, which felt awesome.
- I had team members disappear for months at a time, get sick, feel down, but we got through it!
Given we all work remotely there’s genuine camaraderie – which is lovely.
I learned to let my team be more autonomous – they got much better at communicating with each other without me, or my OBM Leanne, stopping the flow. Before the Time of Oddness, my business was over-reliant on me and my OBM, so no responsibility was shared.
Summary: Love my team. LOVE THEM.
Okay enough about the facts and figures, let’s talk about the emotional toll.
For of course, there was one.
I am not a robot. Yet.
Finding my happiness
I do so often mix up dopamine with serotonin. But I looked it up and here’s the definition:
Asking yourself ‘what makes you happy?’ is a tough one.
For me, it’s often been about completing things (I am a completion fiend).
And a desperate need for bottom pats and external affirmation.
For the years prior to the Time of Oddness – pretty much every drop of dopamine came from my work.
I made a conscious decision when my son was about 5 to go hard or go home, with the lofty goal of paying off my brand-new mortgage.
And I did just this.
To the exclusion of all else: hobbies, friendships, exercise, fun, relationships.
Yes, I paid off my mortgage.
But on the flip side, I separated from my husband (not entirely due to me working of course), I put on 32 kilos, I lost friendships and I had zero hobbies.
During the Time of Oddness, I realised finally that work was not going to love me back the way I wanted it to.
And I made changes.
I’ll talk about those below.
Of course, I still get the occasional business-dopamine kick, but it’s balanced by my real-life dopamine.
Just as we can’t expect one person or one relationship to satisfy all our connection and intimacy needs, nor can we expect our job to fill all our cavernous emotional, intellectual and spiritual holes.
SUMMARY: We need dopamine but it has to come from more than one spot.
The life changes I made
I quit booze (or tried to)
It’s a tad embarrassing to write about this, but alcohol had become a problem in my life.
I’d gone from an occasional wine to drinking because I was happy, sad, celebrating, commiserating or simply because the day had a Y in it.
Not huge amounts and no real impact on my day to day life, other than feeling a bit rubbish most of the time.
But I just felt I wasn’t living life to the full, kind of at 60% every day.
My friend, Sarah from TappedIn refers to this as ‘grey-area drinking’.
“A grey area drinker is someone who isn’t happy with how much and/or often they drink. You’re not at rock bottom but you’re not a once-in-a-while drinker. You expend mental energy trying to manage/justify or limit your intake. Grey area drinkers can have long periods of abstinence only to return quickly to former and often more extreme drinking habits. There is no set ‘amount’ to qualify, but if you’re regularly questioning your drinking habits then you are in the grey area.”
Yep, this was me, with the dull ache of guilt and low energy.
I just felt weak. Why can I do all the things but not conquer this one thing?
So this year I’ve examined my drinking a lot.
With the help of The Alcohol Experiment, (thanks for the tip Nat Bat) I’ve managed to string months together of no booze and cut down dramatically.
I’m not perfect but much improved, and much more aware.
I’ve realised how much drinking is related to stress and boredom and how the urge for a wine is minimal on non-working days. Interesting.
Summary: I’ve learned to examine my habitual behaviours, sitting in the discomfort of wanting things but not being able to immediately satisfy that desire.
I’m not there yet, but I’ve started.
I spent more time with my son
My son is 12 going on 35, mature, a bit cheeky, very funny and increasingly, before the Time of Oddness, distant.
I was desperate for a closer bond, but worried that he had become an early tween and all was lost.
I was so wrong.
Spending so much time with my son has been amazing. I’ve learned how to balance being a mum with being a friend. To meet him on his terms and find common interests, to enjoy his company and being enjoyable myself.
I’ve also given up all ideas of being a certain type of mum or having ‘quality time’.
It’s a huge relief. And I feel it’s set us up great for his transition to high school.
I found hobbies
View this post on Instagram
As I mentioned, before the Time of Oddness I had nothing going on in my life, just a one-dimensional flurp of going to Coles, working and watching Netflix. But that’s all changed.
I’m now a gym lover (I know, shudder).
I take long walks and get through an audible book a week.
I’ve started painting and sewing again, I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it.
I bought a van with my partner (@lokivanlife) and have learned how to fix things, build walls and make cabinets.
Super satisfying to feel more capable at these things.
I calmed the f**k down
I realised that I was living my life like it was an emergency, lurching from one self-created drama to the next, and frankly, I was sick of myself.
I realise that most of my reactions were due to being:
(Or all four!)
I’ve learned how to find a lower gear, take a break, not work so damn hard, stop trying to impress everyone.
I no longer feel as much need to achieve.
I’ve learned to please myself before others.
And that’s huge for me.
I stopped worrying about other people
When I’m asked what my biggest business mistake has been, I explain that it’s the time I wasted worrying about other people.
About the copycats.
The social climbers.
The hours I spent trying to be someone I’m not ( #confettiblowing).
The envy of other people’s wins.
The terror that I’m not enough and no one will like me.
And I honestly feel that’s behind me now. Who knows why it was so deeply ingrained? (Well I do, but that’s not for this post.)
I genuinely want others to succeed because I realise other people’s success doesn’t impact mine at all.
Someone else’s candle burning brighter doesn’t extinguish my fire, right? Something like that.
It all matters
Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time away from people I love this year.
And I’ve lost people.
And I know a lot of you have too.
I see many reflecting on these losses with feelings of ‘focus on your family – it’s all that matters.’
But I disagree.
Yes, family matters, but really it all matters.
We need to worry less about possessions, work goals, looking hot.
We need to live in the moment and hug our pets and small humans.
We need to appreciate our friends and community.
But what I’ve learned is that it’s all part of the pie.
- Working on my business gives me joy, identity, I enjoy helping others, I love the interaction with my team, the creativity.
- Spending time with family gives me joy, the warmth, the giggles, the feeling of being totally relaxed.
- Being alone pumping iron at the gym gives me joy, I feel strong, I get to wear cool lycra pants and listen to loud music.
- Buying the occasional dumb thing from Instagram gives me joy – until it arrives and I realise I can’t even get one boob in it.
My life pie chart has gone from this:
Summary: I’m so much happier with my pie.
So what next?
In 2020 and 2021 I did the best I could.
In 2022, I’m not planning to smash it, dream big or have a seven-figure year.
I could have more, I could do more, but I now fully understand the cost.
I want to travel, see my family, and keep my business tootling along.
Hug the occasional tree, make badly-iced cupcakes, grow a sexy bottom, build a shed, renovate my laundry.
I’m focusing less on business growth and more on all-round growth.
I am so ‘woo woo’ it hurts.
It’s not all about me
Before I finish up, I wanted to share a few comments from my team members about how the last few years have changed their outlook, mindset, behaviour – in life or business.
Here’s what they had to say.
“I’ve realised just how much tenacity and strength I have in the way I see and engage in the world and my direct communities. I had always thought of myself as someone that struggles with change; that it was an unwinnable struggle that would catch me unaware, and I’d fall into a pattern of negative thoughts and quite frankly feel sorry for myself.
The last two years has shown me that not only can I adapt very quickly, but I can thrive when everything around me is out of my direct control. Over the last two years, I have truly found my voice and have a strength in my convictions and beliefs that I felt I was shy or hesitant to share in the past. I am no longer shy about sharing those beliefs and calling out when I perceive others in my orbit are not participating in the world in a way that is fair and equitable for as many people as possible.”
MY VIDEO BEAST – Shannon Morrison | Zag with Shan
“People come first. I’ve always believed this, and the last few years have reaffirmed just how true this is. People being in family, work and life. Appreciate them, do what you can to communicate and share with them – even when it’s hard. Relationships are what makes life so good or very hard. Business is easier when you get to connect on a human-to-human level, where you show respect and support and in return, feel respected and supported. The last few years have forced me to look at people even more, to change the way I make decisions in my life and work.
My kids need something from me – but why are they asking for this? What is happening for them? My team are struggling, how can I show them support without tipping the ship over? Being okay to work a little differently to how I used to; it might not be ideal because I don’t like change but if ‘different’ is what needs to happen for me to still be able to support the people I adore in work-land, then that’s what I’ll do. Things rarely are concrete in life but there will always be people.”
MY ONLINE BUSINESS MUM – Leanne Woff | Audacious Empires
“If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that we’re all just humans doing our best. Be kind. When I first started out as a freelancer, I was convinced I had to act like I wasn’t also juggling family life and kids in order to be taken seriously. But COVID-19 really levelled the playing field – once we were all working from home (the norm for me), I became more comfortable letting my clients see the ‘real’ me.
Yes, I was interrupted on many work calls by the small people in my life, but often, so were my clients. We’re all human, and I love that it feels more normal now to have a ‘warts and all’ approach to how we show up in business (and in life!).”
MY PR BEAST – Erin Huckle | Chuckle Communications
“Being in event management, COVID hit us hard. I mean REALLY hard. The first lockdown we bounced back with our usual enthusiasm and came out punching – making more in those first few months with virtual events than we usually made with online. Following that, things started to slow down and I took the extra time to invest in those areas of the business that usually missed out – including doing Kate’s Recipe for SEO Success course, which has yielded great results. Before we knew it, we were back and things were picking up and life was great again. Then the second lockdown came and hit our business like a tonne of bricks. We didn’t have the energy to bounce back like we did in round one and things got pretty bleak.
Sure, we still had a bunch of virtual events running and with the government support we were surviving, but emotionally the toll was HUGE. Coming out of lockdown, I have had the chance to take a new look at what is important and refocus the business. As a result, we have taken on more staff to look after the busy periods and allow me some time to take a step back and focus on the business rather than solely working in it. We are so grateful for all the support we have received from our relationships during the lockdown and are working on building those further. Overall, the lockdowns proved to be a challenging-but-business-building experience and we are so excited for what’s ahead.”
MY EVENTS BEAST – Celia Wouters | Events Outsourced
“Working crazy hours and deadlines are one thing, but so is your sanity, looking after yourself and spending time with people that make you feel good.
Time is such a valuable commodity that we have no control over – it seems like yesterday I was tapping my firstborn’s bassinet with my foot while trying to be creative in my baby-fog sleep-deprived mind… in what seems a few short years, I am now teaching him how to drive! Loss of various kinds over the years has taught me to value my children, make time for dear friends and as cliché as it sounds, just do things that you enjoy. I’ve learnt to say no to a lot of things over the past few years and it feels wonderful!”
MY DESIGN BEAST – Sue Waterson | Max Gecko Design
“The last couple years have hammered in the fact that mental wellbeing is incredibly important. Because when you’re in lockdown, you have to be comfortable with your own mind. (Eventually you’ll watch everything on Netflix, then what?)
So, overworking and burning out really isn’t worth it in the short or long term. I’ve learnt that people are okay with shifting deadlines or moving events if you ask, because all anyone really wants is to be kept in the loop, to be communicated with honestly, to be treated with respect.”
MY DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER – Kat Cosentino | Kat Copy Paste
“When a big client in Italy went into lockdown, I’d been copywriting full-time for less than 12 months. I didn’t know that 18 months on, COVID would still be part of the business landscape.
Even though I live in a state that has been largely COVID-free, some days I feel like I have survivor guilt and get caught up in the ‘this year is another crap one’ whinge.
I’ve always been a planner, so constant threats of lockdowns and cancelled plans have been unsettling. I’ve learned to roll with the punches to grow my business and I’m setting bigger goals for next year, no matter what comes along. After all, if I can survive the first two years of business while living through a global pandemic, I must be doing ok.
I didn’t do it alone. Being set up to operate online and being a part of some amazing online communities like The Clever Copywriting School and Digital Masterchefs is a big part of my success. And here’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned. There will always be challenges and it’s ok to be honest and vulnerable about how those challenges make you feel. You don’t need to pretend you have it all together, and no matter how successful you are, there will also be another challenge ahead.”
MY COMMUNITY CONTENT BEAST – Angela Pickett | Angela Pickett Copywriter
“The last two years have proved (I don’t think that’s the right word) that I love helping others. Whether it be helping my son with remote learning, helping friends and family get through lockdowns or helping clients navigate through grants and diversify their business.
I have become more grateful for having a loving family and living in an amazing community. I have realised that when having my values aligned with my clients’ values, we have a better workflow and it makes for a more enjoyable workspace.”
MY BOOKKEEPING BEAST – Donna Sullivan | Detailed Account Solutions
Over to you
How has the ‘Time of Oddness’ impacted you? I’d love to hear in the comments.