2014 - A Look Back


Ryan Battles  •   Personal Growth

2014

I will forever remember this year as one of the most pivotal in my life. This was the year that I quit my job, wrote a book, and devoted most of my time towards entrepreneurship. I say “most” of my time, because another significant event this year is that we started homeschooling our oldest two children, and one morning each week I am home with them as their teacher.

Quitting

In May of 2014, with the support of my wife, I gave my employer two weeks notice and decided to pursue entrepreneurship full-time. Now, it was hard for my wife to say no to this idea, with the impressive charts and forecasts that I presented her telling of my glorious new income potential. Spoiler alert: It hasn’t panned out exactly as I had planned.

My financial goal as an entrepreneur was simple:

  • In the first year of quitting I will make 50% of my current employed income.
  • In the second year I will make 100% of my employed income.
  • In the third year I will double what my employed income was.

It seemed achievable enough, and depending on how my book launch goes, I just might hit that first year’s goal. That fact is, however, that this year had some setbacks. Before I get into those, I’ll share the four sources of revenue I have been tapping into:

  • My book, SaaS Marketing Essentials (due early January 2015)
  • Harpoon (web-application for freelancers)
  • Find Bacon (job board for designers/developers)
  • Consulting as a web developer

In addition to income from these sources, I had the following working for me:

  • Finding places to cut back in our spending (which had risen with our income levels in recent years).
  • Tapping into a budgeted portion of our savings.
  • My wife’s part-time income.

When it is all said and done, our income was more than cut in half this year, and we cut a little into our savings. This is certainly not sustainable, so come March 2015, when my one year anniversary of quitting my job comes to pass, I will again sit down with my wife and determine our next steps. I’m certainly not opposed to taking a full-time job as a developer at a local company or agency, or even ramping up my freelancing/consulting efforts…but only if the entrepreneurial stuff doesn’t work out. Fortunately, I’m seeing a lot of positives on that front heading into the new year.

The Good

By far the best part of this year was the ability to spend much more time at home with my family. This came at the expense of not being able to devote as much time to my work, but I have also been focusing on being effective, not just efficient, and cutting out much of what wasn’t really productive at “work” anyway.

With our kids homeschooling Kindergarten this year I have been able to witness firsthand their learning how to read, solve math problems, and memorize the state capitals. Our decision to homeschool came largely out of a desire to enjoy one more year with them at home before sending them off to school, and to dip our toes in the homeschooling waters.

With more time at home, I have been able to invest more in my relationship with my wife, my kids, my neighbors, and my community. Of course, with more going into those relationships, more has come out of them.

Earlier this year my business partner and I realized that one of our job board sites, Find Bacon, had risen to the top three results on Google for several important keywords, like “Web Design Job Board”. With an influx of traffic, we’ve been pretty excited to step up our game on that site and are putting the finishing touches on a re-design, marketing campaign, and new features.

Another one of our sites, Director-ee has been chugging along, bringing in a respectable amount of income for the amount of work we need to put into it, and has enabled us to pay for advertising and a developer for some of our other projects.

I have finished writing SaaS Marketing Essentials and am currently awaiting feedback from my editor before releasing it for sale early in January 2015. Early reviewers have been very positive and have given me the encouragement to finish strong.

Harpoon has a new partner, a developer to help us finish up our remaining development tasks for a strong launch in 2015. We had launched Harpoon briefly for a limited number of people about a year ago, but after early feedback decided to rebuild the tool with much more powerful features. This relaunch is getting closer every week, and while we aren’t giving a date, we certainly see this launching in 2015.

Finally, a major highlight from 2014 was being able to drive out to Philadelphia for the BaconBiz conference. With a limited seating of 50 attendees, there was an intimacy to this conference that made relationship-building super-easy. There was also a high concentration of talented entrepreneurs both speaking and attending. Not only did I take copious amounts of notes, but some of those relationships have become priceless.

The Bad

Who wants to read about how awesome someone’s year is if they don’t shell out the crap as well? I’d be lying if I said that the whole year was awesome, as it certainly had its fair share of mistakes and lessons learned.

To start with, I underestimated how long it would take to rebuild and relaunch Harpoon. We honestly thought we would have launched by May 2014, and here we are in December, still not launched. The bottom line is that we made some hiring mistakes, and when certain developers weren’t meeting deadlines we gave way too much grace. That may sound like something admirable, but it really isn’t. In some ways it was laziness in the hiring process, and in other ways it was not having the confidence to pull the plug earlier and look for a better fit. The biggest lesson here is that owning a business requires tough decisions, and hiring decisions are imperative to get right.

I had also hoped to have the book launched this Fall, but in reality it has taken three months longer than I had anticipated to get everything squared away, mostly due to a lack of prioritizing and sticking to a schedule.

Because of these two setbacks, I haven’t hit the income goal that I had set for myself when I quit my job in March. Perhaps I’ll swing a fourth-quarter comeback before March 2015. From the looks of things at this point that is certainly possible, but I also need to give myself a kick in the pants as we start the new year to make this happen.

Onward to 2015

One of the best pieces of new year’s advice I’ve heard in a while just came across my ears while listening to Pat Flynn’s excellent Smart Passive Income Podcast interview with Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning. Hal mentioned how silly it is that we want to have awesome goals for the year, but act in nearly the opposite way as we approach the new year. For instance, folks who overeat in December because they’ll get serious come January 1st. Instead of trying to change a bunch at once in January, why not spend December warming yourself up so you can start 2015 with a few habits already in place?

So, gearing up for 2015, I have been practicing and intend on meeting these goals:

  • Eating Paleo meals (lean meats, fruits, and veggies) for 85% of the week, allowing for 3 reasonable deviation meals per week.
  • Practice the Miracle Morning for at least 4 days per week (essentially devoting some time to exercise, reading, reflection, and writing before the day starts).
  • Have an agenda for each day. Basically, I won’t go to bed until I have a couple of written outcomes for the next day. This will prevent me from wasting time on things that don’t matter, and accomplishing more of what does.

In addition to those resolutions (which are more on the habit side of things), I have some concrete expectations for 2015:

  • Launch my book
  • Re-launch Harpoon
  • Launch redesign of Find Bacon
  • Continue blogging consistently
  • Double my email list size
  • Publish a second book on Amazon

I’ll revisit those goals at the end of 2015, as well as the resolutions set out above and report on how it went! For now, onward to finish out 2014 strong.