Ever wanted to take a step behind the scenes of a multiple six-figure online business?
Well, you’re in luck. 😉
I’m going deep and sharing ALL my numbers with you for my 2019 year end review – I’m talking revenue, expenses, profit, how much I traveled, how much I spent on ads, how many people work with me, and more…
I love showing you the real and the raw – because online business isn’t always as flashy and sexy as it seems on Instagram.
If you’re curious and want to check out my past business diaries, here they are:
I’m using the same framework I use each year to review my biz, so I get a good, hard look at:
- What went well in 2019
- What didn’t go so well.
- What I’m working towards in 2020
- My theme for 2020.
Feel free to use the same format to reflect on your own business. I’ve used it since 2016 and I highly recommend it.
Here are my final stats for 2019:
- 8 trips, including: Bali, San Diego, Amsterdam, Vancouver x2, Boston, Costa Rica and Mexico (this is actually down by half; in 2018 I traveled to 15 locations, so clearly my priorities shifted in 2019)
- 71 days working remotely
- $400,000 revenue with a profit margin of 20%
- 2,166 students (up from 685 in 2018)
- 12 coaching clients
- 26,589 email subscribers (up from 17,000 the year before)
- 77,400 Instagram followers
- 5,800 Pinterest followers
- 4,254 Facebook fans
- 2,546 Twitter followers
- 6,611 YouTube subscribers (up from 343 in 2018!)
- 3 contractors for my agency Canupy and 3 team members for my personal brand Elise Darma (same as last year, which proves to me that I made the business more efficient in 2019. With the same amount of people I was able to increase revenue and maintain profit margin and pay myself more.)
What went well in 2019:
1. Invested in my team and systems
Okay – not the sexiest thing.
I’m not leading with big revenue numbers, but truly, this was the year that I invested more in my team than ever before, thanks to making a full-time hire.
And this meant I had to get really organized as a CEO. 👩🏼💼
I brought in systems, tools and processes so I could actually be that organized CEO. There’s nothing like paying someone on your team a full-time salary to make you stop and ask yourself,
Am I organized enough for this person?
I’m asking them to invest all their time in me and my business. Am I worthy of it?
I have to give a shout out to Clockwork, which is a book written by Mike Michalowicz and a program run by my friend Adrienne Dorison. I did invest in the live Clockwork coaching program this past year and it really, really helped my business.
The program was a nine month commitment and it really made me look at my team and my systems and where I was losing money in the business.
2. Increased revenue & gave myself a raise!
The results from clockworking my business resulted in the second thing that went well, which was we maintained our profit margin of about 20%, while revenue increased by about 14%.
The best part about this is that because more money was left in the business, I was able to give myself a raise.
Last year, if you read my income reports, I was paying myself generally between $3,000-$4,000 a month.
In 2019 I was able to give myself a raise, a salary of anywhere between $6,000-$8,000 a month.
Now, steady profit is something that I’m actually really proud of because we reinvested so much money back into the business this year.
✔️created way more free content than usual
✔️hiring team members
So, the fact that we were able to keep our profit margin relatively healthy, I’m super happy about.
3. Launching my YouTube channel
Launching a channel on YouTube was something I’ve wanted to do since literally 2016 when I bought my very first online course which was all about YouTube for business.
It wasn’t until 2019 that I actually put the systems, processes and team members in place to make this happen.
We went from about 300 subscribers earlier in 2019 to 5,500 subscribers by the end of 2019.
I’m super proud of this accomplishment because it’s not just me who creates this channel. I have a content manager and a videographer.
Together, the three of us have really created what is one of my favorite parts of my business.
With YouTube, it was a slow burn initially, but I’m really loving the momentum we’ve seen since the end of 2019, and it’s just making me more excited to produce more videos.
4. I hosted a retreat in Bali
I hosted a retreat in Bali way back in the beginning of 2019. It feels like it was so long ago, but this was a success for me because honestly, nothing dramatic happened (Read: No one died. Everyone had a great time.)
The Bali retreat did bring its challenges for me. I made such a stupid mistake right when the retreat started: I forgot to cancel a hotel booking.
Day one of the retreat, I looked at my credit card and I had a $6,000 charge from a hotel. I just remember it being kind of stressed the whole time.
I felt the pressure of hosting people from all around the world and making sure that people were getting a lot of value and applying it to their business, but also enjoying Bali and having a nice time.
Looking back, all in all, I’m happy I did it.
That was my last retreat I’ve hosted. Right now we don’t really have plans to host future retreats. You never know. I might bring retreats back, but for now they’re just not an active part of my business.
The other pro of hosting the retreat was I got to work from Indonesia for about four weeks in the dead of Toronto winter, so that’s always a win in my books.
🌴Check out the Bali Retreat Highlights in this Video👇
5. Case Studies of my amazing students
In 2019 we really invested in creating case studies all about our students.
My business is at a point now where it’s really less about my personal success and it’s more about the success of my students.
We’re really proud to have featured some star students from my programs. The case studies cover so many niches and industries.
Our big goal in 2019 was to showcase that Instagram can work for many types of businesses across many niches, and I think that our case studies really highlight that.
The best part? Just from these six students alone, they have generated over $227,000 in revenue.
6. No live launching!
At the beginning of 2019 I was obsessed with my funnel and I pretty much spent the majority of the year tweaking and testing my funnel, which meant I never really live launched my course.
It was a cool exercise in growing my business’ revenue without ever having to do a big launch. If you’ve ever done a live launch, you know how exhausting they can be.
At the same time, it makes me wonder, Hmm, if I actually live launched, how much more could I have generated in 2019? 🤔
I’m super happy that revenue increased by 15% all through a pretty passive funnel, but it does make me wonder…
7. I started a group coaching program
This was a big win for me because I wanted to do this since 2018 when I shut down my one-on-one coaching.
Truth be told, it was just something I had a mindset block around.
In 2019, I put the bare bones of a program together. I didn’t even write a sales page.
I wrote a Google doc and released it to my students, and we started a group coaching program.
It’s called The Adventure Club and we started very small, kind of as an experiment for me and for my students to see how we all like it.
From my end, I really like it and of course we’re going to grow it in 2020 now that I know it’s a great fit for my business.
8. No burnout!
The last thing I want to mention that went well for me in 2019 was there was no burnout.
When I look back on all of my reviews that I’ve written, typically at one point in the year I feel burned out or I feel like I want to burn my business down or I want to just be done with it.
I don’t recall ever feeling that in 2019 so I consider that a win. 🎉
In addition, I took almost three weeks off at the end of 2019 in December.
I was working lightly here and there, but that was the closest thing I’ve had to a long vacation in a long time. That’s a big win for me in my books. I truly believe it’s because of my point number one – team, systems, processes – that I didn’t experience burnout and I took a vacation.
What didn’t go so well in 2019
This list isn’t as long as the first one, but I think it’s important to address where I could improve in 2020.
1. Moving to a new website
Like any classic website project, this one took twice as long and cost twice as much – I’m talking to the tune of $8,800 over budget.
I decided to move my website off of Squarespace over to WordPress. This was because I noticed my organic traffic was slowly declining every single month since it peaked at the beginning of 2019, so I was trying to figure out why.
I reached out to an SEO agency and they said they couldn’t really help me unless I moved to a WordPress site.
The plan was to launch a new website in August 2019. It actually didn’t go up until October and it took three migrations to finally get it live and working properly.
Three migrations were extremely stressful. It was truly a huge headache and it cost way more than I expected.
The good news is, since we made the switch to WordPress and the migration was successfully completed, we have seen a steady growth in organic traffic back to our website. And that truly was the whole point of this project.
What I learned from the experience was that when I hired the developer and designer for the project, initially I was thinking in terms of ‘How do I save as much money as possible?’. I wasn’t thinking in terms of the mindset of the business I wanted to have.
So if I wanted to run a $1 million business, what would million dollar Elise decide about who to hire?
I hired the person who had the best deal, or the best bang for my buck, and I knew it was a bit of a risk. It didn’t pay off in the end.
Lesson learned. ✔️
2. Bali retreat was fun… but not profitable
The Bali retreat was great, however it didn’t actually drive profit to my business.
Now, this was the second in-person retreat that I’ve hosted. The first one was in Portugal and I didn’t ever make money on that one, either.
When I decided to host the Bali retreat, I thought, I’m going to do it differently now and actually make it a revenue stream that’s profitable in my business.
Well, after the retreat, I looked at the numbers and again, it wasn’t profitable.
I basically charged enough to cover my expenses, so ultimately, because it wasn’t a profitable revenue stream, I did decide to put retreats on pause in my business for now.
The idea of hosting retreats came out of my warm audience telling me, ‘Elise, if you host something we’ll come’.
I didn’t really do my research into how to make this a profitable stream in my business. I just did it because people said they would show up and it seemed fun.
So that’s the lesson learned: I need to do my research, especially when I’m going to introduce a new revenue stream in my business.
3. I got sucked into a funnel black hole
Looking back, I can see that I kinda got sucked into a funnel black hole.
I had an automated webinar funnel that was accounting for the majority of my revenue and I became obsessed with it.
I was either tweaking the pages or playing around with the ads or trying someone else’s new funnel methodology and it just started to become a Franken-funnel. 🧟
I was so deep in it, I couldn’t even see that.
It wasn’t until the end of 2019 when I decided to put my tweaking on pause and just let it run as is, and focus on creating a new product.
It wasn’t until then that I could see where I was obsessed and stuck in this funnel black hole.
I wish I’d been more focused on looking at the market, looking at what was interesting to people and staying fresh with a fresh product.
4. Ad spend adventures…
The last thing that didn’t go so well for me in 2019 was my return on ad spend actually dropped.
Now, I’m probably not alone in this.
If you’ve ever spent money on ads, you’ve probably seen a difference in 2019 versus 2018, but again, this just fuelled my obsession.
I was obsessed with getting that return back.
As a result, I jumped around from ad agencies to contractors to Facebook ads courses and never really felt like I found my groove.
At the end of the day, we still did get a return from our ads. It was about 2x, but all year I was chasing a 3x or 4x return.
When I read my report from 2018, I was doing the exact same thing. In 2019 I still hadn’t really nailed down this Facebook ads thing. I don’t think I have yet, but I hope to hit my groove there in 2020.
What am I working toward this year?
I looked at my 2018 review and what I said I wanted to work on in 2019 was to do less, better.
When I look back on my 2019 year, I truly do feel like I did less, meaning, I wasn’t the one writing my blogs. I hired a content manager and expanded my team in that way. Plus, we also increased our revenue and I was able to pay myself more.
All of that tells me I achieved my 2019 goal of doing less, better.
Going through the Clockwork program and hiring my amazing team members certainly helped me do that.
So, what am I working on for 2020 this year?
I’ve decided I have a straight up revenue numbers goal:
My goal is to hit $1 million in revenue.
Yup. Just a straight up numbers goal. 💰
I don’t think I’ve ever had just a numbers goal before, especially at the million dollar revenue mark, but I’m really excited for this to be my goal. It feels like it’s a stretch, but also very attainable, especially with all the momentum we built through 2019, with the blog, YouTube channel, Facebook ads and the funnels that are converting.
What is this year’s theme?
My theme for 2020 is straight up visibility.
Just like a concept I teach in my product Story Vault, visibility is the season that I’m focused on for my 2020 year.
What do I mean by that?
I mean more YouTube videos, more ads, more content, more podcasts, press, all the ways to get in front of the audience I want to reach.
This is the year where I feel like my channels are in place. My confidence is where it needs to be to really put myself out there.
I’m excited to see what’s going to happen. 😊
So, what did you think?
Let me know in the comments below what you found the most useful.
I never want to just share numbers for the sake of it. I also want to share my lessons learned so that you can apply it to your business too.
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