- in business by Fuad Kamal
2016 Retrospective: It’s not about the Numbers
First off, wanted to thank Bryan Harris, for it’s his challenge that caused this post to come to fruition in the first place. Writing consistently has been my latest stumbling block, hopefully moving forward this too will be something that I manage to improve upon. Secondly, I wanted to thank my mentor, Brennan Dunn, who made me aware of Bryan in the first place.
I am not really going to make this a post about numbers. Numbers don’t tell the real story here. It is enough to say that we are ending the year with a positive balance in the bank – not quite the buffer I was targeting, but a healthy enough buffer nonetheless, and a first for us as far as I can remember. Again, numbers aren’t the real story here. So what is the story, then? It’s all about quality of life, improvements, family, and foundations. I will make reference to a few resources I have made use of throughout the year – links to everything will be listed at the end of this post.
2016 was the year of DYFC – Double Your Freelancing Clients – which has since become Double Your Freelancing Academy. This is the organization created by my mentor, Brennan Dunn, and throughout the year I have kept telling people it was the best investment I have ever made in my business. My goal at the start of the year was to double my income by the end of 2016. Did I do that? Not at all – in fact I kept the single main client all of 2016 that I had in 2015, while reducing my hours on Brennan’s advice. Our income was actually probably quite a bit more than 2015, even with the reduced hours – I added a subcontractor to this client project in late 2015 so our effective role actually doubled, but honestly I haven’t even bothered to keep count. Before DYFC, I was putting in 50-60 hours/week on client work, all on a single client. Beginning of 2015 with Brennan’s help I drafted a letter to my client explaining that I would be reducing my hours to 30-40/hours week in order to shift some of my focus to business development for my company, Anaara. In retrospect, if I hadn’t done this, I would never have been able to put in the work that needed to be done to lay the foundations for growth – Brennan was spot on in this regard. In fact I should probably have reduced my hours further – especially towards the latter half of the year I tended more towards the 40 hours/week side, which had a negative impact on my ability to focus on business development. In addition to lowering the amount of time per week I spent on client work, I also completely dropped my Iaido training this year. I had to be realistic about my time rather than taking on too much at a time.
Furthermore, in 2016 I transitioned to working 100% remotely from my own office, which is only a ten minute drive (for the times when I do drive – I also bike to my office, now). That’s saving me about ten hours of commute time per week, whereas in 2015 I was driving most days to my client’s site in Bethesda. 10hrs/week commuting = 40+ billable hours per month saved. Compare that to a few years ago, when I was commuting from Maryland to Atlanta every week by car – literally I would leave Atlanta mid Friday and leave Maryland again Sunday morning. After ten months of doing that I brought the odometer of my car to over 220,000 miles. Working remotely saves me a lot more than just commute time, though – working remotely gives me the flexibility to split my time flexibly to accomodate my family’s needs – I can just as easily work from a coffee shop in Gaithersburg during my son’s math class as from College Park during my daughter’s martial arts class.
The benefits gained from DYFC were multifold. First off, they showed me how to focus. We no longer build “Rich Internet Applications”. We don’t just build mobile apps, either. Rather, we provide mobile strategy and development for the Health and Fitness market, predominately on Apple platforms. By narrowing down our focus with a very niche positioning statement, we exclude all the things we could for the one thing we want to do and can do best. Turns out, when you narrow your focus, it becomes so much easier to turn down work that wouldn’t have been terribly interesting, while also attracting the specific work you want. I really have to emphatically thank another of my mentors, Philip Morgan, for driving this point home. Which brings up another massive benefit of DYFC – basically I have full access to a huge pool of successful entrepreneurs as my direct mentors. Furthermore I have others in my situation to share my experiences with and get direct feedback. There is a structured program, yes, and it is incredible – but the sheer amount and quality of resources at my disposal are simply overwhelming.
Another benefit from DYFC was a huge shift in our web site content strategy. In it’s essence, 2016 was a period of foundation laying, which really makes me excited to see how things continue to evolve in the coming years. So while we haven’t posted much new content in 2016, I did start a massive content audit of our existing content. I literally removed over 90% of our blog content – it was either outdated or irrelevant to our new positioning. Furthermore, in the past years I had rarely made use of Google Analytics for analyzing our site traffic, and when I did bother to do so, it wasn’t terribly informative. By going through the content audit, I was also forced to learn not only how to make sense of Google Analytics, but also how to filter out all the spam and junk traffic. As it turns out, our meaningful site traffic has been close to zero, all along. Once again, I am really looking forward to see how this changes in the coming years, as there is only room for improvement. ? For more information on how to perform your own content audit, check out this invaluable interview with Todd Tresidder on the Smart Passive Income Podcast (transcript and audio available) .
Another big change in 2016 is actually the sum of many small things, but all with a single, common theme:
Doing small things, but consistently. I find that if you can accomplish small tasks, but be consistent about them, they are far more effective many times than trying to do something huge but just doing it once.
One of the tools I used to aid in this was a free iOS app called Streaks. Streaks only lets you track six tasks – no more. So you need to choose the six habits you want work on the most. After using this for a while, I found that some habits became second nature to me, and I deleted them permanently from Streaks as I no longer needed to track them – I continue to do them automatically every day. Which left room for me to add some additional habits to work on. The benefit of using Streaks is having a concrete, physical streak record that you don’t want to mess up by missing a day. It’s reminiscent of the habit building exercise that Nathan Barry talks about so much.
One habit I cultivated, again thanks to Brennan Dunn, is to keep a weekly business journal. Keeping the journal goes beyond my daily work journal I keep. This is a look back at my week in review and an assessment of what went right and what went wrong. Keeping the journal has helped me to keep track of my progress throughout the year in a concrete and meaningful way, and gives me continual incentive towards improvement. In brief, here’s the format I follow in the journal:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- What could I do different?
- What revenue did I earn?
- How do I feel about this week? Happy, etc.?
Another habit I cultivated was to connect two people every day. I heard one of the guests on the Hack the Entrepreneur podcast mention that this was his one key to success as an entrepreneur. So I thought I would give it a try. While I haven’t kept up with it daily, per say, I have made it a consistent, regular habit and I do feel there is a long term benefit from this.
I won’t go into gross detail regarding my other habits, lets just suffice to say that (a) I spent a lot more time with my family in 2016 than in previous years and (b) I raced competitively for the first time in my life.
In 2016 I consumed more non-fiction books than usual as well, almost all of which I found very beneficial. Here’s a few of the non-technical ones:
The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza (became aware of it through this interview of the author on Brennan Dunn’s podcast)
Authority by Nathan Barry (provided as part of DYFC)
The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms by Philip Morgan (provided by, and required pre-requisite reading and work for DYFC)
Double Your Freelancing Rate (DYFR) by Brennan Dunn (provided by, and required pre-requisite reading and work for DYFC) – independent study course
1 Hour 1,000 Pics by Chris Marquardt
There are some key lessons I learned this year, from my mentors, experience, and the podcasts and books I read and listened to:
1) Focus on one thing. The key to success is to focus on the most important thing you need to get done, and do it right away, rather than waiting or getting distracted by other things. Yes, you might want to do ten different things in a day, a month, a year, or over the course of your career. Regardless, prioritize and choose the ONE thing that is most important. Almost every single entrepreneur who’s interviews I listened to on the Hack the Entrepreneur podcast had this same lesson to relate.
2) Quality of life always trumps numbers. Don’t focus on dollars, focus on what’s actually important in your life.
- Laid the foundation for content strategy, by performing an extensive content audit and starting to produce new, focused content.
Business Goals for next year:
- Consistently produce new focused content.
- Diversify income streams – don’t rely exclusively on consulting income.
- Release one app or add one new client in 2017
- Fire my web hosting provider
Personal Goals for next year (abridged list):
- return to Iaido training
- release a game with my son on the app store
- make at least two out of state trips with my family
Resources mentioned in this article:
Double Your Freelancing Academy
The Positioning Manual by Philip Morgan
Hack the Entrepreneur podcast
Interview with Todd Tresidder about performing a Content Audit
Two Part Interview with Sean D’Souza on Double Your Freelancing Podcast
Sean D’Souza On Why Clients Buy (Part 1)
Sean D’Souza on Why Clients Buy (Part 2)
How to filter out the spam traffic from Google Analytics and just see the meaningful data
Folks mentioned in this article:
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