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A year in review at EntrepreneurOnFire: 2014
I don’t know if I would consider John and I “serious” people, but when it comes to reflection and goals, dreams, living a fulfilling life, and achieving success, we get pretty serious.
We recently sent out a newsletter to Fire Nation that was titled Time to reflect: The big 3.
In it, we promised an entire post on our 2014 In Review. Welcome to that post :)
We also talked about why we feel it’s incredibly important to reflect on the year for 3 BIG reasons.
3 Big reasons
Reflecting on the year isn’t just about sitting and trying to remember all the great things that happened over the past 365 days. That would not only take a really long time, but if all you’re doing is remembering the high points, then your time spent isn’t going to yield great results.
There are 3 BIG reasons why we believe reflecting on the previous year is important as you start to look ahead, and they are:
1. You get to see what worked well (so you can repeat it)
2. You get to celebrate everything you’ve accomplished (as you should!)
3. You get to see what didn’t work well (time to pivot or drop the activity completely)
Having a handle
There is huge potential in having a handle on all 3 of these things.
When we’re able to repeat what works well for us, we’re the most efficient, we give ourselves more room for success, and we’re overall more productive.
When we’re able to celebrate everything we’ve accomplished, we provide ourselves with well-deserved recognition and the momentum and motivation necessary to continue doing all the crazy stuff we do as entrepreneurs :)
Note: don’t say you didn’t accomplish anything in 2014. If you truly feel this way, then I encourage you to stop and think about what that means for you and where you’re at right now with your business.
When we’re able to recognize what didn’t work well for us, we give ourselves insane potential to correct course – to pivot – and in doing so we not only save ourselves time, but we also learn big lessons and set ourselves up for future success by not repeating the same mistakes.
A year in review: 2014
So we set out to do just that – get a handle on the big 3 – and we wanted to share our reflections with you in hopes that you’ll take away some insights and lessons learned of your own given the successes and the celebrations we’ve experienced, along with the struggles we’ve overcome in 2014.
Let’s start by reviewing the big goals we set for ourselves in 2014.
Our 2014 goals
In 2014, our BIG goals were to:
- Double our email newsletter list (get to 20,000+ subscribers) before year-end
- Grow Podcasters’ Paradise to 1,000+ members before year-end
- Increase our listenership for the podcast (and hit 1 million downloads / listens in a single month)
We squeezed by on #1 with a total of 21,666 newsletter subscribers, (and this includes a MASSIVE scrub of inactive subscribers, meaning anyone who doesn’t engage with our weekly emails).
We CRUSHED #2: 1,775 members in Podcasters’ Paradise (and $1,687,596 in revenue). WOW – are you serious? Yes :-)
We’ve been flirting our faces off with #3: in September, we had an all-time high of 972,904 listens, then, 846,192 in October, 833,391 in November, and 936,040 in December. SO CLOSE!
In reflecting on what worked well and what didn’t work well for us in 2014 based on our big goals, it becomes quite clear why we missed our mark on #3: we allowed other projects and opportunities to distract us from our big hairy goal of reaching 1 million downloads in a single month.
Now this doesn’t mean that those other projects and opportunities we engaged in were a bad thing, but it’s definitely a huge lesson learned for us when we reflect and realize that in committing to those other projects and opportunities, we lost sight of our big goals.
Conclusion: We said “yes” to things that weren’t contributing to our overall goals, and in doing so, we forced ourselves to say “no” to things that could have contributed to our overall goals.
Let’s take a quick timeout, because this is important…
In setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-oriented), we’re now in a position to actually learn something from the mistakes we made (and the things we did right) in 2014.
Do you see that after reviewing our big goals for 2014, we can easily reflect back and identify exactly where we missed our mark, and correct course?
If we would have made our 2014 goals out to be things like “increase our number of subscribers” and “get a lot of podcast downloads”, then we wouldn’t even be writing this post – there wouldn’t be anything for us to say other than “Yes, and yes”.
But because we made our goals specific, measurable and time-relevant, we’re able to confirm that the activities and time we spent on things like growing our list to over 20k subscribers were of value.
Conversely, we’re able to say that we didn’t spend enough time growing our listenership, otherwise we would have reached our goal of hitting 1 million downloads in a single month.
If you find yourself stuck when it comes to setting goals that will actually help you achieve what you want most out of 2015, then we definitely encourage you to check The Freedom Journal: Accomplish Your #1 Goal in 100 Days.
This step-by-step, daily Journal will help you accomplish what matters most to you through daily tasks and prompts to hold yourself accountable.
We also have a Private Facebook Group for others working on The Freedom Journal, so you’ll have full support the entire way!
So in order to really break this down, let’s dive into what worked well, how we celebrated, what didn’t work well, and our biggest lessons learned in 2014.
What worked well
Automation and funnels
John and I did over 60 LIVE Webinars in 2014. Yes – the $1,750,000 we generated on those Webinars was amazing – but MAN that’s a lot of work!
As a result, at the end of 2014 we set out to create an automation process for these Webinars, all the while being mindful of the fact that we still want to be delivering the same incredible value within our automation as we do on our live Webinars.
It really came down to this fact: 91% of our sales for Podcasters’ Paradise happen on live webby’s, so unless we were able to figure out another way, 2015 would be “live webby central station” once again :-)
Don’t get us wrong – we LOVE our live Webinars, but we also love improving our processes over time.
It’s a little too early to report with 100% accuracy, but WOW… we are off to an AMAZING start!
Let’s take a look!
John started our automation funnel by creating FreePodcastCourse.com: how to create and launch your podcast.
With zero dollars spent in paid traffic thus far, we have over 1,500 fellow and future Podcasters who have signed up for this course and who are making their way through the program, with close to 100 additional signups daily!
Our current lifetime membership investment for Podcasters’ Paradise is $1,097 – that’s a big investment, and even with our $97 monthly option, we found that people need more than just a sales page to make their buying decision. Live webinars were the best converter by a LONG shot because it gave people the opportunity to get to know us and gain a ton of free knowledge on podcasting throughout the Webinar.
With FreePodcastCourse, John is able to deliver that same amazing value he did on our live Webinars, only broken down into shorter video segments.
In just 10 days, we’ve generated 16 sales (over $17,000) directly from this automated funnel, which equals more passive sales than we generated in the last 3 months combined!
We’ll be publishing an epic post in the near future detailing our exact funnel system, but to see it first hand, click on the image below and prepare to IGNITE!
We attended A LOT of conferences in 2014, and being present and hosting meet ups for Fire Nation, Fire Nation Elite, and Podcasters’ Paradise really helped us connect with our community.
While this isn’t necessarily something we set out to measure (I guess we could have set goals for how many people from our community attended our meet ups – but we didn’t), we do know from feedback we’ve received that attending conferences and hosting meet ups has had a huge impact on the growth of our community, Fire Nation, and on the growth of our paid communities, like Fire Nation Elite and Podcasters’ Paradise as well.
- Increased exposure for the EntrepreneurOnFire brand: SO important;
- Time spent growing relationships with others in our industry and niche: priceless.
Total # of conferences attended in 2014: 11
The conferences that we attended in 2014 were:
New Media Expo, Social Media Marketing World, Tropical Think Tank, World Domination Summit, IGNITE: the Life On Fire Event, San Diego Social Media Day, Unleashed, Podcast Movement, Camp Good Life Project, Agents Of Change, and Creative Live.
If you’re interested in attending some of the top conferences for online entrepreneurs, then check out our top recommendations for conferences specifically for entrepreneurs: Top Conferences for Entrepreneurs. We update the post regularly, so it’ll always be filled with relevant recommendations!
Growing our team
If it wasn’t for the help of our virtual and extended teams, a lot of our accomplishments in 2014 wouldn’t have even been possible (at least not without me and John both going crazy!)
Growing our team has not only allowed us to scale and grow our business, but it has also created the space for us to focus on personal development and improvement.
In addition to our virtual team members, JM, Jess and our newest addition, Tipu, we also hired our CPA, Josh Bauerle; brought our designer on board on retainer, Brandy Shea; and established our go-to teams for our Infusionsoft application, and our opt-in and sales page development (Zach Swinehart).
Having these relationships built and established helped us get a lot more done in a lot less time, with peace of mind added in between.
- Thanks to the time we invested in building our team and finding the best resources available for the things we know we’re not best at, we were able to work a lot more ON our business in 2014 versus IN it.
In February we realized something pretty powerful: not only were our Podcast Workshops converting like crazy, but attendees were really interested in the logistics and background of how to actually create and present their own webinars.
This is a double win, because we not only continued to host our live Podcast Workshop throughout 2014, we also created a new community, WebinarOnFire, by simply listening to the questions and the pain points our audience was telling us they had.
- In 2014 alone, we had over 18,000 people opt in for one or more of our Live Webinars!
- Our live Webinars accounted for more than 85% of our overall sales for Podcasters’ Paradise and WebinarOnFire, making our financial investment in actually creating and presenting our Webinars for the year around $2,000 (LeadPages, Call Loop and Chatroll), and our overall invoice total at more than $1.8 million. We’ll take that any day of the week :-)
We have been continuously improving Podcasters’ Paradise every single day in some way, shape or form since inception, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
In June 2014 we redesigned the entire site with the goal of making it more user friendly and more visually appealing. By organizing the content on the site in a more logical progression, along with creating “partials” for different podcasting topics, we were able to make it a lot easier for our members to find what they were looking for out of the over 200 video tutorials we’ve created.
We also took time out to evaluate the things we could do to continue making Paradise even better.
Enter: our WOW-ing process
In October 2014 we implemented an entire campaign in an effort to get our new Paradise members to WOW instantly. So far, we’ve only received great feedback! You can read more about our WOW-ing process in our October monthly income report if you want all the deets.
Same goes for Fire Nation Elite. In July we launched “Fire Nation Elite 2.0” – an upgraded version of our Elite Mastermind Tribe, which offers in-depth guidance via quarterly Fire Starters Courses and even more Google Hangout sessions than before.
This did require bringing another member on board to be our community ambassador, (thank you, Dean Patino!), but it has been well worth it for the results we’re seeing and the feedback we’re getting from those within our Tribe.
About mid-2014 we had had just about enough of what felt like less-than-productive days. It was around this time that we realized scheduling things – even the tiniest things – made a huge difference.
Once we started creating time in our schedule for the things we knew we had to get done, we actually ended up seeing more free time come our way. Plus, when we stuck to working only on those things we had scheduled, we were more efficient, more productive, and of course, happier about our progress!
“The secret of your success lies in your daily routine.” – John Maxwell Click to Tweet!
Something that we also both found success with doing is creating themes for each day of the week. For example, John’s podcast day is Tuesday: that’s when he does all of his podcast interviews for EntrepreneurOnFire.
Another example: Wednesday’s are our Webinar days. This is when we schedule our Live Podcast Workshops, our Webinar Workshops, and our exclusive community Webinars.
Having themes for our days makes it easier to plan ahead, and easier to stay on track. Having an entire day set aside for a theme creates a bigger space in which to accomplish things, and a smaller chance that you’ll “just set it aside” until tomorrow.
How we celebrated
In February 2014 John and I upgraded our environment: we moved from our cozy 1 bedroom apartment (where we shared a single desk in our living room as a working space) to a 2 bedroom apartment (where I now have my own office and John has his own recording area).
This might not sound like a huge deal, especially given we’re within a quarter mile of where we were before location-wise, but it has changed everything.
Sometimes it takes changing your environment to recognize the types of constraints you had before. I was able to make an office out of our 2nd bedroom, and John was able to spread out his recording studio in our living area, which has made a world of difference for our focus and productivity.
Oh, and our view could be worse…
In May 2014 we took off for a 2-week trek in Europe, and we completely unplugged from the business for the entire time. To help celebrate my 1-year anniversary at EOFire, along with everything we’d accomplished in our business up to that point, John and I knew it was time to get away and fully unplug.
It felt amazing to go, and amazing to come back – one of the many joys of loving your work!
What didn’t work well
Something I personally didn’t do well in 2014 was letting go of things at the right time, meaning I spent way too much time researching potential resources, products and services that didn’t end up going anywhere for us.
Doing this only left me frustrated and disappointed in the end.
Fail fast, my friends!
Knowing when to stop pursuing something is a great skill to have, but unfortunately it doesn’t come easy. A great question to ask yourself when you find that you’re spending a lot of time and yielding little results is:
“Is this helping me get one step closer to my BIG goals?”
If the answer is no, then it’s time to move on.
Note: Again, the importance of setting up SMART goals at the beginning of the year comes into play. If you don’t have your goals set, you won’t be able to answer this question.
Saying yes to way too many things
About mid-year, we knew we were in for it: we’d said “yes” to way too many things, and we were paying for it.
Reading the book Essentialism changed our outlook on this subject entirely, and we’ve made it our goal to be conscious of what it is that we’re giving up every time we say “yes” to something in 2015.
“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” – Mahatma Gandhi Click to Tweet!
Writing a daily blog
I learned pretty early on in 2014 that writing a daily blog wasn’t working. In fact, I wrote an entire post on Why I changed the frequency of our blog if you want a deep dive on the subject :)
In short, we weren’t seeing the kind of traffic we had hoped for, and my content wasn’t the best it could be because I was struggling to keep up.
This was a major disappointment for me.
But instead of getting down about it, I took this opportunity to pivot: I went from a daily blog to a twice per week blog, and making that pivot has done huge things not only for our blog traffic, but also for my writing.
“Your biggest disappointments are often disguised as your greatest opportunities.” – Brian Smith Click to Tweet!
Again, setting specific and measurable goals for each of your projects will help you discover what’s working and what’s not throughout the year. If I hadn’t set up specific and measurable goals for the blog, then I wouldn’t have been able to stop and realize that what I was doing wasn’t working (I wasn’t hitting the goals I had set for the blog).
Major lessons learned
Tracking things like our time spent on specific projects has really helped open our eyes to what (and where) our bandwidth is going.
After downloading RescueTime and continuing to use it throughout the year, we have incredible insights and data to look back on to helps us understand where we’re spending our time, and how. Now that we have this knowledge, we’ll be able to improve and become more efficient moving forward.
Once you know where you’re spending your time, it will be a lot easier to determine where you shouldn’t be spending your time.
Oh yes, one more thing: we also realized that it’s fact: we worked A LOT in 2014. An average month for each of us added up to about 210 hours worked, an average of 50+ hours per week for the entire year.
“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Unknown
Writing, email marketing, connecting with our community, improving our conversions, presenting better, communicating better – in 2014 we spent a lot of time practicing a lot of stuff, and in doing so we were able to vastly improve in all of these areas.
Nothing is ever going to be perfect, but in order to figure out what’s working and what’s not, you have to just start. Once you’re able to collect insights and feedback from your audience, from your communities, from others in your industry or niche, THEN (and only then) you’ll be able to improve.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain Click to Tweet!
Being okay with the fact that nothing we create is ever going to be perfect – continuing to practice, tweak and improve everything that we do – has positively affected our entire business in every way.
When you let fear and frustration own you, you can’t follow what it is you’ve truly set out to accomplish.
Understanding that there is a process involved in everything we do can take a lot of stress and weight off your shoulders.
Okay, okay… we know that patience can be hard to come by, which is why it’s important to understand your WHY, and what’s at stake for you if you don’t succeed at creating and growing your business.
When you understand your WHY and what’s at stake for you, then you have something to go to when patience is low and frustrations are high.
What keeps us going when we’re not feeling motivated?
How do we get back up after we’ve been pushed on the ground multiple times?
It’s our WHY:
We’re in this for you, and if we give up, then we can’t very well continue on our way to inspiring millions; and
It’s what’s at stake:
If we don’t get back up and keep on going, then we’re risking our freedom, our ability to learn and grow, being able to do the things we love most, and our entire lifestyle as entrepreneurs.
Sounds like we have some pretty solid reasons to keep on going, wouldn’t you agree?
Speaking of our WHY… we’ve had some incredible interactions with Fire Nation throughout the year, and we’re SO, so, so, so grateful for the support, inspiration and motivation our community shares with us every single day.
Some things that blew us away in 2014 included a very special gift from our good friend Pete Sveen, Host of the DIY Pete show: an 80 lb steel piece he turned into incredible wall art for us with his own two hands.
In addition, some of the emails we’ve received from Fire Nation have literally brought us to tears. Knowing the impact we’re having – that we’re helping people change their lives – is a feeling that I can’t even come close to describing.
In fact, we received a pretty special one recently – an email from a friend and fan, James Ashcroft. In it he included a write up that he created that started out like this:
“What differentiates EOFire is the transparency that its hosts, John and Kate, offer their audience. They share their business successes and failures with their listeners.”
James continued to state that he had printed out each of our income reports and started to build a month-by-month financial spreadsheet, where he tracked our different sources of income, along with our biggest lessons learned. As he puts it, “Between the notes and the financials, their story unfolded before my eyes.”
I don’t include this here to use James’ praise. Instead, I include it because the takeaways that James has documented might help you in a major way, too. One that struck me, and that I don’t think a lot of people stop to think about, is this:
“There were months of zero revenue that must have been filled with questions about whether it was a viable business or not. There were probably days when all they did was learn new software, from dawn to dusk. It’s easy to imagine countless hours strategizing, designing the website, and building tutorials. Work, all the time.”
James also included his Top 10 Takeaways, and we’re grateful that he’s shared this with us and given us permission to share it with you.
James’ Top 10 Takeaways
1. It’s an incredible time commitment
It’s obvious that both John and Kate put in huge hours to build this business. They aren’t just podcasters. They are Co-founders of a startup. If you want a seriously build successful company, be serious.
2. Find a coach and mentors early
John did this, and I believe it’s because he had a concrete vision and wanted to shorten his learning curve. Even when he had zero revenue in the first few months, he spent thousands on coaching and masterminds. Hire and surround yourself with people who can help you learn quickly and fail fast.
3. You must have a vision
It’s evident that, from the outset, John and Kate knew exactly what they wanted. EOFire has never been just about a podcast. They’re building a place for like-minded people to congregate and help each other realize their goals. They’re community architects.
4. Build an audience first, then monetize
You should focus on defining your target audience (John refers to this as his “avatar”) and earning their loyalty. This may take months, or even years, but your #1 task is to ensure your messaging is clear and that your content provides value. Build your brand. Only then can you strategically monetize.
5. Divide and conquer
Kate came on board within a few months so they could divide up the work. It’s nearly impossible to do everything yourself, so it’s extremely important to be realistic. If your vision requires more execution than you can handle, then find the support you need.
6. Hire assistants
One of my mentors, Jack Daly, always tells his audiences: “If you don’t have an assistant, you are an assistant!” John and Kate have had virtual assistants since day one, even when they had zero income. They are aware of their limitations and delegate tasks accordingly. Now they have VA’s basically running entire EOFire departments. This frees up time for them to work on their business, not in their business.
7. Get out of the office
John doesn’t hole himself up in his office. He attended conferences. He took speaking gigs to test the waters and see first-hand where the market was. I imagine he welcomed feedback at every turn and based a lot of big business decisions on what he heard. You can’t run a business from inside your building. You must get out and engage with your audience.
8. Constantly test your marketing and technology platforms
Every month, John and Kate test their business systems and processes. They identify what metrics they want to measure, and then test consistently. They implement Lead Pages, Screenflow, Facebook ad campaigns, YouTube, webinar conversions, and many more. Test, test, test. It never ends.
9. Launch new products systematically
They always look for proof of concept before launching. They start small, and test to see whether something works. If it does, then they put more resources into it. If not, then they fail fast, pivot their idea and start a new test. It’s critical to prove a concept (they outline those steps in their April 2014 report).
10. Be passionate and grateful
It’s clear to me that both John and Kate have a passion for what they do. They’re also grateful for their loyal audience and the opportunity to share their story with the world.
James, we can’t thank you enough for sharing your Top 10 Takeaways with Fire Nation. And to you who is reading this, we hope these takeaways were of value to you!
You can learn more about what James is up to on his website, and you can follow him on Twitter at @jamesashcroft
Building systems in our business has:
- Changed how we worked;
- Increased how much we were able to get done; and
- Improved the processes we follow.
Without the systems we’ve built in our business, we never would have been able to take 2 weeks off for our trip to Europe, nor would we have had the bandwidth to accomplish everything we did in 2014.
If you want to learn more about what systems can do you for your business, and the process for creating them, check out our post on Creating systems that create freedom.
The 80 / 20 rule
We learned firsthand in 2014 that 20% of your efforts result in 80% of your outcome.
Focus on what works, and double down.
Reference our “What worked well” section above and note that as we took time out to realize what was working best for us, we were able to leverage that knowledge to continue to net BIG results from small efforts throughout 2014.
We hope that our look back on 2014 and some reflection time on the BIG 3 helped you realize how you can leverage what you already know – what you’ve learned and experienced throughout the year – to make 2015 your best year yet!
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker Click to Tweet!
Remember, if you’re looking to accomplish your #1 goal in just 100 days, check out The Freedom Journal!