It’s that time of year again! Reflection, goal-setting, and COVID-secure Christmas parties. This is my 2021 year in review.
As Vinnie Jones would say, ‘it’s been emotional’.
2021 year in review
2021 was a big year for me personally.
We settled into our new house, raised a puppy and got married (third attempt, due to COVID!).
Alongside that, it’s been one of the most demanding years at my company, Design Cuts, as we push for our next phase of growth. This has been our first full year of working entirely remotely, and I finally got to meet the entire team for the first time in person at our Christmas party earlier this month.
At the start of this year, I announced that I was pivoting my personal brand to focus entirely on community building.
It’s a topic I’ve been passionate about for years, but haven’t spoken publicly about with any real conviction.
Keen to follow my own advice around niching I jumped into this new space with both feet. This is how it went…
When I look back on a year, I like to break it down into the following:
- Lessons learned
- Areas for improvement
Despite this being my side-hustle, I feel like I achieved a lot!
- I wrote a book! The Community Manual has now been downloaded over 6000 times.
- I launched my first personal website!
- I launched Learn.Community, my community for community builders (now at over 120 members!)
- My content is starting to get shared more, recently by the Head of Community at Reddit
- I’m blogging every single week
- My wife was able to quit her job and now helps me run Learn.Community
- I recently got accepted to appear on one of the biggest Community Podcasts
- I’m in the midst of organising my first paid speaking gig.
- I appeared on The Futur talking community and it got watched nearly 24,000 times.
- I’ve been accepted as a Circle.so expert (being announced in January).
- My one-on-one consultations have picked up (despite me not advertising them)
- I’ve made some incredible connections in the community space. Shout outs to Rosie, Sara, Mac, Danielle, Jay, Noele and Mathilde.
- I got to speak to some seriously inspiring people, from the co-founder of Social Chain Dom Mcgregor, to Noel Mack chief brand officer at GymShark.
This year honestly feels like the most progress I’ve ever made with my personal brand. I’ve had real conviction in pursuing my love for community. I’ve essentially launched a new business. I committed to writing a book! And I’m really noticing some traction in terms of building a reputation and network in the community industry. I feel proud of all this, considering I’m squeezing in these efforts in evenings/weekends around an extremely busy day-job running my company.
Given all of the activity shared above, there have been a lot of learning lessons this past year.
- I started to treat my personal brand more like a business. I significantly reduced costs, whilst increasing revenue and profits.
- I saw first hand the benefit of proper validation – proving the concept of Learn.Community before ever building it.
- I also saw the benefits of launching an MVP (minimum viable product). I was able to launch super lean.
- I realised how powerful distribution is in marketing. Most of our paying members come from my appearances on other people’s platforms, rather than my own audience.
- I learned to say ‘no’ more, and started respecting my own time. I’ve been very intentional about only saying ‘yes’ to opportunities that support my goals.
- My personal brand was intentionally shifted to be much bigger than Instagram. This was a prudent move, as the algorithm continues to slide backwards. I also noticed most community builders spend their time on Twitter, so have enjoyed embracing that platform, as well as my blog.
- I learned so much by doing. It’s felt amazing to be hands on building a community from scratch again.
- I balanced work/life much better than ever before. I’ve worked out in the gym 118 days in a row. I have come close to burning out this year, but managed to avoid it (a first for me!).
- I learned to kill off projects that aren’t working quicker than ever. There have been multiple projects this year where 1-2 weeks in, I decided it wasn’t worth the time expenditure.
- I realised how transferable skills are. Initially I was scared to pivot into community, but soon I realised that all of my prior experiences are now proving invaluable in pursuing this new direction.
Areas for Improvement
Whilst I’d love to say I did a perfect job this year, that sadly isn’t true! Here are some areas I need to work on:
- Automations. I suck at anything technical, but recognise the huge gains to be made from automating more of the operational parts of this business. Next year we’ll need to establish better workflows and automations to enable scale.
- Learn.Community is still too dependent on me. I’m making good strides in empowering our members, but as it continues to grow, I want to be able to step back a little, to draw on more answers and knowledge from our members.
- I need to get better at time-blocking. I work well with structure, I need to build that structure into my weeks more.
- I need to prioritise distribution more. If something works, do more of it. This year I want to get my name out there a ton more on other people’s platforms.
Let’s Talk About Goals:
I’ve never been a huge goal-setter, but this year, with all of my renewed clarity and drive, I wanted to sit and plan some out. I’ve broken my goals down into the following categories:
I think it’s incredibly helpful to have a north star goal, as this is what will guide all of your ongoing efforts.
Ultimately, I want to build the biggest community out there for community builders. I want to host conferences and events. I want to bring passionate community builders together and inspire more people to embrace community.
I know CMX does an incredible job at serving community professionals, but I personally love serving entrepreneurs and creatives. I’m not so focused on helping the community manager of a large corporation, as I am in helping bring an entrepreneur’s dreams of community to life.
I also want to write several physical books, and establish myself as one of the go-to thought leaders in the community field.
The good news is, this is a 10-20+ year play for me. So I’m happy to be patient and keep grinding towards my goals.
Annual goals tend to be more specific and follow the SMART goals framework (Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time-bound.)
Next year I want Learn.Community to hit 300 members.
I want to push hard on distribution, appearing over 50 times on other people’s platforms (podcasts, Youtube channels, guest blog articles etc).
I want to book over 20 one-on-one consultations.
I aim to hit 5000 monthly visitors to my website (currently it’s 1000).
I want to help more of our members than ever reach their goals. Whether it’s launching their first community, supporting their family financially or overcoming mental hurdles. I love helping others! We will be recording as each member hits their carefully defined community goals and celebrating these wins with the wider community.
2022 Quarterly goals
I’m still working on these, but they will basically be reverse engineering my year goals. So that means breaking up my annual membership numbers into achievable monthly targets. It means tracking speaking gigs and consultations monthly, and adjusting efforts accordingly if I’m falling short.
Typically I take some time over the holidays to break-up my annual goals into calendar items and sprints.
As much as all of this is a side-hustle, and sometimes it moves slower than I would like, I have to remind myself – consistency compounds.
Next year I’ll publish over 50 blog articles.
We’ll open up 6 cohorts for Learn.Community.
I’ll publish hundreds of Tweets and social media posts.
I’ll continue to build relationships within the community field.
My inbound referrals will continue to gather momentum as I establish myself in the industry.
The point is – I’m here for the marathon, not the sprint. I look forward to reviewing this post at the end of 2022 to see how I did! 🙂
I love chipping away at my goals, a little each day. I keep reminding myself that I have 20+ years to hit my lifetime goals. So as cliche as it is, I’m going to work hard, but maintain balance and enjoy the journey to getting there.
To everyone reading this, happy holidays and thank you for all of your support this year – it means the world! 🙂