Initially I wasn't going to write an end of year review post - it seems as though everyone else is doing it and I didn't want to jump on the bandwagon, however it is really easy to forget how far you have come within 12 months. And for that reason, here is my end of year review!
Is it me or did that feel like an exceptionally long holiday? I'm not sure whether it was because Christmas and New Year fell at the end of the week, which meant we also had the weekends to drag out the inevitability of going back to work, or whether it was because last Christmas my holiday was a sweaty, panicky affair - realising that I had quit my job and didn't have a clue what to do next!
Anyway, despite having a good break from work, I did spend some of the holiday reading. And one article that I read that really resonated was by an excellent author whose work I am really getting into at the moment - Nathan Barry (you can learn more about Nathan here).
Nathan mentioned that writing an end of year review is a great way to visualise what you achieved during the past 12 months, and more importantly being able to reflect back on the previous year's post in the following year to see how far you've come.
So this is one article I've written this for myself rather than my readers! But hopefully you'll get some value too...
A year in the blink of an eye
So it is been almost 12 months since I started my business. And I hate myself for typing this, it sounds like a huge cliche... but what a year it has been! Whilst I have come across some massive challenges and negotiated days when I wondered whether I had made the right decision to start up my own thing, I have also worked on some fantastic projects, celebrated some excellent successes and proved to myself that I can be successful in this field.
Maybe most significantly - I didn't get into debt and my girlfriend hasn't left me (yet)...
Freelancer or entrepreneur?
I think one of the major things that has changed within the past 12 months, is the transition from wanting to be an e-learning freelancer to realising that I was destined to be a full-blown entrepreneur.
When I started working for myself, I was confident that I would be happy designing e-learning 24/7. But I quickly realised that the only way to have the time to design elearning all day every day, is to get a job!
And working for 'the man' is the one reason I wanted to start working for myself.
When I look back at my attitude at the beginning of last year, I am quite surprised at how I naïvely expected the sales, marketing, project management and administration of my business to run itself. For any of you out there who run your own businesses, you will know that this side of the work takes more time than the actual vocation itself.
But I also feel blessed, because it is the diversity of the work that I find myself doing on a day-to-day basis that I really enjoy. And without this, I think I would feel quite trapped.
Building a business
So now I have my sights firmly set on building a business. And for me this doesn't mean building a team, finding and office and having my company name over the top of the door.
For me, building a business is all about building a sustainable, profitable company that delivers value to its clients, whilst at the same time provides me with my ideal lifestyle.
I want to keep my business lean and streamlined, working with strategic partners and other specialists on interesting projects with selective clients.
Not just content
Not only have I realised that I want to build a business, my thoughts on the direction of my business have changed. Whilst I thoroughly enjoy creating e-learning, I have realised that I can add a lot more value to my customers businesses by harnessing my experience in the implementation of e-learning and the LMS platform from a strategic standpoint in the corporate world.
And so a key adjustment that I have made to my business in the past 12 months is to focus more on providing consulting services to support clients with their e-learning product as a whole. Not just the individual courses, but how customers can implement an LMS, manage this on a daily basis and most importantly, ensure its ongoing success. (You can see how I helped a global telecommunications company achieve this by clicking here).
This side of the work really excites me and is something that I aim to promote more actively in 2016. I have been really lucky to have started working on one of these projects recently, for a huge client who is looking to implement an LMS for their customer base.
Next job is to vocalise this change within my marketing... But I'll get to that later.
Funny old tail
I think 2015 will always remind me not to take my health for granted. I have struggled with back complaint for the duration of the year, which has limited my ability to sit for long periods of time. This has meant that I've had to learn to work smarter rather than harder, and my creative output has been limited by the problem (which has been a massive mental hurdle to overcome).
But as they say, it's always important to look at every problem as an opportunity, and the one thing that I have benefited from in the past 12 months is having a lot of time on my hands where I was not able to sit at my desk.
I made use of this time by consuming vast amounts of podcasts and audiobooks, whilst lying down or going for long walks.
And through these I have learnt an incredible amount about the sales and marketing side of the business. I really feel that I have found a new passion in this area, especially in regard to content marketing.
Talking about content marketing, this is probably a good time to mention all the articles I wrote in the past 12 months, hosted both on my site and as a guest on other sites. Definitely not as many as I would have liked to have written, but here is a quick overview with links to each:
- Beginner's Guide to Delivering eLearning via an LMS
- 5 Questions to ask Yourself Before Finding Someone to Build your Elearning Course
- To Narrate or Not To Narrate - eLearning Question 101!
Using elearning to deliver value
- How I Saved $50,000 Moving from Classroom Training to eLearning
- How my big mouth reminded me of the importance of scenarios in learning design
- 5 Tips Ensuring Employees Complete eLearning Courses
Getting started as a freelancer
- Managers and Makers - A New Adventure in Instructional Design...
- 6 Surprising things I have learnt as a Freelance Elearning Designer
Articulate Storyline articles
- A simple way to help beginners get started with Storyline
- Using Videoscribe with Articulate Storyline to create engaging elearning
- My interactive org chart - who, where and why
- The Placebo Effect - medical elearning challenge
Goals for 2016
So what do I have planned for this year?
Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, alongside developing e-learning content for my current and new clients, I am keen to develop the e-learning strategy side of my business. I am currently working with one client to implement an LMS within their business, and I hope to find more clients who have a similar need for an expert to come in, analyse their current setup and prescribe a solution for delivering e-learning to either their employees or customers.
My second goal for the year, is to narrow down my focus so that I am not developing e-learning for anyone and everyone. In order to be viewed as an expert within my field, I have learnt that it is essential to pick a niche and become an expert in that particular area (I read a fantastic book by Philip Morgan on this subject, I thoroughly recommend his work if you are thinking of how to position your business and become an expert in a specific field).
My final goal for this year is to improve my content marketing, so that I can attract more of the right type of client to my business. I aim to do this through providing more valuable content, and eventually launch my own online training course.
I have yet to narrow down exactly how this will look, however I believe that there isn't much information available to people on how to successfully implement an e-learning strategy within their business, and this is something that I feel very confident with and therefore is most likely to be my chosen topic.
ll that is left to say is happy New Year, I wish you all the best 2016. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to get in touch!
If you enjoyed reading this article, you'll probably enjoy my free 5-day email crash course - 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Elearning Project.