My business review 2023

You might want to make yourself a cuppa before diving into this one…it’s about to get juicy.

OK…so I always write a review of my year.

Why?

I find the process of writing them cathartic, I enjoy reading the previous years and seeing what has changed, and one of my driving business values is transparency…so I love sharing the behind-the-scenes of my business and life PLUS, a lot has happened in 2023…A LOT.

So let me catch you up if you are new to my world.

Before becoming a business legacy strategist, I worked in the real world as an artist, trainer, consultant, and project manager for a decade before setting up my plus size fitness blog Too Fat to Run in 2010 which would later become a business, and lead me to global fame and celebrity status (in the running world only of course). The pandemic saw that business die a death as I tried to juggle far too many plates, making the decision to focus on business coaching and helping others to do what I had done with my brand, which brought me in more income during a time where ordinary women were struggling (in many ways)

2020 was an epic year of business growth taking me into the multi 6 figure club that lots of coaches and gurus bang on about as having “finally made it” but 2021 was a difficult year with severe burnout and a whopping case of COVID that saw me hospitalised. I had somehow lost sight of what I actually cared about and so I knew something needed to change.

It did.

I formed a partnership with a global education charity that saw me running a marathon in Sierra Leone and at the end of the year I took a full time job with a larger business consultancy company, to get the security I had craved for years, and a 6 figure salary which wasn’t to be sniffed at, and would lead to me making the bold decision to finally move out of my 2 bed appartment. 

But in January this year, less than a month after moving into my dream home in the countryside, 40 odd miles away from where I had always lived in East London, and all of my support was, I stopped being paid. In March I was officially made redundant, and as it stands I am still waiting to be paid the full amount of what I am owed.

It has been a shocking year.

But also a year of incredible learning, an outpouring of love and support from my clients and business buddies, and an opportunity for me to really think about what I want to do with my life and my business.

So come with me as I spill the tea

 

I spent January through to around April in an absolute daze. I started having panic attacks and not sleeping. At one point I thought I was going to have a heart attack, and my GP put me on Prozac to take the edge off the enormous amount of stress I was under. The final payment of my car loan was due, an outstanding tax bill needed to be paid, and for me to sell my property in London I would have to find £8000 to renew the lease.

I have always been pretty good with money, I follow the Profit First System, hava an accountancy company keeping an eye on the detail of the operations, and have always been able to be profitable. But moving home had been expensive, my costs were up by around 30% and my income was almost down to nothing…aside from some residual income from book sales and affiliate revenue. 

I was royally screwed

I knew things had to change and quick, I didn’t have a year to change my life, I had 30 or 60 days at most.

But I also know that often quick fix solutions can be damaging in business in the long term, and so I knew I had to design something that wasn’t just about my recovery, it had to be truly of service to my client base.

When I looked back at all of the other challenges I had faced in my life there was always a process I followed, I now call that my bounce forward method, because the problem with bouncing back is you end up in the same place, but now you are actually behind because everyone else seemingly just kept on going.

And so I designed out a change programme based on that methodology, trademarked it, took it to market and got 30 women testing it. 

I used that to relaunch myself into the world of business, and have spent the past 6 months testing and trialing new programmes and ideas based on the premise of business change for solopreneurs.

I managed to pick up some 121 retainer work, from previous clients which I will always be incredible grateful for, 5 or 6 clients kept me afloat in those early recovery months, and that didn’t feel good. I mean the work did, but knowing that was my predominant income stream left me feeling uncomfortable. 

I did a lot of soul searching and reflecting on how I had ended up so vulnerable in that redundancy.

Being a solo parent doesn’t help, I had savings (around £20K) but not enough, my business was a lifestyle business very much reliant on me, with a bit of leveraged income when I got out of my own way with creating digital products and things with repeating income. Lots of Solopreneurs are so naive, me included at times…and I think you get to a point in your journey where you have to decide if you just want to play at this thing, or actually have it change your life indefinitely. 

In June I developed a business audit for Solopreneurs….

The What Kind of Solopreneur Business Are you Running Audit...using the software from ScoreApp (which is amazing btw) and the data from the 200 or so business owners who have filled it in has been staggering.

I used that information to cherry pick a small bunch of clients who were at the right level in their business to work with me on bigger picture stuff, and The Legacy Masterplan was born, a high level invite only mastermind for experienced business owners on a mission to change the world. I recruited 6 incredible business women on to that, and we have our final session this week.

I also used that data to inform the build out of my new business model, to get my messaging hitting the right spot, and also to write a new book

How NOT to be Broke, which I wrote over the summer break in the mornings before my daughter Rose work up each day. 

The book launch was amazing, having all of my besties in a room, and some new local business contacts, it just felt right. I have sold around 400 copies since September which I am happy with, and the book is generating leads, and more than anything gave me the headspace to bring many of my methodologies together. I have plans to do some interesting things with it in the new year…so watch this space.

I also rebranded my podcast, and have a stack of interviews lined up for the new year, all on the topic of wealth  (just haven’t prioritised getting them scheduled)

In October I attended The Professional Speakers Association Conference in Solihull, lead by the Amazing Nathan Littleton who I have been in a business mastermind with for around 5 years now, the theme was Just One Thing…the irony being there were a million notes that we all took, and hundreds of ideas of how to grow our businesses. 

My one thing…was a commitment to quite literally Find My One Thing, the hook so to speak to tie all of my expertise together…the funny thing being this is what I am a bloody genius doing for other people, but not always for myself. 

Looking around all the tables at the Gala Dinner, I looked at the 200 or so people and played a game of “Do I know what they do?” and the people that I could refer on with real confidence were the people who had one clear niche, and only did that one thing. 

I had been that when I was CEO and Founder of Too Fat to Run…but not so much as a business coach, even when I led with my Tribe Builder Programme in 2020…the problem was I didn’t just want to be known for audience building, and the word Tribe is problematic, so I stopped using that a few years ago.

I am a proud generalist, my varied background means I am great at connecting the dots, seeing the bigger picture, being able to lead people in the right direction, while also expecting the to figure some of the detail out themselves, cos come on we are all bright people. I also having had some experience working with bigger companies in my brief spell at employment, realised my people are Solopreneurs, the one person bands, the mavericks, the dreamers, the action takers….thats who I care about, folks who are genuinely trying to change their lives via their business. 

So in November I rebranded as The Solopreneurs Champion, I have been championing sole traders and freelancers since the early 2000s when I worked as an area coordinator on a project with hundreds of creatives, and I have myself been a Solopreneur for almost 30 years.

Since making the decision to go all in with that brand I have totally been in creation mode.

  1. Created The Solopreneur Roadmap programme and tested that with 7 people, just opened the doors again and welcomed 13 people, next year I will make it a join when you are ready programme, at a remarkably affordable price of just £36.50 a month (find out more here)
  2. I designed The Solopreneur Dashboard the most incredible digital tool that folks are raving about, I actually developed it back in 2020 for myself, but hadn’t thought to sell it…I have sold around 40 of these, and plan to stick some FB ads behind it for next year (find out more here)
  3. I designed a new sales activation programme called 5 Weeks to 5K that is all about designing an OMG offer and taking it to market fast (this will be back in the spring)
  4. I designed a new keynote called Who Do You Think You Are? which is about identity, branding, ego and raising your profile (coming to an event near you soon)
And the most exciting thing is I have come up with the concept for my signature programme, the missing piece of my business model puzzle…and so I present….
 

I am launching the beta round of this now, and then it will be rolled out fully from February onwards.

You can find out more here

Now for the data driven folks I always collate these numbers below, as they are the more tangible ways of looking at growth year on year.

There are 5 key metrics I keep an eye on each year Income, Impact, Influence, Insight & Integrity and I have a set of KPIs below that to keep me in movement….and of course I use my Solopreneur Dashboard to keep on top of it all. 

But here goes….

My numbers for the year

  • I welcomed around 100 new paying clients into my world…a lot less than in previous years, most paid work came via existing folks
  • My audience didn’t grow at all…maybe a little bit on TikTok which is a new platford for me
  • I wrote around 20 blogs…I really want to ramp this up next year
  • I sent 500 emails, this is the importance of having a great email system that can segment (I use ConvertKit)
  • I did around 30 speaking engagements, including 6 in-person speaking gigs
  • I took around 30 days of leave…went to Barcelona, Lanzarote and Cornwall on holiday
  • I will end the year with a combined income of around £100,000 including business turnover, book sales, rental income, and salary…same as last year, but with 3 months of no pay, and increased living costs….lets just say my credit card and savings have had to cover the difference sadly.
  • I am carrying more debt than ever…mainly on my credit card and a bounce back loan which I have paused. 
  • Facebook ad spend as always…. £0

Some other stuff

I created and launched a few new things this year (not as many as last year)

  • The Ultimate Plus Size Fitness Planner…sold around 300 of these
  • The Year to Change Programme (Opening its doors again in January)
  • The Countdown to Xmas Challenge (in its 9th year)
  • The Fix Your Business Model in a Day Service (find out more here)
  • My Get Your Business Shit Together 121 Session (find out more here)
Books I have read (the good ones, there are probably as many bad ones I read but won’t mention)
 
I have linked these to Amazon, but mostly I rekindled my love of Libraries…to cut down on spend, and am pleased to announce that Bishop Stortford Library is very well stocked
 

What has been super helpful in my business this year?

  • My Professional Speakers Association Conference & Membership (accessed via their Foundation pot)
  • A new standing desk, and full office kit out….I HAVE MY OWN OFFICE SPACE NOW (this was purchased prior to my redundancy)
  • A REMARKABLE...I LOVE THIS SO MUCH
  • Worked on my programme design with Gemma Gilbert
  • Attended a workshop with Ted Hargrave
  • Accountants to do my books
  • Someone to help me with an Access to Work Application…I need some support in my business to counterbalance my ADHD and delicate Mental Health

Things I am incredibly grateful for

  • My speaker business mastermind (Julie, Nathan, Charlie and Jenna) 
  • My dear dear friends Bryony Thomas, Mel Sherwood, Vic O’Farrell, Amy Rowlinson, Erin Chamberlain & Stacey Moore
  • Rose for being the best child anyone could ask for…she makes me smile every damn day
  • Living in this house for a year, I have recently given notice and will be moving out in February, but it has been an incredibly adventure living in this beautiful rural location
  • The Residence co working space in Bishop Stortford, it has been challenging making new friends locally given the year I have had but Karen Tate has been AMAZING
  • I have started Bell Ringing at a local church…a bit left field even for me, but I am loving it

My goals for 2024?

  • To get back to having a safe and secure business that brings me reliable income
  • To have a business that generates £20K+ months with me working 4 days a week
  • To stick to just this brand….give it a year and I know it can be incredible
  • To get my book How NOT to be Broke into the hands of 10,000 small business owners
  • To beta test and roll out Your One Big Thing as my signature programme
  • To investigate doing a PHD…yep I have said it
  • To see Rose settled into Secondary education…we have some amazing schools locally
  • To find a perfect for us new home…and to get Rose a dog

The biggest lessons

 

It has been incredibly interesting seeing who has been there for me this year and not.

I know some people don’t have the capacity to support others who are on their knees, it has just been interesting. 

I know there is a danger in sharing so honestly about the challenges I have had this year that this may create credibility or trust issues for potential clients. My skill level hasn’t changed, I’d go as far as saying my insight and experiences this year (not to mention that amount of reading I have done) has probably made me more switched on than ever in terms of ensuring business owners remain solvent and sane. 

Nobody knows what the future holds.

But I am back in control of my own destiny again, and I am not afraid of a little graft.

I have some exciting plans for the next few years, and I have a route map to get me there.

No more winging it for me, I now have processes and systems in place, and a strategic overview of what I am trying to achieve. I hope that in years to come I will look back at this year being the defining one for me, the year where everything changed, and for the better…even if the messy middle was intolerable at times. 

I hope you take some time to reflect on your year…if you write and share a review do tag me in it, I’d love to give it a read. 

A fun way of reflecting is going through your photos on your phone and selecting 30 of them from across the year to tell the story, that was the starting point for this one, when I was feeling a little resistant to starting.

Wishing you everything you have ever dreamed of in 2024 and beyond in business and in life.

It all starts with knowing what you want and allowing yourself to dream.

Love Always

Julie

If you are at all interested you can read my reviews from 2022, 2021, 2020, and 2019 

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