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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!
Do you love an honest look behind the scenes? That’s exactly what this year in review is. I’m really excited about today’s episode because I’m sharing the highs (and lows) of 2023. I’m sharing what worked well in my life and business, as well as things that did not work as well. I’m also going to be sharing how much money I made this year, the best investments I made this year, and the WORST investments I made this year. My goal was to have this episode be candid and unscripted, just like friends chatting over coffee. If that’s what you’re into, listen below or keep reading!
Overall, 2023 was an amazing year in my life. It’s also been a year of tremendous personal growth. I became a mom this year (this was actually the first podcast episode I recorded since having a baby). And let me just say that in general, I feel like a different person compared to the beginning of the year, and that’s not a bad thing. Pregnancy and motherhood really transform you and reshape your relationship with time, values, and even what you want out of life.
Now, before we dive into the highlights and challenges this year in business, I’m going to share all about the money!
I originally recorded this episode in November, and I still don’t have my final numbers for the year yet but I’m expecting to make around $109,000, which is less than the $128,000 in my 2022 review. Keep in mind that this is before taxes and expenses and not the “profit” number. This year, I’m probably going to make less but to be honest, that doesn’t feel like a failure. I took maternity leave and worked fewer hours, so I don’t feel like this had to be a “growth” year in my business.
I also stepped away from some one-on-one client work. I focused on projects like this podcast, speaking gigs, and collaborations, which was different from my busy 2022 filled with client after client. Even though I may earn less money this year, it still feels like a really big win. Anything above six figures in revenue feels huge to me, and while I do plan to keep growing my business, I also just want to say that I’m really grateful for where my business is at right now.
By the way – if you’re curious about how I make my income, I work with one-on-one clients, have affiliate income, offer digital products, and more. In episode number two of my podcast, “Exactly How My Business Makes Money,” I discuss in detail all of the various income streams that contribute to my business making money. It’s one of the most popular episodes I’ve ever created.
The first one, which is really obvious but I have to mention, is having a baby. I had a little girl this year, starting the year off pregnant, right at the beginning, and then spending the following nine months navigating pregnancy, and learning so much. It was really strange for my business, suddenly having all these appointments and not always feeling my best. So I had to change how I worked because I couldn’t always follow a traditional schedule. While I do have a lot of flexibility in my business, in previous years, I still did work more traditional hours. However, this year, I had to work around that.
I also had a pretty easy pregnancy, fortunately. Though I didn’t experience many symptoms, there were moments of morning sickness and extreme exhaustion, where a midday nap was an absolute need. Then, I became a mom to the sweetest, most amazing girl. I plan on sharing my birth story and postpartum experiences in an episode (so make sure to subscribe if you’re interested in that). It may sound cliché, but becoming a mom really is the best thing ever. It’s also a constant learning process, with the challenges of adapting my business and parenting style, and I’ve been working on embracing growth and change throughout my life.
I’m also grateful to see that this year, after years of planning, many things finally fell into place for us. I remember when my husband and I were getting married, we talked about our desire for freedom and being present when we have children during pre-marriage counseling at the church. Although it took us 10 years to have kids, we put in a tremendous amount of effort to create a life with flexibility and freedom. I can now work on my business from home.
Seeing everything fall into place and realizing that the work we’ve put in over the past decade has been worthwhile feels amazing. We truly value our freedom, and during my maternity leave, my husband was able to be there with us every step of the way because he has flexibility not working a traditional role too. As we transition out of maternity leave and embrace parenthood fully, we still have a lot of freedom and flexibility and I just love that so much for our family.
I can’t have a year in review without talking about this! The second big win of this year is starting this podcast. Before 2023, I didn’t really have any inklings about starting a podcast. It wasn’t on my radar at all. But right at the start of the year, I had this feeling, this inspiration, whatever you want to call it, that this was the right move for my business.
I also just want to say that I had some imposter syndrome feelings that came up. Thoughts like, “I’m too old to have a podcast” and “I should have started it five years ago.” Despite all of that, I did it anyway, and I love it. I love recording episodes and receiving messages from people who discover and enjoy my podcast, even if they’re not part of my community or on my email list. Each time it happens, it completely floors me that someone found my podcast, listened to an episode, and liked it. I can’t stress that enough!
Having a podcast has also been a great way for me to create content for my business. As a busy business owner with limited free time (I don’t have a large team to help me), I always felt overwhelmed by the desire to write blog posts or make YouTube videos, and never having the time. Producing a podcast has been much easier for me. I can simply sit here and record it. Even though I may have messy hair, no makeup, and some spit-up on my shirt from hanging out with my baby all day, it’s so much easier to show up and talk through things.
I also enjoy creating scripts, interviewing people, working on blog posts for episodes, and brainstorming new episodes. It brings me so much joy. This year, I started a “podcast Friday” routine where I block off time to work on my podcast every week, and I look forward to it every single time. For 2024, one of my goals is to further grow the podcast (I’m going to share more about setting 2024 goals next week so stay tuned). It has brought me immense happiness this year, and I want to continue that momentum.
The third win I have to share in this year in review is that I genuinely adore the clients I work with – this year, in particular. Throughout my five years in business, I’ve encountered some odd and stressful client situations, as any business owner does, so having a year where everything felt aligned, and I was working with the right people, enjoying the work, having clear communication, and everyone felt great, was simply amazing.
I’ve also had to get really good at recognizing red flags on discovery calls and just recognizing that sometimes a potential client and I are not the best fit for each other (which is totally normal and doesn’t mean they’re the worst client ever or they’re a bad person).
But sometimes it’s just not the right fit. And I think you learn that from experiencing stressful situations where people constantly change their minds or make last-minute requests. Which is okay, but fortunately I didn’t have many of those situations this year. I was able to focus intensely on the goals and wishes of my one-on-one clients, which I absolutely loved. Most of the clients I worked with this year have been with me for over two years, and some even longer – some have been with me since I started my business. This long-term partnership allowed us to truly understand each other, know what they want, and how to best support them. It’s kind of magical.
Another thing I loved this year was how I could almost anticipate my clients’ needs. Since I’ve known many of them for a long time, I have a good understanding of what promotions they would like or when they need reminders. Some can handle Part A of a project, but need assistance with Part B. It was all really great. And having a year where I genuinely enjoyed working with every person is amazing and honestly rare in online business. Not many can say that, but it was a huge win for me.
I’m going to share some challenges of 2023 now during this year in review, starting with the struggle of handling the mental load of pregnancy, motherhood, running a business, and everything else. When I say mental load, I mean the constant stream of thoughts running through my mind. This has been growing for years, and becoming a mom has intensified it even more. There are so many things to think about and take care of simultaneously, constantly trying to figure out how to get everything done.
This year has been overwhelming, and I believe many people can relate (right?). As a woman, you often take on more responsibilities in life, such as scheduling appointments, managing household chores, and even organizing Christmas gifts for your family.
That was my year, and I have a great marriage and a very helpful husband. However, I still struggled with a never-ending to-do list. Every time I checked something off, it felt like 10 more things got added to it. Pregnancy and baby preparations added to the workload, from navigating health insurance to scheduling appointments and figuring out all the baby essentials. It’s been a huge project, and even after having a baby, the workload keeps increasing.
There were also times when I felt a lot of resentment towards my husband because it seemed like he had more freedom than I did. I also felt resentful and irritated towards friends and peers in the online business community and I don’t like that version of myself.
Now of course, every time I talk to any business owner who is a woman, they also feel this. So I know I’m not alone, but it’s still something I want to work on next year. I don’t want to be a resentful person, and I also want to figure out how I can get a little more help and support so that it doesn’t feel like the weight of everything is constantly on me next year.
I told you this was going to be an honest year in review! The second challenge of the year is money. And let me clarify, by money, I don’t mean that I didn’t earn any money. I actually had a pretty good year, like I said above. However, the stress of money was overwhelming me throughout the year for a few different reasons.
Firstly, having a child is incredibly expensive. From purchasing baby products to covering labor and delivery costs, as well as the expenses that follow after having a baby, there were a ton of extra expenses this year. On top of that, our health insurance expenses have increased, and we have additional doctors’ visits and college savings to consider.
The economy didn’t help with money stress either. Inflation is crazy this year, and even going to the grocery store costs so much more. Constantly hearing about the economy being bad and a possible recession added to the stress and worry about money. I can admit that in hindsight, I probably worried too much about it, but it did consume my thoughts throughout the year.
The third thing that I would say I added to this was the housing market. Currently, we rent a house which I genuinely like, but there’s a part of me that feels like I’ve “failed” because we haven’t bought a house yet. We’ve been saving for a down payment since we got married, so we do have the funds, but there are several reasons why we haven’t taken the plunge.
One part of that we haven’t decided exactly where we want to live. Our families are scattered all over the United States, making it hard to choose a “final destination”. On top of that, the housing market has been volatile in recent years, with interest rates and prices being all over the place, which has caused me a lot of stress when I think about actually buying a home.
I do think a lot of it was that I was overly stressed and overthinking it. But, it’s something I noticed as a continuous theme this year – feeling really worried about money. I think it’s normal when having a kid and needing time off to recover and take care of the baby. Not having a solid plan for getting paid is terrifying!
In the future I might write a blog post or podcast episode on maternity leave and how to be able to afford it because it did take some work. For me, it involved saving money, taking on extra hours, and cutting back on expenses. It was a mix of different things and figuring it all out was kind of stressful and confusing this year.
Then lastly, one of the biggest challenges I faced this year was finding time to work on my own projects alongside client work. And I know it’s probably a form of self-sabotage where I prioritize client work over my own. For example, one of my goals was to create a template shop on my website, offering templates for online courses for platforms like Thrivecart, Kajabi, and Kartra. Unfortunately, with a six-week-old baby and it already being November, I don’t think I’ll be able to achieve this goal before the end of the year.
And to be honest, that was a big goal for 2023 — having a digital shop on my website with templates. But throughout the year, I only made small progress. Finding time to work on it felt like a struggle due to other commitments like client work, preparing for maternity leave, and doing the podcast. If I’m being honest, this is one of those things that feels like a failure this year and a big part of me feels like, “why couldn’t you just make it happen, Mara?”
It’s not just with the shop either! Finding time for my own business always feels hard. My to-do list feels never ending – rewriting my welcome series, creating a new opt-in, writing a blog post – so many things are always left undone. Going into 2024, I want to find better balance, whether it’s having lower expectations, getting more support, or creating focused blocks of time.
Next, I want to run through the best things I spent money on this year and then the things that, looking back, were kind of a waste of money. I always love hearing when other people share these, don’t you? I wanted to include some of the best investments I made in this year in review.
The first thing that comes to mind is social media templates. Specifically, I invested in “YourTemplate Club” social media templates. They’re fantastic and super easy to use. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of social media in general and until this year, I wasn’t active on Instagram, Facebook, or any platform for my business.
If you looked me up, you’d see about five posts, which made it seem like I quit my business, even though I hadn’t. In fact, a client of mine, whom I’ve worked with for over a year, told me that she was initially skeptical about my business when she tried to find me after being referred by another client. She said that when she looked me up on social media, it seemed like I quit. That’s when I decided that I needed to be more active on social media. It doesn’t matter how many followers or engagement I have. I just want people to know that I’m a real person with a business who can help them.
So this year I invested in Your Template Club social media templates, and in it you get a ton of Canva templates and every month they give you even more. Now, when I need to create a post, I can just go into their templates, pick one, and it’s so easy to use.
The second thing that I look back on and think was a really good use of money this year is doing a VIP day with Stephanie Duke. She’s a website designer and she knocked out a ton of stuff on my website. I had a long list of things I wanted to update, but never had the time for it. So we did two VIP days where she spent the entire day working on my website. She was able to complete everything on my list. It was amazing and really helped me cross off a bunch of tasks from my to-do list.
I also really enjoyed Liz Wilcox’s email marketing membership. She provides weekly email templates that were incredibly helpful for me. It’s a well-done membership that’s also very affordable (I think I spent less than $100 for the entire year). I even used it to batch a bunch of emails during maternity leave, saving me a lot of time. Highly recommended!
Looking back on my expenses this year, I’ve realized that really any items that saved time and made life easier were well worth it. One kind of silly example is that we had a dishwasher scoop that couldn’t go in the dishwasher. So everytime we had ice cream and did the dishes, it would stay in the sink until we had a chance to wash it (which again, sounds small because it doesn’t take much time to wash, but it always felt annoying). So, we decided to spend a few dollars on a new dishwasher-safe scoop and it’s been so worth it.
Another smart investment was purchasing a new guest comforter for our guest room. The previous one was large and fluffy, making it a hassle to wash and dry. We would struggle to fit it in the washing machine and then spend hours trying to dry it. We would even lay it out over our kitchen table to let it air dry. Does that not just sound chaotic? We finally bought a new comforter for only $50. It has made hosting guests much easier and stress-free.
There are only a couple of things that come to mind, because this year I really was quite frugal. I didn’t buy much for myself or my business, but there are two things that feel like they were a waste of money to me, that I felt like should be included in this 2023 year in review.
I joined a business networking group coaching program, which I won’t name because I believe it probably is a good program. However, it wasn’t the right time for me to join. The program included monthly networking calls, training sessions, and collaboration opportunities. But as I was already busy running my own business and navigating the journey of having a baby this year, I didn’t have the time to take advantage of these resources. Because of that, I ended up spending money each month without being able to actually USE what was being offered. The lesson I learned here is to avoid investing in things that I genuinely don’t have time for. Which brings me to the next thing…
And by “took it”, I mean I purchased it, and I never actually took it. I watched the first lesson and I intend to still watch it. It seems really good. So again, I don’t think it’s a bad course, but I just never had time to actually implement it. And when I look back on my priorities, Pinterest wasn’t a huge priority, and that’s totally okay, but it would’ve been better if I had just waited to buy that until I had time to implement it (and it WAS a priority).
So that’s my big money lesson of the year for this year in review: to not get ahead of myself when I am thinking about investing in business coaching or a mastermind, a course, whatever it is to really think about. When am I going to have time to implement this and does this align with the highest priorities in my business?
That’s it! There’s a recap of how 2023 went for me. I’m planning to do a podcast episode about my 2024 goals so make sure to stay tuned for that! I have a lot of thoughts. And I’ve found that when you try to do everything, you end up doing less. But when you focus on a few key things in your business, you can accomplish more and go farther. Which is exactly what I’m keeping in mind as I set my goals for 2024. Thanks for reading until the end!
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