My first year in business

This is a scary post to write as it forces me to confront financial reality. None of us like that much, not even me. But your first year in business is an important point for reflection so here goes.

I happily go through my investment accounts totting up where I am and comparing it with where I was 2 years ago, which is a journey from zero to on track because simply being “on” a track of any kind whatsoever is a massive improvement on having no pension, investments, not having caught up on National Insurance payments and generally covering my ears and closing my eyes to reality where money was concerned.

But looking at whether this whole business idea has been profitable since I began in May 2022 is another thing entirely. Plus it’s not as simple as just money.

Not that money is simple either. Money is deeply connected with all sorts of emotions and memories and events, plus our emotions around those memories and events, both now and at the time.

My investment in my business

My main investment in the chilled investor, which I’m sorry to say I’ve not tracked, has been time. Time spent in research, learning new skills and platforms, website and webpage content creation, course creation, delivering classes, marketing, giving webinars and doing podcasts, being on Linked In, attending training and workshops, and writing emails.

After that, the financial investments have been less than you might think. When we think of the idea of Starting A Business it sounds like something that’s going to cost a lot. But it’s not necessarily the case and I have spent about the same on training in ELT during my career – a cost most of us seem to be wholly prepared to take on, expect to even.

My first and biggest cost was Rachael Robert’s Flourishing Foundations business course and ongoing business support, followed by Jo Gakonga’s VoiCE course on making video later in the year. Both of these are things I could have learnt at the Universiy of Google but poorly, inefficiently and without the all-important community and support that comes from cohort/taught courses. Both Rachael and Jo are amazing and I recommend their courses to anyone wanting to change or improve what they’re doing. Approx cost in total 3700€.

Then there is the tech and the tools. I use the free accounts of as many things as possible eg Mailerlite for email marketing and Canva for making pretty things, I built the website myself, and I’ve signed up for various free workshops via Lizzie Goddard’s Christmas party and others.

However, I had to pay for:

  • two domain names (Namecheap) approx 14€
  • a website host (WordPress) 180€
  • an LMS to host courses on (Memberpress) 150€ (discounted price for my first year)
  • Google workspace as an alternative to Zoom (because I hate Zoom and so does my Chromebook) for holding online classes, recording and storing the recordings. 12 x 9€ = 108€
  • Charges by payment providers like Stripe, Paypal and WooCommerce. There’s no way to avoid these apart from direct bank transfer which I have encouraged people to do a lot but which does add a lot of time and back and forth and can be a block to buying for people in certain countries. I stopped tracking them as it got too time consuming but an estimate is 200€
  • AI transcription while writing the main course materials 15€

I also did some smaller courses, a Facebook ads one and one on mini-workshops aka paid lead magnets from Sarah and Justin of Wake Up to Freedom. I’ve yet to apply any of the Facebook ads stuff but the Mini Workshop Magic tutorial is fantastic and I like a lot about their approach. You start to find none of this stuff is a one-off original method and it’s just who you come across at the right time. Their course was cold-advertised to me on Instagram and I bought on the spot … which suggests one day when I use the Facebook ads stuff, that it wil pay off too. Add another €155.

Then there was a big and unforeseen cost that arguably came about from trying to go with the cheapest LMS option. My DIY website was fine until I tried to integrate Memberpress and then it all f**ked up because of a theme incompatibility. Add 400€ to fix the website.

I’m not in love with Memberpress – its backend is unwieldy compared with free trials I did on LearnWorlds and Teachable. But maybe I’ll learn to like it the more I can build courses without having to keep looking up how to do it. Since the actual issues are fixed now maybe there is no further reason to change to an LMS I might like better but has a higher cost. I’m paid up for 9 more months though so I will see what I think by next year. Something that prevents me switching over to LearnWorlds is how much I love WordPress. I’m not sure I want to lose that to have a website and blog be hosted by the LMS provider but I’m also sure I wouldn’t like paying to have them both. So Memberpress might be the price I pay for keeping WordPress. UPDATE: I moved to Thrivecart in May-ish 2023 and LOVE it. Read about why here.

Trip to Madrid for TESOL Spain to talk about pensions and promote the course, approx 140€ which is pretty cheap because I had a free place to stay and bought a budget train ticket. 40€ of that was this T-shirt I had made so people could easily pick me out and start a conversation – I’m a massive introvert and wouldn’t talk to anyone otherwise – which they did so it was totally worth it.

Note, I’m not including costs associated with being a freelancer in Spain as I had to pay those anyway (and I find being a freelancer here unfairly burdensome financially and will end up on a massive complaining tangent).

My first year in business: revenue

I’m not going to break it all down but my revenue comes almost entirely from a combination of sales of the main course and the mini courses, plus some additional earnings from copywriting/editing work that came about as a direct result of having this business, having learned about copywriting from Rachael’s course, or from now knowing about finance. Approx 12,000€.

My first year in business: profits

Minus those costs from that revenue and we get approx 7000€.

Ain’t nobody getting rich off this is my first, honestly, dispiriting, depressing thought.

I knew starting out with this post that I was going to wish I wasn’t committing this to internet paper. But I’m forcing myself for three reasons.

  1. It’s important to talk about money openly and normalise that. Even I am finding this hard and exposing though, and I talk about money professionally! There’s a whole load of self worth tied up in this, I cannot deny, even though I “know” my worth is not defined by money. But, if it was, I think I would be more than 7,000 euros!
  2. It’s really easy to see people appear all over your newsfeed and think they’re making a mint and you couldn’t possibly do the same. I hope I’m not inadvertantly saying don’t bother, the money isn’t worth it though as that’s not what I mean to say. I’m trying to say: this is a realistic picture of a first year in a new business. In fact, most businesses fail completely after a year and breaking even would be a perfectly realistic goal, especially if you had premises or staff to pay for.
  3. I want to be able to come back to this post next year and be able to show concrete progress and I feel fairly confident that is attainable.

How does this compare with investing?

An interesting comparison is that I made about 3100€ off my investments last year. 100% passive income for which I did no work whatsoever. I didn’t lift a finger, host a Google Meet, write a piece of copy, move from my desk, stress about it or wake up thinking about it to make that money. This is why putting money to work through investing is so critical. Agree? Here’s info on my next course starting Oct 2023.

Why and how I think I can do better next year

A huge reason I can surely improve on this is that, even if I only equal revenue in Year 2, my costs will be significantly lower because over half of that was set up. Rachael and Jo’s courses were the big steps I needed to get started and then to turn my courses into video-based offers. (Both of those courses were so worth it personally and professionally that, even if I did have to pay to do them again, I would do it happily.)

Ongoing professional development for now will be much smaller, more bite-size things. Conference-wise though I will probably put in a talk for IATEFL Brighton 2024 which will not be cheap.

Tech and tools won’t change for at least 9 months as the only thing would be the LMS and, by then, maybe I’ll be OK with Memberpress. I will very likely start paying commissions to affiliate marketers which means there will be another platform to pay for and a further tie-in to Memberpress as I’ll have to start from there. But I also plan to start affiliate marketing myself, promoting things I’ve used and liked, so that’s another revenue stream.

In terms of time, I don’t have to create the course again, even though I’m spending time making new things, it’s building on and inspired by what I’ve already done.

And the thing about the time is that I don’t resent any of it and that is worth gold. This business has allowed me to turn my genuine newfound interest in finance into something that pays (albeit not very much so far!) and is helping people who really need it.

Plus it’s allowed me to discover a new love for copywriting and marketing that I never knew I’d have. Before last year, I didn’t know what marketing was. Nonetheless, I felt like it was the necessary evil I had to endure to make a business and was one of the reasons I took Rachael’s course.

Turns out … durr … marketing is just … writing, which I already loved and have been so happy to have a pretty much constant outlet for. The best kind of writing – writing whatever I want to – is priceless. I’d be doing it for nothing even if I wasn’t doing it for this which is one reason I probably won’t track my time next year either.

So, anyway, next year, same time, same place, yeah?

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