Looking Back At 2008 And Ahead To 2009 – Part I

C’mon Steve it’s already January 6th. Isn’t it a little late for one of these looking back, looking ahead posts? I know, I know. I’m a little late to the party, but still I wanted to share some of my goals for 2008 and how successful I was in implementing them. Thought I’d also share some of my goals for 2009. Hopefully you’ll find some things to help you in setting goals for your business along the way.

Looking Back At 2008

When 2008 began I had three main goals I want to accomplish during the year.

  1. Redesign this site and move it to a new domain
  2. Enter the WordPress theme market
  3. Rework the direction for this blog

In the end I completed the first, made progress on the second, and only barely scratched the surface of the third. Still I consider the year a success.

Redesign and a New Domain

The redesign was really the most important to me and that alone was enough to consider the year successful. You may remember that my old domain was yellowhousehosting. When I first opened for business I had planned for hosting to take a larger part in the business model. That was only until I discovered I didn’t really care much for the hosting business and my heart was in the design, development, and marketing.

I thought the domain and the old quickie design were hurting when it came to attracting design clients and that priority one for the business was moving to a domain more inline with what I actually do along with a new design and copy to reflect me better as well as the services I offered. Given that last year, particularly after redesigning the site, business picked up significantly, I suspect I was right.

WordPress Themes

WPcampcena logo #2
photo credit: EMMEALCUBO

A couple of busy months later I began working on a WordPress theme. I’ve been creating custom WordPress designs for a few years now and enjoy working with WP so it’s a natural fit to move into the theme market. However it’s one thing to design a theme for a specific site and another to design one that may be used in a variety of ways.

I do have a theme mostly done, though I’ve decided to take the wp theme business model in a different direction. I may release what I have as a free theme if I find a little time to finish where I left off. More importantly my skill and experience working with WordPress increased dramatically. I can now better serve my clients and I have new ideas to apply to WP themes.

Redirected Blog

I’d left this goal last for the year since I wasn’t really sure how to redirect things here. There’s a lot I like about how this blog has progressed, but something has been missing for me. This blog has always leaned toward the SEO side of things in part because I was able to write those posts quicker in the beginning. But it wasn’t quite right and it wasn’t quite me.

I also think there are other blogs far better at covering some of the topics I attempted to cover. That’s really not the way to a successful blog.

Technically the direction of this blog continued where it was already heading, but with a little help form your answers to a poll, I’ve decided where it should go. As soon as I can retrain my writing rhythm you’ll see more design and development oriented posts, though I still intend to keep most of the other topics I’ve covered in the mix.

Unplanned Goals

Part of the reason goals two and three above went unfinished were due to a couple of unexpected things I got involved in. The first was starting a new small business forum and the second was buying and moving into a new condo. New for me anyway, not for the people who had lived here previously.

surprise
photo credit: bionicteaching

A Community Reborn

Some of you know I’m active on a few forums. For a couple of years I’ve been an admin at Webmaster-Talk and a moderator at a small business forum. The small business forum has changed ownership over the years with each new owner being less and less a part of the community. Current ownership was completely unresponsive and early last year I had thought of leaving entirely.

While I enjoyed the community and think forums are a valuable source of business it became frustrating to moderate.

For most of the spring and summer I was the only person moderating the place with little to no communication from ownership. Then in July the forum went down spitting out a database error instead of the usual threads and posts. I emailed the owner offering to help, then to buy the forum, and then to help again without a single reply.

When the forum eventually came back months worth of posts had been lost, signature links weren’t working, the entire admin section was visible to the public. The place was a mess, yet there was still no word from ownership. The community made it known they were ready to leave, but before they did I asked for a few days to see if I could set up in a new location.

A few days later those of us who were left moved to the new forum I’d set up. The first couple of months the forum demanded most of my time. I was posting about 50 times a day trying my best to make the place look less empty, making sure to welcome every new member, and shaping the direction of where I hoped the community would go.

A New Home

Oddly enough about the same time the old forum was fragmenting, a few things were making my living arrangements less desirable than they had been. My landlord decided to raise rent, an unpleasant neighbor moved in, another neighbor suddenly found an interest in loud power tools, and the city kept digging up the same few feet of road every week on the street in front of my apartment.

It all led up to me becoming a first time home owner, which demanded so much more of my time than I ever expected.

The Year That Was

I’m a baseball fan so one out of three is enough to get me into the hall of fame. A 67% incomplete may not have been the success rate I had hoped for, but it was still successful for me as I completed what was by far the most important of the three and added a couple new things along the way.

Before getting on to my goals for 2009 I want to take one last look at 2008. There’s a theme running through my goals of growth for my business. The redesign was about growing the service side of my business model, which for the most part has been my entire business model. It grew in large part because I cut out some services and better focused on what I do well.

The theme market was all about adding a new source of revenue that fits entirely with and complements my services. Each would reinforce the other and the themes would help the overall business scale. Those of you with service based businesses know they can only scale so much before you need to outsource or hire in house. While I don’t mind outsourcing, I’m not looking to hire. Scaling for me means expanding revenue streams and exploring new markets for passive or semi-passive income.

A custom theme can be sold exactly once and the price is directly proportional to the time spend creating the theme. Themes on the WordPress market can be sold time and again and if done well can bring in revenue long after development time. Premium themes scale better than custom themes.

A new direction for the blog was also about growth, focus, and scale. Redirecting the posts toward design and development again falls into the area of trimming fat and focusing on what I do best. As with WordPress themes the new direction will complement the services I offer and any themes I eventually create.

Overall each of my three goals for 2008 was aimed at bringing my business more in focus and aligning the different components of this site. I may not have reached each goal individually, but the overall theme of the goals was met to a degree I’m happy with.

Looking Ahead To 2009

I’ll continue with my goals for the year ahead next time and leave you by asking how well did you meet your goals for 2008? Did you have specific goals in mind when the year began and how well did you meet those goals?

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

6 comments

  1. I think last year was a fruitful year, that provided me with many learning experiences. After years of thinking about being a site designer, I purchased my domain and really got into the marketplace, learning from you and other developers.

    Now, that I have completed the first goal, (after many years of wishful thinking) next I want to develop my blog and increase client stream.

    Here’s to a promising 2009!

    • Getting started is a big step. I remember when I first made the decision to set up shop on my own. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t have much money to fall back on, but I knew I was ready and the timing was right.

      I’m glad you got started on what’s a great adventure. Just set some reasonable goals and make sure you work toward them consistently. At the end of the year you can look back on all you achieved.

  2. 2008 was definitely a good year but I have a really good feeling about 2009, I know it’s early but I think its going to be a great year.

    Good luck in 2009 Steven.

  3. I just discovered your blog a couple weeks ago and have already made 4 recipes, which all turned out GREAT. I love what you’re doing, and sounds like you’ve got some awesome stuff coming up in 2009. Can’t wait to see it all! :)

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