I love this downbeat in the year. Sure, we’re thinking of the holidays, but we’re also considering what went well in 2016, and what we’ll do differently in 2017.
At least that’s how things are at Stacking Benjamins, LLC.
Joe and I talked about using this space as a way to track our goals publicly. After all, that’s what started my journey into online entrepreneurship, so it seems somehow fitting.
Let’s look at our 2016 goals, as set by our past selves.
2016 Goals: Stacking Benjamins
Before I get into these goals, I should note that 2016 was a year of experimentation for us. We each wanted to learn different things, and we knew that our income would come largely from the podcast company, Stacking Benjamins Podcast LLC, which is funded by sponsorships (similar to radio shows). So we used that money to play with different things: do courses work? Do we like doing them? What about consulting? Freelance writing? Freelance design?
You’ll see we’re all over the place, but that was by design. Also, 2016 was quite busy for me personally: I had a baby at the end of June, and moved homes in mid-December. I can already tell that 2017 will be more focused both personally and professionally.
Here were the goals we set in December (then modified in March after I attended a conference that changed everything):
1. Hire a producer/editor to work with Joe
This was an overwhelming success. We hired an intern who is much more than that — Richie Rutter-Reece is the piece of our business that was missing. He helps write the show, he helps put it together… he makes the podcast work better.
We also hired Steve Stewart to edit the podcast. Talk about spending money wisely. Recognizing that it’s impossible for the two of us to do everything for the business is a hard thing to do, but extremely important if you’re going to move forward.
2. Grow the show to 14,000 listeners per episode
We hit this goal in November! We’re on our way to 18,000 listeners per episode. This goal sounded outlandishly large when we wrote it down, and we’re thrilled that we’ve surpassed our goal. Next year, we’ve set our goal even higher.
3. 10,000 email subscribers on the Stacking Benjamins list
We did not hit this goal, but to be fair, we didn’t really try. We added a few content upgrades, created a full-screen overlay, and got to 3500 subscribers. In 2017, we’ll go through #1000in30 for Stacking Benjamins and increase our mailing list that way.
4. 6 classes in the classroom
We wanted to release a new course every other month. This, again, is something we didn’t hit, although, again, we’re not kicking ourselves. After all, we learned so much. I played with (angrily, for the most part) various course creation platforms, which I’ll get into in a later post. Joe focused on the Stacking Benjamins system — how each podcast episode goes from idea to execution to promotion — and I figured out what will work. We released two (not six) classes, but we’re proud of them both. Save 50 is a self-paced course where students learn how to save half their income, and Stacking 101 Benjamins (now closed) is a self-directed personal finance 101 course.
When I went to the Quiet Power Sessions conference, one of the presenters said to make your online courses smaller. Small courses that are super actionable will help your students more than huge, robust courses. So with that in mind, when we do more courses in 2017, we’ll focus largely on the live webinar format. The webinars themselves will be interactive, and we’ll record them, so if people can’t make it, they can get access to the recording (only without being able to chat).
We’re excited about these:
- Save 50: launches in January
- How taxes work: launches in February
- How to find hidden money in your budget: launches in March
- Stacking 101 Benjamins: launches in April
- How to build a sexier investment portfolio: launches in May
- How to use Morningstar: launches in September
- Debt attack 101: launches in October
- Risk management: launches in November
These will all be housed at a subdomain: learn.stackingbenjamins.com and available for purchase.
We didn’t have an income goal (except “more”) but that’s changing for 2017. We’re going to track our income from all our ventures (except the podcast), and we’ll do that publicly, so we’ll get into that on another post.
2016 Goals: ForProfitBlogging.com
For-profit blogging has been my playground in 2016. Since Joe was unavailable for some of the courses we wanted to launch in the personal finance sphere, I planned on figuring things out with the things I love talking about — blogging tools and traffic generation.
Here were our goals for this site:
1. 1,000 email subscribers
As of this writing, for-profit blogging has 1537 email subscribers. I’m happy that we surpassed our goal, but in retrospect, 1000 subscribers was too low of a goal for a year. So don’t make that mistake if you’re setting subscriber goals. Go big! One viral post could get you hundreds of subscribers. You’ll see in a subsequent post that we’ve set a much higher goal for 2017.
2. Two classes in the classroom
We wanted to launch two courses on for-profit blogging, and we did. Earlier this year, Anne and I launched Catapult: Pinterest Strategy for Bloggers which is currently closed. There’s much more to say on that front, but I’m proud of how well that course did and prouder of how much we learned about both Pinterest and creating a course.
The course was exhaustive. I mean, it was a master’s degree in Pinterest, and the people who went through it were overwhelmed. So later, I released a mini course. If the idea of a billion modules makes you want to run for the hills, then maybe you’re the kind of person who wants to learn something in five days. That’s where the “create your own branded pin” mini-course idea came from, and it was a success. I enjoyed putting it together, and I love that we have something both valueable and inexpensive.
I’m calling this one a win — we wanted two courses, and that’s what we ended the year with! Actually, we ended up with three courses. One was intended to be a huge blog post, but it got way too big, so I split it up into 30 blog posts (and emails) that anyone can sign up for, for free. That’s #1000in30, which is all about growing your email list.
3. Increase traffic by 10X
Here’s where sometimes you write down a goal, then completely abandon it. Last year, I was obsessed with page views. I checked analytics every day and fussed about how to grow my traffic.
Then I talked to Joe, who reminded me that since we don’t put display ads on the site, there’s no direct correlation between web traffic and revenue. So, I stopped paying attention to page views (for the most part). Instead, I focused on engagement, email subscribers, and creating quality content. Now, on any given day, there are more people who are email subscribers than who land on the site. To me, that’s awesome. I send full posts to my subscribers so they don’t have to click anything to see the content (unless they want to — my friend Monica told me to add links back in so people can read on the website if they’re so inclined).
4. Create a free email course
Mission accomplished! I created a course about growing your email list by as many as 1000 subscribers in 30 days. According to my goals list last year, the email course I wanted to create was about improving your blog in 15 minutes a day, and it was going to be a 28-day course (which means I wanted to run it in February, evidently). That’s still a good idea, and one that might get implemented in 2017.
5. Create a “resources” page similar to the one on Stacking Benjamins
Semi-pass? I created a “start here” page at forprofitblogging.com/start where I list all the places you might want to visit if this is your first time on the site. I list resources there as well as on the sidebar of all posts, but it’s definitely not as robust as the one on the Stacking Benjamins site. Would that be helpful?
2016 Goals: The Free Financial Advisor
Joe and I went back and forth on this one — we couldn’t decide whether we should sell it or double down and focus on it. For a while, we let it wither, not focusing on it, feeling guilty about it, and letting it take a lot of mental space.
Finally, we decided to sell it, and once we did, it felt like we had a lot more space in our days. It’s funny how something can take up so much mental energy. If you have something like this in your business, I encourage you to let it go. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get some money out of it. In fact, if the website you’re no longer excited about is in the personal finance space, drop me a line. I’ll introduce you to someone who might buy it.
Do you set annual goals?