Every year, right between Christmas and New Year, I sit down with a notebook and a pencil to review everything that went well, not so well, and the lessons I’ve learned in the year coming to an end. In 2023, I’ve had a hard time sitting down and looking at everything that has happened so far to draw out the most important lessons.
Table of contents
- Consulting, coaching, parenting, and business ownership
- The year of specialization
- Finally, I know who my ideal client is
- Embracing a mission
- Social entrepreneurship
- Remembering I am a business owner
- I am a successful entrepreneur – I just didn’t know it
- Having long-term vision feels so good
- Outsourcing was a big business lesson
- Building a personal brand
- “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”. – Bill Gates
- Enter new technology
- “You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there.
Consulting, coaching, parenting, and business ownership
In 2023, I’ve rediscovered myself as an entrepreneur. I gained important lessons from running my own business and I think you’ll find valuable insights for you as well.
A bit of context. I’ve been an entrepreneur/small business owner for a few years now. Apart from my email marketing copywriting and coaching services, I also run a small wedding confetti shop, a paper craft venture, and I monetize my blog. And I have one employee.
I am also a mom. My daughter started kindergarten this year. I work from home and travel frequently with my husband and kid, mostly through Europe. I live in Romania, but I work with clients from all over the world.
The year of specialization
In 2023, I’ve finally embraced my profession. I am a copywriter, but not just any kind. I specialize in email marketing: automations and promotion emails for course creators and digital products. Specialization and finding a niche have been a focus in the last few years, but it wasn’t until 2023 that I’ve finally embraced it.
This is one of the biggest goals any business venture needs before it can actually scale.
I know from my experience as a marketing and business consultant that it’s not without difficulty to finally sit down and decide. It can be scary, and it was for me. It can be overwhelming, and it was for me. It brought up a lot of resistance and fear – just like it does for many other entrepreneurs – if I specialize, will that mean that I’ll be losing clients and opportunities? No. It makes it much easier to market, network, and explain how you help your ideal client.
Finally, I know who my ideal client is
Early in my marketing career, I’ve decided that I will not work with just anybody. There has to be a match between values, mission, and respect towards the customer. In 2023, I realized just how powerful persuasive copywriting can be and what kind of impact it can create. So, with lots of fear and lots of excitement, I’ve finally decided to put on big girl pants and do the ideal client avatar work.
And it’s business leaders, social entrepreneurs, public personas, and authors who want to make an impact in the world. They have courses and digital products that serve the best interests of their audience and customers. They actively want to create a better world. And they do it by empowering their audience with knowledge, accountability, leadership, and empathy. There is no fearmongering there. It’s values, respect, and a very clear mission to help the world.
It’s business leaders and experts like Simon Sinek, Gabor Maté, or Esther Perel. But the list doesn’t stop there. Many of the course creators I have worked with in the past are amazing human beings who are scaling their businesses so they can have more impact in the world.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder, CEO of Apple Computer
Read this next: Your Secret Business Success Weapon: Define Your Target Audience
Embracing a mission
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to help people. And help can come in different forms. Sometimes, it’s advice. Other times, it’s a donation or exposure. But it didn’t feel enough. Throughout 2023, I kept entertaining the idea of starting an NGO that would be the vehicle to create more impact in the world. But I struggled with the idea that I could be the generator of something so big. And anyone who knows me in real life, knows that I am a fast implementor. But on this, I took it slow because the HOW and WHAT are still not clear.
But something great came out of this work. I embraced something that was very true and dear to my heart, but I was very scared to admit it.
My motivation in life, my reason for choosing work, partnerships, and people even, is connected to having a mission that feels bigger than myself. I get emotional just thinking about it, which I think is a good thing though.
Helping, leaving something behind, changing something from bad to good, from meh to wow. Impacting people’s lives with a message of positivity and empathy. Changing the paradigm in marketing from just focusing on the sale at no cost to building a relationship, building trust, and demonstrating VALUE.
Empowering social entrepreneurs and brands with the knowledge would help them create more impact not just on the bottom line but on the group of people they are there to serve so they can have this cascading effect of improving so many lives.
In 2023, I read the book: Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison (yup, it’s an affiliate link, but it’s a good book). It answered so many questions and sparked a fire. My biggest question was: There are so many issues in the world. Where do I even begin? It turns out I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed by not knowing where to start.
I like to think of myself as someone who is very practical, so if I decide to invest my time in something, I want to make sure there is a tangible, significant outcome that will come out of it. Thankfully, this book made me realize that I don’t necessarily have to start something from scratch. I can, however, help people who are already doing the good work but may be lacking some of the skills I have to offer. Email marketing can be a great asset to help NGOs raise money and finance some of their activities.
The other good bit that came out of this is being introduced to the idea of social entrepreneurship, which, to some extent, I have been doing but not in a conscious, direct way. So this will be a direction for economic development in the years to come, not just in terms of how I run my business (and why), but how I choose my clients (and why).
Social entrepreneurship is the process by which individuals, startups and entrepreneurs develop and fund solutions that directly address social issues.
Remembering I am a business owner
This was probably one of the most important business lessons of the year. In the last few years, entrepreneurship has become a secondary priority as I navigated motherhood, but in 2023, it suddenly dawned upon me that I am a business owner, and I have business responsibilities I have been neglecting lately. Maybe it was finally recovering after the pandemic, or the three years of no sleep, or from living with a war at the border. I don’t know exactly what it was, but in 2023, I finally had the energy to analyze my business ventures – what was working and what wasn’t, make changes, optimize processes, start marketing again, and plan long-term.
I started by asking myself: what do I want to do five years from now, and out of everything I am doing at the moment, what do I want to continue doing and for what purpose?
This helped me realize that one of my small business ventures will be sold in the next five years, and I am perfectly fine with that goal.
I also realized that success comes in different forms, and it can vary at every stage of a business. What got me here won’t necessarily get me there. Which is a perfectly sound business development lesson. And it does impact my decision-making process, because now I have an action plan for what needs to be done to score a business-buying deal.
I am a successful entrepreneur – I just didn’t know it
It’s so weird how limiting our own thoughts and perceptions can be in life. I got attached to a very specific vision of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur, and I failed to see how I was actually one. And I wasn’t proud of my own businesses because of it. I failed to acknowledge and even celebrate what I managed to achieve so far.
And it took being seen by other people to finally accept it.
I do craft emails that generate seven figures per year. But the first time I heard it from the people at Data Driven Marketing (the agency that hires me to write promotion emails for their clients) and Speak on Podcasts (the agency I hired to get me on podcasts), I did not believe it.
I don’t have any debt, or bank loans, and I have never taken a small business loan. I pay my employee on time. I work from home, and I am able to be there for my kid. I invest in myself and in my small business. I am protective of my time and work part-time. I can take my family on multiple holidays throughout the year. I can volunteer my time to help other entrepreneurs create an impact on their own terms. I can afford to invest in my marketing education and business acumen. And I work with great people who inspire me every single day (Josip, John, Iva, Martina, Dunja, Petra, you all rock).
Read this next: The Art of Email Copywriting: Lessons from Generating Over $3 Million for Course Creators in 2023
Having long-term vision feels so good
After three years of sleepless nights, I finally started to get… better sleep. That, along with mindset coaching, has helped so much in moving my focus from short-term actions to long-term vision.
It made me realize that for the past three years, I have been living in survival mode. Just like any mom ever.
So, I’ve stopped spending time on social media, which helped me stop comparing myself to many entrepreneurs who seemed to be doing much better than I was. I started to learn from well-known entrepreneurs who were doing the things I wanted to do. I read their books, listened to their podcast, and redefined what it means for me to have a successful business.
I stopped wasting time creating “look at me social content” and started to think strategically about what I want for my life and how having a business can be an instrument for achieving those goals.
Passive income is looking more and more appealing.
I’ve tried it before, but I wasn’t serious about it. Mostly because of all the mental bullshit that goes into the idea that I have something valuable to share with the world.
I’m still working on the mindset aspect, but I feel less scared about adding an actual passive income stream into my business. I’ve been working with enough entrepreneurs who are earning from passive income, so I know it is possible.
It’s a learning curve, for sure. I have to learn a new skill, and it’s almost like I have to start a new business from scratch for a while, but it is what it is.
Outsourcing was a big business lesson
Once I started to understand that running a business is just an instrument for achieving my goals in life, including that massive mission to make an impact, I realized that I don’t have to do everything at all times.
So outsourcing (aka letting go of control) was a big one for me in 2023, and I know many small business owners struggle with this.
I thought I lacked the necessary resources (like money or time) to hire a company to do some of the heavy lifting for my personal brand marketing. I also objected to the idea of letting go of control and accepting an unknown standard of quality if I outsourced stuff to other companies.
Eventually, it was a risk worth taking. I hired an agency to get me on ten marketing shows that would be a great fit for my target audience. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my content marketing and personal brand.
You can listen to those podcast episodes right here.
Building a personal brand
I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of building a personal brand. But that’s what all of us are. Whether you’re a small business owner, a professional, whether you’re trying to get a new job or you’re selling your product or services, you are a personal brand. Look at the definition:
Personal branding is the process of defining and promoting what you stand for as an individual.
But if you put content marketing behind a personal brand, then you also have authority, visibility, and impact. It’s not easy. I know because I’ve struggled with the idea for a long time. It’s not that I lack the experience or the skills. It’s just a matter of mindset bullshit and, honestly, a lot of imposter syndrome.
It’s easier now to embrace the power and the WHY of building a personal brand because I am much clearer about my mission and my vision for what it means to run a successful business and how I want to live life. And in all honesty, to create social change, I need to be more visible and communicate beyond the ins and outs of how to write emails and copywriting frameworks… You know, all the stuff you can find in a book or ask ChatGPT to write.
“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure”. – Bill Gates
There is always feedback in my line of work. As an email copywriter, I always receive feedback from clients, BUT every now and again, there is one client who takes it to a whole new level. And that can be an opportunity to take my skills to a whole new level.
But it’s not easy to receive negative feedback.
And because, for the majority of the time, clients don’t really make edits or want to change the emails I write, I got used to that comfort. Little to no edits became my standard.
And then I met someone who was just as obsessed with control and high quality as I was. I’m not going to lie. I struggled to shift my idea of what a successful email looks like and embrace the idea that my process could be improved, even if it took more time.
I’m happy I did.
It was one of the experiences that helped me level up my copywriting skills in 2023.
It made me a better writer, storyteller, and showed me how much more valuable my service is. It also made me realize that I have to stand up for myself. I am the expert, I have to lead the process. But the process can be optimized.
Enter new technology
In 2022, I resisted the idea of AI because I thought good writers didn’t need AI. Eventually, I gave early ChatGPT a try. I felt like it took too long to train it and feed it the right prompts to get copy that was similar to what I usually deliver. I’m not arrogant. I really am not. I am sure that if you take enough time to go through the process, you can get good copy out of it.
But I’m just not interested in using AI to do my work.
I love writing, I love figuring out the big idea of a campaign, and I love crafting my copy to deliver a valuable, insightful, motivational message.
However, I did embrace the new technology to help with research, brainstorming, and analyzing my copy for faulty messaging. I use it more like a Junior Assistant, which does save a lot of my time.
“You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there.
You have to be humble as you execute but visionary and gigantic in terms of your aspiration. In the Internet industry, it’s not about grand innovation, it’s about a lot of little innovations: every day, every week, every month, making something a little bit better.” – Jason Calacanis
This is how I close 2023. Another chapter in my life as an email copywriter, entrepreneur and I’ll be honest… – a dreamer. Tell me about your year. How was it? What worked? What didn’t? Let me know in the comments: