Wow, 2017 flew by! And seeing as it’s January 11 already, 2018 won’t be going by any slower. Time to reflect on the past year in business and hopefully make this an annual tradition.
January 2018 marks exactly 3 years of going full-time on products. Before that, it was all a side hustle on top of a full-time job as a web developer. If you want to hear a snapshot of my journey up to that point, check out my 3-year-old interview on Startups for the Rest of Us.
Since this is my first annual business review post, here are my annual revenue growth rates (from the previous year) going back to when I made my first product sale in May 2012. Although I’m now down to one product (WP Simple Pay), this wasn’t always the case, so this list includes all past products I’ve owned.
- 2017: +28%
- 2016: +45%
- 2015: +68%
- 2014: +80%
- 2013: +338%
Highlights of 2017
Simple Calendar was acquired. For the second time, I sold one of my plugins in order to double-down on another product. You’d think I’d have learned my lessons about Shiny Object Syndrome by now. If you’d like to get more details about the acquisition, read (my post, Freemius) or listen (Rogue Startups, Mastermind.fm) at your leisure.
WP Simple Pay 3.0 launched. This was 9 months in the making and a complete rewrite of our main product from scratch. Along with the 3.0 launch included a brand new marketing site (using Beaver Builder), a price increase and automatic annual subscriptions (sans renewal discounts). These all had an immediate effect on revenue growth, but I can’t wait to see the auto-renewals kick in later this year.
Masterminds kicked up a notch. My main mastermind of other WordPress product founders already included John Turner and Brian Hogg, but we added in Dan Cameron in 2017. All 3 of these smart guys have had a positive impact on my business last year, but I’d say the highlight was getting all 4 of us together in person at WordCamp US in Nashville last month. On top of that, I started up a new mastermind with my friend Andres in my hometown of Fresno.
Business help for WP Simple Pay. My wife, Cori, started helping out with content, marketing and business strategies for WP Simple Pay in 2017. She’s still balancing this work with running her photography business and taking care of our two boys. But it’s definitely been helpful in getting the ball rolling in a few areas I’ve neglected for too long. It’s also been a blast going to some WordCamps and business conferences together.
Attended more conferences. I hit a record 5 conferences in 2017. More than the usual for me, but they’ve been super helpful and fun. I’ve been to every MicroConf Las Vegas (7 years) and Pressnomics (5 years), and again I can’t express how valuable those have been over the years. Cori and I had a great time at WordCamp Sacramento, which was just a 3-hour drive for us. She and I also were lucky enough to attend CaboPress for the first time, which was a unique business mastermind experience on its own. Attending my first WordCamp US was a fantastic way to wrap up the year.
Got on more podcasts. I had the opportunity to a guest on four podcasts in 2017, all in Q4. Many thanks to the hosts who invited me on.
- Mastermind.fm – The Business of Business (WordPress businesses, business models, and selling a business)
- Rogue Startups – Cashing Out (selling Simple Calendar)
- LMScast – Validating Course Ideas, Upselling, and Cross-Selling via Stripe
- WP Builds – Taking online payments, simply
Became a WordPress meetup organizer. I took over the reigns of my local Fresno WordPress meetup here after our fearless leader, Bet Hannon, moved to Bend, OR. But I have some help, and I’ve had a great time meeting and learning from other folks.
Themes for 2018
I admit I don’t have any specific goals set out for 2018 yet, but I do have some “themes” and areas I’d like to focus on. I hope to nail down and share more details soon.
Pace of growth. What speed do I want to grow the business? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to hire and grow as fast as possible. Nor do I want to be overwhelmed with too many tasks and unwilling to bring on talented folks. Currently, I have some part-time marketing help (my wife Cori) and support help (using wpSaaS), but I’m back to being the only person focused on product and development. I’m leaning towards continuing with a minimalist business, but I’m not sure how long I want to stay there.
Focus & roadmap. As mentioned above, selling Simple Calendar meant focusing on products that appeal to my existing customers in the payments space. But there are still many things to build that customers are asking for. Continuing to talk to customers to figure out the priorities here is key.
Learning & sharing. I need to read more. Plain and simple. I have the lists of recommended books. I just need to sock up my Kindle and Audible library and set some daily reading goals. I also need to continue to share my time and expertise more frequently. I’ve learned so much from others to get to this point in my business so it’s time to give back more. What forms this takes is to be determined.
Well, there you have it. In short, 2017 has been a fantastic year in business for my company. Looking back through my entire product business history there’s been many ups and downs, hits and misses. But I can’t help but feel very blessed and fortunate to be where I’m at now.
Wherever you’re at in your journey, I encourage you to focus, learn, share and ship more in 2018 than any year prior.