Reflections on my second year as a company of one

This was originally published in the February 2024 issue of my newsletter, Leading Thoughts.

While 2022 was about reaching financial milestones, 2023 was about finding balance. After all, our most precious resource isn’t money, it’s time. And time goes fast when you’re juggling work and kids.

Here’s a look at my biggest wins, regrets, and learnings from my second year as a company of one.

Biggest wins

I birthed a baby … at age 42!

*Pats self on back*

Baby Julian entered the world on September 2nd, earning me a promotion to Mom of Three.

Here he is, rocking his first Valentine’s Day outfit:

My strong inbound engine continued to hum … with less effort.

I started creating content on LinkedIn in 2020. For the first few years, I posted five times a week, without fail, come sickness or health, ’til death do us part. But that got old real fast.

Across 2023, I took a more casual approach: posting when the spirit moved me. And re-sharing old posts that had performed well.

In addition to posting less often, I guested on podcasts less often, too.

Lo and behold, I still got more inbound leads than I needed!

Could I have achieved more if I stuck to my rigid five-day-a-week posting schedule? Sure. I could have driven more newsletter signups, more course downloads, and more sponsored posts. But at what cost?

We took the “best ever” family vacation.

We took three vacations last year: Scottsdale, AZ and Tuscon, AZ; Chicago, IL; and Lisbon, Portugal (my home away from home).

According to my kids—who are well-traveled, for kids—our Arizona trip was the “best vacation ever.”

We spent the first half in Scottsdale, floating in our rooftop pool, visiting museums and art galleries, and touring Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and desert laboratory.

We spent the second half at Tanque Verde, a real-life dude ranch in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. The kids rode horses every day, went to “cowboy cookouts,” and played with other kids (while I hiked in the desert and got spa treatments). 10/10 recommend!

I increased my effective hourly rate by 64% YoY.

First, let me explain what I mean by “effective hourly rate.” This is my gross annual income divided by the number of hours I worked. So while hourly rate is the amount I charge a client, effective hourly rate takes non-billable hours into account (all the hours I spend working on my business).

In 2022, I worked:

  • 45 hours a week, on average
  • 48 weeks (I took 4 weeks of vacation)

My effective hourly rate in 2022 was approximately $125.

In 2023, I worked:

  • 40 hours a week, on average
  • 29.5 weeks (I took 3.5 weeks of vacation + 19 weeks of maternity leave)

My effective hourly rate in 2023 was approximately $205.

In full transparency: Gross annual revenue from my business was about 28k lower than it was in 2022, but I worked way less. For me, keeping my income relatively consistent while massively reducing hours worked is a MAJOR win!

I should also mention that when calculating my effective hourly rate, I didn’t factor in the money I earned from my full-time job in January 2022 or the money I received from Massachusetts’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) during my maternity leave in 2023. In case you’re curious about PFML, this program is funded through employer and employee contributions, and I paid into the pot on both ends.

I maxed out my SEP IRA contributions.

SEP IRA is a retirement plan for small business owners. Contributions are tax-deductible, which means every dollar I put in was one less dollar I paid taxes on.

I also hired a financial advisor last year to help me make smarter investment decisions. (This is the kind of thing you do in your 40s when you realize Holy Forking Shirt Balls!! I’m halfway to retirement!)

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Biggest regerts regrets

I sold ownership rights to my podcast.

My podcast (The Notorious Thought Leader) was a passion project. B2B marketing needed someone to answer the question “WTF is thought leadership?”, and I heard the call.

So in summer of 2021, I hired a podcast agency to help me bring my creative vision to life … at the tune of $2,500 per month.

After we’d released few episodes (and became a Top 10% Global Podcast), people started reaching out to me asking to produce my show for free. I was like a kid in a candy shop: where do I sign up?!

I ended up joining a podcast network, which required me transfer ownership rights. Since two of my friends had their shows with this network, I didn’t think too deeply about it. This was a passion project, after all. I wasn’t doing this show to make money.

I signed on the dotted line.

There wasn’t an “ah ha moment” that opened my eyes to my mistake. I just realized one day that I would need to invest money to grow the show further and attract lucrative sponsorships. But since I was contractually obligated to share any sponsorship revenue with my podcast network, I wasn’t super motivated.

Ultimately, I felt irritated with myself for being so impulsive, and that cast a cloud over the show. At eight months pregnant, I decided to cancel my podcast to make space for baby Julian.

Although ending the show was the right decision, I wonder what could have been.

I never launched The Research Report Playbook 2.0.

My fatal flaw is talking about things I’m going to do, then never doing them. 😬

I talked a about launching a new-and-improved version of my course, The Research Report Playbook … but womp, womp, I never got that puppy off the ground.

Here’s to launching The Research Report Playbook 2.0 in the first half of 2024!

Biggest learnings

It’s not about earning the most money; it’s about making the most of your time on Earth.

Getting pregnant at 42 and becoming a working mom of three forced me to evaluate my activities under a microscope. I only have so much time and energy, so I have to be smart about what I say yes to. Here’s how I evaluate opportunities and asks:

  • Does this activity bring in a significant amount of revenue?
  • Does this activity bring me a significant amount of joy?
  • Does this activity keep my kids healthy and happy?


If the answer is no, I don’t do it. Even if that means I don’t—gasp!—build a million dollar business.

I am stronger than I realized.

2023 will go down in the books as The Hardest Year Of My Life. In addition to having another baby, my family and I prepared to move overseas.

I spent my maternity leave caring for my newborn while:

  • Helping my older kids deal with their emotions (they did NOT want to move)
  • Dealing with my emotions
  • Getting our visas in order
  • Renting a house in England
  • Renting out our house in MA (and cleaning every weekend to prepare for showings)
  • Figuring out what to do with our cars
  • Figuring out what bills to cancel, what bills to forward, and what bills to adjust
  • Figuring out how to keep my phone number for 2FA
  • Dissolving my business
  • Setting up my business all over again
  • Banging my head on my desk while chanting, “Kill me now.”

 

Both the baby and the international move were major life events that required SO MUCH adaptation … but I made it through. I am strong, and I can do hard things.

The universe has my back.

I talked a bit last year about my journey to become a more mindful, intuitive person. I’ve been reading books on mindfulness, manifestation, and meditation. I’ve been working with crystals and using my pendulum and oracle cards to stay calm, focused, and positive—no matter what life throws at me.

Am I calm, focused, and positive 100% of the time? F@¢k no! I’m human. But I am trying my best.

I realized it no longer makes sense to do one-off projects.

In 2023, premium retainers made up 75% of my client engagements. (A premium retainer is one where the client isn’t just paying for your time; they’re paying for the outcomes you deliver and ongoing access to you.)

More specifically, I worked with three “retainer clients” (75%) and one “one-off project client” (25%).

Going forward, I’ll only accept retainer clients, and here’s why:

  • Premium retainers accounted for 97% of my gross annual revenue.
  • One-off projects accounted for 3% of my gross annual revenue.

It’s eye-opening to see your business in black and white!

Overall performance

As I mentioned above in the “wins” section, I earned $28k less in 2023 than I did in 2022 … but worked 980 fewer hours, which means I increased my effective annual rate by 64% year over year. 🙌

Here’s the breakdown of my revenue sources in 2023:

Like 2022, most of my revenue still comes from client work. And I’m proud of that. While I DO leverage my personal brand to sell courses, sponsored posts, and newsletter sponsorships, I’m a marketer who actually does the work.

Together, client work and client advisory account for 92.2% of my gross revenue.

Thanks for sticking with me to the very end. Did you find this reflection helpful? Drop me a note and let me know.

When you’re ready, here are four ways I can help you:

  1. Course: Learn my process for creating original research reports.
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