To be honest, I’ve never done a review post before. But I absolutely love reading about other people’s progress and ups and downs during the year – so here goes my 2021 year in review:
Obviously Covid was still a thing in 2021, and as much as everyone on the planet wished it would just f*** off – it kept making a comeback. If I had the choice, I would have found somewhere to live for the entire year, but tourist visas kept us moving around every 3-6 months.
New Zealand’s borders remained shut, and the chances of getting back there came down to entering a literal lottery on our government website every day to try and get one of the handful of daily MIQ places, dealing with long-haul flight uncertainties, and a paying a hefty $4,000, 14-day quarantine fee on arrival.
I don’t know about you, but I thought of eleventy million different ways I could have more fun with $4,000 than sitting in a random hotel room for two weeks – so that option was firmly out.
With changing border rules every few weeks, it was safest to stay in Central and South America, and try to move around as little as possible.
So we ended up working from:
- Costa Rica (Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Dominical, La Fortuna, Puerto Viejo)
- Colombia (Medellin, Guatape)
- Mexico (Oaxaca, Mexico City, Puebla)
We’re currently trying to get a temporary residency so we can stay another 6 months in Mexico and avoid having to move again.
I consider myself to be a fit and healthy person. I eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. I haven’t been sick in a really long time.
However, I also have to face the fact that at 46, maybe my body isn’t as peppy as it used to be.
To shed some of my excess kilos from eating Colombian buñuelos for three months, I started a new calisthenics program in November. After day 3, I had sudden crushing chest pains and back pains, and couldn’t breathe – and naturally assumed I was having a heart attack. I had also forgotten that I was busting my ass doing cardio at high altitude. Duh.
So off to a Mexican hospital I went, where I got poked and prodded and hooked up to machines. I could only communicate with Google translate, because my Spanish sucks. That was all something I never wanted to go through.
Despite the slightly worrying blood results which were never explained to me, a cardiologist gave me the all clear for my heart and lungs and told me to maybe lay off exercise for a while.
So I’m trying gentler exercises now – and will maybe have to forget about those ripped abs I had planned for this year.
Also, I totally recommend travel insurance if you go overseas or decide to do the nomad thing. My hospital visit cost me $1,000 for a couple of hours, and it could have been a lot worse – so I was glad to have everything taken care of by Safety Wing.
This is the first year I took two months of vacation. It was difficult to make that decision, but I seriously needed a break from everything.
I hit a major burnout patch around March – mainly because I broke my own rule of saying “no” to new clients when my workload started to get overwhelming at the start of the year. And great clients kept on coming. I felt like my brain was going to explode, I wasn’t sleeping, and just generally felt exhausted to the point where I was afraid to open my inbox and deal with project stuff.
Money is nice and all, but not at the expense of my health.
So I did something I’ve never done before in my business, and scheduled an entire month off work in April. This turned into 6 weeks – and it was honestly the BEST THING EVER. I sat in a small jungle airbnb in Costa Rica and watched birds, sloths, and monkeys, screamed at giant spiders, ate properly, swam in pools, lay in the sun, went for hikes, and felt my ideas and energy slowly returning.
I had another month off in November (with a bit of light work too) so I could focus on building my own projects instead of just client work.
Income from client work:
- Lowest month: January – $3,506
- Highest month: February – $34,868 (not a typo)
- Total income: $187,255
This is slightly more than I earned last year, for only 10 months of work. HMMM.
Because everyone LOVES to know about business expenses compared to income – I don’t really have any expenses outside of paying for coaching (which is essential to my business growth).
I don’t hire subcontractors, VAs, or a project manager, and I run my business as lean as humanly possible so I can invest more in index funds, stocks, and crypto.
My main business expenses for the year were:
- New laptop
- Software for invoicing, proposals, and contracts
- Website hosting
- Brain FM subscription
- Google mail accounts
- Copy coaching $9,000
- Accountability coaching $300
- SEO courses $900
- Books (I’m not checking, but this is probably embarrassingly high…)
Side income projects
With the two months I had off work, I put some deep thought into planning and starting some more “passive” income streams, with a long-term vision of how I want my days to look in the future.
I decided I’ve had enough of ecommerce stores (I started one in 2005 that I ran for 10 years, and built another four in 2018 which I sold as starter sites) and I don’t want the extra stress of dealing with customers and physical products anymore.
So I went all in on creating content sites in a few different niches. These will be monetized with ads and affiliate revenue when they eventually get traffic.
I’ll write about these and put the links below once things start to get interersting:
- Niche site 1 – Lifestyle
- Niche site 2 – Garden
- Niche site 3 – Home
- Niche site 4 – Home
- Niche site 5 – Home
I know this seems like a feckload of websites to grow and manage, but I’m testing different strategies out with each of them, and a couple of them are being built purely to sell as soon as they hit a certain amount of revenue each month.
Content sites take a lot of time to start seeing results, but I’m confident that a couple of them will work well enough to replace my client work within the next three years.
Although setup costs for each of these sites were minimal (I used cheap WordPress hosting and free themes), I decided to hire writers to help me create a lot of initial content for these sites – as I can’t do this myself and keep up with client work at the same time. Let’s just say there was a lot of trial and error with the subcontracting – but I’m pretty happy with the results now.
Since June, I’ve written 92 articles myself, and outsourced $15,000 of content to other writers.
What’s next for 2022?
“Enjoy more of life” is my key theme for this year, so I’ll be using this as a guide for all my decision-making around health, mental wellness, travel, relationships, and business.
I’m aiming to raise my rates and do a lot less client work. Ideally I only want to work 3 days a week so I can focus on growing my content websites, and do more things I enjoy that don’t involve sitting at my laptop! I also plan to take another couple of months off to explore. Where? I don’t know. It all depends on borders, and new country rules and restrictions, which I’m sure will keep coming at us this year.
My total income will take a big hit over the next 12 months, but I’m okay with doing less – and living more.
I’ve also hit a Groundhog Day patch where I feel like exploring other niches outside of SaaS – so I’m considering my options there for a bit more variety in my work.
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.