lifestyle design and 2021

Lifestyle Design, Intentionality, Cornerstones, and 2021

Lifestyle design has become a recent obsession of mine. And as of now, I plan on that being my primary focus in 2021. This year will be all about laying down the big picture, foundational pieces of my creative business so that I have the infrastructure already in place when a positive Black Swan event happens.

My plan is to create four major cornerstones that will support and sustain everything else moving forward. For this project to work long-term and be self-sufficient, I have to be incredibly intentional with how I connect (and separate) each of these four pieces. Mistakes are easy to deal with and fix now, but they won’t be later.

1) Hone in my freelance writing business

When I first started freelancing in the summer I decided to spread my net as wide as I could and hope for the best. The more business and people I reach out to and cold call, the better my odds are of being successful. In my head, it made perfect sense. 

But in practice? Not so much.

While I succeeded in getting a decent amount of clients and filled my workload full, it wasn’t the right kind of work. One day I was writing a finance article, the next day a Facebook ad, then at the end of the week an email sequence.

I was flipping from content marketing to direct-response to organic SEO, all in the same day, and getting nowhere because of it. By spreading myself so thin, I’d created a business that I couldn’t keep up with. It was unsustainable.

Is this it? Am I giving up?

No, not at all. Instead of giving up on my freelance writing business, I’ve decided to double down on the things that have been working. Pick a niche and master that. Do do this, I asked myself a series of questions:

  • What type of client work do I like the best?
  • What type of work pays the best?
  • What’s the most sustainable niche to further explore? 

These questions led me straight to an obvious answer—SaaS content. In my admittedly limited experience, my SaaS freelance work has been both my most enjoyable and highest paid articles to write.

So moving forward, that’s where I’m going to focus the majority of my energy. While I’m not actively looking to take on new clients at the moment, SaaS is the area I plan on expanding when the time comes to start searching again.

Additionally, I’d like to continue growing my knowledge in the personal finance niche, and would be open to do a few spec articles on the topic. Student budgeting and finances have been interesting me quite a bit lately, so I think it’d be fun to explore those ideas more in 2021.

2) Finish my book, start a publishing company

This is the big one. My primary focus this year will be to finish up the last few stages of my debut novel, build my own indie publishing company, and release my book (both paperbacks and ebooks) sometime towards the end of the year.

I don’t want to get too deep in the weeds about why I’ve decided to go indie for my first book instead of the traditional route (despite getting some agent interest from early queries before I decided to go into a rewrite), but I think it’s the best way for me to go currently.

This topic will have an entire series dedicated to it here on the blog a little later in the year, but I wanted to highlight to two incredibly useful resources that have turned my publishing views upside down.

a) David Kadavy’s entire blog

b) An article by Scott Semegran about the future of literary fiction

I happen to agree with a lot of the things Scott talks about in his article. He says a lot of interesting things about setting up an imprint instead of using something like KDP (why I prefer the term “indie” to “self”). If you’re looking for something interesting to read in the waning months of quarantine, check out his books.

Kadavy, a non-fiction writer and designer by trade, says a lot of interesting stuff about lifestyle design and posts invaluable income reports every month. He pulls back the curtains entirely and lets you see exactly how his business runs remotely. Great read, super insightful stuff.

3) Restructure the blog moving forward

The blog really slowed down towards the end of last year. Nothing came whenever I’d sit down to write a new entry into it. I stopped writing because I didn’t have any direction. Everything felt so forced and pointless.

Why did I start a blog? What was its purpose? Who did it serve?

There were no answers to any of these questions, so I took a break and reflected. I didn’t write a single new post from October until my 2020 reflection.

Ironically enough, my monthly viewership has somehow gone up during that time. I’m getting between 30 and 50 unique visitors each month nowadays. It’s probably because my original viewership wasn’t very high in the first place, but it’s still an interesting statistic. 

So what’s the plan? Is the blog staying or is it going?

Moving forward into the new year, I’ve decided to keep the blog up and running. But it won’t be the same. I don’t plan on “writing to market” or anything like that anymore. Ideally, this blog will become an unfiltered look into brain.

Here are some of the big ideas I’ve been toying around with to include in The Blog 2.0.

  • Some sort of indie publishing series (how I go about setting up my company, publishing goals, marketing experiments, etc.)
  • Book reviews (not going to reinvent the wheel here, but I think it could be fun to highlight the things I’m reading and how they make me feel reading them)

The blog will change structurally as well. I plan on doing less “branding” (Project Ongoing, for example) and more writing. Whatever comes to mind, I’ll write and throw it up on here. Proofreading and editing won’t be much of a priority anymore. Think a very public vision board or personal diary.

4) Begin cultivating a community

My final major cornerstone of 2021 is also the most vague. I want to start building a community here, but I’m not sure how that’s going to play out just yet. An email list feels like the natural starting point, but doing so brings up more questions than answers.

How will I get subscribers? Who is my target audience? Do I want to start a weekly newsletter, or should I be more sporadic?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers to any of these questions, and nobody benefits from me making something up on the spot. One thing I have been thinking a lot about lately in regards to community building, though, is leveraging Medium.

Towards the end of last year, I started making money from the platform (nothing crazy, just a few dollars month) and gaining a bit of traction exposure. I think that might be a viable way to get a few interested people over here and involved in the community.

Whatever it ends up being, I’d like to at least have the scaffolding in place by the end of 2021. My gut instinct is telling me that this will be the hardest part of the whole overarching business plan, so I’ve got my sights set relatively low. If I see any sort of growth in this department I’ll chalk it up as a success.