Happy holidays everyone! It’s time to look back at 2018. It’s been six years since UI Breakfast was created, and these yearly reviews have been an important part of the journey.
Usually I write about this in the end of the review, but this year was different. Our third child, a lovely daughter, was born September 26. So all professional areas and decisions were greatly influenced by my pregnancy status, even though everything went relatively smooth. I kept working until the last moment, and resumed in a few weeks after giving birth.
Here’s what I wrote about the new baby. The experience is amazing and totally different, if you compare to the older boys. Both more relaxed and more worrisome at the same time (that’s the toll of being older and wiser). The boys are 5 and 6 years old now. They adore their baby sister.
I had hoped to keep going to the gym during pregnancy (and I even did a few times), but it fell apart quickly with the morning sickness and everything. So my big goal for 2019 is to start regular exercise and put myself back into shape.
As of today, I’m back into the rhythm, but the rhythm is much faster with the three kids. Work does keep me sane and is a highlight of each day, so I’m grateful for being where I’m at.
As I’m publishing this today, December 27, we’re celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary with my husband; it feels somewhat of a milestone, too. Looking back, we were real kids when getting married, and it’s so nice to have grown up together.
Undoubtedly, Userlist.io was a huge thing this year.
Our goal was to launch Userlist.io in 2018 and achieve $5k MRR. That didn’t happen. However, this year was hugely productive, and we’re currently in a nicely functioning paid beta: here’s a video showing what it can do.
We could’ve probably launched the beta much earlier, but we didn’t want to ship a subpar version. Rand Fishkin talks about the Exceptional Viable Product in his latest book and warns about the “MVP hangover” effect. Looks like we intuitively followed his advice without knowing it; even though going live with the beta was hardly “comfortable” anyways (as most founders know).
Much more time than expected went into building a solid business foundation:
And of course, customer development! We did dozens of customer calls and demos this year (a few each week), and it was hugely useful and inspiring.
Among other news, Claire has transitioned from hands-on work into an advisory role (while remaining a full co-founder), which means more marketing activities on my side.
Our big plans for 2019 are to build more features (of course), improve onboarding, recruit more paying customers from our waiting list, do a public launch, and focus on spreading the word.
There’s a lot of work to be done on educating our audience! While the need for behavior-based email is obvious for SaaS companies, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about the tools — and the actual words — in the field. Do we call it lifecycle email, behavior-based messaging, onboarding, anything else? How do we communicate our unique value proposition of being built specifically for SaaS companies, specifically for post-signup communication? How do we communicate the value of the user dashboard and user activity feeds?
We also allocate a lot of resources towards helping founders figure out what to track and what to send as opposed to merely providing a tool. The goal is to make such approach our big competitive advantage.
Consulting was nice and quiet this year — I kept it to a handful of regular clients, but we still did a lot of meaningful work together. One of the most memorable projects was designing a new drag-and-drop editor for CartHook, and working closely with their awesome team on the implementation (I don’t get to do that very often with other clients).
UI Breakfast Podcast grew even more this year, which I’m thrilled about. My original goal was to get consistent 5,000 listens for each new episode during the first week (3,500–4,000 in the beginning of the year), and these days it’s easily 7,000 and more.
One thing was hard: catching up with my own breath during the recording. It’s a challenge when you’re pregnant!
As my due date got closer, I recorded a pile of episodes to last a few months ahead, because I had no idea what the baby schedule would look like. There was a dilemma: close up shop for a while, or publish these episodes with a slower schedule (every two weeks). I went with the second option, because the podcast had been showing such nice traction.
And voila! I have no idea if that has anything to do with the new slower pace, but 5,000 turned into 7,000 very fast during that transition.
My mailing list is still the best place to publish things. The list size has grown organically a little bit (from around 8,000 to 8,300 subscribers).
As for articles, I added a new guide for those who are getting started in UI/UX (in addition to the popular content guide which already existed). Most of my writing went into updating the Userlist.io blog and our knowledge base.
Your Productized Consulting Guide (my fourth book) launched in the last days of 2017, so the majority of sales happened this year. As of today, the book sold 300 copies and collected nearly $10k in total revenue ($3k in 2017 and $7k in 2018). That’s great, keeping in mind that I didn’t offer any $99 packages, and the book sold affordably at $34/$39 with various discounts (two-tier pricing method from Sean D’Souza in action).
The most rewarding part is making something useful — consultants called this book a “paint by numbers” solution, and many readers have already used it to launch their own consulting packages.
I also did a number of podcast interviews on this topic, most of them in 2018:
Still haven’t found a magic pill here, but obviously getting important things done. One of my recent methods is focusing on one thing (area) per day, and letting the rest wait until it’s time to focus on them. In plain English, leaving the dishes on the table and dashing to your home office when the quiet time arrives. Or ignoring your inbox until the next morning (except for customer support, of course).
Okay, here comes the big difference: we didn’t go anywhere this year, just did one family vacation in summer. I’m looking forward to make up for this in 2019, especially after the baby is old enough to stay with someone — so that we can indulge in grown-up travel.
If 2017 was a year of Tiny Reminder and relaxed client work, then 2018 was definitely a year of Userlist. I’m very proud of the progress we made there. The goals for 2018 are ridiculously similar to the ones of 2017:
Find your team. I spent this year working with my co-founders, Claire and Benedikt, which was new to me (as opposed to being a solo consultant/founder); I also got closer with the team at CartHook. All of these experiences were hugely rewarding and productive. You can do a lot on your own, but your expertise multiplies when you’re doing things together with the right people, getting constructive feedback and inspiration.
Focus. I do have a few things on my plate, but a lot more have been intentionally left aside. If it wasn’t for focus, nothing would have been achieved.
Take business seriously. I knew SaaS wasn’t easy; but Tiny Reminder was a walk in the park compared to how we approach Userlist.io. The business side of things (incorporation, paperwork, etc) took a lot of effort. Happily, we’re now all set up for a long, consistent, hard-working journey.
Be helpful. We’ve done a lot of outreach for Userlist this year (thankfully, not entirely cold). Where’s that balance between being too persistent and not persistent enough in sales? My answer is, look a everything from the angle of being helpful. One extra follow-up is okay, but only if you believe that there’s indeed a need for your product. Being helpful is the best marketing tactic, and it seems to be working for us.
Thank you for reading through, hope you’ll learn something useful for your business. Here’s to a great 2019, let it bring you new energy and new daily wins!
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