2021 has been the most eye-opening year for me and my business. On the professional front, it was both the year of my best income month ever (April) since I launched my business back in 2018 and the year that I consciously dialled back on so many parts of my digital presence.

The best part is I started the year with the intention of working harder and scaling my work exponentially. But interestingly, I did neither. Here’s what I have learnt and continue to practise for myself and my business.

Working alongside my Human Design Chart

In an interview with me earlier this year, Human Design expert Bingz Huang did a reading of my Human Design chart and explained that I was a Splenic Projector. The session was eye-opening on so many counts and I ended up literally crying through the explanation because it was a relief of humongous proportions.

There was a reason I felt overwhelmed and burnt out. I was doing things out of alignment with my true nature. I was pushing hard when I was supposed to be waiting and receiving. No wonder I felt stressed and burnt out by March!

Instead, when I listened to what she had to say and started practising it with a deeper intuition, things opened up for my business. She beautifully explains it in this detailed reading of my Human Design Chart.

Read the article here: How she realigned to her unique success as a Human Design Projector

Scaling back drastically on my social media presence

In early March, I was toying with the idea of deleting my Twitter account. What started as a gentle background note started to buzz louder and louder as the month rolled by. On March 31st, 2021, I went ahead and deactivated my account. I’d have 30 days to change my mind and reactivate the account if needed.

At this point of time, of all my social media platforms, Twitter was where I had the most number of followers – close to 6000. But when I turned off the Twitter faucet, I had no urge to turn it back on again.

The same became true of Facebook. I realised I had way too many groups that I was managing, so I archived and deleted them. My Facebook business page got little to zero engagement unless I put in ad money, which felt like a constant, uphill struggle. 

Similarly, my Facebook connections had grown to  a very large and unmanageable number. I was no longer interested in personal updates from everyone on my list; those who mattered let me know via personal text message and that was enough. It was time to bid goodbye to Facebook too.

Then in July, I turned to Pinterest which had been one of my highest drivers of blog traffic and looked at it through a new lens – of support and use for my audience. I decided to stop using it for page views and just enjoy the platform for the joy it provided.

Read more: How I developed an unconventional approach to Pinterest 

Changes to my Business Strategy in 2021

In the last 6 months, I have:

➡️Deleted my Twitter account

➡️Downloaded and removed all of my data from Facebook

➡️ Stopped using my Facebook Business page/ Deleted or archived my Facebook groups

➡️Removed display advertising from my website

➡️Stopped running Facebook and Instagram ads

➡️Turned off blog comments

➡️Stopped focusing on the volume of blog traffic

➡️Retired my Pinterest course

➡️Gently pared down my email list to less than 600 people

➡️Limited my social media presence to Instagram and LinkedIn

And yet, despite all of that, my business not only survives, but continues to gently sustain itself month after month. I regularly get clients signing up for coaching sessions, continue to make money through affiliate marketing and sell my courses and e-books.

How is this possible?

Doubling down on the right tasks

By learning to work less and achieve more, my business began to blossom. When I removed all of the external noise, I was left with the quiet hum of the right metrics that were working for my business. Here’s what I discovered.

Ads weren’t serving my audience. More than one person emailed in to thank me when I decided to turn off ads on my website. They said that while they loved my content, they weren’t too happy about the ads that covered half the page on mobile or near the header and footer while reading the articles. This got me thinking. If people didn’t like ads on my website, why was it okay for me to target them using ads on social media?

I realize that ad revenue and ethical advertising are crucial for small business owners so I won’t place a blanket ban on using ads as part of your marketing strategy. However, personally, I believed that ads were turning my audience away, even if they were done from the best motives and with the right intentions. And in all fairness, I couldn’t bring myself to do that anymore to the people who’d placed so much faith and trust in my work.

Remember how Facebook ads were not working for me? But Instagram organic reach was going great. The amusing thing was it didn’t matter how many followers I had or how many likes/comments I had on my posts. Those don’t pay the bills anyway. But client enquiries, referrals and conversions? They all came from Instagram without my spending a penny on marketing myself.

Similarly, I dug into my Google Analytics and discovered where people were coming from, to work with me. Turns out that they were finding me through Google search, my tiny newsletter list and Instagram, in that order. Everything else was just noise, so I turned all of the noise off and stopped worrying about it.

Then I started to figure out which tasks were actually generating income – my 1 on 1 coaching sessions, some affiliate income and sale of my courses. So I scaled back on webinars,  e-books and being active on social media everyday. 

Working less actually helped my business instead of hurting it.

Giving yourself space for rest and reflection

The reason I am able to thrive in my business is because I’ve learnt to make more time for rest and reflection.

After 2 decades as a wife and a decade and a half as a mother, I’ve fallen in love with and embraced the idea of cooking. I approach every meal with the excitement of a new cook and my family, while highly amused by it, says that my joy is contagious. Every time we order in, my mind begins to think about how I can actually make it at home instead. It’s incredible how the transformation happened and I still pinch myself at times.

Similarly, I have fallen back into reading with a deep and abiding presence. It’s no longer a tick mark on a to-do list but a much-needed part of my day. So is spending more quality time with my daughter and husband.

If I’d made work my only priority, I’d have lost out on the joy of true connection with myself and my family. Now, the interesting thing is that I have enough time to work on my business and more than enough time to enjoy my time away from it too.

Gentle productivity has become my mainstay both in work and in leisure and this became such a vibrant message that I launched my productivity coaching sessions in June this year. To date, it’s one of the most popular sessions that people sign up for.

Main Takeaway

Honestly, how I started the year is very very different from how I see myself ending it. I began 2021 with the need to grow my business, increase the number of clients in my roster, sell courses, write a bunch of e-books and launch new services. In other words, I wanted more.

Fast forward to September and my outlook has become this: a loyal base of clients, a minimal social media presence, fewer engaged subscribers, one or two new launches and a comfortable rhythm of creation. See what I mean? I am content with less. 

The fascinating thing is that my business is not struggling; it’s actually doing quite decently. I am able to make enough to cover my expenses and put some away for a rainy day. But the best part? I now have an abundance of time and energy that I didn’t have when 2021 reared its head. 

Keeping a business going doesn’t mean working late nights, overworking yourself to the bone, being on multiple platforms and doing it all.

It means giving yourself permission to be still & listen to what is working. Doing this will bring you joy & sustenance while keeping you creative and alive. It’s the only way to be

Shailaja V

Hi, I’m Shailaja, a blogger who’s been writing since 2007. My interests include books of all kinds, digital minimalism, veganism, health, nutrition, fitness and staying open to learning all the time. Welcome! Click here if you’d like an email when I publish new posts

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