My Business Plan for 2012

I would like to belatedly wish you all a very Happy New Year! I had planned to publish this post earlier. Time was increasingly an issue in 2011 and it looks just as elusive now!


I’ve been reading my post from year ago on my business plan for 2011 and it was very interesting although a bit general. However, in my business plan for 2012, I’m going to be much more specific about my objectives.

My business in 2011 – what did I achieve?

In all, 2011 was a good year. My client work carried on as usual although I was hoping to increase my passive income by more than I actually did. Earning money by providing design and marketing services to clients remains 95-98% of my business’s annual income.

Anyway, I’d like to go through my very general objectives of last year and see where I was successful and where I wasn’t.

1. Describing what I’m doing as a process – and outsourcing

As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I’m a big fan of The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber (affiliate links).

These books really impressed upon me the need to see my business as a collection of processes that can be improved, documented and ultimately outsourced. Through excluding yourself from some of these processes you can free yourself to do other tasks to improve your business rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of client-based work.

While this is a beautiful theory, I’ve found putting it into practice in a design business like mine a challenge. Some of the design tasks I do for my clients are one-offs and are simply impractical to outsource. However, once you get your outsourcing hat on the opportunities to use oDesk and Elance present themselves more often (affiliate links). A tracing in Illustrator here; a bit of PHP code there; a bit of typing here; some PSD to HTML there – it all adds up. It can save you money, and more importantly, time.

I have found video an incredibly important tool to help me describe the processes behind my businesses. I have recently recorded a series of videos describing exactly how I create a WordPress website from scratch by using Genesis. You can view these videos at my YouTube channel and I have also written several blog posts about how to create your own WordPress theme.

Nowadays, whenever I perform any task that I know can be repeated by someone else, I make a video of it and put it on my YouTube channel. This way I’ve got documentation that will help me to outsource the task in the future as well as a video that can help other people.

2. Building relationships with other graphic design business owners

An extremely important part of business is forming mutually beneficial relationships and I have been fairly successful at this. One of the best things I did on the blog last year was a survey of other independent graphic designers who ran their own businesses like me. The results of this survey are here:

I contacted over 30 designers to do this and many of them were kind enough to tweet out and share the findings of the survey. Communicating with this group of business people has been hugely educational and if I have a question about any aspect of the business I can call on the shared expertise of these fellow professionals.

Also, this year I resolved to meet with more business-people face-to-face. This has been a very successful tactic. It’s always good to get out from behind your iMac and go and talk to people about your business in person. I have found several groups online that meet in London and I have secured some good clients this way as well!

3. Increase my passive income

This is the part of the business plan for which I had the highest hopes although, if I’m honest, had the most disappointing results. Having said that I’m certainly not downhearted and I will continue with this aim for many years to come.

My attempts at securing passive income from sales of my products as well as from affiliate commissions have been many and various. But the most successful have been sales of my own e-book How To Get Clients, and my affiliate promotions of my host Dreamhost and the WordPress theme I use Genesis.

Even so, I estimate my passive earnings for the year have been less than $1000. :(

However, this year I’m going to be much more specific with my objectives and more systematic with my approach to this side of the business.

4. Continuing to do what I’m doing at the moment – just better

It was very important that I didn’t let my eye off the ball and disregard my core business. I have continued to provide an excellent design and marketing service to my existing clients and gained some very good new ones. Not only have I increased my portfolio of clients I have also taken on bigger projects thanks to increased outsourcing.

My objectives for 2012

As promised my objectives for 2012 are going to be much more SMART, that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. And, instead of only setting annual goals, I’m going to review these goals half way through the year with a view to eventually making this a quarterly process.

SMART goals for 2012

So here are my specific, measurable, attainable, realistic objectives to be achieved by July 1st 2012:

  • Passive income in the 6 months to July 1st 2012: $2000
  • Monthly site visitors by July 1st 2012: 35,000 unique visitors per month
  • Number of meetings attended with groups of business-people or “mastermind” groups by July 1st 2012: 5
  • Number of new clients securing revenue of over $1000 by July 1st 2012: 4

I’ve set these goals deliberately very high. The passive income will basically need to quadruple. Monthly unique visitors to this site needs to increase from 27,500 to 35,000 – quite a leap. I need to get myself out to 5 group meetings with business people – that’s nearly one a month (certainly achievable). And 4 new clients securing revenue of over $1000 by July 1st 2012 is a tough one – I had 6 such new clients in the whole of 2011!

More goals for 2012

And there are a number of specific actions that I hope will benefit my business and I want to achieve these very soon.

  • Create another free e-book similar in size to How to Market Yourself Online about running a design business
  • Release another premium e-book similar in size to How To Get Clients about running a design business
  • Create one, possibly two, membership sites
  • Create 10-15 new websites
  • Start Skype-based interviews and podcasting

Creating free and premium e-books won’t be too difficult as I’ve nearly finished writing the text and creating an interactive PDF e-books and selling digital products is something I’ve done before. I have also made a membership site before, however creating the content will be time consuming. I will need to employ all my outsourcing skills to create 10-15 new websites! Plus, I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from other people’s interviews and podcasts so it’s time for me to do this – I already have some great people lined up.

Further metrics for 2012

So, now that I’ve got the important goals and objectives assigned, I thought it might be a bit of fun to see how some other metrics will be on July 1st 2012:

  • My Twitter followers: 950. Although I have undeniably learned loads and been introduced to amazing people at Twitter I have taken a step back from daily engagement with it as it was becoming a severe time-killer. Having said that, I’m still getting traffic from Tweets and my followers are increasing slowly but steadily although I’ve never tried to attract followers by following loads of people and hoping that they follow back. So, it’ll be interesting to see how this develops.
  • My YouTube Channel, subscribers: 50; video views: 33,000. As I’ve already said above, I’m finding video an increasingly useful medium for explaining the processes behind our business. The YouTube Channel has really taken off in the last few weeks so this is something I’ll be putting more time and effort in to.
  • LinkedIn connections: 350. LinkedIn is a social network that I have found incredibly useful for getting pertinent advice – I have also started a group there called Niche Site Marketing. I’m not sure if the number of connections you have there matters a great deal but I thought I’d include it here anyway.
  • Facebook page Likes/Fans: 138. Facebook has been the social network I’ve struggled with the most but I do seem to be getting a bit more traction and traffic from my Facebook page now.
  • Subscribers to 3,016. One of the most satisfying things I have been doing this last year is communicating with the readers here via the emails I send out. I find I’m getting some great and encouraging feedback from people and it’s a great privilege that so many people have signed up to receive these emails.
  • My Google+ Profile: 744. And lastly, this may be the most important metric of all. If Google is going to be using the Google+ data in SEO the number of people that have you in circles in Google+ will be extremely important!

Feel free to join me in any of the above places! I’m not going to set any goals for these particular metrics but if would be great if I could get 5,000 subscribers by July 1st, 2012!

Thank you!

Most importantly, I have to thank you for everything. Because, this site or any of my other sites are nothing without the visitors. So I would like to thank you all for reading, commenting, subscribing to the newsletter and writing me emails – as I have received some lovely, encouraging messages this year and I really appreciate them.

What you can do

Get a pen and paper and write down specific, measurable and realistic goals you would like to achieve this year and put it somewhere special that you won’t forget. I promise you that doing this will help you achieve your dreams this year!

I wish you a happy and successful 2012!

Did this help you? If so, please share!

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  1. says

    I really appreciate your transparency and honesty on posts like this Rob, it’s always interesting to how someone else is doing things, and actually comforting to see that things don’t always go as planned, even for experienced professionals.

    I’m currently in the process of organising myself, as I’ve decided 2012 is going to be the year I get my backside into gear and jump head first into freelancing, rather than simply dipping my toe in occasionally. I figured I may as well cut my teeth and make mistakes whilst I’m still a student, rather than wait until I’m on my own after I graduate.

    Posts like this are a great resource for pointers and suggestions, so thanks for sharing Rob.

    • says

      I appreciate your comment, Paul. I definitely think it’s a good idea to do as much freelancing work as is humanly possible while studying. It’s just great experience if nothing else. Let me know if you need any help.

  2. Shane says

    Hey Rob. Great post, as usual ;-). I think this is a great idea, re-evaluating your business goals half-yearly. Definitely an idea I’m putting into practice. Also, can’t wait to see some of the interviews and podcasts you mentioned.

    • says

      Hey Shane. I got the idea from Steve Scott who reckoned it’s best to have quarterly goals. So I went half-yearly before I went quarterly. 😉

      Yes, the interviews and podcasts should be cool although I’m no David Frost!

  3. says

    Rob, do you ever sleep? You are one busy guy.

    I’ve never been goal-oriented in my business but it seems like it may be a necessity now, as I’m going in too many different directions.

    Wishing you great success in 2012!

    • says

      Hey Louise, I do sleep quite a lot I just make it look like I’m busy!

      I was never goal-oriented either but I figure I’d have to become like that in order to get stuff done. As you say, I’d be pushed in too many directions otherwise.

      All the best for you in the coming year too!

    • says

      It’s these new Apple keyboards – they make me type faster and post longer articles! Yes, I’m going to experiment with a few niche sites this year.

  4. says

    Hi Rob,

    Systems are essential for reducing time dedicated to tasks. The 4 hour work week is interesting but to get it really happening some strategies Tim Ferriss doesn’t mention are needed. Have a look at and – both are excellent and different takes of time and project management.

    Can I ask, in regards to an on-going residual income, would you be open to a side project that would not interfere with your current activities? Check out my website if you are.


    • says

      Hi Vic. I’m definitely going to read Work The System because I saw an interview with Sam Carpenter at and I really liked what he had to say.

      I’m always open to a side project that would not interfere with my current activities. But I’m curious, how would I sell Kakadu Complex. My experience with MLM in the eighties and nineties was of people trying to sell me stuff I didn’t want when I met them at work!

  5. says

    “Even so, I estimate my passive earnings for the year have been less than $1000. ”

    That is so disappointing for a site of this quality.

    I’ve just added a few affiliate links to my site and promote them via twitter.
    Only just started so can’t say much yet.

    Any future plans for promotion Rob?

    • says

      As they say, “stay tuned”. I’ve got another e-book coming out (a free version and a premium version). I also have plans for a couple of membership sites. Who knows, I may even put some advertising on the site one day!

      The passive income from this site may be disappointing at the moment but I have to remember that I get a lot of work from it. Swings and roundabouts.

  6. Jeff says

    Hi Rob

    Stumbled upon your site by accident but enjoyed the read. Its mirrors my current position at the moment having a number of different business ideas running at the same time.

  7. Simon says

    Hiya! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to correct this problem. If you have any suggestions, please share. Cheers!

    • says

      It’s not that easy as your CSS need to be updated and html5 code requirements addressed for each possible browser that mobile users might have. There are then a bunch of design issues to be addressed. Does your site currently use drop down menus and columns of links on the LHS or across the top of your pages? These need to be modified to chunky bars in a vertical array and which can be pressed with think fingers rather than a mouse.

      Next there are the images which should either be omitted from your mobile site or resized to fit the most common browser windows (maybe 125 x 125px).

      And the lot needs to be tested.

      A good example of the difference is the Australian ST George bank site. Have a look at on a desktop and then a mobile. They’ve done it brilliantly.


  8. Megan Norton says

    I don’t know how you find the time to do it all, but I’m glad you do because I’ve learned so much from you and thoroughly enjoy reading your weekly email. You’re an extraordinary man with many talents; thank you for sharing them with us.

    • says

      Thank you for your kind words, Megan. I’m really glad you enjoy my weekly posts. I hope to be doing some more good stuff in the future. Stay tuned, as they say :)

  9. says

    Hey Rob, if you don’t mind, can I follow up on your mobile ready site post above? I just reviewed my site functionality and my eCommerce site at is up and running on mobile. Check it out and let me know what you think for ease of navigation and clarity of layout.

    It’s always a problem when you have a multi-product store front and need to educate visitors about the attributes of your range while keeping some simplicity of movement around the pages. It is an unavoidable feature that when you move to a new page, there’s a long list of navigation buttons in a list that you see over and again. C’est la mobile.

    • says

      Hey, Vic, unfortunately I can’t really test this out on a mobile very well as the moment as my smart phone is being repaired right now. Having seen the shop on a normal computer browser, some of the image links on the home page open pages in new windows despite being from the same site. I’m not sure why you’d do that as it may be confusing for the visitor. Looks great, though.

      • says

        Thanks for that feedback Rob. I’ll check it out.

        How do you get by without a phone or do you have a standby? It is amazing how much we learn to depend on our hardware. Frightening really. Are we better off in our technological world or when we were connected to others in the flesh around the campfire?

        • says

          Yes, I have a standby that’s not a smart phone. Having said that I’m not hugely into smart phones. I’m usually near a laptop or a desktop computer so I don’t use phones for browsing websites. However, the sat-nav and geo-positioning capability of phones is amazing!

          To answer your question, I don’t know: we’re probably less connected than we used to be but then, on the other hand, we’re probably more connected to different cultures than we used to be!