2016-review

2016 Review and Goals for 2017 (Did I Double Sales and Grow My List by 400%?)

Welcome to the 4th annual yearly review!

At the end of each year, I look back on what I’ve achieved, what I’ve learner, and then outline my goals for the upcoming year.

Last year, I set the following goals:

  1. Double course sales
  2. Build a team
  3. Grow my email list by 400%

Ambitious, huh!

I prefer to set goals that make me feel a little scared. Goals that push me and help me get out of my comfort zone.

For example, I could have set out to double my email list, but instead, I chose a 400% increase.

This is a theme that is going to drive me forward this year too.

I look back on these goals on a regular basis to keep me on track. Writing them down and sharing them with thousands of online teachers helps me stay accountable.

I’ll talk about these goals in depth soon but first, here are some of the highlights of the year.

Focusing on YouTube and the Every-Day Video Challenge

Back in spring, I set myself the challenge of making a video every day for my English learning channel (check it out here).

I didn’t put a timescale on this. I just started making videos each day.

The first few videos were really simple. But I soon started spent more time on them to make them look more professional.

I did this because my (newly added) goal was to go all in on YouTube. I wanted to get as many subscribers as possible.

I know that subscribers aren’t the be and end all of YouTube success. But it’s the best way to track your progress.

I started the year out with 3,800 subscribers. I’ve now got 21,500+.

Here is a graph that shows the number of new subscribers added per week:

New Subscribers by Week

New Subscribers by Week

The peak in the middle was when I started making new videos every day. It tailed off when I had to cut back on video creation. It started rising again when I refocused and took specific actions to grow my subscriber base.

YouTube is going to play a large part in 2017.

Going Live

2016 was the year of live video.

In April, Facebook opened up this feature to everyone. Since then, I’ve done over 60 live lessons on Facebook for this brand alone.

I also go live 1-3 times per week on YouTube. I mainly do this through my Mirrorless (like a DSLR) camera by using an adapter, HDMI cables, and software.

This makes a massive difference to the live video quality. Here is an example of one of my live videos that is all about goal setting:

(With Facebook, sometimes they don’t allow full HD recording due to some limitations when recording live)

Live video is the ultimate procrastinator killer.

When you’re making videos, it’s easy to put things off, reshoot, upload it later etc.

With live video, you set a time and you have to do it there and then. The video embedded above was a last minute decision. It was 10:00 AM and I decided to go live at 12:00. In that time, I scheduled the live lesson, sent out an email, drove to my office, created the slides, and set everything up.

I’m a big believer in setting deadlines (see here). And having hundreds of people waiting for you to start your live lesson is a strong deadline, let me tell you.

The interaction in live lessons adds something too. You can ask questions, get feedback, and answer questions from your audience. And because your viewers know that you’re live, you can get away with the odd mistake 😉

New Office


In July, I signed a contract for an office in downtown Asheville.

Trying to make videos with two loud dogs was difficult enough. Throw in a wife and a toddler at home on their summer vacation (and a new baby on the way), and well, you get the picture.

Within a few days of deciding to do this, I had a brand new office.

This has been one of the best investments I’ve made.

It’s quiet, roomy, has some useful additions, and the internet speed is lightening fast.

A 100 Mbs upload speed means that videos upload in 2-3 minutes and I can go live in 4k.

There is a meeting room where I go to, well, meet people. There’s a balcony overlooking a busy part of downtown, and a little kitchenette where I make my mushroom coffee.

I can see myself here for a long time.

New Stuff

I’ve bought some new equipment this year. Mainly video stuff.

I nearly bought the new Macbook Pro but I decided to clean my old one instead!

I did get:

  • The Panasonic G7 and a few lenses (amazing camera for video – this is a bargain right now)
  • The Panasonic G85 (even better if you’re planning to take videos while walking)
  • A microphone support (great for videos at your desk)
  • A desk monopod for my camera
  • A Joby tripod for selfie style videos
  • FCPX for video editing (iMovie is great for most)
  • Acoustic panels (I now use these when I take naps – see here)
  • Other tidbits

In addition to that, I also signed up for the following software

These tools have helped me grow.

I only invest in tools when I can and if they are going to help me.

What I’ve Been Thinking About / Learning This Year

I’ve learned a lot this year.

Some beliefs have been reinforced, while I’ve also explored other areas.

In many cases, there are two contrasting fields of thought that you have to work out for yourself.

For example, the topic of how hard to work on your business.

Some say that you need to hustle harder.

Others say that you should create a lifestyle business.

I made a video on this here.

Right now, it’s very hard for me to find the time and space to work more. Today is Monday and because my wife is sick, I’ve had to stay home this morning to look after my son (his school is closed).

In total, I’ve only been able to work, on average, 25-hour weeks.

I’d prefer to be in the 40-50 range.

Having said that, I’m still obsessed with my goals. And my productivity rates have skyrocketed due to these time restrictions.

I’ve also learned to think bigger and make things scary.

What I mean by this is instead of doubling something, why not 10 times it?

I’m going to talk about how this relates to my goals soon.

But first, what about my goals from 2015?

Okay, enough about that, what about the goals?

Double Course Sales

The easiest way to look at this is by looking at my overall income. The vast majority comes from sales of my courses and other products. While I’m not going to share the exact figures, know that I have increased my income by…

65%

I’ve managed to do this by expanding my audience and improving my sales processes.

It’s quite simple, really.

Once you have a course that works, there are two things you can do: increase conversions and increase awareness.

I haven’t introduced many new courses this year. In fact, I’ve only added one (this will change next year).

Although I didn’t double my sales, I’m pleased with these numbers.

Build a Team

In spring/summer, I hired contractors to:

  • create artwork
  • help me with copywriting
  • create worksheets and exercises for learners

My artwork guy was/is amazing. I don’t use him that regularly but when I need something new, he’s the guy I go to.

My copywriter did a great job with a sales page. But I won’t need her again until I create something new.

The two teachers who helped me with material design were great too. But they couldn’t continue working with me.

As you can see, my team isn’t quite there yet.

To be honest, I’m okay with that. I’m going to look at this again in a few months. If my business grows the way I would like it to, I’d love to bring in someone full-time here in Asheville. But that’s something to look at in the future.

Grow My Email List by 400%

This was another ambitious goal. And one that I did quite well on.

(Note: I made a mistake with my calculations. I wanted to take total subscribers from 10,000 to 50,000. This is 400%, not 500% like I said in the video and in my last post).

In fact, I think I almost made it. I say I think because I have deleted a bunch of people who unsubscribed/hadn’t opened an email for months.

I started the year with 10,000 total subscribers. It’s now at 38,000That’s a 280% increase.

But it’s probably more like 320% if you include those who I deleted.

How have I done this?

  • I promoted my free resources
  • I advertised
  • I added some content upgrades
  • My Facebook and YouTube reach have both gone up dramatically.

Email is still my main focus. See here to learn why. And here for my email marketing guide.

Goals for 2017

Let’s keep things simple again:

  1. Create a new product for English learners
  2. Grow my YouTube channel to 200,000
  3. Grow my online teaching following by to 50,000 (email subscribers)

1: New Product(s)

In addition to a new course for teachers – stay tuned! – I want to create a new product for English learners.

very nearly did this back in spring. But I decided to focus on the course that I already had. People love that course, but it’s not for everyone. My goal is to – and I don’t want to give too much away right now – create a recurring monthly program for my learners by summer.

I want to make this incredibly valuable while also making it manageable for me. I’m in the early stage of coming up with the action plan and will be testing one or two things over the next 4-5 weeks.

2: Grow My YouTube Channel to 200,000 Subscribers

This is a biggie. This is the one that made me nervous about publishing this post. This is the one that gets me most excited.

I was going to make this 100,000. But I feel that’s quite attainable. Therefore, I’m really pushing myself here.

I have to grow the channel by around 900%.

Like with everything else I do, I’m going to research the best ways to do this and then look at how it’s all going to fit into my schedule.

Let’s hope I come back at the end of the year with good news!

3: Grow My Online Teaching Following to 50,000 Email Subscribers

The majority of my email subscribers are English learners.

Don’t get me wrong, there are over 10,000 teachers who have subscribed to this blog.

But in 2017, I want to expand my reach and help more online teachers/entrepreneurs.

I’ve been running two brands for over three years now and love the balance of both. Having 50,000 subscribers to this blog will make a huge difference to my online business.

Some Personal Goals

I put on weight in 2016.

Apparently, this happens in your thirties!

However, my goal this year is to be in the best shape of my life. I’ve already started intermittent fasting and I have changed my diet. And in the past 10 days, I’ve lost 4-5 lbs without losing strength.

Early days, I know. But I’m excited about this one.

Oh, I’m also going to learn French too.

Je suis…. again, early days.

Over to You

How was 2016 for you? Did you hit your goals? What did you learn?

And what is your big goal for this year?

Thanks for reading!

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  • David Downer

    Hi Jack – Happy New Year!

    Great post! As one of your TEOC students, I pay careful attention to what you are doing and so this post is really helpful and inspiring too…

    I’m probably a little different to many of your TEOC students, in that I had no prior experience as an English teacher when I joined your excellent TEOC programme at the end of August 2016. That said I do have 25+ years experience in teaching fitness and sports. At the end of the day ‘teaching is teaching, is teaching’ 🙂 However; perhaps I do have an advantage over many of your students in that I am an experienced online marketer…

    With that in mind my English business goals, which I set for myself in September 2016 were:

    1) To register for a teacher training course and get certified by 31st December.

    Outcome: I’ve completed half the course, passing all assessments so far 🙂 The reason why I’ve only achieved 50% of the goal is that part-way through, I decided it was more important to focus on setting up my Online business and getting some content out there A.S.A.P.

    2) Set up my Online business framework by 31st December E.g. Website & Blog + Facebook; Twitter; Youtube; G+; Periscope; Instagram (including content).

    Outcome: Goal completed 95%. Website up and running with nearly 20 posts including 13 video lessons (mostly Facebook live). One or two posts beginning to move up the search engines (lots of work still to do on SEO). Posting on all the above social media channels, except Instagram (about to start). I ‘m looking forward to doing live 60 second video lessons on Instagram.

    3) Start teaching: 1) Live lessons via Facebook Live / Periscope / Youtube 2) One-to-one paid students.

    Outcome: 1) Live lessons via Facebook Live etc – Goal achieved (approx 13 live lessons so far). 2) One-to-one paid students goal – I put this on temporary hold. I decided to focus on getting my Online business framework in place first (so I have got something to show for myself and somewhere to send people). Also because I wanted to get teaching practice via my lessons on Facebook etc first before I start teaching one-to-one.

    Note: Also I have yet to decide my specific target audience. Who specifically am I going to teach pronunciation too?

    4) Create two products as freebies to build my email list.

    Outcome: Achieved! The first product was easy. It is my free ‘pronunciation’ tips email newsletter (I have chosen pronunciation as my specialty area of English). It’s just a regular pronunciation tip that I will create and add to my autoresponder as I go along. Once I have enough tips I will create a freebie ‘Mini-Course’ and ultimately I will create a full ‘paid for’ course to back-end sell. I added the promo video and web-form to my website over the weekend.

    My second freebie product is my ‘Everyday English Idioms’ video ‘Mini Course’. I put a lot of work into creating this course which will eventually be a pre-sell to the full idioms course. For now it’s just a give-away product to build my email list.

    So there we go. I’m really pleased with what I have achieved in 4 months in order to hit the ground running into 2017.

    Goals for 2017:

    – Complete my teacher training by end of March
    – Build an email list of 10,000 students (starting from zero)
    – 5 live lessons each week (Facebook Live / Youtube).
    – 5 live lessons each week on Instagram
    – Income goal from paid lessons: $2,500 a month by July
    – Create 3 paid products off the back of my pronunciation and idioms mini-courses (+ one new subject area).
    – Create 5 new mini-courses.

    For anyone who is serious about becoming a successful ‘location independent’ online teacher and even creating their own courses for long-term ‘residual income’, Jack’s TEOC training course is a GREAT investment!

    David 🙂

  • Hi Jack!

    Impressive stats and growth over the year! I love your ambitious goals and numbers that you hit, so kudos for that!

    One of my main goals for 2017 is to get 5,000 YouTube subscribers, I just started my channel and have 4 videos with 50 subscribers and I know percentage-wise that’s a huge increase, but I think I can do it with my email list in the low thousands and with regularly posting videos.

    I have a question for you: When you said you advertised for your email list growth, did you use Facebook ads or Google ads, or something else?

    Thanks! -Ryan

  • Great results and reflections, Jack! Congrats on your growth and keep carrying the momentum into 2017. It’s totally true that the traffic and subscribers become self-perpetuating after a while.

    How are you using UpViral? I’m interested in contests or giveaways, but am a bit wary of having lots of people join only for the prize but end up not being very warm subscribers.

    About personal goals – something like getting a personal trainer or joining a fitness class that you enjoy is an easy hack to keep a consistent schedule. Or, if you prefer solo workouts, download podcasts and only permit yourself to listen to them while exercising 🙂

    • Hey, Shayna! I’m using UpViral as a way for learners to share my book. It’s good but I’m not totally convinced by it yet. I’ve lost 10 lbs in little over a month and gained some strength. The key is knowing that the progress will inevitable slow down and staying motivated and consistent.