‘A million vaccines on the shelf and ready to use next week’
This is certainly not a sentence I expected to read when waking up in 2021. It’s been a tough year for every single person around the globe. Loss of family, friends and everyday civil liberties. The ability to hug our parents, greet our friends and share a moment with neighbours.
Homeschooling, meeting up for walks, using elbows to say hello. It feels like the world has rotated in another direction.
My gratitude sits with those key workers who have continued to keep us functioning. Hospital workers, delivery drivers, retail workers. They’ve enabled us to keep living and maintain some normality.
My heart sits with those who have suffered loss. The absence of a goodbye prominent in most of these stories.
2021 is upon us and we have hope in the shape of a vaccine. January and February will continue to be tough but the shoots on spring growth and lighter evenings will be soon around the corner.
2020 has been a year of huge change in our household and for me from a business perspective.
Started & ended the year with a sale:
If you read my self employed report for January/February/March you will know that we sold (at the time) our primary asset of educational websites. This represented over 55% of our revenue so was a knock to our revenue streams.
The timing of the sale was bittersweet. On one hand, we had a significant lump sum payment at the beginning of a pandemic. On the other hand, the US had moved all students to home learning which saw a growth in sales. From a personal perspective, I’ve never looked back and try to detach myself emotionally from any asset. The sale has taken one of the main worries people have had this year away from us.
The second sale of the year happened just three days ago. This was one of the 100+ websites we purchased with the large business loans (remember those?) of which we sold the majority bar three remaining websites. Well, we’ve decided to sell one of the three remaining.
This website has seen exceptional growth over the past year including a substantial affiliate revenue stream. We are proud of the growth the website has achieved but like everything we own we are happy to move the website on when it feels right. This deal is a little different as we still maintain a vested interest in the site for 3 years as per the terms of the deal however the sale has significantly reduced our expenditure while allowing us to focus on our primary subscription business.
2020 has been the year we’ve dabbled more in affiliate marketing in both the consumer product and health space. We certainly chose an interesting year to dabble. We have seen nice success with our affiliate efforts which has added another bow to our overall income.
I am a huge proponent of multiple revenue streams. They loosen the reliance on a specific avenue and enable you to pivot if one of your websites suffers for whatever reason. This area has grown well for us and although the sale of the asset above will slow this slightly we still have other websites which are generating well.
Securing the wider team:
We work with over 15 freelancers across our websites; some of which have worked with us regularly over the past 4 years. We have individuals working with us in Spain, Croatia, The Philippines, South Africa and Pakistan to name just a few. It’s a multicultural team made up of some of the smartest individuals I’ve ever worked with.
When the Pandemic hit a number of them were worried that our work would dry up or we would hit the break in terms of output. We did the opposite. We continued to support the team and pushed on with all projects and also added more! I am proud to say we supported these 15 individuals through the Pandemic and it gives me great satisfaction that we took that worry away from them.
What we got back in return was more outstanding work from a team of truly talented people.
45% YOY Growth:
Our primary subscription business achieved 45% YOY growth which we are incredibly proud of. This came across the entire website range with one website in particular achieving substantial year on year increases in revenue.
We continuously add new materials to our offering and haven’t yet increased our price in the entire time running the websites. This may be a mistake from our perspective but we believe that if we can reach more schools with our best in class resources then we can benefit education in general.
It’s also worth noting that on our student-led websites we decreased the price by 50% between March and September to push those students whose exams were cancelled to keep learning.
Family & Life:
IVF & Barney:
The year started with us finally getting to the beginning of the IVF process. I won’t go into detail within this post but if anyone has been through it then you will know it’s a long road. Words cannot describe my gratitude to my wife for the evasive process she had to endure.
Fortunately for us and our journey, we were successful and we welcomed our boy Barney into the world in October. He’s everything and has slotted into the family dynamic well. Writing this in January 2021 it feels like he’s always been part of our family. He’s an incredibly smiley, happy boy who sleeps well and enjoys every single day.
He’s not met his wider family or friends in the way Matilda did but this is what we are currently living with. He’s the most perfect conclusion of a long and expensive road which made everything worthwhile.
Homeschooling & then school:
We had Matilda at home with us from March until late July. She’s incredibly social with her friends and we worried she would miss them greatly. She actually loved the period at home with us and thrived with her homeschooling and general life skills development.
I’ve taken work easy since the pandemic and rarely did more than 6 hours a day. We had regular family walks, taught Matilda to ride her bike which led to miles of cycling (and me running after her), as well as teaching her to find joy in the day to day (washing the car is her favourite!).
My wife picked up the bulk of the homeschooling load while pregnant and I am thankful for what she did to both develop Matilda and enable me to continue to work and grow the business.
In September Matilda started Primary school and although it wasn’t the start to school any parent wanted both the school and ourselves have done everything to make the experience feel normal. Matilda loves school and has made a lot of new friends and relationships. With the flexibility in my schedule i’ve been able to take her to school every Thursday & Friday. We’ve walked every single day as a family even when the weather was not so kind.
Apparently there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
I actually wrote an entire post on ‘moving house’ back in May which you can read as it was quite a lengthy process (understatement). Looking back, this was one of the hardest things I have had to coordinate. Although we loved our previous house this one just felt right and I was desperate to push it through. It took up significant time and headspace for the three months of solicitor nonsense. But in the end we moved and we couldn’t be happier.
Planning & the extension:
The house we’d moved into was a lovely 4 bed property however it lacked the ensuite of our previous property, the conservatory was on it’s last legs & as a long term home worker I wanted a dedicated office. We therefore submitted plans to extend in late July and these were finally passed in October. There were no objections however the planning department had a backlog from the previous lockdown.
The extension work started in late October and at the time of writing the rear replacement extension and the side extension are both watertight and ready for internal work.
My frugal side still questions whether we needed the extension. We’ve been incredibly happy in the house even though everything is quite old and there’s carpet everywhere. But the extension will make things even better and I see it as a long term play as Barney and Matilda grow older. The plans include an incredible rear extension and vaulted ceiling in my office space with skylight.
We are also proud to support a local building firm through a Pandemic. We see it as our way of contributing to local business in the area. The team have been good thus far. I sometimes ponder how much I would have made if i invested the money instead of saving for the extension however we want a well rounded, family life and I feel this offers this and more.
Devon & Center Parcs:
We actually managed two holidays in August to both Devon and Center Parcs respectively. We really enjoy France and have perhaps ignorantly neglected Devon/Cornwall and the likes previously.
The Devon trip we stayed on a luxury campsite in a static caravan. The site had indoor and outdoor pools and was heavily covid compliant. Both had to be booked well in advance and there were temperature checks and rigorous cleaning between every slot. We loved Devon.
The week we arrived was incredibly lucky with the weather however we had a fantastic time. Beautiful walks, the beach (not crowded like the media claimed), swimming and everything else in between. There was an air of excitement as we drove down at the service stations and I loved the vibe. We missed out on our static caravan a cycle ride away from Lac d’Hourtin-Carcans (Hourtin, France) this year but plan to (hopefully) do a combination of the UK & France next Summer in a month long trip.
We also had a great time at Center Parcs however the experience was compromised. It always makes me smile when people say how expensive Center Parcs is. As a family we largely spend our time in the pool or cycling; both of which are completely free if you take your own bikes. This year was a little different as you could only go in the pool twice. We tend to go to the pool twice a day! We still had a nice time however it felt incredibly restricted and it wouldn’t be something I would do again if the restrictions continue longer.
Fitness & Health:
Walking & Cycling:
We’ve always been keen walkers but we’ve stepped this up considerably since the Pandemic. Daily walks in the height of lockdown as well as continuing this through the Winter months and beyond. As a family we love the outdoors and in 2020 it’s become a key component of my fitness strategy.
I finally upgraded my bike. I’ve been hanging on to a cheap £110 Halfords bike for over 5 years now but finally decided to upgrade. I’ve since fitted a pannier rack and storage bag so I can pick up supplies from the supermarket. We live in a walkable area which is largely cycle friendly too and it’s something I’ve enjoyed even more since the pandemic. I am never going to be a road cyclist (lycra and all) as I love the leisurely side of cycling. My ideal cycle is around a lake or exploring the trails in a wood.
Resistance bands & death to weights:
Family life, fatigue and a new approach saw me sell the last of my weights. This may come as a surprise as I actually invested in a home gym at my previous property but I believe life twists and turns and is never linear.
Since Barney was born and we started the extension work the garage where my gym equipment lived was out of bounds. I, therefore, invested in some good quality resistance bands and my training has improved significantly since. I never had lofty ambitions to pack on the muscle; I always saw the gym as staying healthy, lean and active. Since switching to resistance bands, walking & cycling I feel far better than I did over the previous year or two.
The new approach fits my life with a young family so much better. We can explore together while I still maintain a level of fitness. I love that Matilda (and Barney when he’s older) can find joy in exploring new places and are happy getting wrapped up and out in the mud.
Plans for 2021:
I will follow up with another post of our plans for 2021 from a health, business and family perspective. We still have a half-built extension and a potentially difficult few months with Covid-19 so, for now, I will leave these on the shelf until life is a little clearer.