I’ve never stared at the blank screen for so long…
Writing an annual review is something I haven’t done before and I can’t describe how I feel right now.
You can privately write goals, tick them off or slide them on to the next month but when writing a review publicly it feels different.
It’s like baring yourself to the world… you feel vulnerable and that’s what I feel right now.
I know how companies write annual letters each month to hold themselves accountable to shareholders because they trust the company with their money (I’ll do so with my company too but more on that later!).
But not many bloggers, in fact only handful of them write annual reviews.
So… with this annual review, I want to give that same privilege to you (the readers) because even though you don’t trust me with your money.. you trust me with something more precious and valuable: your time.
Why this annual review?
I’ve been blogging since 2012-13 and I’ve consistently blogged on DigitalGYD all through the years but I’ve never had the chance to showcase who I am.
All posts on the blog are work related, you come with a query get your problem solved and then return back to your life and work.
Some of you honored me by subscribing (through mail or push notifications) but no personal encounters there too.
With this annual review (and the trend that I want to bring with it) I want to you to know me, Swadhin Agrawal, not as a owner of the blog but as a person who is just like you.
Here are a few other reasons why I think this is the best move I thought I need to come up with this:
1) Honor where you’re in life
Through this annual review or 2018 rewind, whatever you want to call it, I want to honor life for where it has got me.
We always look forward to more exciting things, complain for things that didn’t turn out as they should but writing a review gives you the time to reflect on the journey.
If you can’t honor where you are in life, you’re not only disrespecting your journey and the efforts you made all the while but also disrespecting who you’ve become through the journey.
2) Improve myself
If you personally know me you’d know I’m a pretty non-confrontational type of person. This is to the extent that I keep avoiding stuff where I need to mirror myself or look at how things have come across.
This is not cool and one of the major reasons I’m writing this.
3) See the bigger picture
Writing a year end review gives myself the chance to see what I’ve done all the year and how the effort I’ve put so far is giving result. You retrospect and find things that went good and things that didn’t.
With a review of this kind, you step back from your daily chores and look life from above everything. I like to call this process as seeing the bigger picture.
Annual reviews aren’t only to turn back and see how you’ve done what you’ve done, they’re a process to set goals for the coming year.
This makes your vision clear, and your goals sharper. Your goals and visions will get etched into your subconscious mind and motivate you to take action.
Eventually these small actions will make your visions a reality in the physical world. I’m a big believer of the Law of Attraction. I thank anything and everything I’ve to the Law of Attraction.
That’s why the title, “decide now how you’ll evaluate yourself next year’.
Also, writing about future goals in a public post makes it difficult to abandon halfway.
What went well this year?
1. Incorporation of my first company
The biggest and the most remarkable thing that happened to me this year was the successful filing and incorporation of my first company Value Intent Media Pvt. Ltd..
Value Intent Media will be the umbrella company for all my ventures and portfolio of sites and very soon I will be migrating my finances and entire business under the company.
The process was not easy (not the process of filing but the process to reach here) but t was well worth it.
I’ll share my story through another post but coming from a stage I came from, this is probably the wildest dream I could have ever dreamt.
When you’ve all you got, you’re good at academics and you think to pursue something you’re very very passionate about (engineering) and you’re not allowed to do that… it hurts.
That was probably the only day (the day I wasn’t allowed to pursue my dream career) I remember tears rolling openly in front of others without me even knowing it.
And then the journey of low self esteem and lack of confidence started.
Coming from a traditional family where “jobs” is considered inferior to own “business” despite I was denied a job (thereby wasting the Bachelors in Pharmacy degree I did too).
I sat for months in my room avoiding confrontation with people (and myself) doing nothing. You couldn’t feel any worse about yourself than this.
And since you do nothing you slowly lose respect or importance amongst your people (be it friends or family).
You lose your worth, you lose faith in what you believe and who you want to look yourself as in life. I was suicidal.
And then out of the blue I accidentally came to know about this online thing (I had no idea what online world was or what a website was. In fact, for me internet was only Facebook and a song download site (pirated) that I knew).
From there, till here; I have no grudges against anyone.
Everyone, I think, played their role for who I’ve become and how this journey has shaped.
It was never easy to let go and forgive people for having ruined your dreams when you know that you can never live that dream again.
But when you’re ruined, you realize that it is up to you now as to what you want to make off your ashes.
You want to fly around and prick in the eyes of others or you want to let go and become a better fertilizer for what will next grow in your place.
And grudges never do any good to you either. They’re like a stone that’s tied to your feet and try to sink you further down.
And so, I think, letting go was the best thing I think I could do to make myself feel better.
Every cloud has a silver lining… mine had too!
Blogging gave me everything I had once lost and then some more.
Blogging gave me a voice, a confidence in myself and empowered me to stand strong (instead of avoiding) in front of people who thought I was worthless or could do nothing.
Blogging gave me financial stability and a way to stand by my family.
2. A complete site makeover (Why & how it communicates my brand)
1) Got my site redesigned!
DigitalGYD has had so many iterations of design but the one that was up for the longest time was where I used Thrive’s Focusblog theme.
This had been one of the fastest themes I could find and had tons of options including automatic image compression (yes! Comes with a theme).
So far so good until I realized it was terrible on mobile and to add it everyone on earth started using it in their blogs. It almost became synonymous with “generic (Amazon) affiliate sites”.
That’s when I thought a switch was necessary.
I did go back and forth with a lot of designers to get a custom theme designed and nothing turned up spectacular.
Then came Generatepress that was even more fast, more powerful and robust customization features (without technical knowledge).
The team behind Generatepress are very kind and go out of their way to help with custom codes, should you need them.
The new redesign has lots of stuff like better optimized for conversions, cleaner & better user experience (across all devices).
We also moved away from Thrive Architect and now limit its use only for landing pages or custom pages that require heavy custom designs. For blog posts nothing beats custom coded elements.
2) Change in branding
I did a branding shift too. The old one was good but I wanted a fresh new color palette for my brand colors.
One issue or remorse I will always have is I was ignorant while selecting my domain name.
I chose the word DigitalGYD because I wanted the amalgamation of two of my favorite blogs at that time and since the domain Digital Guide wasn’t available I chose to go with a similar sounding phrase “GYD”.
Looking forward, it does little to communicate my brand or even give an idea about what it is.
I’m looking forward to changing the domain name but not unless I find a gem.
I changed the logo to include my brand’s new tagline “Helping you start & grow profitable blogs”.
I think this aligns with my goals from this blog where I want to help people start and grow their blogs into profitable businesses.
I want DigitalGYD to be the resource I wished I had when I got started blogging.
3) Showcase My Expertise
Another main aspect of rebranding was to showcase our expertise. Over the years of blogging I am proud that I’ve learnt a thing or two about the business.
I’ve applied all these in my portfolio of niche sites and have had the privilege to create sites that have surpassed monthly traffic numbers that this blog has not had in a lifetime (it is normal because DigitalGYD is a business blog and the sites we’re talking about are niche sites serving a general audience).
One of our AdSense monetized site crossed 10 million page views in September this year which is something that motivates me to put more work into what I do.
We’ve (both me and DigitalGYD as a blog on blogging) have received lots of appreciation and included in a number of “Top 100 blog lists”.
Having said that,
It is heart-wrenching to see not many recognize DigitalGYD as in general or we can say there is not much talk about us as “experts”.
Now, I know “showing your authority” or “power” is not a very good thing to talk about but you’ll agree in this business of decreasing dependability on visibility (may it be search or dying social media reach) you need to show your expertise or build your brand.
Branding is something very very essential for a business to thrive (and not depend on third party money-bringers like Google or Facebook) and showing your expertise is just a part of it that you simply can’t ignore.
After all, this is a business I am running and if I don’t show my visitors or buyers the full potential of what they’re reading or buying from, I’m failing as a business.
The reason for this, I think was my introvertness (and therefore lack of networking) and my uncomfort sharing income numbers. While I don’t think showing income or screenshots is the right way to do this, and I probably will never do this (that’s why nothing in income numbers here too) but I will figure out a way soon.
And, I hope 2019 will change this and we’ll surely make a place in your minds & hearts.
3) Personal transformation
Everything in life comes with a price.
Blogging profession is not different too. When you’re at your comfort, blogging for hours in front of a laptop, you slowly lose control of your health.
Not all do, but I did.
1) Taking charge of my health
Lack of exercise and sitting for long hours started taking a toll on my productivity and mental health last year.
When you’re writing/typing quietly and spend 8-10 hours a day in solitude, not talking or having much physical interaction with others you tend to feel uneasy when you get a chance to interact with people physically.
I developed anxiety disorders.
But before things got worse I started taking charge this year and here are several things I’m doing to help myself feel better.
If you got a better solution or tip, drop a comment below.
- Started walking/running daily (trust me this alone brought marginal difference!),
- A little bit of cardio,
- Physical transformation, &
- A morning routine to help me better plan for the day with confidence. Here is a video of Charles Ngo’s morning routine that is a perfect example of how anyone in blogging or similar field. I took a few parts from here like practicing the power pose etc.
2) A new look
As long as you don’t feel good about yourself you cannot make others feel good about you.
So, this year in December I got a personal transformation including some a new hair do. I’m liking the new look but no photos here since I couldn’t take before and after pictures.
Will be going for another look change this month and might be I will update before and after picture this time.
4) Invested in real estate
This year, I thought of diversifying my investment portfolio and forayed into real estate investment. Land rates are still decent here and the industry is booming. I see real estate as one of the biggest and best ways of passive income.
If nothing, just build a house with simple 1-room quarters and rent it as shops and voila! for a small piece of land you can get a very good passive monthly income.
What didn’t go well this year?
There is no success without any traces of failures.
2018 was the worst year in terms of the mistakes I made and hence the best year in terms of lessons learnt.
Here are some of them worth mentioning:
1) Wasted too much time with my designers
As mentioned above I wasted way too much time with a couple of web designers getting the new site ready.
I don’t want to name names but there is a brand recommended by a lot of my peers and I had a terrible time with them.
Totally non communicable, delaying the project AF (what was agreed for delivery in 15 days took 3 months to see the first design concept) and when asked about the delay all they do is put the blame game on you.
The worst thing you can do is tell your clients, “we know what we do and you have to take it as is, no questions asked”.
Hello? You’re not doing it for free. And even if you were why would I trust my site, my optimizations, and what I want to something what you give?
Especially when you have no idea what might work for me.
If that was the case I could have gotten a ready-made theme from any theme shop. What’s the point of paying upwards of $1500 for you (those from outside India that are reading this, $1500 here is more than enough for a service like this but I guess I’ll pay upwards of $5000 now than go back to an agency like this).
The idea to get a custom one is because we can communicate back and forth and see what works and feels good and then develop that.
I’ve seen my friends (not Indians) have designers who were with them in the process and provided unlimited or (at least more than 1 for sure) revisions, support until the site was ready to launch, no matter it takes 6-8 months.
I never knew if it was otherwise with agencies in India.
If you run an agency that doesn’t think this way, feel free to email me, we might work on some projects.
Surely, I should have asked, but you’ll agree they should have told me their “what we give is what you have to take policies” (because they were the ones that gave me a contract to sign, not I).
- Have clear conversations including terms of service and refund policy or project cancellation terms. (I did not have any idea that I should include mine and only agreed to theirs.)
- Ask for revision policies and other things
- Listen to recommendations of others but investigate before getting into a contract. It’s not recommendations are fake/biased, it’s that not everyone has same demands. What might work spectacular for others might not be what you’re expecting.
2) Lost some money on domains
This year, I did invest in some domains and one specially (I had high hopes on and wanted to set up an authority site with) gave me the biggest ever loss from domains so far.
The domain in question cost me around ₹58,000 or nearly $1000 only to find that it used to be a poker site back in 2013.
I bought it as a premium domain from Godaddy and even though I raised a refund request just before 24 hours they said they have a clear no-refund policy on premium domains.
- Always check before investing so much in something.
- We do check even before buying a normal domain for $5 but this one, I bought it in a state when I was tired (of finding available domains for the last 72 hours and this appeared. In excitement I just registered it having no clue it was online since 2013.)
3) Failed to travel abroad
I wanted to attend any blogging or affiliate marketing abroad and was fully prepared to do so but some family health issues did not let me do so.
I think it is much more necessary for you to be around someone (who is sick) in your family than go abroad. It can be done any time in future.
4) Failed in finances
I am bad at managing finances and and I think I would also not rate myself decent enough for strategizing.
And I think it’s okay as long as I know how to make up for that part and still have a larger piece of skin in the game than my competitors.
“A big part of being a well-adjusted person is accepting that you can’t be good at everything.” ~ Kelly Williams Brown
Value Intent Media isn’t there just to be a name for my business I have a lot planned and I want to see the company growing.
I’m also looking forward to hire a CEO who can take this to the next level. That’s how I, as of now, see to make up for the skills I lack in.
Goals for 2019
Here are some key goals I want to tick off before 2019 ends.
- Build my personal brand
- Moving from a keyword-based blog strategies to a topic based blog strategy
- Build SOPs and employee training kits/docs so that I don’t have to waste a lot of time training each team member with similar things.
- Launch courses (finally!)
- Buying more blogs (if you have one, get in touch)
- Get better at finances
- Get better at not relying on a single source of traffic, a.k.a learn paid ads (already invested in some of the best courses).
- Get better at health and exercise more often, life more weight
- Build my other blog Profitable Inbox
- Travel at least to 3 countries.
This is what I can see reflecting back… it obviously is not crisp because I didn’t start the 2018 looking forward to write a review and hence no records or notes to keep track of.
I hope I can better assess and document the events this year so the review next year is more crisp.
Thank You (And a Request)
Moving forward, I want to THANK YOU for all the love and support you gave me.
I would love to hear your feedback, tips and input on how I can improve your experience as a reader.
For friends and fellow bloggers reading this:
I would love to know your inputs, your top 3 things that went well and 3 lessons you learnt in 2018 and top 3 things you’re looking forward to in 2019.
Don’t hesitate, this will be a good way to show accountability and grow together.