I was going to call this A Year in Review, or something like that, and then my favourite podcasters starting poking fun at all the “year in review” blog postings, so I’ve gone with the Sound of Music angle instead….plus it is now February, so I’m a little late to the game to call it a “Year In Review”! But in all seriousness, I made some great discoveries and connections in 2014, and I want to share a few of them with you here. Most are work-related, some are more personal in nature. Here’s the shortlist:
Web Agency Podcast
The Web Agency Podcast has been hands-down my favourite podcast of the year. Led by two hilarious brothers out of Melbourne, Australia, they bring in fantastic guests who have brought immeasurable value to my business. I have learnt TONS, and smiled at their wacky senses of humour all along the way. So thanks Ben Newton from Flag Digital and Mat Newton from Tourism Tiger. Don’t ever stop podcasting!
Web Agency Nation and other Private Facebook Groups
An offshoot of Web Agency Podcast is Web Agency Nation, a private Facebook group started up by Mat and Ben. We are a small group of about 40 web agency owners and web design freelancers that share ideas and bounce ideas of each other. For the first time in many many years, I feel like I have colleagues. Furthermore, through Web Agency Nation, I’ve been introduced to the WordPress Designer and WordPress SpeedUp Facebook groups, which I have also joined. I’m so energized by these communities, and their generosity in sharing expertise and advice.
I’ve also happened across some blogs that continue to help me improve the services I provide my clients. The top three, based on the number of postings I’ve bookmarked, are the Elegant Themes Blog, CopyHackers, and Graphic Design Blender. These are fantastic resources, and it amazes me how much free, valuable information is available on the web. Thank you, Content Marketing!!
Awesome Web Design Tools I’ve Discovered
Mostly through the channels mentioned above, I’ve been introduced to some invaluable tools I now use on a very regular basis. Here’s a sampling of them:
- Pingdom Website SpeedTest
- Nibbler, to check accessibility, SEO, social media, compliance and more
- BrowserStack, to test websites under multiple browsers and browser versions
- WP Engine, for super fast, ultra-secure premium WordPress website hosting. These guys have awesome support, and sites run noticeably faster on their servers.
- GetDrip.com for marketing automation
- HitTail.com for keyword tracking and suggestion for organic search traffic
- SEMRush, for competitor research
WordPress PlugIns and Themes:
- Yoast WordPress SEO for search engine optimization
- UPDraft Plus Backup and Restore for WordPress
- Link Images to None for WordPress
- WP Smush.IT image compression
- Elegant Themes, for beautiful, responsive and highly customizable themes, especially Divi
- The Genesis Framework, for more premium themes
- BruteProtect security plugin
Continued Business from Fantastic Clients
I had only one new client this year, yet my business doubled. I LOVE this. I’m so thrilled my clients continue to bring me new work. This year saw several complete website redesigns, including Van Arbour Design, CW Consulting, and University Sprinklers, as well as new content marketing campaigns, and other digital marketing initiatives. 2015 already has similar business in the pipeline, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into these new projects.
Seeing My Kids Pick Up My Passions
Both my daughters are growing into amazing young women, and it warms my soul to see they share some of my interests. My older daughter is in third year Business Management at UBC Okanagan, and is president of the Marketing Club. She loves branding, design and social media, and half my podcast ideas are inspired by links she shares with me. My younger daughter in in her last year of high school, and is Editor of her high school yearbook. I love it when she bounces design ideas off me, and it blows my mind how quickly she has picked up the Adobe Creative Suite. I’m so excited to see where their passions take them.
What’s Coming in 2015?
I’m thrilled for what this year has in store. Things change so fast in the online world, so there is always something new to learn and hopefully master. I’ve joined a Mastermind Group (an offshoot of the Web Agency Nation Facebook Group mentioned above) and I’m keen to be working with this group to improve our collective web agencies. It’s amazing how the act of voicing an idea or an intention to others takes actions that much closer to reality. In the next week or two I will be launching an update to this website, and I also have new websites for existing clients in the pipeline, as well as social media campaigns, content marketing strategies, and I will be rolling out some automated drip marketing email campaigns, too, to test those waters and hone my skills. I’ve been asked to speak at a conference for accounting technology consultants this coming May, as well, and I’m looking forward to formalizing my ideas for that.
Thanks for reading, if you’ve got this far, and all the best to you in 2015, it’s going to be a great year!