I started the year feeling tired. I was running an awful lot of workshops around the south east, many of them weekend events. Thanks to the vagaries of our rail system, I spent countless hours stuck on uncomfortable trains. I dreamed of running virtual events from the comfort of my pope cave. Indeed, I'd tried to convince clients that webinars and online courses were a good idea, but everyone wanted in-person events. Ha.
After a weekend event in February in a tiny, overheated room, I came down with what felt like flu. I was out of action for a couple of weeks and it took a few months before I was restored to my former vigour. Thanks to an antibody test, I now know it was almost certainly COVID-19. Normally, I like to be in the vanguard of new developments; this time, not so much.
While I recovered my energy, COVID took hold of the country. I remember coaching a client back in March. She was trying to decide whether to expand her business, a business that involved bringing together large numbers of people. We didn't yet know what was to come. I suggested that the fate of the London Book Fair would give us a strong indication of what might happen. As a high profile event involving 25,000 people converging from all around the world, nobody was going to cancel it without good reason. There was a lot of money at stake. Just after I waved off my client, I saw the headline: "London Book Fair cancelled".
That was the trigger. The next day, I received a succession of emails that started, "Hello Catherine. We're very sorry but ..." I'd had workshops booked through to the end of July - around £20,000 worth of business - and it all went in an afternoon. I allowed myself a couple of hours' catastrophising and swearing, then came up with a plan. I designed virtual versions of all the events and pitched them to clients. Some were webinars, others a mix of webinar, online course, and 1-2-1 coaching. I managed to retain 95% of that business, and also picked up some additional work. Overall, I ran 40 webinars, created 14 online courses, and wrote 1 book.
Here's what I've learned during 2020:
The only certainty for 2021 is more uncertainty. Although we now have several vaccines (thank you, experts), it'll take time to roll them out. In the meantime, we also have to contend with the challenges of Brexit. Unfortunately, we can't rely on the state to look after us or even provide leadership in times of crisis. For those of us who are able, we need to work this stuff out for ourselves and do our best to look after those who can't.
I think 2021 also offers many opportunities. It's never been easier to start a business, reach a global audience, and create scalable income. It's not about attracting squillions of pounds in venture capital and pursuing world domination. Instead, we can grow small, ethical businesses that help other people and also allow us to enjoy financial security. I'm shifting my focus to coaching and training solo business owners to make the most of these opportunities. With a financial cushion, you can afford to slow down and make better long-term choices, while technology skills allow you to go faster and respond to rapid change. You can stay small and nimble, but still make a big difference.