Digital Strategy Insights Marie Poulin

2017 Year in Review

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Each year I like to look back at what I accomplished, and of course, compare it to what I had originally set out for myself at the beginning of the year.

  • Did I meet my personal and business goals?
  • How well did my chosen word to represent the year? (2017 was Space)
  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go well this year?
  • What did I learn?
  • What do I hope for the year ahead?

I used to be in the habit of writing some pretty in-depth yearly reviews (see 2015, 2014, 2013), but late last year we ended up buying a house (somewhat unexpectedly?) in December (2016), and our Christmas, New Year, and January turned into a mad dash to get everything in order for the quick move.
And so… the 2016 review never made it off the back-burner. Good thing I get to make the rules!

Let’s begin:

What went well this year?

Bought a house


Living in Vancouver for so long, owning property felt like a very distant pipe dream. By buying property outside of the city in a place where Vancouverites often come to escape the city, we were able to get into the market without feeling like too remote. Of course, “remote” is relative…

We ended up buying a house (somewhat unexpectedly?) in late December 2016. Not just a little move, but a move from the city (Vancouver) into our new house in the woods (Halfmoon Bay, Sunshine Coast), with a population under 3k.

Life adjustments included: learning how to drive a standard, learning how to chop wood and use the wood stove, and finding new routines in our new surroundings.

It has been such a wonderful experience to do this move! We’re walking distance to the beach and incredible hikes, we have space to grow food, Mochi can run around, and we have a ridiculous amount of privacy. The nights are dark and quiet, and the days are peaceful. It’s perfect for two introverts working from home!


Got married in the backyard

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Now that we had a beautiful property, we thought about how much we would love to have our friends and family come visit us. At first we talked about throwing a party, but eventually it turned into a wedding. It was a small, intimate, somewhat informal event that was just our style, and was so memorable for the people who attended.

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I got to see family, friends, and cousins I hadn’t seen in a very long time, and I got to meet so many amazing people in the community through the process of planning the event. I’m so grateful for the whole experience.

Our wedding was featured in A Practical Wedding if you want to read more about the planning or you want to see more pretty pictures. We were pretty committed to keeping it as low-waste as possible. We thrifted, borrowed, and rented as much as we could to keep waste minimal and costs down. We made decorations, and had good friends of ours make a taco bar for us. It was perfectly us.


I started studying permaculture

Being involved in the #zerowaste community in Vancouver, I quickly discovered a monthly permaculture training and certification out here on the coast, and it has become a highlight of each month. These classes are inspiring and hope-giving. I often feel quite emotional when I am in these classes because where it can be easy to slip into feelings of hopelessness about the future of the planet and society, this is one place where I actually feel hopeful for the future.

Alongside my course, this was the first year I learned how to garden, started a compost, and grew my very first vegetables and fruits.


Refined my consulting offerings

A huge part of my work this year was really refining my process and offerings. I minimized the amount of web design and strategy projects I was taking on, and moved to mostly consulting and strategy retainers for people launching new products and services. I built out a new onboarding process, created standardized templates, and structured my offerings based on some common challenges I was noticing.
This was one of the most challenging parts of the year because it involved a lot of refinement, iteration, and experimentation. I had to give a more formal structure to work I’d been doing more “intuitively” for years. The beauty was that all the work I was doing to refine my client engagements was directly influencing the product I created during the summer, Run Your Learning Launch.

Launched a Bootcamp

In the summer of 2016 I launched a bootcamp called Run Your Learning Launch to help Doki users get their course ideas launched into the world. I had a blast with Stacey and this group, and it got some new customers using Doki. I took the process that I was leading my clients through, and developed an online group program based on it. I learned so much through this process that I revamped the material for the next round to be even more streamlined and focused.
Run Your Learning Launch begins again in February. Learn more.


Other fun things that happened in 2017:

Despite the big life changes and living in a more remote location, I feel like a lot happened both personally and professionally!

  • I learned how to drive a standard
  • I learned how to chop wood + make fires
  • I volunteered with Girls Learning Code
  • I launched a small bootcamp in the summer to help people get their first course launched
  • We went to MicroConf in Vegas, which was excellent (I’ll be speaking at the next one in 2018!)
  • I attended CTAConf in Vancouver and got to meet up with my DSS ladies!
  • I made new friends
  • We went to a friend’s wedding in Yachats Oregon, and visited Portland
  • I picked up French again (finished 2017 with a 47-day streak on Duolingo)
  • I completed the CentHer Stage speaker training with Unbounce (This was a huge highlight for me this year!)

  • I challenged myself with 100 days of video blogging for the #100dayproject
  • Volunteered at Converge: Service Design Conference Canada
  • Joined an Ultimate Frisbee team
  • Was interviewed on 12 podcasts + online summits
  • Spent a weekend in Victoria
  • Got an electric pressure cooker and have been cooking up a storm ever since
  • Simplified my wardrobe, and have committed to second hand and consignment
  • Had an amazing birthday weekend in Powell River, complete with my favourite brewery, ice cream, and mini-putt
  • Attended a fun mixer on the coast by Leah Goard; met new friends, old friends, and even a few clients!

What didn’t go well this year

Blog writing, emailing, marketing. I didn’t maintain any kind of momentum or consistency. I was mostly focused on my consulting work, course curriculum, and outreach for Doki. I did write a few posts, but not as many as I had hoped/intended. I underestimated how much brain space would be taken up with the moving, settling into the house, wedding, figuring out new routines, etc. See next point:

Focus + productivity. Settling in (and planning our backyard wedding) took time, focus, and brain space. I had to learn how to drive standard, research the city (figure out locations for grocery stores, post office, amenities, climbing gym, car dealership), get to know the ferry schedules etc.

Once I moved to the woods, I found my desire to “hustle” reduced drastically. I started to become much more aware of how I was spending my days, weeks, and months. I no longer felt a drive to go-go-go! I really felt the energy of wanting to settle down, and find calm and routine. I think this was a necessary part of the process of moving and making such a big life change (or two or three!), so I tried to be gentle with myself, taking the time and space required to adjust and lean into my new surroundings.

Budgeting. There were so many unexpected expenses in our first year of homeownership, and getting married in the first 6 months was maybe not the most fiscally responsible idea. We did it on the cheap (as best we could!), but it all adds up. We had finally gotten our debts squared away when we bought the house, but didn’t leave enough buffer for things we hadn’t planned for. Moving from a 1-bedroom + den to a 3-bedroom house meant we needed things like extra beds for the guest rooms, basic furnishings, vaccuum cleaner, dresser, gardening supplies, misc tools, the list goes on. We bought second hand wherever possible, but the costs still add up! We were naive 🙂

The book Worry Free Money has been an absolute life-saver for getting back on track. I cannot say enough good about this book, which I read over the Christmas holidays. It’s the first system and strategy that has worked for me and has really helped me understand (as a small business owner) how much I need to be putting away (and where and how) to think about savings and retirement.

Some of my favourite reads from this year:
Worry Free Money
Badass Your Brand
The Productized Consulting Guide
The Service Innovation Handbook
Gaia’s Garden


Plans for 2018

Run Your Learning Launch begins again in February, the virtual bootcamp I’m running with Stacey Howe-Lott to help more people launch their course ideas by launching something smaller and faster. Future versions will be available as self-study, but this one is all hands-on to make sure the material and experience is valuable and transformative.

SPEAKING: MicroConf Starter Edition. I’ll be speaking at MicroConf 2018 about how we funded our SaaS development through the success of Digital Strategy School (now The Digital Experience). I am so freaking excited for this! Also hoping there will be opportunities for other speaking engagements this year.

Collaboration with Natalie McGuire on the next iteration of The Digital Experience, which will include smaller highly-focused trainings, ongoing office hours, and as always, 1:1 mentorship with design business owners. (Summer/Fall)

Update to become more of a personal website + brand; a place where I can post my thoughts on things beyond just “business as usual.”

Stick to the Worry Free Budget. I put together a bad-ass spreadsheet based on Shannon’s methods in Worry Free Money which is really helping me understand how my decisions today impact my future financial goals. Free free to make a copy and use it as you wish!

Permaculture Design Certificate. I plan to do the work required to get my certification and will continue to participate and educate myself around the principles of permaculture.

Travel. We will be heading to the UK in late March for a wedding, followed by a biz-cation in Belgium to visit our good friend (and Doki customer!) Natasha from Systems Rock.

SaaS. We will continue to evolve our software Doki, a platform that enables users to sell and distribute online courses, resource libraries, mentorship and mastermind programs. We will continue to build out features that accommodate the unique needs of our customers, many of which are coaches and mentors. We are so grateful to everyone who has used our platform to launch their products!

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