You don’t need me to tell you that 2020 well… didn’t exactly go to plan. This year will be one for the history books, with nearly every facet of everyday life being affected in one way or another.
It’s been a year full of more downs than ups, and walking into next year, I definitely don’t feel the spark of inspiration and enthusiam that December normally brings.
I’ve never done a business review blog post before, and 2020 might seem like a strange year to start, but Kelsey’s encouragement to do our own business reviews from her own blog, Paper and Oats inspired me to start this tradition for myself.
While most of my plans for 2020 were thwated by either the C-word (thanks Miss Rona) or some sort of crisis in my personal life, there were also plenty of ups and accomplishments too. It’s easy to forget the positives in a year like this.
So grab yourself your favourite drink (I’m sipping a good old Yorkshire tea over here) and join me as I look back over 2020. I’d also encourage you to do your own review, even if it’s just for your personal memories, pull out the best bits of a year that’s not going to be any of our favourite.
Very quietly did the first beta-launch of Food Photography Academy to my waitlist. After deciding in 2019 that stand-alone online courses weren’t how I wanted to do things anymore, I turned them all into a membership site, and launched the very first version to the world.
Published this post all about goal setting, set some goals, met absolutely none of them (ha!) I plan to revamp this post for 2021, watch this space.
Wrapped up my Food Photography Studio series with part 4! Got stuck into the FPA community and ran the first official masterclass inside the Academy.
Ran a Macro Food Photography challenge with Joanie from The Bite Shot, and went live to wrap up the challenge and pick the winners!
Officially made the decision with Kimberly from The Little Plantation to cancel our London based workshop. Also had to cancel my Netherlands workshop with Lucie Beck. It’s funny looking back that we made this decision just before lockdown came, thinking we were just using common sense to keep people safe. Little did we know, just a few days after that, the borders in Switzerland would shut and I wouldn’t be able to travel anyway!
Had our final homestudy appointment for the Swiss part of our adoption, it went really well and we definitely high fived ourselves for getting through that entire process in German 🇩🇪
We entered the official lockdown in Switzerland, which even though not as strict as some other European countries, definitely had the whole “stay at home” vibe going strong.
Ran an impromtu free, 5 day natural light workshop online. Over 3,000 people joined and we had the best week! I really want to run this again but am thinking of how to revamp the content into a useful free challenge.
Did the second launch of Food Photography Academy to a second waitlist. I had planned to open publicly at this point, but so many other things had to pivot in my business I didn’t have time to get there. Sales exceeded what I had expected, but the drop off after the first month was higher than the January launch. Didn’t read too much into it as I figured this year was not a normal one…
Quietly launched my Lightroom course “Lightroom Uncovered” to the members in FPA.
Had a small surgery at the end of the month. I was so convinced it would be cancelled because of lockdown, but it fell on the exact day that the hospitals re-opened for non-emergency treatment.
Spent the first couple of weeks recovering from my surgery, it was a bit more painful and difficult than expected, but I turned a corner by mid-May and felt ready to start doing some work again.
Signed the contract to buy our flat, and the new office space which will be the new FPA studio! It’s a new build and isn’t expected to be ready until 2022, but we are well into plans with the architects. I’ll be documenting the #FPAHQ journey as things develop a bit more!
Also got our official certificate of approval to adopt at the beginning of May!
Started working on the re-brand of That’s Sage into Food Photography Academy! I wanted to bring everything under the same umbrella to keep the brand consistent. I started working with a web developer but this didn’t work out at all (hiring good web developers is really hard!) so I ended up custom building the site myself. Probably not the best use of my time, but I’m so happy with the site and how it turned out.
Hit 20,000 subscribers on YouTube. I had big plans for YouTube in 2020, but alas, I only made 2 videos the whole year! Overall, my channel grew by about 10.2k subscribers this year, and remains highly engaged with the few videos that are there, so I fully intend to keep going on YouTube as a platform.
I was honoured to be a speaker at the Master the Art of Food Photography summit, hosted by Jena from Little Rusted Ladle. This was such a special event in the middle of this online focussed year, I could really feel the whole community coming together.
Released lots of big updates to the Lightroom Uncovered course, including 6 full length “Edit with Me” videos and several updates for the 2020 Lightroom update.
This is where the year really started to fall apart for us.
In mid-August, we got the shocking news that my Mother in Law’s cancer had spread to her brain and liver, and was now terminal. The week before we got that news, we had all believed her treatment during lockdown had been successful and she was cancer free. Ben travelled back to the UK for 3 weeks to sort out lots of things at home. We were given a 6-12 month prognosis then, so we knew this next year wouldn’t be the same for us. It made the fact that we hadn’t been able to see any of our family since 2019, even more bitter.
I started work on the Business course for the Academy, which I had planned to launch before the end of the year, but had to be pushed back.
This month feels like a blur. Ben was in the UK until mid-September, I spent a lot of time with great friends while I was home alone, and went on some fun day trips in Switzerland! It was the first break I’d really taken in 2020, and it was so needed.
When Ben got home, we spent a lot of time at medical appointments for the Peruvian part of our adoption application, getting all the papers we needed ready.
Officially launched the rebrand of That’s Sage, which is now Food Photography Academy! Also opened the academy on an evergreen basis. It felt good to hit publish on this project I’d been working on for SO long.
Celebrated my 29th birthday 🎉
Set up an evergreen welcome series for new joiners to my email list, to deliver great, free content, and also tell them about membership to Food Phography Academy.
At the end of the month, my Dad got taken into hospital with heart failure.
Took a little “working break” away to Grindelwald. Re-planned the business course and am finally happy with the structure. Planned to stay in the mountains for 10 days, but got cut short when we found out on the same day that my Dad needed a third open heart surgery, that Ben’s Mum had also been admitted to hospital with pneumonia.
We rushed home from Grindelwald, stayed up til 3am to get our final Peruvian adoption application put together, then drove back to the UK for the foreseeable future.
Ben’s Mum passed away a few days after we arrived, just 2 months after her terminal diagnosis.
5 days later, my Dad had major heart surgery, and unfortunately had a stroke in recovery (he’s doing ok now, but there’s a way to go with rehab).
I took a full break from work at the beginning of December as we were neck deep in funeral planning, house clearance and paperwork sorting. It definitely wasn’t a “holiday”, but i’m glad we could both focus on it 100%.
Spent an evening with Kimberly and Joanie recording our annual “predictions” podcast episode for Kimberly’s Eat, Capture, Share Podcast, it’s airing in January so stay tuned!
For the rest of December, I’m focussing on business admin, to get myself in a good position to start 2021, and running one final image review masterclass in the Academy.
What’s next in 2021?
If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that plans are fragile, and you can’t tie too much emotion and hope to them. Being flexible is more than just a skill, it’s a necessity, and I don’t think we would have got through 2020 without it.
I had to accept that most of the things I’d planned for my business in 2020 weren’t going to happen, and accept the smaller wins. Despite everything, 2020 has been financially, my strongest year yet in my business and I’m so grateful for the stability I’ve had, despite being self employed.
Going into 2021, I have some loose plans for content I want to release in Food Photography Academy (the business course being the first one), but I’m also open to seeing where things go, and catering to what my members need.
I’d like to start expanding my team this year, and start handing off some areas like customer service, video filming and editing, so I can have stronger processes in those areas, and spend more of my time on content creation.
I’m not expecting 2021 to bring a sudden change to our current situation, even with vaccines on the horizon, I think we’re all aware it’s going to take time for those things to be rolled out and to start taking a real effect, so I still expect “normal” life to be a way off.
What’s 2020 been like for you? And do you have any hopes or plans for 2021? Let me know in the comments!