How I'm focusing on what works + ditching what doesn't

How I'm focusing on what works + ditching what doesn't in 2019 (2018 review + survey) by Paper + Oats

My word in 2018 has been hone. I wanted to hone my business as well as my lifestyle. Refine it, simplify it, get super clear and intentional on what I wanted both to look like. This past year was less about growing my business, and more about stripping out what wasn’t working so I could focus on and improve what was working. I honestly made about the same amount of money this year as I did last year, but I worked way less. I was able to put some more automated systems in place that still felt true to my personality and how I wanted to portray my business, but still allowed me to step away for time off more often.

It’s easy to get to the end of the year and wonder where all the days went, so that’s why I love taking some days every December to look back on the past 12 months. You can check out previous years posts here — 2015, 2016, and 2017 — and keep scrolling to see my 2018 year in review and plans (or lack thereof) for 2019:


Here’s my 2018 in review...



  • At the end of 2017, I started some serious writing on my first book Strong Girl, Brave Girl. So by January 2018, I was knee deep in word counts and outlines, and my goal was to reach 40,000 words by the end of the month, which was a little over half-way to my overall goal for the length of the book.

  • I hit pause on writing to escape the polar vortex and head to Pensacola, FL with some fellow alums from Society for Creative Founders. This was such a rejuvenating trip, and it was the first time I shared some concrete ideas about the book in person. Tears were shed, and it was a really cool weekend.

  • Somehow I managed to add a new kit to my Etsy shop — The Kid’s Collection.

  • This month on Kelsey’s Super Old House, I hired a company to do some super unglamorous renovation projects — waterproofing my basement and installing a sump pump. Renovations that literally no one will ever see (sorry Pinterest), but was important to keep this little old house standing.


  • I hosted quarterly Q+A webinars for both of my courses at the time — The InDesign Field Guide and Etsy on Autopilot. This was the last one for EOA, though, as I was already planning to retire the course by the end of the year.

  • I finally had an end in sight for book writing! I hit 60,000 words by the end of the month, and scheduled a writing retreat for early March to finish up the full first draft.

  • I added another new kit to my Etsy shop — The Goal Planning Kit (hint, hint, this would be a great one to nab for your 2019 planning!)


  • This month was big for me! I turned 30 and I finished the first draft of the book! I locked myself in hotel room in Bentonville, Arkansas for a little writing getaway — both my motivation + reward to finish the book. I got it done, and this little mini retreat for myself is one I’ll never forget. I wrote all about it here.

  • I also hosted my annual birthday sale in my Etsy shop.

  • I escaped to Nashville to see family over my birthday weekend, and my brother and his boyfriend surprised me from New York. That weekend was THE BEST.

  • This month was also a big relief in that I finally was able to get some answers about my dog following lots of health problems over the winter. He was having seizures, was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, and developed some thyroid issues. Thankfully, since starting his new meds in March, he hasn’t had any more seizures. And an 85-pound dog having a seizure is no small feat to clean up (or to watch).


  • April kicked off with the spring launch of The InDesign Field Guide, and new ideas for the course started brewing in my head.

  • I taught a class on seasonal marketing for the Society for Creative Founders.

  • I dove into the world of book editing with my editor, Alicia!

  • I wrote about my journey as an entrepreneur in this instantly popular blog post.

  • This month on Kelsey’s Super Old House — I finally got a real backyard! What was previously dubbed The Mud Pit, was finally renovated to have a real deck and real grass and real plants. Most of the grass and plants were dead by the end of the summer thanks to what I now believe is just a cursed backyard and a very large dog’s bodily fluids.


  • May was the month of travel — I took a quick trip to Nashville to see Justin Timberlake in concert (oh, and see my family too, I guess?), and then my brother and my mom and I headed off to Paris, and it was sooooo beautiful in the spring.

  • I kept chugging away on book editing!

  • I hosted another Q+A webinar for my InDesign students.

  • And I tested out a pop-up shop idea for my Etsy course — yep, another throwing of spaghetti at the wall to see if something would stick.

  • I was honored to be interviewed on two podcasts this month — the Creative Empire Podcast and the Solo Parent List podcast.


  • I hosted my annual mini-class summer sale at the beginning of June.

  • Did I mention book editing yet? Stiiiiiiiill editing.

  • Ended the month with a trip to Boise, Idaho to meet up with some industry friends and attend ConvertKit’s Craft + Commerce Conference. (It was so good! I’ll most likely be heading back this year.)


  • July was very book-focused, and not a lot else. I focused on editing, cover design, and finalizing the launch timeline for the fall. I also sent the nearly-finalized manuscript to about 30 close friends + family members for the first read-through. I was SO nervous to officially have other eyes on this book! But the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and this beta read-through helped me fine-tune the book even more.

  • Poppy was out of school all this month, so we wrote out a summer bucket list and tried to knock off at least one thing per week. I loved being so intentional about getting out of the house with her, and because of it we were able to have a blast this summer. We’ve made seasonal bucket lists ever since.

  • Me and Poppy also escaped for a week to Nashville again to see family and hijack my brother’s new swimming pool.

  • Interviewed on The Course Wellness Podcast — seriously, LOVE this concept for a podcast! If you sell online courses, you have to check out Emily’s site!


  • I wrapped up summer with my annual Etsy shop summer sale.

  • I hosted another quarterly Q+A webinar for my InDesign students.

  • I took a deep dive into book design, and had it mostly wrapped up by the end of the month. I ordered my first physical test copies of the book and nearly peed my pants when I opened that box! I wrote all about my book design process here.


  • With Poppy back in school, I jumped back into work with the fall launch of The InDesign Field Guide, and officially decided to make a big change for 2019 (more on that in a sec!).

  • With the design of the book wrapping up, I started in on launch planning for the book release, and opened a temporary Facebook group for a book launch team.

  • I was honored to be interviewed on the Mompreneur Podcast this month.


  • October started off with a quick trip to New York with my mom to see my brother. I took Poppy with me, which was the first time I had flown with her since she was a baby. She did SO much better this time, and she had a blast seeing NYC for the first time. More travel with her finally feels possible for 2019!

  • Oh and one other little thing that happened in October — MY BOOK LAUNCHED! The book finally released on Amazon on October 21st, five years to the day after my now ex-husband asked for a divorce and I found out I was pregnant (as well as a slew of other October 21st anniversaries you can read about in the book). I redeemed the date (with your help!), and seeing that book find it’s way into the hands of so many women around the world was truly humbling.

  • I wrote about my experience with self-publishing my book on Amazon right here, and part two is coming in early 2019!

  • I spoke at my first ever live event — a personal development gathering that happens here in Springfield, Missouri every quarter, The Bravery Board. This was the end cap to the book launch week, and I surprisingly enjoyed public speaking more than I expected. You can listen to the full recording of my talk right here!


  • I hosted my last Q+A webinar for my InDesign course for the year, and decided to make some big changes to the course coming in 2019.

  • I hosted my annual Black Friday sales, and with it officially retired the full video version of my course Etsy on Autopilot. It was bittersweet, but mostly sweet. I haven’t felt as connected to the Etsy world and wasn’t feeling as qualified to teach about it. I revamped the ebook version of the course, turning it more into a guide than a course, simplified it quite a bit, and re-released it right here. This version feels way more in line with the direction I want my business to go.

  • I ended the month with a weekend trip to California to surprise my dear friend Adie on her 40th birthday.

  • I also took a pretty big step with my business and joined a 12-month group coaching program to help me take The InDesign Field Guide to a whole new level in 2019.

  • I had a blast chatting with the ladies behind The New Mystique podcast on this episode.


  • December has been intentionally slow as I wind down the year, start thinking about things for 2019, and dig into some work within that 12-month group coaching program.


Lastly, giving back is a big part of my values, and something I love to infuse into my business. P+O Gives Back has been around since early 2015, but this year was the biggest giving year yet – we were able to pass along nearly $5,600 to deserving charities. Read all about the causes we gave to right here. 


So what’s in store for 2019?

So glad you asked! In 2019 I’ll be focusing A LOT on my course, The InDesign Field Guide. I plan to offer the course year-round, while still hosting a pretty epic launch once a year with added bonuses + surprises. I’m both excited and nervous to make this shift, but I know this is the natural next step for my business, and one that will allow me more free time to spend with Poppy, write more books (!), travel, and maybe have a real hobby outside of watching Netflix. In addition to changes to how it’s delivered, I’m also planning to give the course itself a huge makeover within the first few months of 2019. It’ll be a completely updated version of the course, and plans for even more design training is coming as well.

I’m excited for what’s in store for the next 12 months — it honestly feels the least steady going into 2019 than any other year in my business, but I’m okay with it. Sometimes it’s better to take risks than make plans. This year might be a little risky, but I’m hoping it pays off.


If you want to stay on track with your goals for living a life that makes sense for YOU (and not just what you see everyone doing around you), check out my Goal Planning Kit for just $10.


What was your biggest accomplishment from 2018? Is it helpful to reflect on the year before, to help you move into the new year's goals and planning? Speaking of which, what do YOU have planned for 2019?


Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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