2018 Highlights: The Year I Made Workweek Lunch My Full-Time Job

It’s fun to talk about highlights.

Yes, some sad and not-so-great things happened this year.

I lost my grandmother whom I was very close with all my life. Most of this year, I was in a long distance relationship which had many shitty moments. I considered throwing in the towel and getting a regular job several times this year (which is not the worst thing in the world, but that wasn’t a good place to be mentally). And I’ll never forget the day I almost lost 300 customers because of someone else’s major oversight.

Every year brings new challenges, but it also brings new experiences! 2018 was packed with good stuff. And that’s what I want to remember when I read this post 10 years from now.

I lived in Colorado for most of 2018 (my dream since I was in high school).

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There are a few posts on the blog where I talk about the move from NYC to CO, but this year I got to actually live it.

If you’re new… the short version is I’m obsessed with snowboarding and I built my business so I could take it with me to Colorado, snowboard whenever I wanted and work from home. 2018 was the year I made my fantasy a reality.

Was it the best winter snow-wise? No. But it was the best experience of my entire life so far.

For 8 months of the year, I lived alone in a big house in a quiet neighborhood, steps from remote hiking trails and a 10-minute drive from a huge ski resort with free parking. I had a huge kitchen, no TV and all the time in the world to just do my thing. I made friends with other badass lady entrepreneurs. It was the best gift I’ve ever given myself, and the timing with my partner being overseas couldn’t have been better.

A normal winter day in Colorado went like this: Hit the slopes for a few hours in the morning — if there was fresh snow. Come home for lunch. Work all afternoon from my kitchen counter in my cozy base layers. Develop recipes all night while sipping local beer and watching MasterChef. It was glorious.

Since I was 16, I always dreamt of moving to Colorado… but I honestly didn’t think living there would be as good as it actually was. (So, so good). I was in my element x 10. I can’t even express in words how delicious those eight months were.

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Travel: snowboarding in France and a reunion in Zanzibar.

I didn’t expect to spend so much time out of the country in 2018, but it happened!

First was a solo snowboarding trip to France. It was the first time I traveled in Europe alone and the first time I snowboarded overseas! What an amazing experience that was. The best snow, little ski towns and croissants. Lots of croissants.

Here’s your girl at Val Thorens, part of The Three Valleys (the largest ski area in France).

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 3.06.44 PM.png I’d love my next solo snowboarding trip to be in Japan or Whistler, but we’ll see!

Shortly after coming home from France, I went to Africa for a week. It was wild. My partner had to move our trip up by two weeks at the last minute, causing us to re-book the entire trip the day before hopping on a plane. This is exactly why I love working for myself; I can be flexible!

My partner was stationed in Tanzania for most of the year during his deployment, but we were able to meet up for about five days in Zanzibar, which is a beachy, lush island that reminded me of Thailand.

On our trip, we ate amazing Indian and African cuisine, took a boat tour of some islands, toured Stone Town and we even got to cook a meal for ourselves in our little villa since it had a kitchen.

That was the only time we got to see each other between November 2017 and September 2018!

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Workweek Lunch became my full-time job in September

From January to September, I focused on Instagram-related projects for clients during the day and wrote recipes and made content for WWL at night. It was like working two gigs and I knew Instagram wasn’t my passion.

Thanks to the WWL Meal Prep Program (the meal plan subscription I created) I was able to make the switch. But I went through a few fires to get there.

In February, I launched an 8-week accountability group for meal prep that came with meal plans for $197. It flopped. The price was too high and the offer wasn’t good enough. Only 17 people signed up and I three ended up quitting. That, among a few other products I launched in 2018, didn’t bring me enough revenue to make the switch.

My original plan with WWL was to create evergreen products that sold “automatically” via email to my list. But in the first half of 2018, I learned that model wasn’t going to work if I really wanted to make WWL full time.

In April, my mom sat me down and said, “You have 6 months left in Colorado. It’s now or never to make it happen.” She advised me to start an affordable subscription program where I send out weekly meal plans and recipes. I listened.

Two months later, the program was created, tested and live. 300 people signed up in the first week. By September, I made enough monthly revenue from the program to make it full time!

Now, I have well over 1,000 members and it’s growing every day. My goal is to grow to 5,000 members by the end of 2019.

I know it’s cliche, but every day I wake up and literally can’t believe this is my life right now. I get to cook in my own kitchen for a living! I’m so grateful that I have the support system and smart people in my corner to have gotten so far already.

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I hired a part-time assistant and freelance writer

As my business grows, so will my team!

I never ever thought I’d be in any position to manage people, but here I am.

Everyone is right: delegating is scary, but necessary. There’s really no better way to find out how much of a control freak you are until you start handing off tasks to other people.

What they don’t tell you though, is to hire someone who’s better and more experienced than you at all kinds of stuff. It sounds like a no-brainer, but honestly, most of the advice online points readers toward cheap ways to get contractors like Fiverr and Upwork. I never read a post or talked to another entrepreneur that advised me to actually invest in talent. After going through a few assistants, I can tell you right now it makes a huge difference.

I decided to hire a freelance writer to create blogs for Workweek Lunch on a whim last month. It just got to a point where I couldn’t keep up with blogging (something I never imagined would happen since I used to bang out five articles a day at Elite Daily) and holy shit, I’m so happy I did it. What a relief to know that the WWL community will get high-quality content without me having to stay up till 2 am to write it!

In 2019, I want to hire a video editor, Pinterest specialist, bookkeeper, web developer and more.

I moved in with my boyfriend after being apart for 11 months

A few years ago, I would have told you that it wasn’t possible for me to be in a long distance relationship.

I need a lot of attention. Trust in romantic relationships doesn’t come as easy to me as it should. The only other experience I had with a long distance relationship ended after 6 weeks when I got bored, dumped my ex and quickly moved onto the next guy. But that was a long time ago. This time around was different.

The same day I left NYC to move to Colorado, my partner headed out for his deployment. He’s in the army as a reservist and this was our first deployment together.

If you’ve ever been in an LDR, you’re familiar with how hard it really is. But I was lucky. I got to move to a new place with tons of distractions (new friends, new environment, exploring my hobbies and building my business). The hardest parts were being in different time zones, only seeing each other once during that time and going through periods where we couldn’t even text or communicate at all.

But we got through it. The distance was worth it. We spent two weeks in Colorado before driving back to NYC, hitting at least six new states along the way (we’re trying to go to all 50 states, we’re halfway there) and went through the grueling process of finding an apartment in NYC.

Now we live together in a cute two-bedroom in Astoria. We pretty much have it all: an office, a dishwasher and an elevator. Now if only we can figure out how to keep our plants alive! I’ve never lived with a guy before. In fact, I haven’t had a roommate since 2014. So far, it’s so good. So, so good.

I developed 150 new recipes

With the WWL Meal Prep Program, I’m in recipe development overdrive. But now that I’m cooking for two and have help from my assistant, it’s a little easier to pump out new dishes every week.

This year my cooking improved dramatically (again). I expanded into new (to me) ingredients like jackfruit, yucca and lentils and I can’t wait to keep exploring.

Favorite recipes I developed this year: lemon broccoli orzo skillet, Cuban-inspired rice and beans, instant ramen noodles, orange ginger tofu with green beans and basic red lentil curry.

People ask me if I’ll ever run out of ideas, and I honestly don’t think I will. There’s are so many combinations, ingredients and cuisines to explore, I could probably only scratch the surface of all the recipe possibilities in my lifetime.

In 2019, I’d love to work with ingredients I’m intimidated by like steak, artichokes and homemade dumplings or empanadas. If I keep up my 2-3 new recipes per week groove, I’ll have another 130 new recipes on the books in 2019.

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My Instagram account reached 200k organically

This time last year (December 28, 2018) I had around 87k followers. In one year, I managed to grow by 113,000 followers without spending a dime.

In fact, I haven’t spent any money on marketing since launching my program and more than 60% of my customers come from Instagram. That will change soon, though, as I start doing Facebook ads in 2019.

I’ve written many posts about Instagram, including one about exactly how much time I poured into my account every day to grow to 100k.

It’s a job in and of itself. But I love it. I love creating content daily, finding ways to add more value and most importantly, keeping my amazing community engaged.

Speaking of my community, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything on this list (except maybe moving in with my boyfriend) without them. I truly believe I have the best audience. They’re open-minded, respectful and stick with me even if I try new types of content that don’t go over so well. I’m so grateful for them and as long as I keep in touch with them (I still answer every DM) and keep putting out content that’s useful and informative, the community will keep growing.

Alright, there’s your 2018 highlight reel. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Drop them below or reach out directly (I love hearing from readers): taliasarakoren(at)gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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