Five Business Lessons I Learnt in 2020


By Adeife Adeoye

2020 was an exciting year, it started like every other year but suddenly, everything changed. We were on lockdown, we couldn’t go out, the economy was shutting down, people were losing their jobs, and I, on the other hand, was starting a business.

I started my service-based business during the lockdown, and it was the most challenging situation ever. I had high expectations for my business, but the reality was far from my expectations. The COVID-19 crisis affected most of my plans; I ran out of funds, and I had to make so many business changes.

It was hard to change and adapt to the situation, but the most important thing is I learned some lessons that will help me run a better business in 2021. So let’s get into my business experience:


I started running my content writing agency, Penpalms, on the 1st of May 2020. We create engaging content for small business owners and entrepreneurs to drive traffic to their website, generate leads, and increase sales.

I did my research, and I realized that 46% of small businesses don’t have a web presence. That was good news for my business!

Due to the pandemic, people had to stay at home, work from home, and study from home, which only meant one thing — the internet would be on fire! People would have to rely on the internet for almost everything, which means businesses would want to get on the internet. That is where Penpalms come in, to provide valuable content that brings you closer to your audience, increase your leads and sales.

I knew it was a great idea, and I had huge expectations for the business. I already saw Penpalms as a multi-million Naira business with lots of customers.

But, reality kicks in.


I got a lot of “NO’s” and “we’d get back to you soon” from prospects, and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I thought every business would be more than willing to get online.

I failed to realize that the pandemic hit lots of small businesses badly; they weren’t even sure they would survive the pandemic. The last thing they needed was anybody telling them to spend extra money on anything.

I was running out of funds, and I wasn’t getting clients. I needed to change my plans, and I needed to do it fast. After weeks of thinking and researching, I realized I was targeting the wrong people, sending the wrong messages, and doing my marketing the wrong way. So I decided to re-think my marketing, go back to plans, and get the best approach.

Here are some of the things I learned while doing that;

Your Network is your Net-Worth!

While I was planning, I realized that I wasn’t focusing on the people in front of me who needed content — my Network!

I had over 1000 people on my direct Network on LinkedIn. I was in business Facebook groups with thousands of members, but it never occurred to me that they needed something; what was I thinking?

I started networking more, communicating more, posting valuable content, and guess what? Two new clients came in less than two weeks and people making inquiries about my business. And, I didn’t spend a dime on marketing.

Change is constant

The initial idea for Penpalms was to make it a value-based retainer pricing model where clients had to pay a certain amount monthly for specific deliverables, but I realized it didn’t work. People weren’t even sure they would bounce back from the crisis, so the whole idea of retainer pricing scared them.

I had to change my pricing model into a project-based pricing model where I charge per project. The project-based model was great because I was charging based on my expertise and not my time, which means I get to charge more. More clients were also happy to go with the project-based model because it allowed them to try our services before committing to anything.

That isn’t all; you haven’t seen the best part of this model!

80% of the time, clients always come back after a project for another project, leading to a retainer. That was a win-win for me and the clients!

Leads are important

I was so excited and comfortable with my first few clients that I didn’t do anything to get new leads. A few of my clients decided to cut their budgets, and my services were part of the things they had to let go. I was down to one client, and I had no new leads.

Generating leads is an essential part of every successful business, and I didn’t have any. I had to go back to planning, and this time I decided to take my time to plan, create a working funnel, and get my business together.

You can’t do it alone

This is hard to write, but my business wasn’t working well because I was doing everything. I was the marketer, writer, salesperson, accountant; I was everything. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, but you can’t do everything.

I needed new people to see my business from their perspective and bring new ideas. So I decided to join a business MasterClass where I met people who helped me with many ideas. I also got to hire a writer while I focused on something else.

Cut yourself some slack: celebrate every win.

Although 2020 didn’t go as planned, I worked with a few clients, met wonderful people, learned new things, did things I never thought I would, and grew as a person, which is the most important thing. It is easy to look at how many times my plan didn’t work, but I prefer to look at the bright side.

I know 2020 was difficult for all of us, and we don’t know what 2021 holds, but I want you to learn from your experiences, just like I’ve learned from mine.

Moving on, I’m sure businesses will come out bigger, stronger, and more flexible. And don’t forget your Network is your net worth, so connect with me on LinkedIn @ Adeife Adeoye.

  • Adeife Adeoye is a content writer and CEO of Penpalms