Last year was rough. Rougher than any of us could have anticipated. While 2020 was a shock, 2021 was sustained suffering. The collective distress has permanently affected all of us in ways we’ll never fully understand. Frankly, we’re traumatized.
Everyone has their own unique experience and their own unique response. Some people grind harder and some people collapse; some of us do both. I’ve always said I’m a sprinter, not a marathon runner. My stamina is legendary, but my endurance is shit. This long haul has been testing me.
There has been so much loss. I’m in mourning as I write this. I’m grieving the loss of a very dear friend and client, whom I still can’t process is gone. I’m grieving the loss of a close cousin who herself experienced so much loss in her short life. I’m in a different kind of grief for a strangely high number of people in my inner circle who’ve received horrific diagnoses, while also feeling quasi-relief for those who’ve blessedly come out the other side.
I’ve never considered myself naïve to the realities of life, but this year has shown me unequivocally that it could be any of us at any time with no warning.
Yet every day I am reminded how privileged I am. I have security, safety, stability, and peace of mind during a time when SO MANY have nothing but constant terror and threat of annihilation. The disparities that were always there have been greatly exacerbated these past two years, and it weighs heavily on my heart.
I made rest my number one priority in 2021—because I knew without it I wouldn’t survive. I slept. I took time off. I did personal projects. I turned down paying work. And I still had my best year in business. That is privilege. And I exercised that privilege because I could. But also because I had to.
Because I’m determined to do this work in some form for the rest of my life. Because my work is emotional in nature and requires me to be my best to do my best. Because I want to model self-care for my clients. Because I absorb the world’s suffering in my bones—and sometimes that’s a burden too large to bear. Because “rest is resistance.”
My business keeps me upright in the storm. It’s been my constant for so many years now. But it’s not just a business, it’s a calling. It’s not about money (though that’s useful), it’s about helping people make meaning in their lives, which helps me make meaning in mine.
It’s my ship to steer how I feel moved, aiming at a point on the horizon I can barely see (which moves as I get closer). And sometimes when I need rest, Fredrick takes the wheel—while still doing his own full-time job. It’s really hard work, but it matters to us. And I’m over-the-moon thrilled that it matters to other people too.
I am beyond grateful to my clients. Thank you for your trust, your vulnerability, your courage, your passion, your commitment, your self-respect, your love. I am in awe of each and every one of you. I consider it the ultimate privilege to get to walk alongside you on your journey, to witness your tremendous growth and shifting consciousness and expanding possibilities. Thank you for inviting me in. Deepest bow to you.
I am beyond grateful to my friends and family. Thank you for believing in me. You know my heart. You show up for me unconditionally. You know my patterns and you know how to break them. You are my true wealth.
And Fredrick, my deepest gratitude is for you. I love you more than life itself.
Here is the story of our 2021. Thank you for reading.
- I celebrated 16 years in business, and 13 years of being independently employed.
- 2021 was my most profitable year in business, and my highest revenue ever—and I did it in 2/3 the coaching hours than in 2020. All without increasing my prices.
- 10% of my time went to pro bono sessions with underrepresented and underestimated folks in design and tech, and people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to coaching.
- I’m on
Phase 8 of an organizational design and culture change initiative with an institutional client I’ve been supporting since 2016. I’ve coached 18 senior leaders across the org in 6-month 1-on-1 coaching engagements—some now in their 6th round of coaching.
- I received a second PPP loan, and both loans (2020 and 2021) were fully forgiven by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Our charitable contributions increased 33% over last year to more than $13,000 USD.
Results, Outcomes & Impact
My client engagements are 100% confidential, so I won’t share any specifics, though some of my clients offer testimonials to describe their coaching experience in their own words.
Major themes that emerged in 2021:
- Less hustle, more impact
- New jobs with more meaningful benefits
- Promotions and raises again and again!
- More delegation, more focus, more clarity
- Boundaries established, upheld, understood
- Conflicts facilitated and muted
- Many résumés, portfolios, interviews fine-tuned
- Visions crystalized
- Priorities clarified and codified
- Identities and values voiced louder than ever
- Professional networks expanded and deepened
- Volunteering efforts increased
- Continuing education presenting new pathways
- Hard truths finally accepted
- New homes, new towns, new partnerships, new life
- Relationships flourished or released
- Illnesses healed and managed
- Layoffs endured, opportunities unlocked
- Losses mourned
- Nature soaked up, bodies cared for, resilience gained
- Self-respect & self-love abound
Client at top of their game got laid off due to COVID. Devastated! We made a game plan, held out for best offer, now they’ve landed at even stronger co with room to grow.
— Whitney Hess (@whitneyhess) March 16, 2021
After a year with a bullying boss, client had lost confidence in their skills. They switched teams and sought coaching. Six months later, they’re a rising star, deeply trust their manager, and just received a 30% raise. It pays to leave toxic environments for more fertile ground.
— Whitney Hess (@whitneyhess) March 31, 2021
Client stuck in dead-end job 20+ years with no way out. Through our coaching, started speaking up at work, helped craft own severance, now set up for dream freelance life!
— Whitney Hess (@whitneyhess) March 9, 2021
Clients, Time & Revenue
I finished 2021 with a 22% year-over-year increase in gross revenue compared to 2020. Meanwhile gross profit increased by 28% over 2020, making 2021 my most profitable year in business, both in total profit and profit margin. Booyah!
- 24 private clients with 6-12-month coaching programs
- 5 employer-sponsored clients with 6-12-month coaching programs
- 4 organizational clients with 6-month engagements
- 215 coaching sessions (~232 coaching hours)
- 10 custom-designed coaching programs
- 9 hours with prospects who didn’t become clients—yet (their choice or mine)
- 25+ hours coaching pro bono clients
- 33.1% came from private clients (down from 53% in 2020, but back to 2019 levels)
- 6.2% from employer-sponsored clients (compared to 9.63% in 2020)
- 60.7% from organizational clients (up from 37.3% in 2020, but back to 2019 levels)
As of December 31, 2021, I have accrued 3,132 total coaching hours. That’s actual hours in coaching sessions with clients. Whoa!
I have a lifetime total of 151* individual coaching clients since 2014: (*with explicit coaching engagements, not one-off sessions)
- 65% (98) with at least 6 months of coaching
- 60% (59) re-ups for more coaching
- 10% (10) clients who’ve re-upped their coaching packages 3 or more times
I offer 3 package options to my private clients, allowing them to choose the duration of coaching and additional services. Since I started offering packages in 2016, this ratio has been fairly consistent each year:
- 32.4% of clients have bought the base package
- 40.9% bought the middle package
- 19.7% bought the top package
My clients are design leaders, creative technologists, social entrepreneurs, and artist-activists. I particularly enjoy working with underrepresented and underestimated leaders in tech and business:
- 72% of my coaching clients identify as female
- 31% of my clients identify as non-white
- 10% of my clients identify as LGBTQI+
- 11% of my clients are over the age of 50
87% of my clients come from referral — whether by one of my clients, a current or former colleague, social media, or someone who has seen me speak at a conference. I’m indebted to the great people who send other great people my way.
1 in 10 clients find me through organic search — googling for “design leadership coaching,” “UX leadership coaching,” “empathy leadership coach” or some variation thereof.
I have coached clients in 70 cities around the world, in 16 countries across 6 continents (none in Antarctica yet). Time zone differences have never been a problem. While my clients speak dozens of different languages, all of our sessions are in English.
I am always learning new skills, pursuing my passions, entering into intentional community, and developing myself as a coach, writer, and leader.
Where I spent time growing in 2021:
- Proprioceptive Writing (8-Week Practice Group) — with Charles Melcher, Maine College of Arts & Design, Virtual
- Black Fly Writers Retreat — Memoir: “How to Frame a Life” (3-Day Workshop) — with Elizabeth Peavey, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Virtual
- Contemporary American Writers (12-Week Course) — with Sam Apple, Johns Hopkins University, Virtual
- Combined Workshop in Fiction and Nonfiction (15-Week Course) — with Joshua Rolnick, Johns Hopkins University, Virtual
- Certified Zentangle Teacher Training (4-Day Workshop) — Zentangle Inc., Virtual
- Indexing as Creative Discovery (1-Day Workshop) — with Esmé Weijun Wang, Virtual
- Reciprocal Peer Coaching — MCC Preparation Round (6-Week Coaching) — International Coaching Federation (ICF), Virtual
- Helping People Who Are Suicidal (Webinar) — with Dr. Michael J. Marx, PCC, ICF Career Coaching Community of Practice, Virtual
- Coaching for Self-Actualization in the 21st Century (Webinar) — with Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D, ICF Executive and Leadership Coaching Community of Practice, Virtual
- How Emotions, Grief, Mental Health and Whole Self must be included to UpLevel the Workplace (Webinar) — with Christie Mann and Rachel Baldi, PCC, ICF Coaching and Human Capital Community of Practice, Virtual
- The Coach as a Fellow-Human Companion (Webinar) — with Reinhard Stelter, Ph.D., ICF Coaching Science Community of Practice, Virtual
When we became a Certified B Corp in June 2018, and changed our legal status to a Public Benefit Corporation, we made a commitment to donate a sizable portion of our revenue to 501(c)(3) nonprofits whose missions we feel personally and professionally align with ours.
In 2021, we made contributions totaling more than $13,000 USD to the following organizations:
- Abyssinian Meeting House
- ACLU of Maine
- Black Lives Matter Maine
- Black Owned Maine
- Cape Elizabeth Land Trust
- Congregation Bet Ha’am
- Cultivating Community
- Friends of Casco Bay
- Full Plates Full Potential
- Immigrant Resource Center of Maine
- Indigo Arts Alliance
- Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine
- The Locker Project
- Maine Audubon
- Maine Coast Heritage Trust
- Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
- Maine Initiatives
- Maine Inside Out
- Maine Island Trail Association
- Maine Jewish Film Festival
- Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
- Maine Public Radio
- Maine-Wabanaki REACH
- Open Door Meditation Community
If there are other organizations you think we should be supporting that align with our mission and values, please let us know.
I've known her for well north of 10 years now, but @whitneyhess still continues to inspire, astound and amaze me. Just the best.
— Matthew Knell (@MatthewKnell) February 23, 2021
You have always inspired me, Whitney! Your journey is so admirable.
— Jennifer 🆖 (@jennism) March 9, 2021
I'll add @whitneyhess to this list too!! I learned a lot from her articles, talks, etc early in my career back in NYC!
— Sarah Doody (@sarahdoody) August 21, 2021
Listened to @whitneyhess on @TheUXIntern talk about following influential UX designers when first starting out on Twitter & proceeding to follow everyone THEY were following. I subsequently decided following many of the people she was following would be a great place to start.
— Jazmin Koenig (ze/hir/hirs) (@JazminKoenig) February 18, 2021
This citation. These two writers. Have been a delicious Twitter treat for just about all the time it’s existed 🙇🏽 Bless you @whitneyhess for your mirror to this world from the jump; and to @brainpicker truly the good witch of the north, revealing galaxies inside ourselves 🌌 https://t.co/3SXwqJjH6K
— James G. Leventhal (@jamesgleventhal) May 27, 2021
- Fredrick and I were fully vaccinated in May and boosted in October, yet we stayed cautious with our behaviors and have still as-of-yet managed to avoid COVID (we think). We recognize this comes from a place of tremendous privilege.
- We celebrated our 10th anniversary in Paris! We were very very lucky with timing, arriving right after France put the U.S. on the “green list” and returning home mere days before the U.S. CDC downgraded France to “Level 4 – Avoid Travel.” We ate only outdoors, walked our feet off (though sadly didn’t counterbalance the food), and managed to get out on the water 3 times! It was a trip of a lifetime. Tons of pics on Instagram if you’re interested.
- Fredrick started his MBA in Sustainability at Bard College, the #1 program in the nation. He’s working so hard, learning so much, and loving being in a cohort of like-hearted people on a shared mission: to use business as a force for good and lead the change toward social and environmental justice. Designed for working professionals, classes are online two evenings a week with one weekend a month in NYC. This lets him stay focused on his full-time role at an incredible company he loves, doing meaningful work with teammates he admires. Such a gift! I’m SO proud of him and can’t wait to see what he does next.
- We have remained debt free for more than two years now. We’re on month 28 of using the Every Dollar app for monthly budgeting (two separate budgets for personal and business), making space for savings, charitable giving, and the occasional splurge. The freedom that being debt free gives you cannot be overstated—it has changed our lives.
- I maintained weekly talk therapy via phone, monthly polarity therapy (energy/bodywork) sessions (with masks of course!), and resumed somatic experiencing with my former coach from San Diego who moved her sessions online.
- I maintain my hydration with a motivational gallon water bottle I carry around the house all day (props to my dearest Kaitlin Moon, hydration influencer, for the reco). I rarely miss a day, and it’s made a huge difference in my sense of wellbeing.
- I did my third annual daylong yoga fundraiser for Sea Change Yoga (for the second year online).
- I continued meeting biweekly with my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) empathy practice group. I love being in the company of these incredible women! They are dear to my heart.
- I’m in a local bookclub with a lovely group of ladies around my age who take turns picking a book for us to read every 6 weeks or so. We’ve mostly been meeting on Zoom, but got to enjoy some gatherings in the park this summer and around backyard fire pits in the fall. It has introduced me to books I’d never have otherwise read and people I’d never have otherwise met. Join a bookclub, it’s fun!
- Fredrick and I just celebrated three years in Maine last week. In the past year we’ve gotten such pleasure from our bird feeders, made memories sailing Casco Bay, explored new-to-us parts of the state on day trips and weekends away, continued our annual traditions of blueberry, strawberry, and apple picking, started a new tradition of scouting for wildflowers in the spring (lady slippers are our favorite), logged many miles on our favorite beaches and wooded trails (and a bunch of new ones), went searching for geocaches (and usually found them!), improved our skiing skills, and have taken to sledding down even steeper hills. Not to mention all the incredible outdoor dining we got to enjoy once we were vaccinated (we’re still not eating indoors). And the best is yet to come!
Follow me on Instagram for pics of our adventures.
Thank you so much for reading my 2021 Annual Report! If you have any questions or want more details, please feel free to reach out anytime. I’m always here to offer everything I can to help you and your business evolve in the ways that are most meaningful to you.
Wishing you and your loved ones health, happiness, hope, and healing for 2022.
All my love,