2014 Year in Review
It seems in-vogue now for bloggers to do a year in review post. I actually enjoy reading these quite a bit as they give some great insight on what freelancers and agency owners have tried over the past year to grow their businesses and their personal lives. Anyway here’s my year in review post. It’s a little rough but I wanted to make sure to post it before 2016!
The Salt Mines
Anecka had an interesting year, this was our first year at the Salt Mines, a co-working space in Columbus and to anyone working from home thinking about co-working I say DO IT! I’ve met a lot of great people at the Salt Mines and I get a lot of the same social experiences I missed after I left my full-time job: parties, watercooler chat, happy hours, going out for lunch with coworkers.
Growing the Team
Having an office also had another benefit, it allowed us to have the space we needed to hire our first intern, now part-time employee Andrew Clinton. Andrew started with us as he switch majors over from Civil Engineering to Computer Science. He had been developing for a few months on PhoneGap and had a couple of apps on the Google Play marketplace (he still does do app development). Over the past year working with us his skills have grown to encompass Rails & PHP backend development, AngularJS, as well as expertise in CraftCMS and ExpressionEngine. He works hard, he’s smart, and he’s constantly open minded and willing to try new things. I’m very lucky to have him on the team.
Initially it took some getting used going from doing the work myself to having another team member. Hiring Andrew and working with other contractors more on projects changed how I approached the business, a lot of my time now is focus on organizing projects and handling communication. This had paid off though, in Q1 of 2014 we successfully ran three new projects and two existing client retainers at once. It was the most pressure I think I’ve been in at this job but surprisingly I was under very little stress.
New website design
We also revamped Anecka with a new site design from Dan Petrovski of SparkedElements. Dan is a great designer and someone we hope to partner with for future projects. If you’re looking for top-notch design check him out!
Our plugin, PDF Press continues to do great. Most of our sales still continue to go through Devot:ee and our sales keep growing. At a lifetime revenue of $3K it’s my most successful commercial venture to date.
Rets Rabbit/IDX solution for developers
We also released an ExpressionEngine add-on for real estate listings called Rets Press. This led to some interesting conversations with potential customers that caused me to change my approach and turn the technology driving the add-on to a server-side monthly API service called RetsRabbit. We closed our first customer in Q4 of 2014 and things are looking good for Q1 of 2015.
Things that didn’t work out
Now the hard stuff, I’d say the biggest failing of the year had to be not focusing more on what’s making the company money. PDF Press suffered from a lack of updates this year due to me focusing more on new ideas. I sunk some time into a few other product ideas I was excited about instead of focusing and growing PDF Press. When I get an idea for a new product or service, I tend to throw myself at it 100% and everything else I’ve been doing takes a backseat. In 2015 I’m keeping the products down to PDF Press & RetsRabbit to keep myself focused on things that earn revenue.
Another failing happened over the summer. Coming out of Q1 we were flush with revenue from our new projects, I had thought that most of the projects we had completed would lead to recurring work (updates, hosting or retainers) but that didn’t happen. I also became focused on building RetsRabbit for three months and I simply stopped chasing new business. In any case, around August I had to scramble to get us new work, which thankfully is pretty easy as demand is high for web & mobile development. Still it would have been great to keep up our momentum from Q1 throughout the year.
2014 marked the year I started blogging again. This was in large part thanks to Nathan Barry’s book Authority and in conversations I had with my friends Ryan Battles and Dennis Field. I committed to writing 500 words everyday and I kept it up for over 31 days straight. Guys, that is a lot of writing and it allowed me to start the blog with a great buffer of posts. Coming up with topics to write about was and still is a challenge. I try to find topics I can teach to other freelancers that help them use technology to be more productive. Things like automated deployments, terminal command aliases, and how to configure their projects to support multiple environments. I’ve also branched out in to web performance topics, mainly around fixing common and simple things that can impact the performance of your web project.
I’ve also started a newsletter, which has grown to over 60 subscribers, where I also share productivity tips and other topics freelancers might find interesting.
Another personal habit I’ve been picking up is running, this year my wife and I have ran in two 5Ks, one 4 mile run, and one 5 mile run. I have a love/hate relationship with running, I feel great after a run and I do enjoy getting better week by week, but boy does it suck to get started. We took a pause this past month and I’m dreading getting back to it.
New house & fostering
Finally my wife and I moved into a new house in the neighborhood of Clintonville (in Columbus, OH). We’re also working on getting a foster parent and adoptive parent license. Adoption is something we’ve wanted to do for a while and we’re looking to complete the paperwork and inspections by the end of January.
That’s it! 2014 was a great year and I feel like 2015 is going to be even better. Thanks to everyone who reads my articles and who subscribes to my newsletter!