2020 - A Year In Review

I’m glad I started this habit.

Looking back on 2019’s year in review has been both interesting and reassuring.

I can identify growth in my thinking and have hindsight that things have gone in the right direction.

To keep the format of 2020’s year in review similar, I’ll resist the temptation to alter it.

The two-columned approach of Tim Ferris makes a lot of sense, but I’ll stick to my guns for future comparison.

Here’s the TLDR:

  • I made £100K+ from freelancing again
  • I sold $17K+ worth of digital products
  • I grew an audience of 11,000+ on Twitter
  • I closely mentored 20+ freelancers
  • I started investing for my family’s future
  • I decided how I want to bet my time in 2021
  • I’m grateful looking back and excited looking forward

I wanted to ignore COVID-19 in this review, but found it impossible.

Business

Freelancing

My business continues to run steady and 2020 brought another six-figures (£) from freelance projects.

March’s lockdown saw a down-tick for anyone doing anything.

With a website that typically brings in multiple leads per week, I noticed people choosing to sit on their hands.

Once the world started to loosen its post-COVID purse strings, however, there was an uptick in demand to make up for it.

As it became clear the pandemic was here to stay and that adaptable businesses were the ones most likely to survive; people started to invest in digital services, heavily.

November saw over £25,000’s-worth of headless WordPress projects completed at ~95% profit margin.

I documented the detail of this month and answered questions about it on Twitter.

Audience Building

I’ve continued to enjoy sharing what I know.

There are few better feelings than having people tell me how my content has gotten them ahead.

Sharing my self-employment knowledge and experience has brought me over 11,000 followers on Twitter.

I focused on Twitter because I knew I could be consistent there.

My tweet writing skills have improved tenfold by writing more tweets. It’s become second nature to write valuable snippets for my audience and while ever people enjoy my content I’ll keep creating it.

A thread on pricing freelance projects in June did particularly well, receiving over 2,000,000 impressions.

Digital Products

The attention on Twitter segues into digital products, from which I’ve made over $17,000 this year.

You’ll find no mention of this direction in last year’s review. Because it wasn’t in the plan until COVID-19.

I’m a proponent of multiple revenue streams. Having a solitary freelance client at any one time, for example, is something I’ve always avoided.

So when things looked uncertain in the world I entered the creator economy.

I knew that if I was serious about making it in this space, I had to start building an email list. So in April, I launched my first digital product on pay what you want terms with Gumroad.

10 Steps To Becoming A Better Freelance acts a primer for early and intermediate freelancers looking to take their business to the next level.

Over 2,200 people have downloaded my first eBook to date. It’s been awarded mostly 5-star reviews and has generated more than $1,000 in voluntary revenue.

My second release, Pricing Freelance Projects, was born off the back of the aforementioned Twitter thread’s success.

With so many eyes on this series of tweets, I dropped everything to get an expanded version out of my head. I had to see how the market reacted to my knowledge:

  1. Would people be interested in long-form content from me? (The book is ~30,000 words).
  2. Would people buy it?

I quickly set up a pre-order page—again with Gumroad—and the sales started flowing in.

Purchases slowed after launch (as is to be expected), nonetheless, the book continues to sell regularly in the background.

I welcomed a large number of new readers on Black Friday; making $4,000+ in revenue on that day alone.

Pricing Freelance Projects has sold ~650 copies to date, making ~$16,000 in total revenue.

My early days in digital products leave me pondering, was the time investment worth the return?

Could I have made more than $17K freelancing in that time? Probably.

Do I enjoy creating valuable products for people more than freelance work? Probably.

It’s a tough question to answer.

I believe that being active in the creator economy can move your earning potential way beyond that of a solo-service-seller—Jack Butcher’s Visualize Value is proof of that.

But until compounding takes effect, it’s about balance.

Ideas for new products come weekly, if not daily. I’ve been self-employed for a long time and the questions my audience ask provide an ongoing flow of potential topics.

While I can call this semi-experiment a relative success—with more products on the near horizon—I’ll not be retiring just yet.

Mentorship

I wrote in my 2019 review that I’d soon launch a mentorship programme for freelancers.

Throughout 2020, I’ve helped more than 20 freelancers move their careers forward.

It’s been a huge investment, but I’ve loved every minute.

In doing something that doesn’t scale, I’ve uncovered again what makes freelancers tick. I’ve reset myself to when I started out in some cases and when I struggled for direction in others.

We’ve covered positioning, pricing and beyond. And it’s been one of the most fulfilling endeavours I’ve undertaken.

The programme started on a one-on-one email basis in January and was extended with a Slack community towards the summer.

It’s not perfect, but the ongoing subscriptions prove its value.

While providing peace of mind, offering an experienced ear, setting tasks and expecting accountability gets results, I feel the low price point results in less time committed.

I believe that the more people pay for something the more attention it receives. In October, I raised the price from £99 per month to £149 (for new mentees) as the service neared capacity.

I’d like to see how this goes in early 2021, however, I now understand why coaching often comes at a far higher premium.

Life

Family

We’ve been blessed with such a well behaved child in Ruby. She’s made my introduction to parenting a joy.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CI_EPuTFwS6

We celebrated Ruby’s 1st birthday in October.

My wife Steph and I both enjoy being at home and “lockdown” has brought us even closer.

I feel grateful for time I’ve had to dedicate to my family.

Home

We made some more adjustments to the property we bought in 2019. This time, exteriorly.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-kY5uUFAPX

The back garden had a downward gradient in one corner (fixed with 10-tonnes of soil) and we timber-decked over the existing stone elevation.

It’s given us a much more usable outdoor space.

There’s more to do before summer, so I’ll reserve the before and after pictures until then.

Investments

I, like many, saw an opportunity to enter the stock market in March.

My portfolio is ~£15,000 in profit at the time of writing.

I’m not sure whether this was luck, a sure-bet due to the state of the economy or through semi-astute picks.

Nonetheless, I’ll continue to pursue this as an area of genuine interest and a way to financially secure my family’s future.

Balance

I’ve found balance harder to come by this year.

As someone who relies on exercise, I found it tough when the gyms closed.

A result of COVID-19 that’s hit me harder than I thought it would is the lack of social interaction. The lack of travel too.

Being able to reset short-term by going to a football game or longer-term by taking a holiday is important to me.

We managed to get out to Dubai before the travel restrictions, which was lucky in hindsight.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9SD3IBlU-h

With many ideas in my head, I started filling my COVID-enforced spare time with work. Never to excess, but nonetheless, something I want to include here.

I replaced the gym with long walks and have established a new love for reading.

The Autumn brought some unnerving health news in my extended family (thankfully with a decent outcome) and with it a tough few weeks mentally. With some work, I came out feeling clearer than ever about what’s important and where I want to go.

I’m starting to find peace knowing that I won’t be able to do it all.

Wrap Up

2020

A year like no other.

In the summer, while walking 2-meters away from the person in front, I thought, “How will I explain to my daughter that this is what we had to do?“.

Maybe we’ll be doing it forever and I won’t have to.

Professionally, I’m happy. I’ve made good money, helped people, made friends and had fun. I feel in transition but with clear direction.

As 2020 draws to a close, my lasting feeling is gratitude. In a world where many have lost so much, we’ve been OK. And for that, I’m thankful.

2021

I’m thinking not in goals but directions.

I have clarity on how I want to bet my time. At least until I see what works and what doesn’t.

I’m in full control of my schedule, the pandemic hasn’t hurt us much and my family are in decent health.

My platform to pursue the angles I’m interested in feels solid.

I’m excited for the future, wherever it takes me next.