2021 feels like the longest year I’ve lived. Some highs, some lows, some wins, some losses. And the biggest direction change for my career in 12 years.
Here’s the TLDR:
- Steph and I welcomed our second child!
- I started a new business, made ~£50,000, then changed my mind
- My books and educational courses made ~$40,000
- I more than doubled my Twitter audience to 23,500+
- I stopped taking web2 work in August to move into web3
- I continued investing in stocks and started investing in alternative assets
- I need to get better at cutting stuff out now my life is busier
- I have two key areas of focus for 2022
If the last decade were my exploit phase, 2021 has been an explorative one. And my direction is quite different in Q4 than it was in Q1.
I’ve been growing out of my freelance WordPress developer title since 2019. I felt like I could make more impact and being hands-on building marketing websites, though a sure thing, became less satisfying.
At the start of 2021, I was sure that I’d grow my WordPress business into something bigger. By the middle of 2021, I was in high-speed career sampling mode. Do I want to run an agency? Could I become an educator full time? What about an author? Should I start building projects in a new space? I tried it all.
Afterwards? I found a new game that I can play for a long time.
I niched down to headless WordPress at the start of the year by setting up a small agency called Run The Show. It started well and quickly brought in ~£50,000.
As the year progressed, a project that would have doubled this revenue was about to begin. I’d consulted beforehand to plan out the technical direction and we were just confirming a start date. Then the project fell through and I felt nothing but relief. I didn’t want to run an agency.
The cost/benefit hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d lose a lot of autonomy for a little more money. It didn’t seem worth it. So I decided to stay small.
In August I moved WordPress from accommodating much of my head space for the first time in 12 years. I still remain bullish on headless technologies and WordPress as a CMS, but my intrinsic motivation has waned and I’m ready to solve new problems.
It’s tough letting go of the credibility you’ve built up, though, the funny thing about finding success in a niche is that the building blocks to finding success in another are the same.
Your skills are more transferable than you think.
What the heck is web3? Good question. It’s hard to put a definition on it as it’s still being defined, but here’s my best shot at a one sentenence summary: web3 is a blanket term for the concepts and technologies used by the next phase of the internet that will be powered in part by blockchains.
I’ve held cryptocurrency since 2017 but it never interested me beyond speculation. I wrote it off because I didn’t have the time to look into it further. But when smart people that you respect start moving towards something, it’s worth taking a look. So I did.
Since August, I’ve onboarded myself to web3 development by working on projects like Shiny Feathers, and Bildr web3 Passes with more launching soon. Blockchain technology has unlocked my creative spark and love for programming again. I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got coming.
Because I like sharing what I learn, I wrote articles on my introduction to NFTs and how developers can reduce minting costs in their smart contracts. The latter prompted a top 10 NFT project and a big company in the space to reach out. It’s always satisfying to manufacture luck.
It's cool that @OpenSea are looking at @jonathansnow and I's research on reducing gas fees for NFT projects.— Tom Hirst (@tom_hirst) November 25, 2021
These changes could make millions of dollars worth of difference to the space!
If you share what you know, everyone benefits 🤝https://t.co/EuO0pW7Py0
On my reasoning to move towards web3: It’s easy to write off new technologies, especially those you don’t understand yet, as something and nothing until the penny drops. But for that to happen, you need to do the work.
The best way to understand web3 is to use it. Once I set up a wallet, transacted a few times on Ethererum and started to deconstruct smart contracts—and write my own—the mental models of web3 were etched into my brain never to be unseen. Web3 is an incentive alignment machine that lets regular people own their contributions to entities bigger than themselves.
I’ve worked in tech for all of my professional life and this is the biggest fundamental shift I’ve seen. I believe web3 has the opportunity to make more people’s lives better. From the creators struggling to make ends meet, to the global talent pool that just needs a chance.
The way that work, life, community, culture and markets intertwine is changing.
NFTs have my attention because they converge my interests:— Tom Hirst (@tom_hirst) September 14, 2021
It’s not all a bed of roses though. Web3 isn’t without its problems (the user experience is terrible for the most part), but that’s part of the intrigue; To get involved and make it better. The space excites me and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops from the inside.
My suite of products have made ~$40,000 this year.
In January, I released The Personal Website Playbook. The PWP is a video course teaching entrepreneurs how to make a website that works for them, without them. It was great to see so many people putting the details taught into action.
In July, I released Writing Tweets Daily, a course that will teach you how to write for Twitter and build an engaged audience. Having this system to get started is what lead me to develop my off-the-cuff voice.
On the first anniversary of my book Pricing Freelance Projects, I added more chapters and wrote an extension resource called Scenario Sheets. Adding to the text made me reminisce. I loved writing this book and I’d love to write another one.
I want to get Pricing Freelance Projects printed soon to reach a wider audience. I’m considering an audio book version too.
The good thing about having a library of books and courses is that they’re there for new people to discover forever.
I’m proud to see that my educational products have helped almost 7,000 people get ahead since April 2019.
I plan to release more products in 2022.
I decided not to open up my mentorship programme to new mentees this year.
I did however, continue to mentor a handful of long-term mentees who continue to inspire me with their work ethic and progress.
Life has got busier recently. I guess having two kids in 2 years will do that! As a result, balance has been harder to find in 2021. I’ve found an all in or all out approach to whatever I’m doing to provide some solace here. Family time focused, deep work or no work. I’m still perfecting this as we all settle into our new roles.
In October we welcomed our son Jack to the world.
They say that you never get 2 kids the same, and because Ruby is so great, we thought we might not be so lucky this time! It turns out the saying is right, but our presumptions were wrong. Jack is a superstar.
The first couple of months were rough, but after that, he’s slept really well. Both kids are getting on great together.
Steph has been on maternity leave since September and is doing a fantastic job with the kids during the day while I work. I sometimes wonder if I married Superwoman.
I’m grateful to have such a supportive foundation. My north star in life is to give my kids one too.
Our property has gained ~20% in value since we bought it in 2019. While this is somewhat irrelevant financially (unless we sold up to rent, down-sized or switched area/country) as we’d have to buy another home at an equally inflated price, it’s interesting to note.
Ready for Summer. pic.twitter.com/PV9wj6PCLp— Tom Hirst (@tom_hirst) March 21, 2021
We extended our deck and added glass balustrades to finish off the garden project started last year. Other than that, we’ve had a quiet year on the home improvements front.
I added a little to my positions, mainly in tech stocks, this year but I haven’t done much.
My short-term plan is to consolidate my traditional investments into those that I want to hold for the next decade and move more capital into crypto.
Most of my trading this year was done in the NFT space. My Bored Ape Yacht Club ecosystem pieces have done well, though I wish I didn’t sell my original Ape for 1/12th of what it’s worth now! It’s all part of the fun.
Not investment advice.
Exercise has faired better than diet. I exercise every day but I’m not being too picky over food. My current routine is 3 mornings in the gym (though this got patchier after Jack was born) and a walk every day (never missed). I often fast through to 11:00-12:00 without breakfast and this has allowed me to maintain my weight.
Aside: If you’re struggling to get to the gym, remember, the hardest part is getting through the door. Try leaving within 10 minutes of waking up. Before you know it, you’ll have a dumbbell in your hand! I get there for 06:00 before the rest of the house is up.
I like to completely switch off a few times per year. I didn’t do this properly in 2021 because we didn’t get the chance to travel aboard, which is when I usually rest my mind. There’s something about leaving the country that shuts down one part of your brain and boots up another. It really helps me disconnect then reconnect.
As an alternative, in August we headed down to London for a few days. Ruby loved her trip to the Zoo and Steph and I loved the view from our room on an evening while she slept.
Good evening London. pic.twitter.com/RnAQyTdE2c— Tom Hirst (@tom_hirst) August 9, 2021
I hope you enjoyed my 2021 year in review. If you’d like to read my past yearly reviews you can view them here:
Will you write one? Let me know if you do.
Would I have thought I’d leave WordPress behind this time last year? Absolutely not. Would I have thought I’d teach myself how to write smart contracts and start shipping web3 projects? Nope. I didn’t even know what Solidity or an NFT was!
Even with best laid plans and intentions we need to accept that life is more random than it’s often given credit for.
For example, I wouldn’t have known I’d write a book in 2020 without the randomness of a Twitter thread going viral either.
Sometimes you’ve got to try a lot of stuff to see what sticks.
Sometimes you’ve got to suck it and see.
And sometimes you’ll benefit from life’s randomness, by ending up in a position you couldn’t have imagined, because you had the guts to put yourself out there.
No matter how much you love what you do, too much of anything is always a bad thing. When you have the freedom to work on what you want, it’s tempting to stack your plate.
I’ll more ruthlesslessly cut things out in the year ahead, accept that I can’t do everything and do more by doing less.
Building new things and teaching are what give me energy. So that’s where I’ll focus my time.
I didn’t set specific goals last year, and I won’t for 2022 either. Because I only have one really; to retain my autonomy for as long as I can.