A Texan Web Developer

My 2012 Recap

Even though it’s already half way through January I feel like it is still okay to do a “year in review”, or “lessons learned” post.  2012 was my fourth year of being self-employed and what I identify as the third iteration of my business.  It was also the eighth year of being married, and the fifth year of being a father. I believe I grew in each of these areas in significant ways.  I write about the family stuff elsewhere so here I’m going to focus on my professional life.

Starts and Stops

There were a few things that I started last year that I either didn’t finish, or decided to shut down.

At the beginning of the year I started two groups that didn’t gain traction – a men’s book club, and a local web developers meetup.  Even though I met some great people through both groups I ran out of extra capacity to do them well and was disheartened by dips in participation. I may try to startup some more local meetups in the future because I crave connections with other local web folk, but I’ll take a different approach in doing so.

I also started the year thinking I would make Grow Development to be a Magento extension shop.  This too didn’t turn out as planned.  Although I was able to create 17 WordPress extensions, I was only able to create one Magento extension which ended up taking 80+ hours to develop and has to date sold only twice.  If you average that out it’s about $2.18 per hour!  Although I still feel like products are the future I may reconsider my involvement in Magento and what the future holds for me with that platform.

The Most Books In One Year

In 2012 I read a total of 17 books.  The books were a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I had planned on reading two per month, but even though I didn’t hit that goal I’m still excited about how many I completed.  This is the most books that I’ve read in any year of my life including college.  I firmly believe that leaders are readers and felt like I needed to follow through on that mantra or stop saying it!

This year I’ll be continuing the momentum from last year and have made a list of 24 books to read for 2013.

Saying Goodbye To Client Work

2012 was the year I said goodbye to client work.  I made the decision in late 2011 to stop doing client work since I never got the hang of managing client’s expectations well and that caused my stress level to shoot to astronomical proportions.  The move away from client work started with no longer looking for work, progressed to turning down any referrals and requests that I received, and then finished with completing all open projects.  From May to October I didn’t have any client work and only worked on products.

Client work still leaves me with an apprehensive feeling; like a burrito that looks delicious on the menu, but you know will just give you with heartburn.  Even though I may choose to take on a project in the future I will no longer base my entire income on client projects alone.

Saying Hello To Products

At the beginning of 2012 I had one product selling in two marketplaces.  At the end of 2012 I had 17 products selling in five marketplaces. Starting in July the monthly product revenue was enough to pay all of my business expenses and household bills.  This was a huge milestone.

I no longer needed to hustle to get the next project, bid on new work, or chase elusive invoices.  If I didn’t feel like working on a particular day then I didn’t.  No angry clients were emailing.  No deadline was being missed.  Nobody was threatening to sue me for “ruining their business”.  It was the end of a tumultuous season of being a good coder, but a lousy manager.

In the coming years I will be working toward creating more software products, developing a SaaS idea, or doing an iOS app.  I’m excited to learn more about building and marketing products to new customers!

Saying Yes to A Job

In October although our bills were paid, and the revenue from products was increasing month over month, I realized two things:  1. Not every product I make will sell any significant number, and 2. I needed to find more income if we were going to achieve our goal of being debt free as quickly as possible.  I asked myself what was more important – my desire to stay self employed, or my goal to be debt free?

In October I had the opportunity to interview for a support desk position with WooThemes. I had already been working with some of the team for about a year as a development partner for WooCommerce.  While  talking with the team about my qualifications and their expectations we both felt it would be a great fit.  My wife Amanda greed that it was a good decision. Woo met every one of my 8 Core Work Values and they are a fantastic group to work with and a brand I’m excited to help build and support.  Plus, now all of the salary I earn can be put toward cleaning up the remainder of our debt.

Excited About 2013!

Overall I am very, very excited about 2013.  I’m excited to keep reading great books and meeting new people. I’m excited to keep doing what I love in developing software and helping customers.  I’m also excited to be working with Amanda on our Life With A Mission project and watching that vision grow this year.