I’m always trying to develop better habits in my life. But sometimes it’s hard to determine which new technique will give the most benefit for the least investment. Often it’s helpful to learn from what others are doing. Take Nathan Barry and Brennan Dunn for example. Both of these guys routinely summarize the good and bad in any given year. I’ve decided to emulate them. The result is this, my first annual review. It’s mostly for my own benefit, but read on if you’re curious.
For both my business and my personal life, 2014 was a good year. Not great, but good.
The year began with some interesting consulting work for Medaxion, a company I’ve been working for off-and-on since mid-2011. They’ve built up a solid development team since then and their success in the medical software marketplace has been gratifying to watch. Their software has a heavy iOS component and while I’ve only dipped my toe into iOS development so far, it’s something I want to pursue more aggressively at some point. That being said, I learned plenty from the Ruby API work I did for them in 2011 and 2012, and the EHR certification work in 2013 and 2014. In particular, I took what I learned from the API work and put together a presentation I’ve given in multiple venues, including Triangle.rb.
Contract work was light over the summer due to a flare up of a health condition I’ve been suffering from since mid-2012. I ended up making some pretty dramatic dietary changes by dropping grains, dairy, nuts, eggs, sugar, and artificial sweeteners from my diet (essentially, the Whole30 diet minus the potatoes). These changes dramatically improved things for me and I plan on continuing the diet into 2015. What excites me about this is that I can undoubtedly use what I’ve learned to build some new information products one day.
In October I began consulting for Candle Science, a locally owned company that sells candle making supplies to customers all across the country. It’s been a positive experience. I’ve enjoyed learning how their warehouse works (99% of the software systems running their Morrisville warehouse were built from scratch). To developers who focus on SaaS apps, mobile development, or APIs, e-commerce can seem like a boring, unchallenging area to be working in but it’s actually quite complex. Ensuring orders get packed and shipped properly, from the correct location, to the correct address, with payment being processed successfully, and with inventory levels being appropriately updated, is extremely challenging. It’s an interesting business domain to be working in and I look forward to continuing to learn more about it in 2015.
Teascript, my SaaS app for homeschoolers, had its best year yet. People continue signing up for the service despite my complete and utter failure to promote it in any meaningful way last year. Aside from a $30/month AdWords campaign, it’s been word-of-mouth driving this growth. I’m hoping to change that in 2015. In December I managed to deploy a massive redesign (the first since the app launched in 2007). This brings the app into the modern age with an attractive Bootstrap template. The previous design was extremely difficult to build upon. My hope is that switching to Bootstrap will give me a better foundation for future growth.
Sadly, I didn’t attend any national conferences this past year. RubyConf was tempting but was just too far away. I also didn’t participate much in the local meetup/user group scene, which was to my detriment. This is something I intend to correct since both attending and presenting at meetups has been an incredible source of personal and professional growth for me in the past. The last time I presented anything was March of 2013. That’s just too big a gap for my taste.
My EMS job continued being a source of interesting stories this past year. I’m required to work a minimum of 48 hours each month to retain my status as a part-time EMT. The sense of satisfaction I get from this job is well worth the time spent away from my (much higher paying) software work. I also learn so much, both from the patients I care for as well as the other EMTs and Paramedics I work with. Wake County is privileged to have such a competent, professional EMS system and I’m proud to be a small part of that.
On a personal level, I joined the choir at my local church. Singing is something I really enjoy, but haven’t had an outlet for until now. Our choir director, Aaron, just earned his doctorate and does an incredible job leading both the choir and the orchestra. Performing in December’s Christmas concert was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget.
I had experimented with CrossFit in late 2013 and continued that experiment into the first part of 2014 but ended up dropping my membership, primarily due to the high cost. I was definitely starting to see some changes, and overall felt much stronger than I did before I started the program, but even with the first responder discount it was still twice as expensive as my current gym membership. I still run occasionally but have been focusing on training with free weights and resistance bands which seems to fit much better with my lifestyle.
Not everything that happened last year was good, unfortunately.
I did nothing with my Lord of the Rings movie site and my distance education blog last year. Google ads on the distance education blog actually have a phenomenal click through payout so I have incentive to drive more traffic there, but it’s just not something that has interested me like it did in previous years.
My company web site also stagnated and I freely confess I’m just not sure what to do with it at the moment. I can’t seem to make up my mind about what my brand should be: myself or my company, Adeptware. My name is more recognizable in the software community, but I also like the idea of divorcing myself from my brand so I can eventually hire other people to run the thing for me.
Despite multiple opportunities to build information products last year, I neglected to make any forward progress whatsoever. This is something I’ve already started changing in 2015 with my new 7 Days to Kick Sugar email course. I’ve learned a lot about health and nutrition this year and figure this is a good way to share what I’ve learned with others.
I’ve owned a home since 2007 and until mid-2014 hadn’t had any huge maintenance problems or major expenses. That changed with the discovery that my front porch roof was rotting away due to a mistake that had been made in its construction. Neither the builder nor the warranty company were willing to accept responsibility so I had to cover the repair entirely out of pocket. This was a frustrating experience and a timely reminder that builders and insurance companies can’t be trusted to do the right thing in a pinch. Best to “hope for the best but plan for the worst” when it comes to these types of situations. Fortunately I’ve always kept an emergency fund so covering the expense didn’t require me to incur any debt.
I did very little to fill my consulting pipeline last year. Granted, there wasn’t much of a need with Medaxion dominating the first part of the year and Candle Science dominating the latter. But it still would’ve been good practice. Although ultimately I want to move away from consulting and into products.
Unlike Nathan and Brennan, I’m not comfortable sharing actual figures. Maybe this will change one day, but for now I’ll just give percentages for each category of income in 2014. I had 4 primary sources of income: software consulting, my part-time EMS job, Teascript subscriptions, and advertising on my blogs and web sites.
Last year was my slowest for consulting since 2010. This was due to a variety of factors, but primarily time taken off for health reasons. Consulting income still dominated all other revenue streams at 79%.
Teascript had a record year, coming in second at 19% of revenue. This is a 58% increase over figures from 2013 despite the minimal promotion I’ve been doing. That surprised me. It’s gratifying to know the app is proving useful to so many homeschool parents.
Income from my job as a part-time EMT was 11%. This is not so surprising given the paltry wage we pay our EMS workers in this country. It’s really quite pathetic. I have a lot of respect for my Paramedic friends who have to work full time (plus overtime) to support their families. It’s a difficult, dangerous job and they should get paid more to do it.
Advertising came in dead last at barely 0.2% which isn’t a surprise given that I have only a handful of Google ads running on a couple of blogs and my Lord of the Rings site. Still, it’s nice to be generating something from those web sites, even if it’s not going to cover retirement just yet.
Overall I learned a lot in 2014 and, while I could have taken advantage of more opportunities, I did end up making forward progress in some important areas. My goals for 2015 include:
- Expand marketing for Teascript
- Develop a new information product
- Increase the amount of writing I’m doing
- Increase the amount of speaking I’m doing
- Attend one meetup per month
This should keep me plenty busy. I never make New Year’s resolutions since I think they’re rather silly, but I’m hoping that by listing my goals here I’m increasing perceived accountability and encouraging myself, if only on a sub-conscious level, to make good things happen in 2015.
What are your goals for 2015? What went well last year? What went poorly? I’d enjoy hearing from you. Feel free to comment below, and thanks for making it this far. I hope reading this motivated you in some way. And I hope 2015 will be an incredible year for you.