2020 in review: I’m not indestructible.

We all know 2020 wasn’t the best year of our lives. Nonetheless, it was an interesting one, in which a lot happened. I’ll use this year to start a new habit of writing a “year in review” post every December. I’m hoping this will help me see a clear path of growth throughout the years.

The TLDR

  • Running 2 businesses: one in the WordPress/WooCommerce space and one in no-code.
  • Made ~€ 145K selling digital products this year.
  • I made ~€ 86K (gross) freelancing.
  • I’ve decided to start building an audience (slowly) on Twitter.
  • However, I’m an introvert, so we’ll see how that goes.
  • Personally, it has been a weird year for me. I’ve seen more doctors than ever before.
  • Not a lot of travel this year: my girlfriend and I spent a month coworking in Bansko, Bulgaria before the pandemic.

Business

This aspect of 2020 is probably why you’re reading this post, so I’ll focus on this section the most.

Since this is my first “yearly wrap-up” post, I’ll start with a short back story: in 2015, I left my cozy consultancy job to travel through Australia for a year with my girlfriend. It was also the year in which I started thinking about alternative ways to make money. I wanted to forget about the 9-to-5 routine (so I could travel) and do things my way. Between 2015-2017, I focused on learning the ins & outs of WordPress and WooCommerce. In 2017, I started Studio Wombat, a WooCommerce plugin shop, and sold my first digital products.

Growth

In October 2020, I had grown Studio Wombat to over € 100K in yearly profit. I tweeted about it, and it was my first-ever tweet that had more than 3,000 impressions. It felt like a “viral” tweet for me! I haven’t been able to replicate the success so I’ll have to figure out how to do it 🤔.

What drove this growth?

This growth in profit is mainly due to:

  • Not “niching down”. I created a plugin that many people need — even though that meant entering a very saturated market.
  • Building with speed and quality in mind. Not bloating my plugins is always at the top of my mind. People appreciate good quality, which there isn’t always enough of in the WP space.
  • The free traffic through my free versions on WP.org.
  • Offering exceptionally fast support. 80% of support tickets were solved within the hour.

What should I do differently?

I’m a typical developer. I only write code. I’m lucky that my business grew, but it’s not because I made great business decisions, excelled at marketing, or had an elaborate SEO strategy. On the contrary, I didn’t (and still don’t) do any of that.

For next year, I should really double down on SEO. I’m lucky that WP.org drives traffic, but I should put a strategy in place to get decent traffic through Google as well.

Decline

While Studio Wombat grew, my second business, Table2Site — a no-code site builder on Airtable — was stalling. In fact, profits shrunk to ~€ 1000 per month by the end of 2020.

The problem is two-fold: time and courage.

I didn’t have time to grow Table2Site because I was so busy freelancing and growing Studio Wombat. Both of these activities took up most of my week (& weekends), so I lacked the energy to work on Table2Site.

Since I am making enough money by combining freelancing and Studio Wombat, I could easily outsource the necessary development to a third party. The problem is that I’m too focused on my bottom line — my profits at the end of the month. I fail to see the big picture to spend money now and rake in the reward later.

This is something I’ll have to work on in 2021. I’ve already made baby steps by outsourcing a website redesign for Studio Wombat.

I can’t do everything myself, so I shouldn’t be afraid to outsource and give up some control. Especially since Table2Site has been profitable since day 1 with zero marketing. It’s a product with potential, and I’m letting it die.

It’s a product with potential, and I’m letting it die.

Freelancing

This year, there were 2 clients for whom I did frontend development work. Good for ~€ 65K in profits.

While I like freelancing, it has always been my dream to fully work on my own products or services. In 2020, my internet ventures became profitable enough for me to ditch freelancing altogether. I said goodbye to one client and will continue working for the other one for some extra income. I’m reluctant in going full-time “indie”, even though I could, based on my profit numbers. I guess I like some security?

Audience building

I’m new to this and working on it. It’s hard though, as an introvert. Please follow me on Twitter 🙈.

Personal

Health

2020 is the year I found out I’m mortal. Even though I’m only 32, I should really stop working so much and focus more on my health. This year I’ve found out:

  • I need arch support as one of my legs is 1.3 cm longer than the other.
  • I’ve had neck pain for about 7 months.
  • I got slight CAM hips.
  • I sprained my ancle and ripped a whole ancle band. A piece of bone got detached, which was recently removed during a surgery.
  • My hair is growing slower than usual.

Things can always be worse, but even though I tried to pursue a healthy lifestyle during the pandemic (running a lot, trying intermittent fasting), my body is clearly making a statement.

Travel

The main reason why I started dabbling with selling things online was the goal of being able to travel without time restrictions. Thanks to the corona pandemic, I haven’t done much travelling this year. My girlfriend and I did spend one winter month at Bansko Coworking at the beginning of the year, which we enjoyed a lot. I’m eager to start travelling again in 2021. Hopefully, the vaccine will provide that opportunity!

Investing

I started investing € 150 through Revolut, just to get a feel of how it works. I’m very good at buying at the wrong time (at the top) so I’ve made some losses. On top of that, Revolut will stop its trading service in Belgium due to Brexit. So I can’t recuperate my losses by waiting — they’ll be paid out in January.

Luckily, I bought some Bitcoin and ETH in 2017. 5x profits so far!

My goal for 2021 is finding good resources to make better decisions when it comes to longer-term stock trading.

That’s a wrap!

2020 was a year like no other. Personally, it wasn’t my best year. Financially, it was. I’m hoping to find a better balance between the two in 2021.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, you can reach out in the comments or or on Twitter 👋.

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