2021 in review:

Last year, I wrote my first “year in review” post to reflect on the good and bad the year had thrown at me. This year, I continue with that trend. While I’m not a big fan of journaling, I can see the upside of looking back and reflecting every once in a while. I’m hoping this will help me see a clear path of growth throughout the years.

The TLDR

  • Sold one business, grew another.
  • Significantly decreased my freelance activities.
  • Crossed € 200K selling digital products this year.
  • Reached 1k Twitter followers (only took me 12 years 🙊).
  • My health continues to plague me.

Business

This aspect is probably why you’re reading this post, so I’ll focus on this section the most. This year, I mainly focused on 3 things:

  1. My SaaS Table2Site (now acquired).
  2. My main business Studio Wombat.
  3. Some freelancing to diversify my income.

Table2Site & the road to acquisition

Halfway through the year, I concluded I was working too much. I was growing 2 businesses and freelancing at the same time. I was basically juggling 3 income sources and working 7/7. At that pace, I didn’t enjoy the work anymore. It became a chore.

It had to change, so I decided to sell one of my businesses, Table2Site. It was the perfect candidate to sell because — while it showed a clear growth path — it wasn’t making a huge profit and I lost interest in it after the initial built. I was able to grow it to € 1,200 profit per month, which proves to potential buyers there’s an opportunity to grow it further.

A few weeks later, the business was sold to a third party. If you’re interested in the story behind Table2Site and the acquisition process, I wrote about it in more detail here.

Studio Wombat

Studio Wombat is my main occupation. It is where I create and sell WordPress plugins, specifically for e-commerce stores. I started it in 2017, and it has been growing quite well since then.

Why did I keep this business and decide to sell Table2Site instead? In short: Studio Wombat makes more money and is less stressful to maintain. I’ll explain why it’s less stressful:

Most online businesses offer a service in exchange for a monthly fee. An example is listening to music on Spotify. The downside of such a service is that it requires back-end infrastructure. If Spotify grows, it has to scale its servers to stream more music to its customers.

With Studio Wombat, I don’t sell a continuously running service. I sell copies of software (in this case WordPress plugins) instead. If a customer buys one of my plugins, they install it on their website, which is where my responsibility stops.

I tweeted about why I chose a plugin business over a “conventional” service:

Growth or not?

The Studio has been steadily growing. This year, I managed to sell over € 200k worth of plugins. I sold 3,809 plugin licenses (about 10 per day). That’s a 46% increase compared to last year.

While those numbers look promising, oddly enough profits have been stagnating — even declining a bit — for a large part of the year. This is the line chart over 12 months:

I’d love to see something linear instead, but that’s not how business works!

This tells me the business has reached its natural “high point” and I’ll need to invest in knowledge to grow it further. I need to experiment with SEO, marketing, pricing strategies, etc. … or keep creating additional plugins to sell.

I’m happy with the numbers, even if the business is stagnant at this point. The only downside, and a stressful factor, is that I don’t know what next month will bring. Selling digital products for a yearly fee means you don’t really have a forecast of what you’ll earn next month. If I get zero customers, my profits decrease rapidly from one day to the next.

Freelancing

Thanks to the growth of my other activities, I was able to stop freelancing this year. I still work for 1 client (though they need me less & less) because their team is amazing and I’ve been part of it for so long that it’s hard to let go.

I’ve always liked freelancing, but there are plenty of reasons why I’m happy I don’t have to do it anymore:

  • There are plenty of web development jobs available that require freelancers for a longer period of time. It’s great for job security, but unfortunately that’s also the type of job that requires you to be present at the office 5 days out of 7 (not talking about COVID lockdowns of course). I’m a huge fan of 100% remote work so those jobs don’t fit me anyway.
  • Another option is to accept smaller jobs through platforms like Freelancer, Upwork, or your local Facebook groups. The problem is that the web development market for that type of job is quite saturated. If someone is looking for a web developer, chances are a lot of people will apply and there’s always someone doing it for less than you are.
  • Clients are great, but they can also be a pain (or ungrateful).
  • No deadlines!

I’m not turning my back on freelancing, though. It has plenty of upsides too! If my revenue continues to fluctuate, I may look for more freelance work during the next year.

Growing an audience

While I would say I’m an introvert, I can see the upside of leveraging a social network to grow your connections, and ultimately, your business. That’s why I set out to grow my Twitter audience. At the end of the year, I was lucky one of my tweets went “viral”. By “viral” I mean it got more than 10 likes. That tweet finally pushed my Twitter followers over 1,000.

I learned that threads are the success to growing your Twitter audience. Rather than posting a single tweet, bundle some knowledge in a thread and it will most likely receive more engagement!

Personal

With the business section out of the way, it’s time to get personal! While my professional journey is certainly a positive one, my personal journey isn’t so much.

Health

Just like in 2020, I’ve seen more doctors than I care to admit. I don’t think a month went by without any health issues. Here’s what I’m currently dealing with:

  • At the end of 2020, I had an operation to fix a severe ankle sprain. They removed a loose piece of bone, but my foot’s agility never restored to what it was before. Moreover, I’m often left with a painful feeling and walking more than 10km can get painful. It feels as if half of my foot’s muscles isn’t operating anymore. I continue to look for treatment possibilities to fix this, if that’s even possible.
  • Physiotherapy for about 4-5 months due to the above.
  • I bruised my ribs, which I can still feel sometimes.
  • At the end of the year, I got an eyelid infection, which means I have to take antibiotics for a few months.

Before 2 years ago, I never got ill and never really needed a doctor. Since then, I have realized I’m not as indestructible as I thought I was. To me, that’s a painful realization at just 33 years old.

Honestly, if I could trade in my professional success for good health, I would in a heartbeat.

Travel

The main reason why I started an online business was so that I wouldn’t have to trade time for money and I could travel anywhere without time restrictions. Unfortunately, due to the corona pandemic, I haven’t traveled much this year.

Investing

Thanks to rising inflation, money decreases in value. If the cost of goods increases ( = rising inflation), we can buy less today than we could yesterday with the same amount of money.

That’s why I really wanted to invest some of my savings this year. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to that. I went to the bank, set up an account, etc. but then lost track and never put any money in it.

My goal for 2022 is the same as in 2021: finding good resources about investing and finally start doing it!

That’s a wrap!

2021 wasn’t the year we hoped it would be thanks to the pandemic. Personally, it wasn’t my best year. Financially, it was. I’m hoping to find a better balance between the two in 2022.

Want to follow along with my journey? Twitter is where I’m sharing!

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