This is the first time I’ve ever done a year in review post. While I always do an annual review as part of planning for the upcoming year, I have yet to share it with the world. Since this crazy year was full of challenges and changes, I thought I’d take a look back and share what I’ve learned.
One of the reasons I haven’t really done a post like this before is that up until January of this year I had spent three and half years working a full-time job with someone else as a WordPress developer.
I had interviewed with a few agencies and companies in the WordPress space at the end of last year, but nothing came to fruition. After many conversations at WordCamp US 2017 in Nashville with people I highly admire and respect I decided to venture back out on my own again with the launch of a new agency: Stompgear Digital Marketing.
While I wish this recap was just me telling you the launch was a smashing success that went beyond my wildest expectations, we both know that’s probably not (and isn’t!) what happened.
It wasn’t an epic fail either. I set myself a revenue range as a goal for the year, and by the end of 2018 I had just eked past the bottom end of that range.
I can’t be too disappointed, since I would consider the new business a success if I got anywhere within that range, but I was definitely hoping to be at the higher end.
While I worked on getting agency clients, I also did freelance WordPress development, mostly for other agencies that needed custom development done for them. In fact it was about a 50/50 split between working for agencies vs. directly with my own clients.
This year I did work for 15 clients, with budgets ranging from as low as $175 and up to $20,000.
Of those projects, about a dozen involved some custom development (plugin or website), four also had a mix of marketing, and one was strictly marketing services. I wanted a higher percentage of that to be more on the marketing site, but freelance development paid the bills.
Obviously, when starting a new business obstacles come at you fast. There were definitely some fails this year.
The one that hurt the most were client budgets that were less than the type of projects I’d work on in an ideal world. I’ve been a freelancer before, I know this goes with the territory. But I hustled (the good kind) and kept bringing in work.
I was a total and abject failure at blogging. Seriously, failed. Like 11 months since my last post. I wanted to make a point of writing more to build my personal brand in the WordPress world. Saying I was too busy with the business would be an excuse, but it just isn’t true. I just did not put a priority on updating my personal blog at all.
I also took a few punches to the ego last year. I didn’t land any of the jobs I interviewed for. Several times friends passed projects along to other people, or started new partnerships that I would have loved to have been a part of. I only have myself to blame for this since I didn’t produce anything that would help me be recognized as a leader in my field.
I was asked to be a part of the SiteGround Brand Ambassador program along with my friends Joe Casabona and Michelle Schulp (and my new friends April and David). I’ve been a happy SiteGround customer for years, and it’s their way to help support the WordPress community,
I spent a lot of time this last year being inspired by my friends in the Business of WordPress Slack group to get more organized and productive. I’ve been using a mix of my own GTD system, personal Kanban and planning using the 12-week year method.
This year I told myself I can not do everything, all the time, and put that into action by hiring four very talented people to help with design/CSS, maintenance, and React development on some of my various client projects. It was not easy or me to pay other people when things were so tight, but in hindsight it was one of the smartest things I’ve done all year.
After 10 years with my first real estate brokerage, I decided to make a change and joined Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group. I have not been very active as a REALTOR, but I’m looking forward to doing more in 2019!
Now with 15% Less Mike
In May Kari and I “went Keto” and never looked back. So far I’ve lost around 33 pounds and she’s done even better!
It came off fast and steady, but as I get to that last 10-15 pounds the weight loss has leveled off and gotten much slower.
I’m more focused on getting healthier than just what the scale says. I’m down several sizes and have noticed a definite improvement in my overall health. I’ve made working out and running a regular part of my life.
In November I ran the Ooh La La Chocolate 5k Geneva with Kari. (my first ever 5k!), with a finish time of 37:34 (Just a second slower than the 60-year old woman that finished ahead of me). We also did the “Reindeer Run” but the miserable freezing snow and cold turned it into a run/walk!
After years of being an out of shape middle-aged fat guy that sits all day I have a lot of problems with my back, and especially my tailbone. The pain is so bad sometimes it’s hard to sit up or move. I finally joined the Stand Up Desk club when I got one of those adjustable sit/stand desks (and fancy standing pad) for my office.
On our anniversary trip to Las Vegas Kari really wanted to go see the Backstreet Boys in concert and a tweet from me won us upgraded seats for the show!
We also did a weekend trip to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, MI to see Slash and Myles Kennedy.
I took two road trips totaling 530 miles to see Sean Rowe perform in Stoughton, WI and Davenport, IA since his only Chicago show was the night of the Slash concert.
We had a nice family vacation this spring to St. Augustine, Florida, where we got to be part of an actual sea turtle rescue. It only reinforced how badly I want to get away from Illinois winters and make it our home. Not sure how many more vacation like this we’ll get as a family since Michael got his driver’s license and turned 18 this year.
What’s coming in 2019?
My biggest goal for 2019 is to continue to grow Stompgear as an agency and move more into the content strategy and marketing side, with less freelance development work.
I’ll always be a developer, and my business model still includes doing a fair bit of freelance WordPress plugin development for other agencies, but I’ll also be putting more effort into building my own products in 2019.
So that was my 2018, the good, bad and the ugly. It was a year full of ups & downs, new adventures and tough challenges, but I made it through and I’m ready to take on 2019!