Two years after quitting my job: 2013 in review
If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years, you know the journey I’ve gone through: In October 2011 I left a startup job (making $60,000/year) to freelance and build and sell products. 2012 was an amazing year where I built this blog, wrote two books, and doubled my income.
So what happened in 2013? Well, it’s the year that the benefits from what I built really started to snowball. I launched two books (Authority and The App Design Handbook, iOS 7 edition) and my other books continued to sell well.
Enough summary, let’s jump in starting with the money and products.
Just last year a large portion of my revenue came from consulting. In 2013 I didn’t do any and that felt really good! I may do some more in the future, but for now it feels really good to not have any clients. I have a little consulting revenue to report, but it is all for work done in 2012.
Consulting revenue: $12,917
Now on to product sales.
Note: all book sales numbers are after credit card processing fees.
Launched September 9, 2012
The App Design Handbook was the book that started this entire journey for me. Most of its sales happened in 2012, but in 2013 it sold $19,247 through my site.
- Gumroad: $19,247
- MightyDeals: $2,911
This fall I worked with Jeremy Olson to launch a new edition for iOS 7. That book was a runaway success ($36,000+ in 24-hours) and has continued to sell well.
Launched November 6, 2013
- Second edition: $55,410 (split 50/50 with Jeremy Olson)
- My share: $27,705
My total: $49,863
Launched December 12, 2012
Always my bestseller, Designing Web Applications continued to do well this year. Despite receiving the least attention it made the most money. Here’s the breakdown:
- Gumroad: $66,542
- AppSumo: $8,091
- MightyDeals: $3,138
I launched Authority in May of this year and have been pleasantly surprised by the sales. It hasn’t sold as well as my design books, but product marketing isn’t the main focus of my audience. It was a super fun book to write and made me $66,478 in 2013.
I only promoted it on my own site, so all those sales came through Gumroad.
I taught two workshops with Brennan Dunn in London and Boston. London we sold out 25 seats and had a really fun time with a big group. Boston we didn’t market very well, so we just had 6 attendees. It was a totally different vibe and I actually enjoyed it more with just a small group around a conference table.
- Building Profitable Audiences – London: $3,867
- Building Profitable Audiences – Boston: $1,000
- Designing Web Applications: $2,892
Workshop total: $7,759
Not bad for getting paid to speak and travel! Next year I expect that number to be significantly higher.
Building Profitable Audiences (Community)
Just a few weeks ago I launched a community for people who have read Authority and are taking action. It currently has 20 members, each paying $100/month. So it made $2,000, but that will continue to be monthly recurring revenue.
Already the community is growing strong and I’m excited to see what each of the members do in 2014.
The ConvertKit numbers actually surprised me with just how low they are. Other times I had been looking at projected numbers or what had just been invoiced. But this shows exactly what I made accounting for refunds (there were quite a few).
- Preorders: $3,826 (after fees and refunds)
- Recurring Payments: $10,998
Also none of this is profit. I spend every penny ConvertKit makes back on product development.
Even though they don’t make me much money, I still sell apps on the App Store. Though I sold OneVoice (more on that later) which makes up the majority of my iOS revenue. In 2014 I will just have Commit making me money, so I don’t expect meaningful revenue checks from Apple going forward.
- Commit: $3,730
- OneVoice: $7,341
- OneVoice Sale: $13,000
- Fluent: $42.64 (Haha!)
In an attempt to get rid of old projects I sold LegendThemes.com on Flippa. Because of all the themes that were packaged with the sale I probably could have sold for more, but that is still more money than I ever made from the site.
Total all that up and it was not a bad year! I could quote higher numbers by including gross revenue, but this seems more accurate. With a few minor adjustments (some of these numbers don’t include the last week of the year) this is the number I’ll be reporting to the IRS.
2013 total revenue: $256,725
2012 total revenue: $145,471
I didn’t quite double revenue, but that’s a whole lot better than the 5% raises I was getting at my last job.
I should add a quick note on expenses. First, those numbers don’t include expenses. Second, expenses were much higher this year. I spent over $20,000 on development, at least $30,000 on travel, $10,000 on equipment (computers, camera, lights, audio gear, etc), and then plenty more on miscellaneous business expenses.
And then… taxes. Which are brutal.
What went well
Enough about money, let’s talk about some of the other things that went on in 2013.
In my 2012 review post I wrote that I wanted to do more public speaking. Auston Bunsen, the organizer of SuperConf in Miami read the post and invited me to speak in February. That made for my first paid speaking gig.
After that I went on to give an attendee talk at MicroConf in Las Vegas, and then Amy Hoy invited me to speak at BaconBiz in Philadelphia. I then hosted workshops with Brennan Dunn in Boston and London, and closed out the year by keynoting the Idaho Book Extravaganza.
Speaking is a great example of wanting to make an improvement and then seeing a big change. That should continue into 2014 since I already have two talks lined up in March and April.
Last fall I joined a local CrossFit gym that I’ve been really enjoying. I find exercise to be a great break from everything I’m doing on the computer. Often when I am just not making any progress on projects I can head to the gym and fix the day with a great workout. It’s also really easy to track being able to lift heavier weights and do more pull-ups (I can now do 17 in a row!), which makes it more fun.
I also took up indoor soccer this year, which has been a blast! Growing up I never played organized sports, but I’ve made up for that by joining two soccer teams and playing twice a week in the spring and fall. Though I’d never played soccer before this year, so it’s been frustrating at times since I am so bad at it.
Then over the summer I played a lot of ultimate frisbee, which is always a good break from soccer when I want a reminder that there are some sports I’m good at.
In 2013 I really learned the benefits of having an audience. My list grew from about 5,000 to nearly 15,000 over the course of the year. I also learned a lot of new techniques (email courses promoted with guest posts) and some new channels entirely (Twitter ads).
I expect my email list to double again in 2014. I have some great things in place like a free book on the Gumroad home page that continue to drive new subscribers.
I continued my streak of writing 1,000 words (or the equivalent in another media) for each day. That means I missed a few days, but always caught up later. My streak continued past 500 days in a row and I am now at 510 days in a row. It’s still the best decision I’ve ever made. I plan to keep it going until I’ve checked off a few more major writing goals.
Though lately that has taken the form of video recording for a few new projects. Which I can’t wait to share in the coming year!
I had so much fun traveling this year! My favorite trip was a one week jaunt across Norway to help my friend Chris Guillebeau celebrate visiting every country in the world. The group I met during the trip was fantastic and I got to meet up with a bunch of old friends (who I also saw a couple months later at The World Domination Summit).
I actually made it to Europe three times in 2013. First to Norway for Chris’ birthday. Then to Germany, Austria (love the alps!), and the UK with my wife and son. And finally back to the UK (London) and the Czech Republic (Prague) in October for a workshop and MicroConf Europe. That was another great trip where the perspective gained from conversation over drinks one night more than paid for the entire trip.
Here’s the list of where I went (sort of in order): Costa Rica, Kansas City, Miami, Kauai, Las Vegas, Oslo, Bergen, Philadelphia, Munich, Salzburg, London, Oxford, Portland, Seattle, London (again), Prague, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Boston, and San Francisco.
Flying powered gliders in Hawaii with Hilary’s brothers Philip and Daniel.
Oliver is going to have a baby brother, due May 8th, 2014! I always wanted to have several kids and so I wanted them to be close together in age. They’ll end up being about 2.75 years apart—which is more than I wanted—but that was out of our control.
It’s really exciting to be having another baby. I’m sure I’ll freak out a bit later. :)
What did not go well
Never as much fun as the previous section, but just as important.
Travel with Oliver
My wife and I have had many successful trips with Oliver taking him all over the world. Unfortunately we had our first bad trip. Now that he is getting a bit older (2 years old) it’s been harder to take long flights with him. Costa Rica went fairly well, but the longer flights to Europe were really challenging.
When we went in 2012 he was nine months old and slept most of the flights. This time we were lucky to get an hour or two of sleep on an eight hour flight. Not my idea of a good time.
After that experience—and now that we have to pay for Oliver’s flights—we are going to stay a little closer to home for a while. I took a few trips since then, but Hilary and Oliver stayed home.
Meet crocodiles in Costa Rica in January, 2013.
We do have another trip planned to go sailing in the Florida keys (takes two three hour flights), but other than that we are taking it easy on travel. It’s much less stressful to travel with family (like on this sailing trip) so we may do that for the next couple trips.
In an attempt to focus on my products that serve my audience I decided to sell off OneVoice and LegendThemes.com. Two products that made a tiny bit of money, but didn’t serve my core audience at all. I listed both on Flippa. LegendThemes ended up selling for $1,000, which I was quite happy with.
For OneVoice I was contacted by a buyer outside of Flippa. He offered a quick deal for $13,000 (I actually screwed up that negotiation. Ask me sometime how I lost $1,000 in 5 seconds). After a nice quick deal everything started to go downhill. The payment took about 2 weeks to get sent and clear my account. But I got it. That’s when things really got weird.
Despite all my attempts to deliver the app, the new buyer never transferred it to their iTunes account. Who pays $13,000 for a product and then never accepts the transfer? Whatever.
But to make it worse about a month after the sale iOS 7 came out and OneVoice needed updates in order to work with the new version. The new buyer knew this, and kept saying he was going to transfer the app over and use the developer to release a new version. But it never happened.
I actually wasn’t sure how to respond. I responded to individual emails from customers that still were sent to me, but I remained entirely on the Facebook page. Despite still having access, I didn’t legally own anything. I was quite worried about the legality of posting to a Facebook page and email list that I didn’t own anymore.
Finally after hearing too many stories of the broken app from customers—and realizing the new owner wasn’t going to update it—I got a developer working on the fix. I thought the new owner would be good for the money, but if not, I promised the developer I would pay him.
Eventually an update was released, customers got a working app, and unfortunately the name of the app is forever tarnished. The app still sits in my iTunes account and the new seller has not transferred it over. Overall it was a stressful situation that still has be confused. Hopefully it will get resolved in 2014.
This annual review was supposed to go out over a week ago, but I got sick. Then my wife got sick. Then my son got really sick. Those back-to-back illnesses made for a rough Christmas and meant I didn’t get any work done for an entire week.
Taking care of a completely miserable two year old is… well, miserable. I basically spent several days just walking around holding him. He would only sleep if he was being held, so that’s all my wife and I did. Luckily the illness only lasted a few days, but… wow. It was rough.
On the bright side, self-employment is awesome. I went into the doctor when I was sick and was asked if I needed a doctors note. That made me smile. When I responded, “No, I don’t.” the doctor looked a little surprised. I could have explained that I write books and a blog that make far more than a doctor’s salary, but it was easier to just say “I’m self-employed.”
That’s what’s great about self-employment: I was able to be completely out of it for a week and sales still came in. I still made money, I didn’t let anyone down, and I still have my “job”.
Paying so much more in taxes was very painful. Not just because the dollar amount was so high, but also because I didn’t keep very good records so it took a lot of work to my taxes. Normally taxes are due on April 15th, but this year I filed an extension so that I would have until October 15th. Can you guess what day I sent in my final taxes?
Yep, October 14th—which was a holiday, so they ended up being postmarked October 15th. Turns out I’ll procrastinate as long as possible.
On October 14th I was sending it estimated payments (I had gotten behind) as well as the last payment for 2012, which meant mailing 5 separate checks (including state and federal taxes). I started to complain to Hilary about the waste of having to use so many stamps, until I realized the irony of complaining about $1.50 in stamps instead of the $60,000+ in tax payments.
Despite making as much as I did in 2013, I don’t have that much (relatively) in my accounts right now. The biggest reason is I spent a lot of money. Yes, taxes took up a lot, and we gave away a lot, but I still would have expected to end the year with a larger bank balance than I have.
Even though I promised myself this wouldn’t happen, my standard of living increased along with my revenue. At least for the most part I spent money consciously on things I care about like travel.
Looking forward to 2014
The first thing I am doing for 2014 is not planning for the entire year. Instead I am just making revenue and product plans for the first three months. I just can’t accurately predict anything a year from now, so I’ve learned to stop trying. Instead I’m setting actionable (and secret) goals to be completed by March 31st, 2014. As that date gets closer, I’ll start planning for the second quarter.
Here are a few high level goals for 2014:
- Get a team and processes in place to run more of my business.
- Launch at least 3 new products.
- Give my existing products the marketing and attention they deserve.
- Continue to create new content every day.
- Take time off.
This post is getting really long, so I’m going to stop there. But before I sign off, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading this blog and partially enabling this crazy, wonderful life I’ve been able to live!
If you want to follow along with my journey in 2014, sign up for my email newsletter below.
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