19 Dec

2014 in review — 3 years after quitting my job

It’s that time of year again. Time to buy Christmas presents, wrap up major projects, and ask two simple questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What did not go well this year?

Yep, it’s time for the annual review!

This will be my fourth year doing an annual review. Here are the previous years:

Now as you read this keep in mind that it is mostly written for my benefit, so I can reflect on the year and have this journal to refer back to later. I do it in public because I think you may enjoy it and be able to learn from it in some way.

So if while reading this you think, “why is he sharing that?” it’s because this is for me. That said some of this does feel a little odd to share. Either way, I hope you learn something from the last year of my life, cliff-notes edition.

What went well

Fitness

A few months ago I commented to Hilary that going to the gym had finally become a habit. Each day going to the gym isn’t a chore. It doesn’t require any energy to force myself to go. Compared to just a few years ago that’s a huge accomplishment.

This year I started to get into Olympic Lifting in addition to the timed Crossfit workouts. While I haven’t made huge progress it’s been fun to see continual improvements each month. Here are my current one rep maxes:

  • Snatch: 125 lbs
  • Push press: 170 lbs
  • Clean and jerk: 180 lbs
  • Back squat: 240 lbs
  • Deadlift: 300 lbs

A few lifts really need work, but it’s way better than the beginning of this year. There should be a much larger difference between my push press and clean and jerk, but my limitation is on how much I can clean.

I’ve also been playing indoor soccer on two different teams, which means most weeks I get to play twice. I’m still pretty new to soccer—I’ve only been playing for a year and a half, but now I’m hooked! Now if only I could find opportunities (and time) to play more than twice a week…

Travel

Traveling is one of my favorite activities. If I don’t have at least one trip booked for the next month I start to get a little restless.

Fun trips

  • Sailing trip to Key West
    • This trip was one of the highlights of my year! We chartered a 40ft sailing catamaran and explored the Florida Keys for a week.
  • Croatia with my brother-in-law
    • A week long excursion in Europe that was just pure fun. The highlights included playing tour guide to a group of 12 strangers in Venice, hiking Plitvice lakes, and riding bicycles along the Croatian coast.

Here are a few photos from sailing in Key West (the cover photo at the top of this post is our sailboat).
hilary
cover-sailboat

sailing

Yes, that’s me riding a paddle-board pulled behind a dinghy. With our sailboat in the background.

Conferences Attended

This year I attended three conferences that I didn’t speak at:

  • Vegas for New Media Expo
  • Prague for MicroConf
  • Portland for WDS

Speaking

And then I spoke at seven more:

  • MicroConf (Las Vegas)
  • BaconBiz (Philadelphia)
  • Pioneer Nation (Portland)
  • Gumroad Creators Studio (San Francisco)
  • The WooCommerce Conference (San Francisco)
  • Boise Code Camp
  • Author workshop (Boise)

My favorite would be a toss-up between Pioneer Nation and BaconBiz. Both were amazing crowds to speak to.

If you organize a conference and would like to speak, get in touch. I’m planning my 2015 calendar now.

Augustus

On May 15th, 2014 my second son, Augustus Daniel Barry, was born. The last seven months have been incredible! Even though his brother Oliver is only a couple years older, it’s amazing how quickly you forget all the details.

Other than some health issues (which I’ll cover later) little August was a much easier baby than Oliver. I’m not sure how much to attribute that to his more mellow personality or the fact that my wife and I are now more experienced parents.

Either way, I’ll take it.

august

IMG_4852

House

This year we bought a house that we love. It’s in a great part of Boise and has everything we need for our little family. After purchasing it we spent 6 months on a $60,000 remodeling project. I was able to help quite a bit on the remodel and really enjoyed everything that I learned.

We’ve rented for the last 5 years and it feels good to finally own a place. Hilary and I are the type of people who want to be able to work on projects and improve where we live, so that was a frustration with always renting in the past.

house

Time off

Back in April I declared that I had “enough” and took a couple months off. That went well. Mostly. It wasn’t as relaxing as I had hoped due to some health issues (more on that later).

The most important part of doing this was the mindset shift of not always pushing for more.

24 hour product challenge

Just a couple weeks ago I embarked on a 24-hour product challenge. The end result was a series of exercises called 10 Days to Better design. You can read all about it here. The rushed deadline gave me a ton of energy and focus and I had a lot of fun with a short break from the big goals I work towards every day.

Podcast

This year I finally launched a podcast! It was on my todo list for last year, so it was good to finally get it live. I released 11 episodes and really enjoyed the process.

The podcast was well received and averaged about 3,000 downloads per episode. I didn’t know what to expect so that seemed low to me, but after talking to other podcast hosts those numbers aren’t bad.

I even hit the top of the Marketing category in iTunes and reached #3 in all of Business. Not bad!

podcast

List growth

In January 2014 I had 14,130 email subscribers. Today, almost a year later, I have 28,057 subscribers. Not quite double.

I’m pretty happy with that! Open rates have declined from averaging 45-50% down to averaging 38-40% when I send to my entire list. That’s not fantastic, so I may go through and scrub my list to remove a few people who aren’t very engaged.

As my audience grew I knew engagement numbers would decline, so this isn’t something I’m particularly worried about. Who knows, I may decide to keep this entire list just for bragging rights (and contract negotiations if I pursue a traditional book deal).

What did not go well

Productivity and happiness

The first three months of the year were insanely productive. Unfortunately the rest of the year wasn’t. This year I broke my chain of writing 1,000 words a day (it was over 650 days in a row). I worked off and on for months without getting anything meaningful accomplished.

I was distracted, unmotivated, and stressed quite often, all without much good reason.

I learned that I get a lot of my self-worth from accomplishments. So being unproductive turned into an unfortunate downward spiral.

Not long after we bought the house we were in the middle of remodeling it. I was very involved in the process and started to get stressed from all the work and decisions to be made. That, and I saw my business revenues dipping significantly.

Health

In the middle of the downward emotional spiral, my son August was born. For the first two weeks he was a pretty easy baby (as far as babies go). But then both he and Oliver got sick at the same time and didn’t sleep well. Over the next two weeks the kids would alternate when they would wake up. As a result I didn’t sleep for more than an hour or two at a time.

I thought I could tough it out, but I was totally wrong.

Just as the kids were starting to sleep a little better I noticed a small rash on my leg. Over the next few days it got bigger and I started to get worried. I couldn’t think of anything I encountered recently that I would have an allergic reaction to.

I went into the doctor and it only took them a few minutes to say, “Yep, you have shingles.” The doctors next question was, “is there anything in your life right now that is causing you extra stress?”

“I have a 3 week old baby, does that count?”

“Yep, that will do it.” The doctor laughed. After going through the previous couple weeks I didn’t think it was funny.

They prescribed anti-viral medication and pain killers, but I hate the way my head feels when I take pain killers. So I just asked for the anti-viral medication.

That was a huge mistake. That afternoon I was back on the phone asking for the pain medication. It just got worse over the next couple days and I had trouble sleeping even with meds.

Pro tip: never decline pain medication.

Anyway, I eventually recovered and life returned to normal. But I took it easy for the next 3-4 months to recover. And I didn’t get back the same level of drive and focus that I had in the beginning of the year until maybe a month ago.

Travel with family

I realized that the only trip Hilary and I went on together was sailing in the Keys. That’s not normal for us. I’d really like to travel more with her and the kids, but she hasn’t been very interested. Travel with two kids is definitely more work and we just didn’t make it a priority this year.

Next year I want to make sure we get out and travel some more.

Finances

We’ll cover this in the next section, but finances were strangely rough this year. Now you’ll see in the next section that I did very well, but even with those numbers money still felt short for more than half of the year.

It started when we paid $65,000 as a down payment on our new house and then immediately spent another $60,000-70,000 on remodeling. Then expenses were far higher this year. I hired out a lot of development on ConvertKit and hired multiple employees. Salaries get expensive.

We still have quite a bit of money invested that I could fall back on if needed, but it was unnerving to go from $150,000 in the bank to dangerously low numbers.

In 2013 I never worried about money. In 2014 I worried quite a bit (whether it was rational or not).

Growing up we didn’t have much money and I was determined to make a lot when I was older. I was also determined to not let my lifestyle creep up to the larger amount of money I made. Unfortunately that happened in 2014. So I’m cutting back a lot in 2015.

That said, I made some very expensive business decisions for 2015 that will require me to watch my finances much more closely (more on that later).

Scarcity mindset

There were some months that I made $10,000 (you can see it in the charts below) and spent $25,000-30,000 (house remodel, etc). This made me very nervous. Combine that with a few launches that didn’t go as well as I would have liked and I started to develop a scarcity mindset.

Instead of thinking that it was very possible to make more money I started to think that my run of making a lot was coming to an end… Something that is just not true.

In 2015 I have to fix those mindset issues and double down on growing my business—while maintaining the lifestyle and priorities that are important to me.

I think the change starts with mindset.

Death

Just in the last month I lost two people who I miss dearly. First my grandmother passed away just before Thanksgiving and then my friend Esau passed away on Sunday.

Both of those hit me really hard and have been weighing heavily on me.

They were both wonderful people and I miss them both a lot.

Finances

Before I get into exact numbers I should make a few notes. First, the year isn’t over yet. So the totals for December and the year are not complete. Second, these are gross revenue numbers. Before any fees, royalties, or expenses. Though I did remove refunds. Fourth, I probably made a mistake somewhere. These numbers should not be considered the equivalent to what my accountant will file with the IRS. Finally, there are things like sponsorships, some royalty payments, and a little contract work that I know is missing. I’m just not ready to compile all that right now.

There are a few things I’d like to point out about these numbers. If you notice any interesting trends please post them in the comments.

2014-revenue

Q1 revenue

At the start of the year I set a goal to make $250,000 in the first quarter of 2014. I didn’t hit that goal. But having such an audacious goal forced me to work hard and I reached over $125,000 in the first quarter! Only half my goal, but still amazing.

Then I took time off. It’s very evident in my revenue chart.

Bestsellers

Authority and Photoshop for Web Design both did very well. Bringing in 25% and 27% of the total revenue. The biggest difference is that they each had launches this year. The Photoshop course actually had three different launches (January, February, and September).

Authority continued to sell really well each month without much promotion. I think it’s because that book has a huge impact on anyone who puts it into action, so it gets the most word of mouth promotion.

Disappointing sales

Now I’m not impressed with the sales from The App Design Handbook and Designing Web Applications. Especially since I split The App Design Handbook revenue 50/50 with my co-author.

But there’s a clear explanation for the low sales: I didn’t launch either of them this year. I also didn’t write about design that much, and when I did it was to promote the Photoshop course.

Both of those books were rather neglected and it shows in the revenue numbers.

They are still fantastic books, so I need to give them the time they deserve in 2015.

A pleasant surprise

Until compiling these graphs I didn’t realize how much Commit had made this year. Over $8,000 is not bad for a $2.99 iPhone app that hasn’t received much promotion.

I never expected much from app sales, but that’s actually really good! A lot of it comes from a spike over a couple days in April that resulted in $1,000 in 3 days. I still don’t know where the sales came from.

Wrap-up

This post is getting pretty long, so it’s time to wrap things up. Despite some challenges, this year has been amazing. I am incredibly blessed to be able to run my small company and make a great living.

My little family makes me very happy and I love to have the flexibility to spend time with them.

One thing I didn’t talk about is ConvertKit, my email marketing company for authors. That’s a big topic and deserves a dedicated post. For now I’ll just say that I’m working on it like crazy. And that work has been paying off very well.

Thank you!

Finally, I want to say thank you for reading this blog and joining me on this journey. I couldn’t have built my little business empire without your support.

 

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60 Responses to “2014 in review — 3 years after quitting my job”

  1. Baller baller.

    This is really well done and the kick in the butt for me to finish my own. Nice work.


  2. Thank you for sharing this Nathan. I hope 2015 is great for your family, health and business. I think your biggest challenge next year might be traveling with 2 kids :).


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Ha, yeah. I haven’t tried it yet, so we’ll see.


      • My wife and I took our 1year old and 3 year old to India (from Michigan), I’m sure you can do it too Nathan! You’re a baller like Joel says!

        Onward!


  3. Hi Nathan,

    This is a very thorough nice year-end review. I also read the same in last year. I’m just wondering do you use any specific software to track your monthly revenues & income?

    Thanks! Keep up the good work!


    • Nathan Barry says:

      No, I just downloaded spreadsheets from Stripe and Gumroad, then massaged the data in Numbers.


  4. Nathan, thanks for letting us readers be part of an entrepreneurs journey. For me that is tremendous inspiration and encouragement to keep going on this path.


  5. Awesome review, as always Nathan. Thanks for sharing!


  6. Thanks so much for being so open with your business and life, Nathan. This is really helpful in a number of ways. Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday.


  7. Nathan, first off, congratulations on the addition to your family. Second, I’m glad your health is back on track. Third, thank you for being real. I identified with so much of what you wrote in this post regarding money. Your feelings about it, not having a ton of it when you were younger, and how tapping the bank account for some important projects made you feel. I had shingles when I was 6 months postpartum with my first child, and it is no fun. And definitely due to stress. You are awesome. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!! Have a great 2015!


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Yeah, I think it was good for me to go through this process (the finances, not the shingles).

      Shingles suck. Sorry you had to deal with that.


  8. Wow! So cool about the app. It gives me hope for my app. I agree with Andy…traveling with two kids is tough stuff! Wishing you an even more productive 2015.


  9. Great stuff Nathan, thanks for putting it all up for the world to see. Best of luck in 2015!


  10. Thanks for sharing so candidly! Really appreciate that you shared what didn’t go so well — the world needs more of those stories. It really sucks to get sick, especially with a difficult illness like shingles. Kudos for plowing through it so bravely.


  11. I love reading this stuff!

    You should share the time spent this year on each of the 8 products. I’d be curious to see where you’re getting the most return on time investment.

    At first blush it seems like 8 products is a ton! Do you think you spend a disproportionate amount of time/money keeping your monthly Covert Kit customers happy? Why not sell the thing and focus on improving and relaunching your top three products? You may get your sanity back (if you’re feeling overwhelmed).

    Best of luck in 2015! I’ll be following along.


    • Nathan Barry says:

      I spent quite a bit of time on Authority and Photoshop for Web Design. The two design books probably got 10-20 hours of time total the entire year. When thought of that way it was a great ROI. It’s just nothing near their potential.


  12. “Good job” as one says today. Enjoyed becoming part of your family through your well done narrative and pictures. We’re sailors too (O’Day 35 in Boothbay Harbor, Maine).
    Reminds me of Alex of GrooveHQ blog on “On our journey to 100k in monthly revenue”.
    Best wishes for a wonderful Christmas with your family and in the new year.


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Yep, Alex does great stuff. I think he was partially inspired to start that based on my web app challenge from 2 years ago.


  13. Wow! Inspirational post, Nathan. The trip alone is worth the (free)price of admission. Thank you.


  14. Nathan,

    I went back to read your 2011 review. It’s amazing to see how you have progressed on your own. My goal for 2015 is to create at least 1 product, and you have inspired me to do so!


  15. Thanks Nathan, your blogs and transparency in revealing how you create products have been a great inspiration to me. The type of stuff you write about almost never gets published, but it should be! I’m going to go for the http://giftofbusiness.com/ deal! Have an awesome 2015!


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Thanks! That was fun to put together (though Amy and her crew did nearly all the work).


  16. Big things on the rollercoaster that is life – overall, lots of positives. All the best for 2015!


  17. Thanks for sharing Nathan. Both educational and inspiring. I really liked your paragraph about mindset and how it effects our actions. I am also thrilled to see that Convertkit is also making money along with your app. Wishing you a prosperous and happy 2015.


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Always great to hear from you Raj. How things are going well for your little family as well.

      Yep, ConvertKit is doing well. I wouldn’t be surprised if we 3x (or more) those numbers for next year.


  18. Congratulations on another impressive year Nathan.

    Don’t let the costs of the house put a downer on things – it’s a great financial investment and the sense of security will really help you through 2015 I’m sure.

    As someone who bought a house and spent an uncomfortable amount of money on renovations, I know exactly where you’re coming from. But just remember – smart renovations are investments, not costs. That $60,000 has been put away into a savings account that some years will gain 1%, other years 10% (not sure on housing market in US). Anything spent on “personal choices” though is hard to recover on the sale price though.

    What I took away from this post more than anything (excluding a huge respect for the humble transparency) is just how beneficial it can be to cross-sell and focus on a single audience rather than a single product. You seem to have cracked the formula for not just awesome launches but how to offer complimentary products and services.

    I wonder – is a new SaaS in the works for 2015? Design marketplace? eBook ghostwriting marketplace?


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Nope, not working on a new SaaS. I’ll be focused very heavily on ConvertKit.


  19. Awesome review Nathan. Hope 2015 brings you much more success and of course improvements in health, income and other areas of challenges from this year.


  20. I’d love to hear about your sailing trip.
    That’s on my bucket list.


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Alright. We chartered the 44ft catamaran out of Key West, Florida. It was a week long trip. I think the rental was about $800 a day. At first it sounded really expensive, but when you consider it is lodging and entertainment for 8 people, it’s not bad.

      Though it helped a lot that Hilary’s uncle is an experienced sailor, so we didn’t have to hire a captain.

      You can read about our adventures here: https://medium.com/nathan-barrys-blog/tangled-at-sea-5b366956b5f5


  21. Hey Nathan I really appreciate your transparency here specifically as it relates to your mindset and how certain shifts affected your business. Looking forward to a year of abundance in 2015.


  22. Wow, I didn’t realize how diverse your income streams were. That’s actually really nice, since there’s obviously a lot of variability in each one, but collectively there’s a bit less variability.

    I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about the stress. Two kids are more than twice as hard as one kid. It’s what my wife and I call the “evil synergy”. In fact, I was in exactly the same spot as you when my second was born, big remodel, shingles, and all. It will pass. In a few years :)


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Yeah, the portfolio of products turned out well this year. Even the ones I neglected brought in a nice chunk of change. Next years goal is to get them on much better autopilot revenue.

      Kids… They are such a challenge, but so wonderful at the same time.

      That’s crazy that you had all three circumstances simultaneously as well!

      Looking forward to catching up with you soon.


  23. You inspired me again and again,..Nathan.
    I’ve always dream of the life after quit my job but I’m too scare to do that. May be 2015 will be that year that I should really plan to do a big thing of my life and my family. BTW, I wish the year 2015 is another big success of yours and family. Merry Christmas.

    Yot


  24. Great year buddy. Congrats on the success. Love seeing how you’ve built your biz.


  25. Nathan, thank you for being so transparent with your life – never quite read a year review that was so honest. May you and your family be blessed ;)


  26. Vasiliy says:

    Nice year! And you’re absolutely right about the “Authority” — its a perfect book, one of the best entrepreneurship and authoring book I’ve read in my whole life. Very detailed and concise at the same time — like, almost every word is here for some meaning and not just to fill the space; most of the advices are really helpful and realistic; very understandable and thought-provoking writing style. And yeah, most importantly, because of it (not just because of it, but anyway) I also decided to end up with design freelance, which I was doing for a decade (!) and start with book/course creation. And it’s amazing! So thank you! And have your 2015 full of joy and successes! ;-)


  27. Thanks Nathan for a true insight into what goes into a whole years worth of work and not just the numbers. You’ve helped motivate me to get my podcast up, which it is, in time for the new year and to create as much as I can in 2015

    -Jamie


  28. Nathan, this is a comprehensive post and I am blown away by your willingless to share how the year has been for you. Overall, I am happy you did good and had so much to celebrate. Wife is beautiful and well, Augustus (woohoo), Oliver is doing great, and your new house. Merry Christmas in advance and cheers to 2015.


  29. Vincent says:

    I admire your drive towards getting the most out of every moment of your life. I’m looking forward to getting away from a job I’m not excited about and pushing myself towards a more rewarding experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  30. Appreciate the transparency Nathan – all the best in 2015 :)


  31. Tim Johnson says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you skating actual numbers. I know the negatives from the year are probably harder to write but I gain so much from it. And telly if my worst month was half as good as your worst i would be ecstatic so it really motivates me to get my own project or the ground. Thanks!


  32. Great post. Thanks for sharing so much Nathan. Great to hear you are enjoying your family so much and keeping your fitness up on top of that. I actually own a CrossFit gym (CrossFit 782) and those are great numbers.

    I also have a tech company which I am in the process of re-inventing as I launch a new product for CrossFit gyms, martial arts schools and yoga studios. Your books have courses have been a huge help for me and I look forward to learning more from you in 2015.

    Thanks again and all the best in 2015,

    Mike


  33. Nice write-up.

    The thing I appreciate the most: the honesty.

    It takes guts to objectively talk about what is good and bad, where you screwed up and where you succeeded and to not make excuses for anything.


  34. Hey Nathan,

    This is a really nice wrap up. I wrote my own review (http://speakinginbytes.com/2014/12/2014-business-review/) and it’s very clear to see that software takes a *long* time to get started. I only made $8,000 this year. I expect to make double that next year. Not too bad for income from moonlighting but it does take a while to really get moving.


  35. daniel knight says:

    Hi Nathan, I’m inspired by your integrity and openness about your experiences. Thanks for sharing.


  36. Really enjoyed this; it’s always refreshing to see transparency like this. This is motivating to me to get back on track with a few projects and initiatives I’ve let slide over the last couple years.


  37. What I’m amazed at is you saying you lacked the productivity that you are used to having while your results show otherwise.

    In reality you are a lot more productive and disciplined than most people out there. What I see as I finished reading this post as a person who as an idea and executes that idea and in the end getting a result.

    Your ability to execute even in very adverse times is what really intrigued me. I’m sure you will continue to excel in all that you do!

    We are creatures of habit and you my friend have habits of successful people.


  38. […] been enjoying reading various 2014 Year in Review posts, including Stephen Waddington, Nathan Barry and Patrick McKenzie, so thought I’d share my own mini review of the year, concentrating on […]


  39. […] Nathan Barry: 2014 in Review – 3 years after quitting my job […]


  40. Hey man great post. I’ve had similar ups and downs with stress and kids not to mention watching savings go from hundreds of thousands to zero (Except in your case you are actually investing it so you are smarter than me ha). The products look strong so I’m sure you’ll have a huge 2015. Stay in touch and all the best this year.


  41. All the best for 2015 Nathan. It’s great to see how you’ve gone on to change your life because you took a leap of faith 3 years ago.

    Looking forward to seeing you crank out some awesome new products this year and shatter your goals.

    Cheers,
    Jacques


  42. […] 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 […]


  43. Nathan, well done on an excellent year.
    I appreciate that you covered business success and personal (e.g. travel).

    For me, I found that 2014 was a great year in terms of personal activities (visited Spain and Portugal for the first time, read 45 books, completed 3 courses) but less progress made in terms of business.

    P.S. The charts and data regarding the business revenue are informative and well designed. Bravo!


  44. Hey Nathan,
    I found this post via Joel Runyon’s site and really like your style. I always enjoy seeing the breakdown’s for online entrepreneur’s income as it gives me a better understanding of what it’s really like.

    I have a few questions:

    1. What is “authority” and how are you making money from it?
    2. I see that the category with the highest percentage of income is Photoshop for Web Design. Is that client work or something else?

    Thanks


  45. Nathan, I stumbled upon your site looking for information about Gumroad.

    Congratulations for your nice results in 2014. It is really inspiring reading about other author’s success. Well done.


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