Last year I did a year in review post, so by doing it again this year I am turning it into a tradition. This is more for me (to see my own progress) than it is for you, but I hope you can learn something as well. If you want to read last years you can see my reflections on 2011 and then my plans going forward for 2012.
Another important note is that 2012 was my first full year of self-employment since leaving my job at a software company in October 2011. And it’s gone great! There are downsides, but overall I love working for myself.
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Going from a steady salary from my job to an inconsistent income was a bit challenging at first, but not a big deal. I had plenty of money in savings as well as some income from iOS apps. By the end of the year I had four main income sources: consulting, iPhone Apps, and books: Designing Web Applications and The App Design Handbook. Let’s break down each one:
- Consulting. I was paid $34,310 for consulting so far in 2012. Which is lower than I expected it to be. Mainly because for the second half of the year I focused on writing and selling books rather than doing consulting. That figure also doesn’t take into account some large payments that I haven’t received yet. We’ll touch on that later.
- iPhone Applications. The total from my iOS applications in 2012 was $25,522. Here’s how that broke down for each app:
- OneVoice: $17,624
- Commit: $7,846
- Fluent: $46
As you can see Fluent did not make a lot of money, but both Commit and OneVoice did well. On average I make around $2,100 a month from the App Store, which I am quite happy with since I no longer do any active marketing or development. I should note that all these App Store figures are after Apple takes their 30% cut and Acapela Group takes their 14% cut for OneVoice.
- The App Design Handbook. To say my eBooks have been a success would be the understatement of the year. When I started writing The App Design Handbook back in April I didn’t know what to expect. On launch day the book sold $12,000 and went on to make $41,450 for the year. Except it was released September 4th, so that is actually just under four months of sales.
- Designing Web Applications. For the second book I took my six month process and compressed it down to three months. Using everything I had learned from the first launch I was able to make a better product, with a much more successful launch, in half the time. Designing Web Applications sold $26,000 on launch day and went on to make $44,189. If you are thinking that’s not a lot more than the last book, I should point out that Designing Web Applications came out December 12th. Meaning it has been on sale for only 2.5 weeks.
My rough income total for 2012 is $145,471.
Considering that my wife and I live on about $4,000/month, this was a fantastic year. You’re probably wondering, since 2012 was my first full year being self-employed after leaving my salaried position, how does this compare? When I left my job in October, 2011 I made $60,000 a year. There were some health benefits on top of that, but nothing worth more than $600 a month. So I more than doubled my previous salary.
I don’t have a detailed summary of expenses yet, but they were fairly minimal. Running a business like mine has very few costs since I did almost all the design, development, writing, and marketing myself.
Enough on finances, let’s move on to more interesting topics.
What Went Well
Last year I said I wanted to travel more, so I really made it a priority this year. Here is a list of places I went in 2012 (Hilary and Oliver came along for most of them): Seattle, Las Vegas, Maui, Seattle, Kansas City, Victoria B.C., London, Oxford, Bath, Swansea, Edinburgh, Rome, Vatican City, Florence, Venice, Gimmelwald, Zurich, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego and Seattle.
Many of those cities were visited on our five week trip through the U.K., Italy, and Switzerland. I thought it would be challenging to bring Oliver, since he was nine months old at the time, but he traveled really well.
In May I made a commitment to write 1,000 words a day. I broke my streak of days in a row a few times, but now it is going strong and I am at 165 days in a row. That slow, consistent progress is what allowed me to write two books, almost two dozen guest posts, and over thirty posts on this blog in the last year.
I also wrote a chapter for the Smashing Mobile book on iOS applications. If you look back to my finances you can see what an impact writing has had on my year.
Learning the value of teaching
I heard all the time how important it was to teach in order to build your brand and market products, but I never understood it fully until this year. But, this year I took it to heart and used writing as my primary method of teaching. Traffic to this blog has grown incredibly and I’ve become friends with some very talented people through this site.
I met a lot of great new people this year, many of whom I talk to on a weekly basis. They’ve helped me grow my personal brand, kept me on track to publish my books, and given incredibly valuable advice every step of the way. Now I plan to go to even more conferences, like The World Domination Summit, since I know the people I will meet can have a profound impact on my life.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, people I met through posting on this site and on Hacker News have been invaluable. Particularly Sacha Greif and Brennan Dunn. Those guys are awesome. If you two read this, thank you for inspiring me to continue to build my business and for helping me along the way!
For most of the year I would go running once a week, but otherwise ignored fitness. Then in October a friend convinced me to start CrossFit, which I really enjoy. So far I am going strong and have never enjoyed working out so much before. I will definitely continue in 2013.
What Did Not Go Well
Alright, now for the things that didn’t turn out as expected.
Last year I wrote that I wanted to focus more in 2012. I have a serious problem being able to stay focused and complete a task without opening up tabs, reading Twitter, and looking at stats. If I improved this last year, it was only by a tiny percentage. Not good. As my blog became more popular I became more addicted to refreshing meaningless metrics rather than creating new content.
Checking email, Twitter, and Facebook on my phone has also been a constant interruption of time spent with family. I think this is the biggest issue I need to deal with in 2013.
I would like to speak at more conferences, but I didn’t make it a priority this last year. Outside of a few small talks to 30-100 people, I did very little speaking. Now that I have the two books out of the way I’d like to do more speaking in 2013. But it probably won’t fall into my lap, so it is something I need to actively pursue.
I mentioned earlier that I had some outstanding accounts receivable that I did not include in my consulting revenue for this year. The full story is that I have $21,014 in outstanding invoices. Half of that is over 120 days late. Clients being unable to pay has been frustrating and made me want to do less consulting. At the same time, I love my clients, and completely understand their circumstances. Though next year I will be taking larger deposits up front.
In theory I will receive this money eventually, but it may take a while. That’s why I love selling products, I get paid up front and don’t have to worry about collecting payments.
Last year I spent a lot of time learning Objective-C and improving my general programming skills. Unfortunately this year, especially the second half of the year, I didn’t continue to learn and practice. The time I would have spent programming was replaced by writing the books. It worked out really well for me, but I want to make sure I dedicate plenty of time for programming practice this coming year.
Overall, being self employed has been wonderful. Between time to travel and time to pursue interesting projects, I’ve had a great year. Plus, doubling my income is a nice benefit as well. My goal for this last year was to exceed my previous salary, so I’d call that a success. Being able to do that and have complete control of my time is a wonderful thing. I especially love not having to fill out time-off request forms anytime I want to leave town for a few days.
I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!