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.
If you are interested in designing web apps checkout my latest book »
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.
My favorite place we stayed was definitely Gimmelwald, a tiny mountain village in the Swiss Alps. There are fewer than 20 buildings in the entire village and the scenery is just incredible!
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!
78 Responses to “One Year After Quitting My Job”
I love blog posts like this one (I’ve written a similar one a while ago to share my “half year as a freelancer” thoughts. It’s great to see how other self employed people in the web business perform and big respect for sharing real numbers!
I hope 2013 will be an even bigger success for you and your family :)
Thanks for the update. This is my first time on this site and it’s really inspiring to see people going for their dreams in such a “tough” economy. I also agree that removing yourself from consulting through product creation is a powerful step.
How do you handle health insurance?
I have a high deductible plan that comes out to about $280 a month for myself, my wife, and our 1 year old son. We are all young and healthy, so costs aren’t too high. We also save money into a medical savings account.
A high deductible private plan that costs $280 a month.
I wonder how can you keep track of your expenses and incomings?
I mean, would you mind updating this post or even creating a new one, giving some tips on that? Apps you use, mind notes, etc.
Thank you very much by the way, for the enlightening post.
I have been work as a remote developer for a company in another country and this is my ideal of life, to be able to do more personal projects and became self employed, just the ideas that aren’t leaving my head and glueing into the paper yet.
I have been using GNU Cash and it has worked really well for me. Would recommend it to you.
I’ve just found your site after seeing a link on Twitter, but reports like this always fascinate me; it’s always lovely to see such open-ness :) Congratulations on what looks like it was a great year for you, and best of luck with the next!
Congrats man, it’s awesome when people are open about their financial situations. It gives the rest of us a better understanding of how to make it work on your own. Good luck in 2013!
I have the same trouble with electronic distractions and am going to try something called The Pomodoro Technique this year to see if I can get more accomplished. It boils down to focused work periods for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. The is in lieu of making numerous prioritized lists.
Congratulations on your freelance success. I’m envious.
Pomodoro is the best technique I’ve found for getting things done. It helps me a lot.
I second Nathan’s recommendation. Pomodoro is a huge help for me:
I use Pomodroido on my Android phone.
Love the post, may I ask of you have published any materials on your marketing efforts? Both with the books and apps in particular.
It’s just amazing reading a bit of your life. I admire you, how you can survive being self employment, and publish two great books.
Very nice. Be sure to check out ZenCash for help on your account receivables.
Fantastic news and review Nathan. This is Dan Hodgins, we did an interview a while back about OneVoice. Looks like you have diversified your income sources, and are living large. Well done, and keep up the great work!
Thanks for sharing your freelance insight. Glad you’ve had a successful year! It’s providing motivation to kick ass this upcoming year.
Congrats on all the success Nathan! It is very inspiring to read your review post. I wish you more of the same in the new year!
Inspiring stuff, I am currently employed full time at a well known WordPress related blog. I work from home, before that I had a full time job where I had to go to an actual office. I doubled my income by switching job from an actual IT company to writing for a blog. Now I have more time, less pressure, and freedom to pursue part-time projects.
I will have to admit that I was a bit scared but stories like yours motivated me to take the chance and do what I love.
Good luck with your journey.
Great post. Very inspiring to read and always nice to see how other people are making it all work for themselves. Good on you for having the courage to post honest figures – I think we all wonder how other self employed techies manage to make ends meet. Kudos on the transparency. It gives us all encouragement and impetus to continue learning and growing our own careers and businesses.
Great blog post! I really like how you’re open about finances – keeps me motivated to think about quitting my current job :)
How about the amount of hours spent working or studying? Do you find yourself putting in longer days or working nights?
It is 6 months since I quit my fulltime job and it has not been up to expectation so far. Posts like this helps me keep my focus and optimistic about things turning around.
Have a wonderful year ahead
Do you think you worked more hours / less hours / or the same amount of hours per week since becoming self-employed?
About the same. 40-50 hours a week. I could cut it down if I wanted to and didn’t waste so much time.
Thanks for the amazing post, Nathan. Wish you an even more successful 2013!
Thanks for this. It’s amazing how few people are transparent about their careers and financial situations—so this is insightful. Good luck in 2013!
Thanks for posting this, and for being so vulnerable and detailed.
Good stuff. Thanks for sharing your personal business in such a public forum.
It takes a lot of courage to make the leap especially with a small child. As a corporate man I have seen a huge shift in the way American run companies. Some good…and some not so good. Working alone or in small groups is the way to be.
I broke down my consulting fees in small weekly payments and put everything in writing with a SOW.
You’re making $150K/yr., your wife and child are beautiful, and you’re doing what you love. I hate you.
Seriously, congratulations. A lot of hard work went into that and it has paid off. All the best.
Thanks for sharing your story. When I came across the Focus paragraph, I remembered how I was able to improve focus.
You do yourself, your workflow and your family a favor if you disable smart phone notifications for:
Also I would switch off my email client on my computer when I want to focus.
When getting notified about something, you want to check it, what it is no matter how unimportant it is and there goes your focus – it’s a curse.
Instead of having information pushed to you, pull it yourself on demand.
Hey Nathan, Awesome!
I have a doubt, not exacly with you post, but I have to ask:
What exacly is consulting job? It’s like consulting in a big firm, where you plan and schedule work form the company, or it’s something similar to freelancing?
And, how do you get this clients?
Thank you for your transparency, and great books!
Alejandro R. Buteler
+1 on these questions.
Great post! My first time on your site, too.
Basically freelancing. But you can charge more if you call it consulting.
Loved your Post. Its nice to see you openly writing your Income details. It gives one a benchmark of some sort. Best wishes for a great year ahead.
younger and richer
lol awesome. if you can’t make it with your skills, just write books about those skills and sell those.
This was an awesome and very inspring post. Thanks for sharing! I quite my job in February to start my own company as well. It’s fun to hear your successes! My office is in Provo. We should connect if you’re ever down here!
Well done on the last year – it was really interesting to read about what you’ve been doing and it sounds like you’re pretty switched on ;)
I was wondering about where you’ve been working from? I took some time off this year to do some work on my own projects and I found working from home really distracting and unproductive.
All the best for the new year!
I work from home. And yes, it is distracting.
Nathan, you’ve done a very good job and set an example for the ones who are willing to freelancing.
I am still a student. I’ve worked as a part-time freelancer this year, and have successfully make the ends meet. I develop apps and websites. By this way, I earned about $5,000 this year, which is enough for my collegue study.
Thank you again for you sharing.
I’m glad you make it, hope 2013 would be even better for you!
Thanks for your great post. It inspires me a lot on being freedom and work on your own a lot :)
But it’d be great that you write a post to describe how you get your customers. When do you create your first iPhone application ?
I launched OneVoice, my first iOS app, in January 2011. I’d been developing it for 3-4 months.
I’m confused about your previous year’s salary. Wouldn’t it have been $60k + the books and iPhone apps? Not that it wasn’t a good year, but it sounds like you still took a pay cut.
Either way, awesome progress and sharing your story and its details is very appreciated.
I wouldn’t have written the books if I was still employed. But yes, had I stayed at my job I would still have the iPhone app revenue. But I also got to travel extensively, which made me really happy. That would not have been possible without leaving my job. It’s about the freedom more than the money.
A very inspiring read! I went freelance myself late 2011, and am now considering my goals for 2013. One of which is productizing my services, and I have been keeping a close eye on your site for a few months as you seem to have this area really well covered.
Great to hear things are going well, and I wish you and your family well for 2013.
I’m inspired by your story, and I think many other commentors/readers are as well…but if we all want to achieve the same level of success and freedom we should be off writing blog posts, books and/or developing applications right now, it seems that we lack the same focus that you were down on yourself about this year. Here’s to the new year, and renewed focus on building out our personal brands.
Hey there! Great job… I’m wondering, how did you get distribution for your ebooks so quickly to generate so much revenue at launch?
Guest blog posts, built up email lists before hand, wrote tutorials and articles on my own site. Nothing crazy.
Read your story on a Chinese website.
Just want to say “Congratulation!”
This is first time on your blog. Your way of success is inspired me. I wish the New year brings you lots of happiness and joy.
Great article! I plan on using your story as motivation to get my better half’s business up and running! Keep it up!
“I especially love not having to fill out time-off request forms anytime I want to leave town for a few days.”
I just printed out such a time-off request, for the New Year’s day no less, and these words by you were literally the first ones I read after returning to my desk. Talk about hitting home :)
So, this year I will try to launch my side business, with the goal of one day quitting my job, too.
Thanks for sharing your progress, and all the best for the next year, too!
Nice job. What you’ve written here is really inspiring. I am in a similar position to where you were when you quit your job. I’ll try to use you as an inspiration to motivate me to accomplish all I can. Thanks.
You made it look so simple but this is the result of a lot of hard work. Congrats!
Awesome post, Very inspiring! I hope to be able to make it on my own in the future, and one day leave my day job to enjoy life to its fullest. I hope all the best for you and your family in 2013!
thank you for sharing, this is awesome!
I wish you and your young familiy all the best in 2013.
Regards from Germany,
Everybody says “Well done Nathan!” and me too! I am a 35 yo italian computer engineer and after working as an employee, i left my “safe” job 3 years ago and started working as a freelancer: i had great satisfactions, good incomes and more control over my life-time! Do you still plan to come to Italy? I live in Bergamo and it would be nice to meet you! Have a nice 2013!
Inspiring. Thanks for sharing!
I just started my own journey into self-employment 2 months ago, and it’s going better than I ever imagined.
I’m late to this party but I’ll be rooting you on!
Great to read this the day before my last day in full-time employment… going freelance in about 18 hours :)
Thanks for the inspiration Nathan, I’ll be tagging along with your site for a while to see where your journey takes you next :)
I’m so stoked for you Nathan! I just found you through Think Traffic, and I get so amped when I read about people who have been able to quit their jobs and become solopreneurs. I’m hoping I’ll be able to quit my job by the end of this year. Wish me luck!
Wow, you’ve done great for yourself in just one year. You’ve motivated me to take writing more seriously. I’d dropped it when the consulting work picked up and am only just getting back to it.
Accounts receivable is always a challenge. Luckily, for me, I’ve only had two clients not pay up in three years, but it’s for a painful grand total of $26,000 (http://www.thedwick.com/2013/01/6-reflections-after-3-years-of-business/).
I’ll be interested to see how you fair asking for more consulting pay up front.
Very inspiring post. Thanks for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to quit your stable job and try something new.
I am Brazilian and I have plain to leave the job and to work as to freelancer. Already I have my projects in progress and I am finishing everything to start. e today after reading a little of the history of its life I, and felt motivated more to make the things to give certain! Man you is a life example! Congratulations and success.
Lovely story,thanks for sharing. I like your optimism and honestness. And you inspired me. All the best to you.
This is awesome – great post Sir.
Every time I get frustrated thinking that there are sooo many folks out there doing similar things, I also run into the success stories.
Plenty of folks are out there making it happen too!
Thanks for sharing.
Recently, I subscribed to your newsletters and read a few articles and it really inspired me and encouraged me to think more and start doing stuff.
I really like your articles because it’s very straight forward.
Thank you Nathan for sharing!
Wow, I took a similar path and I am happy about the progress so far. Thank you for this blog.