Looking Back and Forward
I've been trying to look back a what has happened over the course of this year. Examine what I've done and set up a plan for the future. My apologies if this post is a little long but it must be the holiday feelings of sharing.
This year has been fantastic from a professional point of view. I was able to go freelance full-time back in January and really take a chance to do what I wanted. After a full year, though, I've certainly seen some of the mistakes I've made. The first of which is undervaluing myself. Undervaluing myself has meant that I've taken on work at an hourly rate well below what I should have, either through some sense of loyalty or thinking that people wouldn't pay.
The problem when freelancing is not that you're necessarily billing per hour of work. That's not an accurate way to look at things. You're billing also for the time you'll spend on vacations, or off sick, or for the time required to bring in new work.
There's been a few other hard lessons. On long-term projects, I tend to get chummy with the client. In those situations, I tend to forget that they are the client and that they still come first. This ties into the blog, too, in that I still have to be careful to walk the fine line of professionalism. However, a few blog posts have been inspired by client interaction. I often try to take something I run into, from a programming or professional perspective, and extrapolate that into a larger idea for a blog post.
I suppose being incorporated, I'm not sure I can consider myself a freelancer much longer. More like a gun for hire. But my largest dillemma has simply been deciding what direction to take things in.
Already I've begun paring down my services and will likely continue down that path in the new year. Before, I was open to pretty much any type of project including design, blog integration, and development. Now, I'm more or less intending to keep the focus on application development.
I also want to do what I had originally intended to do by going freelance: build my own applications. I have a couple things in the works but nothing likely to be ready until January or February. If those projects go well, I hope it'll give me the time to focus on a few other projects I've wanted to work on.
It was a good year for travel as I found myself on a plane more often than any year I can remember.
Back in January, a client flew me down to Miami to spend a week launching off the project. I love Miami, I really do. Florida and California are two states that I'd like to find myself living in at some point in my life.
In March, I made the trek to SXSW and found myself among "my people." I got to meet face to face with so many people whom I had only chatted with online. It's nice to say hello to people who have been an inspiration to me. I was surprised to find how many had actually heard of who I was.
In July, I got to speak at Webvisions (many thanks for Nick Finck and crew for making it happen). This was my first ever speaking engagement and I thought it went really well. I'll be speaking at SXSW in March, so be sure to check it out!
Finally, in October, the family and I made a trip to Disney World, which was fantastic. Having never been before, it was pure magic. It was a little crazy with a 2½-year old but still plenty of fun to be had.
The new year should turn out to be another decent year for travel. Tentatively scheduled is a trip to Minnesota near the end of January for some client work. It's not Miami, but it'll do.
In February, I'm hoping to make it out to Web Directions North. It sounds like it'll be a blast and I'd hate to miss it.
I don't have anything planned after that but who knows what may come up. There will be plenty of conferences (which are almost an addiction) and lots of people I'd love to meet.
2006 was both good and bad for writing. I've maintained this here blog fairly well, keeping up a fairly good pace. I've continued my column with Digital Web and hope to get a few articles on there again next year.
This year was supposed to be the year I wrote my own book. This came about after meeting Chris Mills at SXSW. I jokingly said I'd like to write a book at some point and he left the door open to do so. About a month after getting back, I got in touch to put something together. Unfortunately, work and personal commitments have slowed the effort. However, I do intend to finish it with a few industry colleagues helping out with case studies.
In the meantime, I did manage to contribute a chapter to an upcoming Sitepoint book entitled The Art and Science of CSS due out in February.
After the books are done and published, I haven't yet decided what the long term plan is. Writing a book is hard work and once I've done one, I'm not sure I want to do many more. I suppose we'll have to wait and see.
Other than that, my focus will be on the blog. I intend to continue writing on what I know and what I run into in hopes that everybody can learn something.
This year has been pretty good for the blog, I think. Only a couple dry spells, writing wise. I did a couple redesigns, which turned out okay. I've come to accept that you can't please everybody so best to just please yourself and hope that other people don't hate it that much.
It's seen a switch to CakePHP after having used Movable Type for almost three years. Switching has been really nice and has given me a lot of flexibility to mix in new things easily.
I tried a screencast once which was okay but I need better software. Offering streaming Flash, Quicktime, and Windows Media would be best. I'd love to do a few more demonstrating design, coding, and whatever else hits me at the time.
I think the biggest thing I've done is to really step into trying to earn money from the blog through advertising — or as some like to call it, sponsorship. I've hummed and hawed on this and while some disagree, I've realized that I need to take advantage of the possible revenue streams I have. I'm really trying to keep things unobtrusive and/or relevant. For example, Google Ads show up only on older articles. I'd prefer to have more relevant ads (like The Deck) but I'm in the midst of collecting more relevant statistical data before I actively pursue those opportunities.
I'll no doubt redesign again at some point, but it likely won't be tied into any special "reboot". I've had a couple ideas that I've wanted to play with but haven't gotten the concept together yet. For now, I'm happy with this design but don't be surprised to see it tweaked ever so slightly from time to time.
On the backend, I'd like to mimic more of what Jeff Croft has pulled off in pulling in different content into different pages. Most of Jeff's implementation includes external resources like Flickr, which isn't something that I use often enough to benefit from. However, I have ways that I'd like to repurpose existing content that might be more worthwhile to readers.
I've been on the verge of starting my own podcast. I want to do a 5 to 15 minute podcast. Something that would be on a more regular schedule (like, once a week) and would be something you could quickly listen to on a work break. There's a little more planning I'd like to do as I'd really prefer it have a little more polish than the majority of the tech podcasts out there.
From a personal perspective, this has been a bittersweet year. Two failed adoptions, both times the birthmom changed her mind after the baby was born, has left our family financially and emotionally depleted. We're taking these holidays to relax, enjoy the downtime and we'll be back at it in the new year.
Having to take time off to get my tonsils out was also difficult. It took longer to recover than I expected but exactly how long the doctor said it would take.
I've certainly learned that I tend to be optimistic in my estimations, often describing best case scenarios. This only serves to put undue pressure on me to deliver and sets up those around me for disappointment if I don't deliver. I need to be more realistic to both family and clients and manage expectations better.
I really hope this is the year that my wife and I get to adopt again. We can only hope to be so lucky. We just have to wait for the next opportunity to come our way.
Also on the personal front, I've been reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book has sat on my shelf for sometime and I've honestly been a little skeptical of it. Skeptical probably isn't the right word. Anyways, I'm a couple chapters in and it has surprised me at its approach. It's not about 7 quick steps to getting things done faster. It's an approach to life and self-direction. I look forward to getting through this book and hope to be able to apply some techniques to improve myself on a personal level for the new year.
I haven't spent much time on myself over the past couple years and I'd like to take the time to do that in 2007. This will likely mean less time spent at the computer but hopefully the steps I'm taking now will allow me to do that.
Anyways, this year-end recap has gone on long enough. Here's hoping your year was a hoot and that 2007 brings you nothing but happiness!