I’ve been writing annual reflections here on my blog since I first went into independent contracting just over three years ago. It’s a trip for me to write the last part of that sentence alone because I thought freelancing was going to be such a risky venture and that I might get–at most–a year or two out of it.
Fast forward to today and I cannot imagine working any other way. While I’ve been quiet on this blog and made almost no updates to my site all year, I’ve been keeping busy in 2016 in many other ways.
I Stopped Taking Projects
This was the most significant goal I had going into this year. The idea was that I had been growing my business based on the number of clients I had. It’s pretty logical: the more clients, then the more successful I am, right?
I found that to be opposite the case. Instead, more clients added up to writing more proposals which added up to more rejections (albeit more successes as well) and just plain more overhead. I learned that I was clocking just as much non-billable time as I was billable time and that seemed like a problem, even with my limited business acumen.
Rather than find more clients, I decided to find fewer, but more steady clients. That equated to turning down more than my share of opportunities in return for a few clients that offer me more work on a contract basis. Not only did this remove the administrative work of writing proposals, tracking costs and generally pounding the pavement, but it added predictability and sustainability to my work. As a result, my ration of billable to non-billable clocked time is so improved that I can say with transparency that I made more this year than I did in any years past.
I Joined Modern Tribe
This is an offshoot of the last point. I accepted a more formal role with the fine folks at Modern Tribe after a year of freelancing with them. I now head up a wonderful support team of 10 and play strategist in a number of areas for the products side of the business, where we work on a popular WordPress plugin called The Events Calendar. Sure, I miss designing and coding on a more regular basis, but I still get some opportunities from time-to-time and the pleasure I get in return for getting to work with such incredible people on a daily basis ensures that I wake up early and stoked to work every day.
I Blogged for CSS-Tricks
I was practically mute on this blog in 2016, but only because I spent my time writing for CSS-Tricks, a site that I have both read and admired since I started web design in 2007. I never in a million years thought I would one day be contributing there. This is a lot like John Cusack in Hugh Fidelity identifying Rolling Stone journalist as one of his Top 5 dream jobs as a record store owner.
To date, I’ve contributed 42 posts and contributed 19 pages of content centered around front-end development. This has been a dream come true for me in many ways and I still get a rush (and slight bout of anxiety) each time I log into the site’s WordPress admin. It doesn’t feel real.
I had a Baby (!!!)
You’d think I’d lead with this one, right? Anything else I did or did not accomplish this year pales in comparison to welcoming my second daughter to our family. Alice was born on October 6 and she has already transformed the Graham household in her first three months.
Being a father is and will always be the hardest and most rewarding this I do. The moment Marcia told me we were pregnant was the day I sat down to re-think my freelancing goals to shape them in a way that would allow me to be around more while still providing a good and steady living for our family.
Funny aside: Harper was born on 9/3/12 and Alice was born on 10/6/16. I love the mathematical harmony where the month and day for both kids equals the year they were born.
Looking Forward to 2017
I like to use these reflective posts as an excuse for figuring out what my focus should be the following year but I have nothing good to offer. There are a few vague ideas running through my mind and plans being made that are worth mentioning though:
- Taking new projects. I do miss releasing my work and getting to collaborate with new faces. I plan on taking a few small projects this year so, if you’re interested, let me know!
- Taking more vacations. One thing I want to figure out is how to build “paid” vacations into freelancing. That has been harder to figure out than you might expect but it’s going to be necessary for me in order to prevent burnout and spend more quality time with my family.
- Simplifying my personal life. I’m a minimalist at heart but that has not been reflected by my actions and consumption in the past few years. My plan is to set time aside for cutting down on my personal belongings, including my digital footprint.
- Setting up for a possible move. Marcia and I have lived in downtown Long Beach since 2009 and we’re reaching a point where we’ve outgrown our home. Bringing Alice home is certainly part of that, but Marcia is also going to be working from home starting in February, which increases our need for additional space. We’re still figuring out what this means but it could lead to some big and tough life decisions as far as where we live.
Phew, what a year! While my work may have been less public and more on the personal side of things, I couldn’t have been happier with the way 2016 shook out for me. There’s a long list of folks I could thank for making this the year it was but suffice to say that I’m grateful for having such a wonderful network and support system around me. I’m surrounded by the best people and that is by far the biggest win I could ever want.