This year has gone by quicker than any in recent memory. I remember writing my year end review last year like it was just yesterday.
2021 has been the most challenging of my life as I encountered poor mental health for the first time. I’m writing this on the back of another month of feeling demotivated, burnt out and depressed. I’ve done a lot of soul searching to try and figure out where things have gone wrong and how I can fix them. I’ve jumped around from job to job, from client to client and from project to project, all in hopes of “coming out the other side” of how I’m feeling.
The truth is I’m not sure I’m ever going to go back to the way I’ve been in years gone by. It’s time to own it and figure out how I can best deal with my mental health and function in the best way possible.
Looking back though, this has also been my most “successful” year by far. I left my job in April, so I’m now officially a full-time indie hacker. I’ve grown my podcast to point I’m happy with despite a few ropey months. I’ve found a lot of joy in making leather wallets and I finally launched a course which exceeded my expectations.
- I left my job to be a full-time indie hacker
- My podcast grew to 35,000 downloads
- I launched my course, making $1,500
I’ll break this down into first personal, then professional and side projects.
My physical health has taken a hit this year. Something I want to focus on in 2022 is getting back to a regular gym schedule. When I was living and working in London I was going 3-4 times a week consistently. When I have managed to train in the morning I’ve felt much better throughout that day. I need a little discipline to make this happen and maybe find a gym partner for accountability.
I put on a lot of weight from the first batch of lockdowns. It kept getting worse until I pipped 100kg in August. Then my Dad and I decided to diet together. We went on keto and had phenomenal success. In 10 weeks I was down 8kg and felt fantastic. In the past month the diet has slowly faded away, so keen to get back on it and feel better again.
Goal: gym 5 times per week & be on the diet until 80kg.
My cat Alfie has been an absolute joy to me throughout the year. He is always by my side, quite literally (he follows me into every room I’m in) and when I come home after a few hours he gives me a wonderful welcome. Living alone can be rather isolating so having a little fluffy flatmate makes it so much better. There were times throughout this year where I’ve been in low places but Alfie has always given me the lift I’ve needed.
Grateful to my little sister for bringing him into our lives and allowing me to adopt him when I moved into my flat.
My flat / Canterbury
This was my first full year in my new flat back in my hometown, Canterbury. It’s been slightly bittersweet as moving into the flat kinda coincided with lockdowns and my dip in mental health. I do love Canterbury, I really do, but there is something I miss about London. Every time I go to London to meet up with friends, or just for a random trip (like I am doing right now, writing this from the WatchHouse coffee shop in Covent Garden) I feel an energy I just don’t get in Canterbury.
That being said, I am so so grateful to have such a wonderful place to live and work. No matter how bad my problems get I know I have a nice warm bed to go back to at night.
It’s a shame I haven’t been able to enjoy my flat as much as I might have done if I was feeling a little better. So although I’m not truly happy there, I think if I had gone through this year living in a rented place in London, I would have felt far worse.
I became an uncle this year! Much like Alfie, baby River has been a consistent source of joy throughout 2021. If ever I’m feeling down, I pop round to my big sister’s to see River. Can’t recommend becoming an uncle enough. It’s like a free trial for having a baby, with none of the bad stuff.
I took up tennis again late last year and it has been another consistent source joy for me throughout 2021. I get coaching twice a week and although I’ve been slow to progress, I feel so good every time I go out onto the court.. It’s funny, actually, if I’m having a bad mental health day I’ll very clearly be playing worse despite my skill-level being the same. I think this must apply to the other work I do.
This year I got my motorbike license! I attempted it in 2020 just as lockdown hit, but failed the second part of my test. Over a year later, when lockdowns ended, I tried again - and passed! This was the most stressful day of the year by far, but that feeling when the instructor told me I passed was one I’ll never forget.
I also got 2 new motorbikes - bad financial decision, but very fun. When I took a few months off in April, the thing I did was ride my motorbike around making YouTube videos. I published a video every week for about 4 weeks and saw a decent amount of success with them. I had to stop to earn some money again, but I do wonder how successful it would have been had I put more time and effort into making the motorbike videos consistently.
Goal: go for more motorbike trips, document on YouTube channel.
Full-time indie and freelancing
This year I accidentally went full-time indie. I started 2021 going part-time with my job so I’d have more time for client work. Then for reasons that involve a breakdown, I left my job to take a few months off from everything. Then bam, I’m a full-time indie hacker.
After a few months off I joined up with the team at VEED and worked there for 6 months. This was a 4 days a week contract job with a ton of flexibility and an exciting product to work on. In my short time with VEED I felt part of something big but left because my heart just wasn’t in it.
For the past few years I’ve been slowly building up my side-project revenue to a point where I now have a strong taste for it. This has made it hard for me to work on things that don’t inspire me. This is a strange thing to admit/explain but I feel very fortunate I can work on things that inspire me, such as my podcast, my course, my leather business and exciting client edits.
As of January 2022, my main income is from podcast editing clients. I have a great relationship with the clients I work with and I’d definitely like to find more of these relationships over the year.
Goal: find 3-4 more freelance clients where I’m producing good work that I enjoy.
What a year it’s been for the podcast. Despite having 5 months where I only published 3 actual episodes, I crossed 30,000 downloads and met some incredible people.
I’ve been booked up months in advance with sponsors and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
I wanted to turn the podcast into my full-time gig at the start of this year and although it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, I think I took some strong steps towards it.
Sponsor revenue: £4,170
Member revenue: £1,014
I made just over £4k on sponsors this year, ending it strong securing Ahrefs for 15 episodes. I have 23 members for the show, at around £100 p/m.
As for the membership, I’m considering bringing it to a close. I had ambitions to put more time into building the community, but I don’t think it brings enough value to people and I’m not sure what direction to take it. It’s not been particularly successful thus far and I think I’d prefer to spend my time elsewhere.
Overall I’m very happy with how the pod has gone this year. I had a very strong October and November but in 2022 I’d love to turn this into my full-time thing.
For that I’d need to publish 4 episodes a month at £800 per sponsor, or 8 episodes a month at £400 per sponsor. Currently I’m charging £119 for a slot, so I’d like to increase the effectiveness of the slot by growing the audience.
Goal: publish 4x per month consistently. Have 52 episodes published this year.
Whitstable Craft Co
My handmade leather wallet business has taken a few encouraging steps since the summer. I almost crossed £1k in revenue for the year, ending on about £900. This is up from ~£200 in 2021 (4.5x growth).
I’ve spent some time codifying my product offering and trying to define my style, then I started learning how I can get better product shots with the equipment I have at home. I’ve been slow to apply any sort of marketing and growth tactics, which has stalled getting towards the £500 p/m I’d like to see from WCC.
This year I started to do some local craft fairs, starting in July, and really was a forcing function for me to have a lot of good quality stock on hand. It’s incredibly rewarding to interact with people who are potentially buying something you’ve made from scratch with your hands. I’ve done the fairs every month since July and have made about 50% of revenue from them.
Goal: Experiment with more online growth tactics, aiming towards that £500 p/m ambition.
Personal website / blogging / Twitter
I’ve blogged sporadically throughout the year, often using writing as my outlet to talk through some of my mental challenges. I’ve had hundreds of messages from people who have read my blog and tweets who have been going through similar things in the past 18 months. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone with these feelings and hopefully my writing shows what has been working for me.
My blog had 2.7k readers this year, with my summary of Dan Rowden's Indie Bites episode the most popular.
My Twitter has doubled from 1k to 2k followers, which I’m quite happy about. 50% of this growth came in October and November where I put a really active effort into growing my following. Burnt out after though, so it was kinda bittersweet.
Twitter continues to be my favourite platform to be on with opportunities coming from all angles. Most of my new clients, podcast guests, sponsors and friends come from Twitter DMs, which is crazy to think about.
I also spent some time recreating my personal website (separate to my blog currently) and have made something I’m really proud of. It’s a one-stop shop for everything you might want to know about me. If anyone on the internet asks me what I do, I have this link I send to them which explains all.
A final thing I’d like to explore this year is making YouTube videos. I want to share my journey as an indie hacker through a medium that has been a big part of my life for so many years. I’ve made hundreds of YouTube videos for myself, side-projects and clients and so I’d love to get back into a habit of making them for my channel. I’ve seen some people see success with YT (Mike Slaats and Marie Poulin are big inspirations) and I’m kinda jealous. I think I can bring something interesting to the table too.
Goal: Publish 1x blog per week, 1x YT vid a week, tweet every day.
2 hour podcast
One of the most unexpected things of this year was launching my course which made $1,500 in the first couple of weeks.
It was part of my mad October where I had a ton of energy after my holiday and went full throttle before burning out. But I was dead happy with how this course came out and the response I got to it.
The premise of the course was showing people how they can create a podcast in less than 2 hours time commitment a week. Many people I speak to want to make a podcast, they understand the benefits, but can’t commit the 10+ hours a week it might usually take to produce a high quality show. Through making hundreds of podcast episodes I’ve figured out some tricks and format choices that make for a very simple, high-quality show. I put all of my podcasting knowledge into this course and released it (mainly on Twitter).
I was blown away by the support and response for this course. Especially Justin Jackson who bought 6x copies for his community. Having those Gumroad notifications come in while I was doing the dishes, or being out with family was a feeling that is hard to replicate with anything else. When I sell a wallet I know I still need to make the physical product; when someone buys the course I don’t need to do anything!
However, I do have some plans. I want to revisit the course and make it even better. Add more resources, maybe explore how to run a cohort based version? There is so much opportunity to experiment now I’ve made this course, and I’m excited to see what I can do with it this year.
Goal: Improve the course in some capacity, grow to $1k p/m.
I spent a surprising amount of time this year consuming content, especially in the time I wasn’t feeling myself. After speaking to Justin Duke of Buttondown, I checked out his website and saw he noted down all of the books, movies and TV he watched or read. Inspired by this I tried to do the same. I didn’t track everything but have noted down my favourites.
Also, as someone who hasn’t read a physical book in about 15 years, I really felt I was missing out. In August, I made a point to start reading again, with the aim to read 6 books by the end of the year. I finished on 18 books 🤯
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading. I tried to stick to some short books to make it easier for me, but still very impressed with how many I got through.
Here’s all the books I read and some of my favourite movies, TV and pods.
- Shoe Dog by Phil Night
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
The other books I read:
- How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis
- Purple Cow by Seth Godin
- The Dip by Seth Godin
- Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
- Hell Yeah or No by Derek Sivers
- How to Live by Derek Sivers
- The Dropout Manifesto by Diego Segura
- Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
- Steal Like an Artist Trilogy by Austin Kleon
- The Minimalist Entrepreneur by Sahil Lavingia
- Creativity: a short and cheerful guide by John Cleese
- Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
- 12 and a Half by Gary Vee
I’ve always watched a lot of films but I’ve rarely captured what I enjoyed the most. I try to get to the cinema once or twice each month, but my aim for 2022 is to record my thoughts on a film as soon as I watch it. Some of my favourites this year:
- Gone Girl
- Boiling Point
I’ve watched less TV series than films, but 3 stand out that I particularly enjoyed. My favourite of all time is Silicon Valley, but I rewatched it this year so it’s making it back onto the list.
- Peaky Blinders
- Silicon Valley
I’m still trying to find a regular time to listen to podcasts but when I do it’s My First Million I go to first. The name is terrible but I come away feeling inspired after every episode. The chemistry between Sam and Shaan is superb, both bringing their A-game for every episode.
How I Built This has been a mainstay in my feed. The production value is still exceptional and each episode is a masterclass in storytelling.
I discovered Steph Smith and Calvin Rosser’s Sh*t Your Don’t Learn in School pod (great name, take notes Sam and Shaan) and have enjoyed the research that goes into each episode, the chemistry between the hosts and the topics that are covered.
- My First Million
- How I Built This
- Sh*t You Don’t Learn in School
Aims for 2022
I’ve scattered some of my goals throughout this article, some input based and controllable, some are just targets that will help set my direction and ambitions.
My main ambition is to become fully sustained by my own projects. I think I need to get to £5-6k p/m for that to happen. That’s definitely achievable if I show up every day*
*for this to happen, I need to take care of my mental health. I’ve been caught out many times in 2021 through burnout or depressive phases. If I notice any of the signs (of which I’m now pretty aware) I need to stop and take a break. To that point, I’m hoping to take 3-4 trips abroad this year (without my laptop).
Here’s a roundup of my goals:
- Gym 5 times per week & be on the diet until 80kg.
- Go for more motorbike trips, document on YouTube channel.
- Find 3-4 more freelance clients where I’m producing good work that I enjoy.
- Publish 4x Indie Bites per month consistently. Have 52 episodes published this year.
- Experiment with more online growth tactics for Whitstable Craft Co, aiming towards £500 p/m.
- Publish 1x blog per week, 1x YT vid a week, tweet every day.
- Improve the 2 Hour Podcast course in some capacity, grow to $1k p/m.
- Track content consumption so I can actually recommend my favourites.
- Have fun!
2021 was a year where I continued to run into mental health roadblocks, while accidentally going full-time as an indie hacker but making more progress than it felt as the time.
I’ve continued to feel at home with the indie hacker community and I feel I have more direction this year than I ever have done before. I just hope I can make a promise good to myself to show up every day while taking care of myself. I hope you can do the same!