Year In Review - 2016

A lot happened for me in 2016 I thought it would be helpful to reflect and review it and consider improvements for 2017.

**Engaged! **

As of December 16, 2016 I’m engaged to a wonderful woman named Anna. I’ve managed to not piss her off too much during our five years together. A lot of our friends know how happy she was when we got engaged (like most folks) partly because I purposely dragged it out for over a year. Mostly cause I really wanted to think about the ring and the engagement.

During my birthday in 2015 I asked a friend, Mark, a question. It’s a question his grandmother asked him and it’s the only question to ask when contemplating marriage:

Can you live your life without her?

As Mark was leaving the venue we were at, I knew I’d ask Anna to marry me. Fast forward 15 months and there we are, engaged!

It was the best night of my life and I can’t wait to get married, start a life together and one day start a family. Anna’s the best. And no, Anna did not make me write that last sentence.

Freelance Work

Last year I wanted to see how much work I could do (not from a monetary aspect) to figure out my threshold. This year I challenged myself to see how much money I could make with higher quality projects. As a result, I almost doubled my freelancing income from last year.

2015 Freelance Results

  • Total Freelance revenue: $83,132.50

  • Highest Paying Freelance Project: $20,000

  • Longest Freelance Client: 2+ years (on going contract)

  • Freelance Hours Worked: 467.81 Hours

  • Weight Gained: 20 pounds (but stayed the same weight)

Freelance consumes most of my spare time. Although I think I’ve gotten better about managing workload and finding time to enjoy my life while still getting work done.

I need to get better about managing overlapping clients in a more consistent way. Overlapping projects are usually managed based on priority and deadline. This isn’t a sure-fire way to get work done but it helped manage my workload, planning projects and meeting deadlines.

Last year, communication was a big area of improvement and I think 2016 saw even larger gains. Slack alone helped resolve a lot of thoughts around consistent communication, access to transparent conversations and a feeling of general connectivity to clients and projects. Whether it was jumping into a client’s group or inviting them into my own Slack allowed me to give a quick update, provide some long commentary to an issue or just pop in and say hello. I feel closer to clients without increasing email or guilt.

Fighting Burnout

Burnout is still a thing. It really hit towards the Holidays when a 2-week vacation was just around the corner. However, I felt less burnt out in 2016 than 2015 overall.

Personally, I believe it was mostly due to adjusting my perspective with projects. Rather than feeling like a project was this large daunting obligation I broke projects into smaller pieces. Setting up a client staging was a piece. Thinking through the front-end approach was another. As projects progressed, I was able to take small chunks out of large projects, which really helped out mentally. Especially if I was working for six hours on a Saturday.


Personal Life

I never thought my personal life would change as much as it did over the last twelve months. My professional life was my top priority and I certainly paid my dues. Three big things happened this year:

  • Didn’t lose the weight I gained from last year

  • Got engaged

  • Terrible with finances (IMO)

Few observations:

  1. Nutritionists are well worth their service. It’s a person whose specialization is in food. Not just the good and bad, but everything. It’s like a food version of a financial planner. And even some insurances cover it. So for me, it was $0 out of my pocket to see Ryan and help me understand what the best foods are for me.

  2. Yay got engaged! Mentioned this above :)

  3. In 2016 I made ~$83,000. As of this writing, I have about ~40,000 in savings. This is all before taxes have been taken out.

Weight Gain

In 2015 I gained roughly 20lbs. I went from 180 to 200 in a couple of months. 2016 was my year to remove that weight, and maybe a little more. It didn’t happen. As I write this I’m hovering around my weight from December 2015 even though I started eating better, seeing a nutritionist and tried to make a habit of going to the gym.

I haven’t seen my nutritionist in 2017 yet but I’ve made a goal myself to lose 3 pounds a month. Considering this post is being published in March, I’m down from 200 pounds started to ~190 pounds. Ten pounds in two months feels great but I’m hoping to keep my loss consistent.

Surprisingly to me the loss so far as been from eating only when I’m hungry. I used to believe weight loss happened from sweating and working out but so far this year I’ve just chosen to only eat food when I’m hungry and that alone has helped me reduce weight.

Nothing says motivation like fitting into a tuxedo to marry the great woman on earth.

Health Overall

Health in 2016 was a roller coaster. While actively seeking to lose weight I ended up injuring my hamstring pretty severely. I’d say that was the point I lost momentum and fell back into the shitty-eating rabbithole. This year will be about taking care of my body as much as it is being active. Things like stretching, eating right, sleeping well (it’s 1AM as I write this, like an idiot).

More on finances

Last year sucked in the money department due to a lack of responsibility and discipline.

Freelance money acted as “start up” costs for Anna and I at times when we needed to finally get our own TV or a couch we enjoyed or that dining table we needed. It also acted as the debt-fund from times when I overspent on my credit card (like a dummy). I did pay quarterly taxes (although inconsistently) so I know where that went but the rest I’m sure went to ill-timed purchases, stupid stuff and eating out.

In 2017 my goals are as follows:

  • Do not spend a dime of freelance money for anything but freelance expenses

  • Pay off all student loans* (doing this with freelance money will explain)

  • Fund a wedding.

Freelance money is meant for the freelance business. So this means the only money that gets spent from it is the money to run the business. Things like lawyer costs, subscriptions for products I use, etc. None of it will be used to supplement my cost of living in anyway until the end of the year.

I’m finally starting to realize how important it is to me to become financially independent. Not just the common, popular lifestyle definition of “financially independent” where people reach “FI” and retire at 40 but mostly just debt free and able to manage money responsibly. To not spend above my means and really master my credit cards to make the most out of my purchases.

I have about $30,000 in student loans currently and hoping to be able to pay that debt mostly down this year with the remaining freelance money (after taxes).

Personal Projects

Similar to last year, personal projects were not a priority. While I did finish season four of The Start I didn’t get much else done. I think my perspective last year was pretty shitty when it came to side projects. I either considered it more work or didn’t realize the monetary they could have.

After working on Anna’s site at the end of last year I realized side projects can be pretty fun and fulfilling. Mostly because it’s something you want to do, not because you want the money attached to it. Building Anna’s site was pure joy because I knew it’s something she’d love, share and use daily. It feels good to work on those kinds of projects so I hope to continue the trend.

I plan on revamping The Start this year as 2016 was a bummer when it came to publishing episodes. My process was inefficient and not very effective. With some research, I’ve planned ways to automate the publishing process so it’s less burdensome, published consistently and allows me to focus on the fun stuff - interviews.

This year I hope to also do something fun with the show as well. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.


Time Spent

In 2016 I tracked a lot of time, working or otherwise, and it’s been really helpful to determine if I spent time doing things I deem “of value”.

Reading:

Didn’t read that many books in 2016. I feel like a loser cause I personally love books and the availability of entertainment and knowledge you can get from them. Here are two books I really enjoyed last year.

Movies Watched

I spent roughly 70+ hours watching 36 movies. Movies acted as the medium for quality time with Anna, whether part of a date or just a chill night in. It was a way to unwind with the person I care about the most. A big change from last year.


2016 Overall

On paper, this was a pretty great year. Mentally it’s a pretty good year, too. I feel like I’m finally settling into my career, learning about myself, my desires and my interest and finally understand how to really master a craft (hint: patience and persistence). I made some mistakes but we all do so I’ll try my best to make a mental note and keep moving. I’m really excited for 2017.