Here we are, January 1, 2015. I decided not to write a 2014 Year in Review post, but then this morning I read some 2014 year in reviews from other bootstrappers, which in turned led to me re-read my own reviews from 2009, 2012, and 2013. Actually the 2013 review is more of a 10 years in review, but it still talks about what happened with White Peak Software in 2013. After reading these other posts, I changed my mind about writing a 2014 Year in Review post, so without further ado here is my 2014 Year in Review.
A Quick Look Back
2014 didn’t go as planned. This is becoming a common theme with me. My long term goal is to turn White Peak Software into a product company, but I still struggle to make that happen. My biggest hurdle is life. My life responsibilities are much different today than they were when I first set out to build a product company many years ago. And the amount of debt I now have is much different as well.
There was a time when I had no real responsibilities…no significant other in my life, no kid, no house, no debt, no bills other than rent, utilities, and Internet access. I might be living the snowboard bum’s life now, but I also have real responsibilities too…a family to provide for, a mortgage to pay as well as rent (we still own our house in Salem and are currently renting here in Stowe), and debt. Lots of debt. And it is this debt that has the biggest impact on me and White Peak Software.
We (the personal “we”, not the company “we”) have tenants living in the house in Salem, which covers the mortgage for us. And we have reduced most of our expenses down to the bare necessities. But those two and half years focused on writing caused us to go deep into debt. And it is this debt that keeps distracting me from my ultimate goal of focusing my time on building and selling my own products.
Paying off the debt has become priority number one for me, and the fastest way for me to do this is to offer my skills to others as a consultant/contract programmer. And that’s pretty much what I did for most of 2014.
I started 2014, much like other years, with the hope of being more focused on product development, but an outstanding opportunity presented itself at the start of the year. It was a chance to work with a team, one I worked with years ago, to build a new e-Learning platform and application. I agreed to do the project, and I had a great time doing it. In the end we built an amazing solution for the end client. This project combined with a few smaller client projects got the cash flowing and the end results was the best revenue year ever for White Peak Software. Not only that I was able to reduce my personal debt by 25%.
The downside to all of this was I didn’t have as much time to focus on product development as I wanted, and I ended the year burnt out. In fact, I’ve been burnt out since November, which has caused its own set of problems. Still, I was able to find some time to write and release my latest app, Cross Post. So overall 2014 was a good year even if I ended the year burnt out and questioning White Peak Software’s future.
I’m happy with my accomplishments for 2014 even though I didn’t stick with my original plans for the year. Those accomplishments include:
- Completing four client projects, three of which are in the App Store today. The other was a proof of concept app for sports broadcast company.
- Releasing Cross Post, a new app for White Peak Software.
- Having revenue totals hit an all time high for the company.
- Paying off a quarter of my personal debt.
- Living a full year in a ski town as a snowboard bum.
The last two accomplishments are not directly related to White Peak Software, but since White Peak is a solo operation those accomplishments are indirectly related to my company. And the last one is huge not just for me, but for my wife and son too.
What Went Right
So what went right for me in 2014? I earned a lot of cash, which is always a good thing, but I’m not sure I would say that qualifies as something that went right. Landing that big opportunity, now that’s something that went right. I should mention that the project was with a client that I used to work with years ago when I was a web developer. I’ve kept in touch with them over the years, which is why they thought of including me as part of the team. The lesson learned here is to always keep in touch with your favorite clients because you never know where it will lead down the road.
There are two other things that went right for me in 2014, 1) releasing Cross Post and 2) paying down debt.
Although most of my time in 2014 was devoted to client work, I did find time to work on and ship Cross Post. A key difference with this app versus every other piece of software I’ve ever written is that I use Cross Post daily. And that made all the difference in the world with me shipping the app. And I’m not done with it either. I have big plans for Cross Post for 2015.
And what more can I say about paying down debt? This is key in achieving my long term goals for White Peak Software. I hate that I let myself slide into debt after years of being debt free, but I’m happy to see the big drop in the amount owned. And I’m hoping to drop it down even more in 2015.
What Didn’t Go So Well
Look back there were two things that didn’t go well for me in 2014. And by “didn’t go well” I mean they really sucked big time. The first was a small client project I took on at the start of the year while waiting for the start of the big, awesome project. The small project called for about a week of my time. After six weeks long weeks and lots of stress I finally had to roll myself off the project. This is something uncharacteristic of me, but it was something that needed to be done. I feel bad about it, but I wasn’t the only one who left. A few other devs came and went during my short time on project.
The other thing that didn’t go well is I let myself get burnt out. I didn’t take breaks between projects. My plan was to take small breaks, but it didn’t happen and as a result I suffered from a major case of burn out in November that carried over into December. And I still haven’t fully recovered though my attitude and motivation has improved somewhat over the last couple of weeks.
Goals for 2015
And there you have it. My 2014 Year in Review. So what do I have planned for 2015? First and foremost is to focus more time on billable work. I know this is counter to my long term goals, but as I mentioned my number one priority right now is to pay off my outstanding debt. Admittedly I’m not bouncing off the wall with excitement at the idea of working full time on client projects, but I plan to approach it differently in 2015.
Unlike past years when I worked for different clients throughout the year, my plan for 2015 is to work with one primary client, or an anchor client as my accountant likes to call it. This means I will be less “indie” because I basically will be working for someone else, but it will save me tons of times by eliminating the need to do on-going business development work. Keeping the pipeline of opportunities open and flowing requires a great deal of time, so my plan for 2015 is to eliminate the business development work by working for the anchor client throughout the year. And I’ll replace the time usually spent on biz dev efforts with work on Cross Post and improving my other products.
So the tl;dr for my 2015 goals are:
- Find a steady stream of revenue from an anchor client.
- Work on my products part-time.
- Pay down my personal debt.
- And get as much snowboarding and hiking in as possible.