Happy new year! Sort of... I did mean to write this particular article around the beginning of 2011, but one thing lead to another and quite frankly I got bored of reading everyone else's new year posts. So here I am, a little bit late, but ever-so-enthusiastic.

The people who read this blog, and I appreciate that there are a lot less of you since my posting frequency significantly diminished, have always told me that the posts they enjoy most are the ones where I take a look back and review where I've come from, what my goals were, whether I achieved them or not, and where I'm going now.

A couple of weeks ago (oops) was the 2 year anniversary of when I first ditched my job and started down the path of self employment. It feels like it was just yesterday, and at the same time an eternity ago.

Year 2

The second year was interesting, if for no other reason than that it was extremely fulfilling, mostly in ways that I didn't expect. If you'd asked me where I thought I'd be in 2 years, 24 months ago, here's what I probably would've said:

"In two years time I'll be running a small web design agency called Lyrical Media based in West Sussex with about four employees. The company will be profitable, mostly from a plethora of local clients, and I will be paying myself an extremely tasty director's salary, driving a brand new car and generally living a pretty decent quality of life working 3-4 hours a day."

Ha. And here's what actually happened:

"Today I'm working as a freelance interactive designer for major corporate brands all over the world. I speak regularly at both national and international conferences, I've just written my first book, and I'm a core member of the WordPress UI Team. I have no car at all, I make no more money than I did two years ago, and I work 18 hours a day on average."

Swings and roundabouts. It fascinates me just how different these two paragraphs are. Life just doesn't always work out the way you think it will. In fact it rarely works out anything like you intend it to.

I think what I'll remember most about 2010 is all the new people who I met. I didn't really appreciate what an amazing group of people I share this industry with until I started attending conferences last year. All of my best memories in 2010 consist of the rare moments spent with a beer to hand rather than a keyboard and a lively debate over something-or-other inconsequential. It's amazing how a debate on t'internet which would lead to flame wars and animosity can instead lead to laughter and alcoholism in real life. Less animosity and more alcoholism I say.

If you've never been to a conference, here's the skinny: They are over-priced, frequently uninspiring, and you will probably never learn anything that you couldn't find out by yourself online... but they bring people together like nothing else. A conference ticket to me is justified by its list of attendees, not its list of speakers. Take note, conference organisers. If you're looking to get out and about in 2011, try and find events which will be attended by people who you know (and like). The worst conference I've been to was one where I knew nobody, and the best conference I've been to was one where I was meeting up with over 30 "old friends" - it's no coincidence. Find one that has reasonably priced tickets (less than £200) and, if you can, talk your way in. Exploit any connections you have with Z-List celebrities and/or web design blogs in return for free entry. If you don't have any, start a web design blog/magazine/podcast/something and convince the organiser that coverage on your [whatever] will be worth their while.

What About Goals?

I set myself a whole load of goals 12 months ago, but... nothing really happened with them - I accomplished a couple of items on the list but for the most part they didn't get done. I think that the primary reason is that my goals changed so much throughout the year, and I never really updated that list. I got a tremendous amount done and I'm really happy with everything that I accomplished, it's just that most of it wasn't on the original list.

I set some goals for myself at the start of 2011 - and managed to accomplish almost all of them inside these first 2 months. This year I really want to focus my attention, so I'm just going to set myself two goals for the rest of 2011:

  • Get BioThemes to 1,000 customers (more info on BioThemes in a post tomorrow)
  • Launch Phosr and get 4,000 users

Everything that I do is going to (hopefully) be working towards one of these two things.


I think it would be wrong not to mention all of the people who helped and/or influenced me in some way during 2010. They're awesome, so you should probably follow all of them on Twitter.

  • @RickNunn - For being my actual best friend. Actually more like a brother, or something.
  • @RobHawkes / @ErisDS - For being the amazing two people who I have the great pleasure of hosting the ExplicitWeb podcast with. I think I've learned more from arguing with both of them than anyone else, and there's not a lot I wouldn't do for either of them.
  • @Nacin - For introducing me to the world of WordPress Core and being my Open Source mentor. Also for putting up with my rage/complaining/bad jokes on a regular basis.
  • @JaneForShort - For introducing me to and mentoring me through UI design for WordPress, which was by far the single most rewarding thing I learned in 2010.
  • @Adii - For being an amazing mentor, friend, and co-author. Helped me more than anyone else in 2010.
  • @W3Edge - For giving me invaluable business advice advice when I needed it most. Several times.
  • @Moopus - For introducing me to the (AMAZING) world of travel blogging/bloggers, and for winning the prize of best-client (by a country mile) for the year.
  • @VelvetEscape - For getting me into the Lotus F1 garage at the Valencia Grand Prix. An absolute highlight of the year. Not something I'm going to forget any time soon.
  • More - There are too many people to mention, I appreciate absolutely all of them :)

Closing Thoughts

If there's one thing I've learned after 2 years it's that this whole game is a lot harder than I ever expected. I've made more mistakes than I can count (I'm actually convinced that I've made ALL the mistakes that it's possible for one to make). I think what I'm getting at is that you have to really want this. This lifestyle isn't what most people would consider fun and it's certainly not what anyone would consider easy. You have to REALLY want it.

I wish that I was someone who could hold down a decent job and just be satisfied, but I can't. I have to have change and challenges, I have to make my own mistakes, I have to try things for myself, I have to learn things for myself, I have to speak up when I have an opinion and I have to do everything my own way. I don't make things particularly easy for myself sometimes, but it's that same part of my personality that gives me the (unstoppable) drive to succeed.

Year 3 begins now. Here goes nothing.