This is the first time that I'm writing such an "edito" about analyzing what happened in the past year, and what are the goals for next year. But this is also my first year that I'm fully freelance, and that I started building stuff on my free time, that I tried to monetize.
I'll try to make it interesting if any freelance / indie hacker is passing by and want to have a new point of view.
Here we go for an honest and open retrospective of 2018.
There are two major paths I took this year:
Yes I'm a freelance, but that doesn't mean I don't go to the office everyday, from 9 to 5, working on some things I don't particularly enjoy.
I'm a consultant, so I'm assigned to a client, doing a specific set of tasks. That lasts between 6 months to 1 year. In 2018 I've been working at one specific client, doing only one "main job".
My daily rate this year was 500€, which is 50€ more than last year. So per month I bill from 9K to 10K€ to this main client.
I had the chance to do a bit more for that client: being on "phone support". It means I have a phone with me, all the time, and that I must answer at any time if the phone rings, in case of emergency. I had this phone with me approximately 10 to 15 days per month. Each day I have the phone with me, I bill 70€ more.
So in 2018 my total revenue for this "main job" was 122.633€. This is a very good revenue, but of course you have to go to the office every day, which may not be the big dream.
Other tiny clients
As I'm freelance, I can bill other clients at the same time, and do the job whenever I want.
I worked with cassius.fr and toussaint.be this year on their web platforms, allowing me to make a bit more money.
For Cassius I'm developing their web app when I have a bit of time. This year I made 5.850€ with this project.
Toussaint.be is a website that I already finished last year, but in 2018 the goal was to perform the maintenance of their website. Gross revenue for this client was 5.808€.
With other small projects, I made this year in total 147.883,00€, which is beyond what I could have ever dream of.
First thing, FYI, it took me 6 years to achieve that. I spent the five first years of my career being employed in companies, for a salary of approximately 1500€ (start) to 2200€ (finish) per month (common salary -without counting benefits- for a junior dev in belgium).
So the bank account of the company is now at around 35.000€. My monthly NET revenue, in my pocket, is 3.200€.
With my company I also pay 1.000€ per month for my car, some restaurants and new hardware.
My accountant costs me approximately 350€ per month. My dedicated server costs 100€ per month. And I have some other monthly fee that my company pays for (public transportation, some SaaS services).
If everything is ok I should be able to make a benefit of 2.000€ per month.
The issue is that this year I spent some money on side projects.
That's what money is for, right? Investing - I'm going to review this part a lot more next year.
Now let's talk about side projects...
Indie Maker-ing, bootstrapping side projects...
So you get back home from work, girlfriend comes back from work in about an hour, you have some time, you sit down in front of the computer, open side project n°648 and start working a bit.
Then, one month later, your project is ready, you post it on product hunt. It has a few feedbacks, it's pretty cool, you can't sleep because you're hyped about the launch, but you don't make much money. After two months, everyone forgot about your product and you're back to square one. Errr...
That was my year.
I'm not good at marketing.
I'm not good at twitter.
So why even bother? In my case, here's what I think:
All the time that I can spend in building something that will allow me to make money from doing nothing, is a time well spent.
Indie makers try to minimize the ratio between the time they spend and the money they earn in return. In other words, we try to increase passive revenue by monetizing products we build.
We're going to check a bit what I've build this year, and I'm going to share a final thought about this.
As Pieter Levels said in a recent tweet, the chances of success are below 3%. And this has always been the case, for every business or startup.
In February, I started working on an idea with my friend Drilon. A network oriented job board for Laravel freelancers and indie makers in search of partnership in the Laravel Community.
We quickly build a Landing Page, and gathered about 15O emails by sharing the idea on reddit.
This was really badly received because the community didn't want "another laravel product" and we decided to abandon the project.
In April I worked on webradio.io, a website allowing any webradio owner to create a unique and beautiful audio player and visualizer.
People liked it and I have 200 users but there's not much activity, and no one paid for it.
Total spent in ads : 200€
Total earned : $5 (only one person paid for 1 month subscription then cancelled).
In June, I released chatgroup.io which was one the biggest project of them all, I worked a very long time on this.
Absolutely zero paying member. Zero interest. Very few feedbacks on product hunt and reddit, etc
Total spent in ads : 100€
I could have spend more, but the fact that there were little to zero traction when I shared the idea made me abandon the project.
In August, I launched gitweet.io, a project that took me exactly 3 days (!) to build. It got +170 upvotes on Product Hunt. Some users actually started to use the product. Pretty fun!
No paying members though.
This was the last project I wanted to build this year, and it's what I consider the rebirth of the Laralance project. Basically a job board for side projects. Posting a job would be cheap, and the website needs to be active in the Indie Maker community.
I started to share the idea a lot on Indie Hackers. Then I posted it on product and got +180 upvotes.
When I launched it, the price for posting an offer was $49. At that time, I made only one sale.
Then after I saw that Pieter Levels started remoteok.io at $1 posting fee, I quickly switched my pricing from $49 to $3! Lol
Then I made a few more sales, but only approximately one per week, top.
After changing the design and layout 3 times and spending more and more time on this, I decided to stop spending money on this project.
People seemed to like the idea and the website, but are not prepared to pay even $3 for posting their offer about a project that does not even exists yet.
Total earned : 70€
Total spent in ads : 600€
Total spent in design : 800€
Current state: I've made the offer posting price free. You can pay some money to get highlighted and appear on the homepage. With some automated scripts, I don't have much to do to maintain the project. New offers get shared on twitter automatically, weekly email is automatic.
I really don't expect much from this project now, even though that was my biggest success of this year (in term of sales and traffic).
So as from now, Find A Maker is on autopilot mode 😄
The overall conclusion of this year is that I made a good amount of money by consulting as a freelance, but not much by launching my own projects.
Now, I didn't made those side project for fun. I made them so that I could make more money without having to go to the office every morning.
The struggle is thus to find a good balance between this goal (increase passive revenue) and fun (spending time on things I like to do).
In conclusion, my goals for next year are going to be:
- Build side projects with friends, not alone
- Try to DJ more because I like it but I didn't had time or space to do it.
- Video Editing
- Continue blogging (I like writing)
- Starting a podcast (in French, with friends) about movies and geek stuff.
Even if those things most probably won't make money, at least I'll feel good about myself, and not frustrated. And it will be fun!
I really am excited already to share those projects with you!
Let's make 2019 FUN again 🙌