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Review

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect and think about the previous one. Two years ago, I started publishing my thoughts about my personal year. With 2018 just starting off, it’s time for me to look back at 2017.

Feel free to go back to my reviews of 2015 and 2016 for additional context.

The year in general

2017 was weird. I don’t really know how to feel about it. It had some highs and a good bunch of low moments, both in work and private life.

Twelve months ago, I set out with four goals:

  • Relaunch my website with productized consulting offerings
  • Launch a new product or relaunch Stage with a twist
  • Maintain overall revenue (from both consulting and products)
  • Move into a new apartment.

At the end, I managed to achieve only two of them: I relaunched my website and moved into a new apartment. While I announced new products, I didn’t launch anything and I made it to about 2/3 of my revenue goal.

The consulting business

I struggled a bit with consulting this year, even though it was off to a good start. My first consulting project of the year, Tiny Reminder, was one of the most fun projects in a long time.

Thanks to Jane Portman’s help, I was able to relaunch my website and started offering consultation calls and productized services. At about the same time I started an ongoing maintenance contract with a local startup. This provided some steady income throughout the year.

Apart from that, I haven’t figured out a way to consistently and reliably get new work. This resulted in a drought this summer with almost no new work for weeks. This lead to taking on projects that didn’t really excite me, and while it was okay working on them, I didn’t enjoy it.

It also made me give working through recruiting agencies a try. This quickly turned into a huge mess, reaffirming my previous rule of not working via recruiters.

When I finally managed to get more work, it was late in the year. I overcommitted on too much stuff at once. As a result, the last quarter was incredibly stressful.

The product business

I started into 2017 knowing that there’s no sense in putting more work into Stage unless I find some way to make it drastically more interesting to the target audience. As I didn’t have a clear idea on how to do this, I was open to focusing on something new. I set a goal of launching a new product (or a major change to Stage) within the year.

For the most part of the year, I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do next. As it took me several years to build and launch Stage, I was hesitant about starting something, not knowing if it will lead to something. I abandoned a lot of things, because I wasn’t sure if it’s worth the effort.

The irony of this is, of course, that it resulted in me not working on anything. Instead, I wasted my time worrying about starting the wrong thing. It was in August, when I finally realized this and started moving forward on some ideas I had.

The SaaS Guidebook

One of the ideas I dabbled with was starting a new podcast related to the technical side of building and running SaaS applications. While that idea isn’t off the table, it sparked the idea of writing a book on that topic.

In the last couple of years, I gained experience in building SaaS applications for my consulting clients and myself. The lessons learned helped me a lot with my own projects and allowed me to help friends with their SaaS products.

As of today, I’m in the process of writing the book, which is a lot harder than I anticipated. While I have a rough idea about the topics, it’s tough to find the time to write. I’m confident that I’ll be able to finish it eventually, though.

Userlist.io

In September, Jane Portman approached me with an idea for a new product. We teamed up with Claire Suellentrop to build and launch Userlist.io.

Our goal for Userlist.io is to build a tool that allows SaaS founders to see what their users are doing inside their application, and communicate with them based on their behavior.

What excites me most about this, is the team: With Jane’s experience in design, Claire’s marketing expertise, and my experience with the technical parts, I feel like we’re in a good position to build something great.

As of today, we’re early in the process and figuring out the details. As you’re reading this I just started writing the first lines of code. If you want to follow along our journey, sign up for the mailing list. I’ll also be posting updates about the development process on Twitter.

Stage CMS

Even though I didn’t focus on Stage this year, there has been progress. Two new websites got build on the platform, which made me cross €500 in monthly recurring revenue.

I hired Cristina Mlynek to do some SEO, improve the content of the website, as well as manage Stage’s social media presence. It’s nice to see some improvements, without having to do the work myself.

The Conference

One of the highlights this year was the first edition of FemtoConf, the conference I’m organizing together with Christoph Engelhardt. It was intended to be a meet-up for listeners of our podcast and friends from the micropreneur community. Somehow it turned into a full-blown conference.

The conference was a great success. One of our goals was to give it a similar vibe as MicroConf Europe (which was a huge inspiration). We wanted it to have a focus on meeting people and building friendships, and we were able to achieve it.

As feedback from attendees was very positive, we’re organizing a second edition in March.

Private Life

As mentioned above, my partner and I moved into a new home. After a long hunt for a new apartment, we fled the tiny one bedroom apartment I moved into after finishing university. Now, we live a bit outside of Darmstadt, Germany in a quiet neighborhood and don’t have to worry about where to store our stuff anymore. The process of moving was stressful. The amount of things to think about and take care of was overwhelming at times.

On a sad note, I lost my last two grandparents this year. Seeing an entire generation of my family disappear within a couple of months had a huge impact on me.

In addition to the stressful work life in the last quarter of the year, my partner got sick. She even got hospitalized for a couple of days. While it’s nothing life threatening, it still dragged both of us down. She’s feeling a bit better now, but it’s still not clear what causes her health issues. Fingers crossed the doctors will figure it out soon.

Lessons learned in 2017

Looking back at the year, I learned a few important things:

  • Momentum is important. I got stuck overthinking every possible way to move forward. I was so afraid to waste my time on the wrong things that I instead wasted my time doing nothing. The moment I realized that dilemma, it was easier to start working on new things and putting them out there to gather feedback.
  • It’s okay to not work on some things. In October, I counted ongoing commitments (client projects, personal work related projects) and got the crazy number of 14 as a result. This made it clear that I had to explicitly put some things on the back burner and not try to get everything done at once.
  • Community and relationships are important. My partner, my family, my friends, and my mastermind groups helped me a lot to get through the tougher parts of my year. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support.

Goals for 2018

As with previous years, I set some goals I want to achieve. Unlike previous years, I’ll try a new approach. Instead of pursuing a set of goals for the entire year, I’ll break it them into quarterly goals. This will hopefully make it easer to come up with a plan to achieve them.

Nonetheless, for the sake of simplicity, these are the goals I want to achieve in 2018:

  • Launching Userlist.io
  • Launching The SaaS Guidebook
  • Get my overall revenue back to the level of 2016
  • Improve my personal brand

Check back in a year to learn if I managed to achieve some of them. As always, I hope this was interesting and that you got something out of it for yourself. Thanks a lot for reading and a Happy New Year 2018!

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