My Biggest Achievements (and Failures) of 2020
And the total income I earned from my side hustles. Here’s my recap of my past year before going wild on 2021 prospects and plans.
It’s been an hour that I’ve been staring at this blank, digital sheet, finding it hard to get anything on paper. Did I really do that poorly in 2020? Am I afraid to come clean with my accomplishments? Afraid that they won’t be seen as “good enough” by others, and mostly, by myself? I’ve come across and read quite a few end of the year posts written by indie makers, online entrepreneurs, YouTubers and fellow writers. They’re pretty impressive.
One tweet stood out to me today about how someone made $3 Annual Returning Revenue (or ARR) in 2020. My immediate thought was, $3 what, thousand? Spread out over the entire year? But no. Guess what. There was no typo and there were no digits or commas missing.
That put things back in perspective for me. When I read about business owners having gone from five to six or seven figures per month, I gasp. But we all start at zero. They started at zero once too. Chances are they either got lucky, or they’ve been in the game for months, if not years, and they probably worked hard and smart for it.
When you’re at zero, it can only go up. Not too bad of a prospect either.
At the beginning of the year when Covid paused the world, I was terrified, worried to death about things I had no control over, such as other people’s behaviors, their health, how national governments would handle the pandemic.
I spent three months in total lockdown for the first time. Without any possibility to do leisurely activities outside of the house anymore, my FOMO ebbed away. There was nothing going on anyway, therefore nothing to miss out on in the “real” world.
As I got used to this “new normal”, I started shifting my focus on things I could control. There are some side projects I wished to work on “sometime in the future”. I’m good at postponing things. I’ve practiced it a lifetime. Why not now? Why wait? So off I went, dabbling in projects that I was interested in or that were put on my list to be postponed eternally. Below the results in recap.
The biggest achievements
- Digital product: I made a 7-page printable coloring book with ProCreate on my iPad, and sold it on Payhip. I promoted it through stories on my personal Instagram and expected to maybe make one sale. That was the goal. I exceeded my expectations and made three sales. This is my first ever digital product. I wrote about it here.
Total turnover: €11.39.
- Side project: I breathed new life into a side project that helps non-techies such as your grandparents get a hold of their iPads. I wrote several blog posts and shot videos to support online learning, and am happy I didn’t let this project die. One video on the channel went viral at the beginning of the pandemic. It was the first time this happened. I learned that it feels like not that big of a deal. It is a good indicator of what people are searching for right now and that’s what gets bumped by the algorithm.
- Digital product: I compiled blog posts from the previous point into a printable eBook. I printed these pages and sent them off to my grandma, who is currently receiving iPad tutoring by yours truly. Then I reckoned that I might as well put the book online for sale. Thus far, I sold one copy. Total turnover: €4.99.
My assumption is that no one wants the printable eBook because of the effort they have to do themselves. That’s why I am in the process of testing how receptive the public is to pre-printed booklets that they can order at the click of a button.
- The idea to start writing more on Medium arose after I noticed a few articles I had written ages ago kept getting views, reads and clicks, even though I hadn’t touched my account nor written anything in months. My follower count increased from barely anything to around eighty mid-2020. “What if”, I thought. That’s how I got back into writing on Medium, but this time more seriously. Compared to my output earlier, my productivity increased nearly tenfold (for which I thank Focusmate):
Pieces written in 2017: 1
Pieces written in 2018: 5
Pieces written in 2019: 11
Pieces written in 2020: 81 (Start: 27–7–2020). On average, I earn around $30 monthly on the platform to date.
Total income earned via the Medium Partner Program in 2020: $145,68.
- The Google Sheets templates are still frequently found, shared and used by the public. For those who want to support the hustle, I opened an Etsy shop where you can purchase the template.
Total turnover to date: €30.39 for 7 items sold.
The idea behind the Etsy shop: to give those who want to support me financially a chance to do so. The templates are already available for free in the Medium publication. This was deliberate, because when something is free, more people have access to it. What I noticed as a downside is that people take less care in thoroughly reading the instructions when something is available for free.
Customizing a spreadsheet: I nearly forgot about this one, but thanks to having the Google Sheets Geeks publication and the free templates out there, someone approached me and asked me to make them a customized spreadsheet.
Total earned: €33
- I managed to get one video out for my personal YouTube channel. In 2020 I published nothing else there. It felt like my creativity had died. I just didn’t have the energy. I’m very pleased to have published something, hereby sawing through some of the chains that kept me stuck in the anti-creativity dungeon from 2020.
Hard numbers 2020
Growth in online presence 2020
- Medium followers: 80+ to 370+ followers
- Google Sheets Geeks publication followers: 25+ to 317+ followers
- Personal YouTube channel: 118 to 123 subscribers
- iPad Lessons YouTube channel: 12+ to 60 subscribers
- Google Sheets Geeks YouTube: 0 to 14 subscribers in one month
- Personal Newsletter: 0 to 3 subscribers
My reads and views have also increased a lot.
Digital Products total numbers 2020
- Printable coloring book sales: 3 a €11,39
- Etsy shop sales: 7 a €30,39
- Spreadsheet customizing: €33
- iPad booklet sales: 1 a €4,99
- Medium writing: $145,68 (€120,049 according to today’s exchange rate)
- Total income earned from side hustles: €199,819
To me, this is amazing and a massive improvement, because I earned literally zilch the previous year.
I had a go at Freelancer.com platform for two months and failed. It felt like trying to catch crumbs that are thrown on the street in front of packs of rivalling and very hungry wolves. The heavy price competition didn’t make it more appealing to me. Total turnover: $30.
In other areas I don’t think I failed, but instead learned.
What I’ve learned
- Writing how-to’s and shooting videos is very time-consuming if you do everything yourself. What works best for me, is to time block a big chunk of the day to go deep in the filming and editing process. What also helps is to script and shoot on one day, then let it rest for a bit and edit everything the next day.
- We tend to underestimate how much time one task will take. Or at least, I do. Keep space in between planned activities to not drive yourself crazy. Do not fill your agenda up to the minute with activities to keep your anxiety levels lower. If one planned activity takes longer than expected, it screws up the next one and all the rest, and everything else will have to be pushed forward. You don’t want to spend all day rescheduling events instead of working on your goals.
- I tell myself the following: Don’t beat yourself up for not hitting today’s target or deadline. Do what you can, and take what’s left with you for the next time batch or day. Be proud of and happy with the work you did get done!
- This year I worked and worked and worked without taking proper breaks. Heck, I even felt guilty for leaving my computer alone for an hour. I was always “on”. During the holidays I was finally able to take some time off, and I feel how mentally and emotionally tired I am. This showed me how important it is to not ignore what your body is screaming for. Working without taking breaks is not a nobler thing to do. You’re not of value to anyone if you are doing it at 50% energy or less, whereas a proper day off to fully disconnect might have been enough to regenerate you for an entire week. Take those breaks before you’re tired. Pace out your work, because you’ll last longer.
My intention for 2021 is to stop working for the sake of working, or working hard because others take pride in this. I work to, well, pay my rent and finance being alive of course. Apart from that, I work on projects that interest me personally. I work to learn. But I don’t intend to let work consume my entire life. Work is just a part of it.
The comparison game is killing. We don’t need to make it harder on ourselves. If you have little or nothing, you also have little or nothing to lose. You might as well try and see how it turns out.
Sure it would be nice to be able to say, “I launched my side projects, made one million in the first month and immediately retired on a private island, HAA”. That’s not my case.
In 2020 I planted several seeds. If I nurture them well, they have the potential to blossom into something great. I go for slow and steady, because nothing happens overnight anyway.