I’ve never done a true yearly review before. Mostly because I’m lazy. I don’t keep detailed track of the progress of anything, so it’s hard to remember unless I write it down.
So, this is a look back at 2020 from my memory.
On Jan. 1 2020, I wrote a quick blog post outlining some stats about my life at that current time. Here’s what they look like now:
- Age: 28 (+3.7%)
- Customers: 1356 (+148.8%)
- MRR: $37899.54 (+132.8%)
- Twitter Followers: 6197 (+362.1%)
- Email Subscribers: 686 (+96%)
- Kids: 3 (+50%)
- Businesses: 1 (+0%)
Just about everything was up in 2020. From that standpoint, it was a really good year. When I look back on the year, it’s hard not to see all of the inefficiencies and work that didn’t get done.
But that’s okay, because that’s the way I’ve designed my life. I made it so I don’t have to be on my game all the time to continue to take ground.
Alright, let’s do a quick recap of how the year went down.
2020 started out in a bit of a rough spot - it was rough because I was freshly a full-time indiehacker. I quit my job in Nov. 2019 to work 100% on Closet Tools.
I couldn’t string together a consistent schedule of work. I was home a lot, and home was one of the least productive environments for me to work (more on that later). I was normally working at the kitchen table, or my bed, which made working a lot harder than it should be.
This started my desire to have a dedicated place to work.
Most other things were good. Business revenue was up, family was healthy, no real emergencies or setbacks.
I set out to do a weekly newsletter, and lots of other writing. That didn’t really happen. It’s hard to come up with new content to push every week. It’s much easier to just talk about what I am doing and what I am learning.
I would still like to do something like that, and do plan on having more contact with the small audience I’ve gathered on the Internet. It could happen in 2021.
I started doing calisthenics as a way to get into a more productive state. It was mostly fine, except it was taking longer than it should when doing it with my family (mostly my kids). Constantly setting up and breaking down the workout station also added some friction to the process.
This started my desire for having a dedicated place to work out.
I ended up halting most physical activity once COVID-19 became a “pandemic”. I think mostly because other activities in life shifted, so just about everyone went into a more sedated lifestyle.
My wife was pregnant throughout the beginning of 2020. We heard horror stories of husbands not being able to be with their wives during births (due to COVID-19 fears), so we decided to go off the beaten path and have a birth in a birthing center (more like a home-birth in an AirBNB), where they had much less restriction than a hospital.
We started driving 2+ hours away every other week to do checkups and appointments to get prepared to have the baby there.
Around this time (March) I hit $20k with Closet Tools. Since the baby was going to be born in June, I knew I wanted to get quite a bit of work done before she was born.
Also around this time, Closet Tools’ revenue took a hit when lockdowns came into full-swing. I think it was just a bit of panic from some customers. Nothing catastrophic for me, but it scared me enough to start working really hard to make the app better so I could keep it growing.
The combination of having a child soon and the pandemic pushed me to knock out a ton of low-hanging fruit. It was both a very good time, and a very stressful time.
I specifically remember my birthday (April 23) was one of the days that the revenue dropped the most, and I didn’t have a great day.
But, I kept working and kept providing value for the customers that stuck around. I knew I had to get as much done as I possibly could before the baby was born, and then I would plan on taking a couple of months off.
I worked just about every day through April, May, and June to get done everything I wanted. Between having a very pregnant wife, two other young kids to look after, and the small apartment to work in, it was pretty tough. I’m very glad I did it, though.
Throughout these months visits to the midwives increased, so we were spending a lot of time driving. Especially in June. I had finished up most of my work by the time the due-date rolled around, but the baby ended up being two weeks late (as it was with the first two).
We had baby Shea on June 30, and it was an awesome experience. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to doing hospital births again (pandemic or not).
I took off work for 3 months, only providing email support (no code written during this time).
Almost immediately after bringing her home, we realized that we had out-stayed our welcome at our current apartment.
It was time to get a house.
The process was a bit crazy. Mostly because I was recently self-employed.
For mortgages, the banks are looking for at least 2 years of stable income to qualify a loan. But, since I was self-employed, they couldn’t consider the W-2 income of my previous day-job in the figures.
So, instead of earning $100k in 2018, I only earned $15k in 2018 (Closet Tools’ revenue).
Then, they would average my past two year’s income and that was my “current” income. In this case, it was the average of $15k and $100k (Closet Tools’ 2019 revenue). Even though I was currently doing over $30k/month from the business, and I had already earned $200k+ in 2020, my salary was seen as $57.5k/year.
It took going through 5 lenders to figure out this is how the banks saw my income - I was surprised how little of a mortgage I qualified for.
Finally, we came across a lender how would allow us to do a YTD audit of my income, and use that in combination with my 2019 revenue. Very kind of them!
Fortunately, revenue for Closet Tools almost doubled in 3 short months (which is crazy because I was on paternity leave), so by the time our house buying process came to a close, we were able to get a home that we had only once dreamed about.
This was a crazy process. I had to get a CPA to do the audit. There was a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of changes of requirements, and a lot of effort to get the mortgage.
It was so close, that when we moved in October, we hadn’t even closed on the house yet. The sellers allowed us to move in temporarily and “rent” from them. Very kind of them, as well!
When looking at houses, we wanted a home that centered around productivity. Not just work, but something that made our lives easier to live the way we wanted to live.
Because we are all home 24/7, having a large home was a must. We also wanted all of the modern conveniences like a dishwasher (we didn’t have that at the old apartment). And, we wanted a place that was mostly move-in ready, as we didn’t want to spend a ton of time renovating just to live there.
The house we ended up getting was actually an afterthought when we were looking at listings. The pictures weren’t that great, so it was last on our list of houses to look at.
For the most part, any listing that had incredible pictures was awful, and ones with mediocre pictures ended up being better.
We upgraded to a 6 bedroom, +3000 sqft house that met all of the things we wanted (and more). It has been incredible so far, and I love this house.
The end of 2020 was completely different from the beginning.
- Another child added
- House upgrade
- Business doubled in a few months
Wild. If someone told me 5 years ago where we would be today, I don’t know what I would have said.
The last bit of 2020 has been filled with home renovations (mostly painting + furniture/decorating). I’m back to work now, and things continue to grow with Closet Tools.
I’m working on renovating an office workspace attached to my garage, so I will have a dedicated place to work and to exercise.
The kids are doing really well, my marriage is getting deeper and more valuable every day, and life is good. Really good.
Another bit of good news, we bought a 6-acre lot of land next to us. Apparently it was for sale the whole time the house was for sale, but we didn’t know because it wasn’t listed anywhere except for Zillow.
To be in a financial position to be able to purchase land on a whim like that is crazy. That’s not something I ever thought would happen, and never even intended on happening.
Between the holidays, working, and spending time with family, the end of 2020 was much less dramatic. It’s been a time to reflect, plan, and establish some roots.
I can’t speculate much about what will happen in 2021. There’s no way I could have guessed what would happen in 2020, so I’m not really going to give it a shot.
What I can say, is there’s a few things I intend on working on and continuing. Hopefully they all continue uninterrupted.
- I plan on being more deliberate about reading. I have purchased a lot of books, and I will set a schedule to get them all read during 2021.
- I will continue to work on Quant Secrets, my algorithmic trading journey. I’ll be writing quite a bit of content, and building a trading infrastructure.
- I will continue to work on Closet Tools. If it keeps increasing, I’ll keep working on it as my “day-job”.
- I will be “on” Twitter less, but I will be writing there more.
- I will be investing more time into family, my wife, and exercising. Less into entertainment and wasted time.
- I will be more financially frugal. After getting the house and everything for it, there’s some catching up to do. I’ll also be investing more, and probably eliminating all of my debt.
That’s about it. Who knows, maybe I’ll write more, maybe I’ll learn some new skills, maybe I’ll sell the business. It’s all a guessing game.
The thing to focus on is the processes you establish for daily maintenance and progress. Just enough structure to keep things thriving, but also leaving room for serendipity and genius to be pursued.
What a crazy year. I’m glad I’m writing about it, because I don’t think future me would believe it otherwise.
That’s all for now. See you in the next one.