A Quick Retrospective
2019 was a rollercoaster of a year for me. It felt like five years rolled into one because of all that happened. I won’t give a full breakdown (or go too deep into any personal goings-on) as I prefer to focus on the future and moving forward, but here’s a high-level overview in bullet points:
- Moved back to the cold of London from Barcelona.
- Spent the first few months of the year sleeping on a friend’s spare mattress on a floor, while trying to find clients.
- Found clients (and worked with some amazing ones over the course of the year), but had to give most of the money I made this year to HMRC because of some accounting errors in 2018.
- Ran a daily newsletter and blog on Medium for several months.
- Released a book about landing pages.
- Launched (and subsequently closed) a freelancing startup called Pyrismic – due to lack of quality leads for the platform.
- Experimented with some different visual styles and mediums through some posters and album covers.
- Released some music and clothing.
- Got a job working at Daisie as their design lead, helping them to take the platform to the next level during my time there.
- Made it up off the floor mattress and moved house to Shoreditch.
- Rejoined LinkedIn.
- Left job working with Daisie to return to freelance.
- Listened to over 100 books on Audible.
- Ended the year with a daily iOS app design project for the last 30, or so, days on Instagram and Dribbble.
There were a few other things I experimented with in addition to the above, or have forgotten; that aren’t included. But I’m sure we can agree that there’s enough already.
A problem I have noticed is that my work ends up becoming too sporadic and disjointed. I work on a lot of projects, and though I follow through on them; I have a bad habit of switching verticals to something completely different after getting done with a project.
For 2020, I hope to form and stick to a better and more cohesive plan. Let’s look at what worked well and what didn’t. So we can build a new plan I’ll hopefully stick to!
What Worked in 2019
One overarching positive from the last year was my drive. And although this was useful for getting my creations out into the world, it didn’t have the result I’d hoped for. This was likely because although consistent, I was too disjointed and never headed down a path long enough at any one time.
Going forward, I’m going to continue to harness that ability to be consistent in showing up over and over again. But try to keep my focus more narrow and less random.
A few other things in 2019 that went well or taught me important lessons to learn from were:
- Taking the time out to explore a few different visual styles through posters. While taking a bit of my focus away, this exercise was incredibly useful to help decide what I will be working on going forward.
- Working with Daisie in office and alongside their team was an amazing experience that taught me a lot. One of the things I learned was that I prefer working remotely and without such fixed schedule constraints. But I wish them the absolute best in the future.
- Due to the accounting errors of last year, I now have a much better accountant and a plan to get out of the debt.
- Alongside that plan for my finances, I also have a much-improved system for sourcing and reaching out to design prospects for projects. Which I expect to use heavily in the coming year.
- The experiences writing the book, blogs and newsletter were incredibly useful to improve my writing ability and I hope to release a lot more writing in 2020.
In all, while the year was a rollercoaster; it wasn’t all bad. As can be seen by the above takeaways from 2019 that can be adapted for the coming year.
But on the subject of bad…
What Didn’t Work Quite So Well
As I mentioned a few times already, the main problem I can see clearly in hindsight is that I took on too many different things throughout 2019.
Rather than committing to a single path and going until I got results, I switched ideas and kept moving to work on something new and exciting; rather than promoting or doing sales.
That is something I’ve always struggled with. Getting the word out about myself and my work. I’ve always instead preferred to do the more “fun” creative work.
In 2020, I have a few ideas for solving this “sales block” I suffer from and will keep you updated on how it goes.
Some other things I thought didn’t work out so well and I’d like to cover to improve are:
- Redesigning, refactoring and reworking my online portfolio. In 2019, I was guilty of about 20 different personal website redesigns. Which, honestly, was a pretty big waste of time. Going forward, I’ll be making a few small tweaks and then keeping my two personal websites (this blog and my design practice) as simple as I can.
- Switching platforms. Last year I was on and off a couple of different platforms and in the coming year I’ll be focusing down on this personal blog (I deleted my Medium late last year) and Dribbble. I’ve decided to leave Instagram for a few reasons I’ll detail soon. Other than those main two platforms and small updates on Twitter; I won’t add any more platforms unless it’s an easy addition (Behance to supplement Dribbble, for example).
- Believing the hype. I listened to a lot of books and podcasts in 2019 and got into a rut of blindly listening to instructions and posting every day without passion. In future; I’m going to focus more on that passion and keeping my sharpness, instead of grinding for results.
- Distractions. As always, several poorly formed ideas or explorations took a lot of my time. I don’t regret these as much as the experiences taught me a lot. But I hope in future, I can be hope complete with my plans before diving into projects.
Some of these negative elements had a much bigger impact on my plans going forward than others. But the main learning point I’m seeing is that the need for more meticulous and thought out plans and then using my commitment to drive through on those and keep heading down a consistent path.
Let’s get to that planning I keep talking about…
Planning For 2020
I have focused the coming year around four core tenants. Two for work and two more focused on leisure. I have no basis for this rule of fours style of planning I’m about to explain other than my experience executing on hundreds of projects. This is the hypothesis for my plan:
My Core Four
How I make my living and the thing I spend most of my life thinking about or doing. Design. While I branched out quite a lot in 2019 with my work. I’m going to be reigning things in a lot for 2020.
For the coming year I’m going to be sharing only a select few items in the skill set of design:
- iOS design – I spent the last month of 2019 sharing this daily over on Instagram and enjoyed it a lot. I’ll be keeping up the trend and experimenting more with iOS design in 2020, but solely on my Dribbble.
- Pitch decks – Another thing I’ll be sharing as often as I can over on my Dribbble is some design work for pitch decks. I’m looking to take some of my learning from my few months experimenting with posters last year and apply it here. I’ll also be putting out a client service offering for this soon.
- 3D / animation – After taking the 3D for Designers course, by Devon Ko; I’ve been super interested in experimenting with 3D and animation with Cinema4D and After Effects and want to learn (and share) more of that in 2020.
In addition to the upcoming pitch deck service product I mentioned above (that I’ll be offering through SYKE.CO soon), I’m going to be starting a new agency in the coming months. Hopefully, it’s third time lucky on the agency front for me. I will keep you updated as things progress.
Rounding out the design section of my plan, I also have a few “stretch goals” for the year:
- Release a course on Skillshare teaching iOS design in Sketch.
- Several UI kits I’m hoping to release over on UI8.
- A book about iOS design to match the one about landing pages.
While that iOS design book is on my list for this year. I have a lot of other goals I want to achieve through writing too.
I’m switching focus a bit in 2020. Away from more experimental elements like clothing and posters, and more towards things that are going to teach me more as I progress through this more fixed plan; after a year of adventure and learning. This year, I’m hoping to write more.
The things I want to achieve from writing are less fixed than I would have planned last year (when I would have had to force out a bunch of content every single day):
- Share a weekly branch of this article. Detailing my progress on these plans, along with any interesting updates on my life, client projects, personal projects or statistics to explore.
- Aim to publish at least one more article a week. To help this one along, I’m going to lower my crazy-high barrier for wanting perfection and just hit publish more; instead of banking up hundreds of drafts through the year and never getting around to sharing them.
- Get at least 500 words a week done towards the next book (the one about iOS design). This one is purposefully small in case I struggle. But even with this small goal, I would have 26,000 words by the end of the year. Which could be easily edited into a small manual.
The core aim of moving to more writing exercises is to keep track of and share my process and thoughts more. A bonus of this is the ability to chart my progress, mood and writing ability as the year moves along.
Getting into the leisure portion of my plan. Music is something I’ve been making on and off for the last couple of years, and in 2020 I want to push things a little bit further.
In the coming year, I’m going to split my spare time I have outside of social commitments on music and the 4th tenant I’ll cover below.
A big part of this is going to be sharing more beats on my Soundcloud (along with making a YouTube channel to share them there too, alongside some of the 3D experimentation I’ll be doing), and reaching out to artists to work with.
I recently had the pleasure of doing a few studio sessions with an artist from London and enjoyed it a lot. So I hope to have a lot more of that happen in 2020.
4. A New Clothing Project
I experimented with (and even sold a few) different designs for clothing during 2019 and learned a lot. In future, I want to do something more experimental and off Instagram. I’ll be share more details about this one as I’ve planned it out more.
Goals into Actions
For each pillar of the plan, I’m going to break down the overall goal into smaller actions and then work through them one by one. Sharing my progress on the weekly log I’ll be posting.
Through this, I should always know what I need to be working on week-by-week to progress towards where I want to be.
Let’s take a closer look:
Overall goal 1: Continue getting clients for iOS and pitch deck design projects.
Overall goal 2: Share more work and improve my skills through practice.
Overall goal 3: Experiment more with 3D and animation.
Taking those goals and breaking them down into smaller repeatable tasks:
- Send outreach messages and emails to past clients and prospects, as well as new people.
- Share all non-NDA work publically.
- Carve out time every week to practice design for iOS and pitch decks. Then build my experiments into UI kits and templates to sell.
- General breakout time for 3D and animation.
For Week 1:
- Finish replying to all emails from leads over Christmas and New Year. Start lead generation again next week.
- Share first shot of the year on Dribbble.
- Do some 3D experimentation and share on Twitter.
- Finish scope and launch plan for the first UI kit.
- Decide on a name for the upcoming pitch deck product released through SYKE CO.
Overall goal 1: A weekly update blog. Sharing my progress on my plans and goals. Allowing me to share more of my process and have a public record of my journey.
Overall goal 2: An additional article per week. To improve my writing skill and consistency with ideation of post topics.
Overall goal 3: Work towards getting 500 words a week down for my next book, the one about iOS design.
These goals translate more easily into repeatable tasks without needing to break them down. So let’s get into what I’m hoping to do this week:
- Write and publish the 2019 retrospect and 2020 plan (this article).
- Release first weekly log post, charting how I’ve done with the tasks set out here.
- Plan article for next week and write outlines.
- Get 100 words a day into the iOS book.
Music & Clothing
These two are a bit more free form than the others. Because of that, I’m going to be less rigid with my goals as the focus is leisure.
In spite of that, I’m still going to set 1-2 tasks for each in my weekly schedule. The first steps in these will be:
Music: Release the beats I’ve been working on for the last few months on Soundcloud as an EP. Future releases will be on YouTube and Spotify too (will set these channels up this week too).
Clothing: With this, I’m going to need a bit more time to think. But I hope by the first update I will have decided on a name and direction so I can plan this further in the first weekly update (which will be out Tuesday the 7th of January).
I’m going to be keeping updates pretty regular, as I’ve mentioned. So instead of a long drawn out summary of this post, repeating what I’ve already said; I’m just going to go and get to work!
I’ll be sharing my progress on this blog in the form of my weekly log and also on Twitter.
See you soon!