This year has been great for me financially, personally and socially. The only aspect of my life that has declined has been my physical strength, a part of my identity that I have always embraced, but there is a good reason for that(skip to the end to find out).
My business is at the stage where it has given me ample time to explore other fields while also providing a decent income. I now:
- Earn more than any job I have ever had
- Have more time with my family
- Do intellectually satisfying work daily
I’m so grateful to Rails for enabling a large part of this, along with the countless authors, entrepreneurs and freelancers who have already trail-blazed this path so I could plod along behind.
It hasn’t always been easy, but I have been fully self-employed since 2018, and I don’t know if I could ever go back.
I enjoy learning about all of the above, but at the start of the year, I craved something different but complementary to what I already did. Native development was the perfect fit due to Turbo Native. Not only did I finish the Android Development course from Google, but I also made time to read up on different aspects of Kotlin and Swift. My learning was made easy with workshops on Turbo Native iOS by Joe Masilotti.
In 2024, I am very much going to continue this trend.
Things I have tried
Since my business affords me more time now, I have dipped my toes into a few things to see what works.
Producing Content on Perceived Need
Previously, when I wrote a how-to tutorial, I ignored the outside world; instead, it was to demonstrate my expertise. This year, I specifically created videos and wrote blog posts to help other developers with pain points they might encounter with Turbo Native Android. Many other developers did great articles on Hotwire and Turbo Native iOS, but almost no one talked about Turbo Native Android.
I sought to rectify this, and I’m glad I did.
Another thing I have dipped my toe into is having a solo product.[ Smart Strength] has been my first foray into this, and honestly, I have not given it the attention it deserves. Feedback has been positive, but there are a few bugs to fix and improvements. I also underestimated how crucial offline access was and will seek help with the design.
I have also done little to no marketing for it. The majority of regular users have been in person, and I happen to chat with them at the gym. I used to go to the gym 4-5 times a week, but my attendance record has tanked since the baby. Since my in-person talkative nature accounted for most downloads, this directly impacted Smart Strength’s growth.
Inspired by Chris Oliver and Colin Jilbert of GoRails, I tried creating a few screencasts. The feedback has been positive, and someone at RailsWorld actually recognised me from the videos(thank you, person from Liverpool; I didn’t catch your name).
However, it turns out that the GoRails teams make it look way easier than it is. Screencasting takes preparation, patience and time. Also, the videos are not at the quality that I want to be so there is a lot more to learn.
I attended my first Rails conference this year and met DHH, Chris Oliver and Adam Wathan.
#RailsWorld was amazing.— William Kennedy (@_williamkennedy) October 7, 2023
Managed to meet the creators of my web stack.@dhh the creator of Rails, @adamwathan the creator of Tailwind CSS and @excid3 who explains how to put it all together. pic.twitter.com/PG2qpDHPkN
What an amazing first day.#RailsWorld is well organized, the talks have been great and food is awesome.— William Kennedy (@_williamkennedy) October 5, 2023
However, the best thing is meeting all the people beyond the avatars. I even got to connect with an old colleague from India @meJoshio1
Pumped for Day 2. pic.twitter.com/QciGwiKlzi
I also just had a great time. The talks were great, but the pints with people in the pubs afterwards were 👌.
My gym work has slipped this year, but I know I can get it back on track. Since I am stuck for time, I have confined myself to running more. Running is nice, but challenging gravity with a 200+KG squat provides the possibility of death.
However, for me, the highlight of the year has been, without a doubt, the birth of my daughter. My wife, an incredible woman, gave birth at the end of March.
I present my child for your adoration. pic.twitter.com/BPejPPI9OU— William Kennedy (@_williamkennedy) November 10, 2023
Since then, it’s been full-on nappy changing, sleepless nights and bonding. For years, I always heard the phrase, “You’ll understand when you have kids”. It always struck me as patronising and condescending, but the truth is that I now understand, and I don’t think I can explain. Watching her grow over the last nine months has been an endless source of joy.
For 2024, I am going to focus more on marketing. My business has always survived on word of mouth. However, I don’t think I can build a product business that way. I need a way to reach more people. Marketing, to me, is less about SEO and more about helping people. Creating blog posts and videos has made me realise this is the best marketing method. Help as many people as possible, and word will spread.
The other aspect I want to explore is hiring people to work for me. Delegation is something that I have never done. I do nearly everything myself, from Photoshop to development and content creation. Add in all the admin and accounting I have done for my business; it’s pretty clear that I am the bottleneck.
Thanks for reading my recap. I wish everyone the best of luck in 2024.