It's January 1st. A new year, a fresh start.
I'm kicking off 2019 with my parents in the beachside town of Mount Maunganui, New Zealand and I have a feeling that this quiet week with them will be the calm before the storm that is the year ahead. So before I get into the hustle and bustle of new projects and trips and plans I want to take some time to reflect on the past 12 months.
2018 was a year of seizing opportunities
2018 really felt like the year that all the hard work I'd put in to my side projects and building a reputation in the decade prior came to fruition. My inbox was overflowing with opportunities and for once they weren't just Amazon sellers asking me to review their product for free... A lot of interesting things came my way, I met a lot of interesting people, and had some really amazing experiences.
I said yes to a lot of things this year. Probably too many, but it sure made for an interesting year. Here's a recap of some of the highlights, and some of the things I need to keep working on.
Reaching a YouTube milestone
On July 15th, a little under 5 years since I started my YouTube channel, I hit the milestone I'd always been hoping for since I first clicked upload: 100,000 subscribers.
It didn't really sink in for me until about a month later when my silver play button arrived. Who would have thought that more than 100,000 people would watch one of my videos and like it enough to click subscribe?? It still boggles my mind, especially since my videos are pretty nerdy and niche (my most popular video of the year was one where I talked about switching from Sketch to Figma). If you're one of those people who have subscribed to my channel: thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You have no idea how much it means to me to have your support.
Despite reaching this incredible milestone, 2018 was actually the first year since I started that my rate of growth slowed a little. Previously I'd been doubling (or more) my audience each year, but I started this year on 77,000 YouTube subscribers and ended it with 118,000. Not quite double, but still impressive if I do say so myself.
Other than the 100k milestone, some other YouTube highlights include:
- Appearing in a series of videos for freelancers on Pat Flynn's channel
- Securing Webflow as a monthly sponsor (they've been utterly amazing to work with, thanks team!)
- Featuring in an ad for the WD My Passport SSD
- Meeting dozens of people who had seen my videos at Adobe MAX
Since my YouTube channel is my most successful side project, it tends to get the majority of my attention. I'm going to work on changing that in 2019 in order to get some other big projects off the ground. I've stuck rigidly to my at-least-once-per-week upload schedule for 5 years (literally didn't miss a week), but after deciding to take a break for December to move some other things forward I've seen the benefit of taking a purposeful break from the schedule. I think I'll take the holiday season off again in 2019, and be more lenient on myself if I need to skip a week to get another project over the line. Consistency is key, but not at the cost of sanity.
Work at ConvertKit
As of December 2018, I'm two years in to working at ConvertKit and I still love it just as much as when I started. The team is incredible: talented, open, kind and super fun to work with. I truly feel like I'm doing my best work here and helping towards a fantastic mission.
The more of a reputation I build in the design community through my YouTube videos the more imposter syndrome I feel about my design skills. Am I good enough to warrant this attention? Am I good enough to be teaching others about design? While these worries cause the odd existential crisis, they also really pushed me to work hard on bettering myself as a designer this year.
I'm particularly proud of a new design for the ConvertKit homepage (and the A/B/C test I ran to settle on it), the feature page I recently launched to talk about our forms and the website for our I Am A Blogger documentary project (my first 'dark mode' design). I'm grateful to work at a company that values design and gives me the time and freedom to create projects like this and try out new ideas.
The biggest design win for me this year though was designing and producing a whole entire book. As part of the I Am A Blogger project we wrote a book, and I designed all 240 pages of it. I'd never designed a book before, and it was both fun and incredibly challenging to return to my print design roots. It was a huge project and one that I'll be proud of forever. (You can buy one here)
My time at the design leadership retreat Epicurrence Unknown in October really made me think deeply about my career and its trajectory. I know I'm in exactly the right place at ConvertKit and there are plenty of opportunities for me to keep growing and improving. This is a day job I have no intention of quitting anytime soon, no matter how many times people ask me at YouTube events.
Travelling around the world
I did a LOT of travel in 2018. I think it was only twice in the whole year that I was in London for a full month. While the digital nomad life doesn't appeal to me (I love having a solid home base), I truly made the most of being able to work from anywhere by going on a bunch of different trips:
- A road trip around the South Island of New Zealand with Mark
- Oceanside, California for a ConvertKit team retreat, a weekend in Joshua Tree, then to San Francisco for a few days to see internet friends
- Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite for Epicurrence
- Valencia, Spain for Fallas
- Ten days in Japan (My favorite trip of the year by far!)
- Tagged along on a trip Mark was taking to Amsterdam for a conference
- Los Angeles and Anaheim for VidCon, followed by Boise for the ConvertKit conference Craft + Commerce, then a week in New York City
- Malaga for Mark's company summer party
- Back to Boise and McCall for another team retreat
- Copenhagen and Malmo for a conference
- Back to Los Angeles for Adobe MAX, then on to Nashville and the Great Smoky Mountains for Epicurrence Unknown
- A trip around Europe with my ConvertKit teammates Alexis and Haley: to Paris, Munich, Fussen, Hallstatt and Salzburg
- Then finally, I flew to New Zealand just in time for Christmas
All up, that's 13 different trips to 9 different countries and about 26 different cities/towns... no wonder I'm tired!
The majority of my travel was either for work, or I worked while travelling. In 2019 I want to do a better job of taking proper breaks, and there are a few new cities I want to tick off my travel bucket list.
I set a goal for myself this year to conquer my fear of public speaking. Pouring all of your knowledge on a topic into a talk then getting up on stage and sharing it with an audience of several hundred people is not an easy thing to do and it's something I actively worked on getting better at this year. It's still terrifying! But more than anything, it's super rewarding.
I got up on stage four times this year:
- Lead a workshop on self promotion at Epicurrence in Yosemite
- Spoke on a panel about design at VidCon in Anaheim
- Gave a talk about design for bloggers at Blogtacular in London
- Spoke on the main stage at Craft + Commerce in Boise about growing your audience in a slow and steady way
Speaking at Craft + Commerce was especially meaningful to me. I took the stage after ConvertKit CEO Nathan Barry and it made me think about just how much my life has changed since the last time I spoke at the same conference as Nathan back in 2016 (We met at the seanwes conference in Austin, Texas and that's how I came to be working at ConvertKit).
As well as speaking, I did a bit of conference attending this year too:
- Confront (a small design/front end development conference held in Malmo, Sweden)
- Adobe MAX (The Adobe team flew me out to attend and document it, so much fun!)
- Epicurrence Unknown, glamping in the Great Smoky Mountains (The best investment I've ever made in myself and my career)
I know I'll for sure attend another Epicurrence event this year, and I'm looking forward to Craft + Commerce again too. Plus, I already have three speaking gigs lined up for 2019: a UX meetup in Wellington, VidCon London and HOW Design in Chicago. (If you want me to speak at your event, get in touch! /plug)
Things that didn't go so well
All in all 2018 was a pretty great year, but there are definitely a lot of things for me to work on going forward.
I struggled a lot with overwhelm this year. With so many opportunities coming my way and so many things I felt like I should be doing, I found it tough to say no to things and give myself space to breathe. I wasted a lot of time this year feeling guilty about how I was spending my energy; always wondering if I had made the right choice, hyper aware of the people I might be letting down. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to everything else you could be using your time for in that moment whether that's another business opportunity, time spent with friends, going to the gym, sleeping... That's why I'll be seeking balance in 2019. I need to spend less time feeling stressed, even if it means I'm not fulfilling my potential or making use of every opportunity.
I also definitely didn't call my family enough (sorry Mum and Dad), or make enough time for the friendships I really want to cultivate. As an introvert and a type 4 on the enneagram I find it difficult to get close to people, but at the same time I crave those deeper relationships. So that's another thing I'll be working on in 2019.
As a chronic optimist when it comes to setting goals and planning what I can realistically fit in, there were a lot of things I wanted to do this year that I didn't get to. Like the font I started in 2016 or finishing this website you're reading on right now (I only just managed to get the blog done before the end of the year, and there's still no portfolio to be seen). But I firmly believe that we make time for the things that are important to us, and it turned out that those things just weren't important for me in 2018.
On New Years Eve my Mum and I watched the Netflix film Dumplin' and I love this Dolly Parton quote it features:
Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.
I'm entering 2019 about to turn 30 and feeling more myself than ever. So my plan for this year is to do it on purpose. Strive for balance, live purposefully, and start making headway on some of the projects on my list of things I want to have done in life (for more on that, stay tuned for my new video on 2019 goals coming this weekend).
Thanks for reading, and let's make it a great year.