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My Coding Year 2019


Another year has come to an end, and it is time for my traditional New Year's Eve blog post. I want to take some minutes to think back about the last 12 months and how they changed me as a developer.

After writing about my coding year in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, this is now my fifths year in review article. I love to see that so many others started to write about their years as well. I think this is a great insight and helps both the readers and the authors.

Make sure to check out other reviews like from Marcel, Seb, Dries, Nuno, Bobby, Uncle Freek or take a look at this nice overview by Dieter.

My Resolutions From 2018

These are my resolutions from last year:

  • Keep my one-man-show business running
  • Release Laravel Core Adventures full site
  • Cover at least ten different topics
  • Speak at a Laracon Conference
  • Start working on a new paid product
  • Do another little redesign of my blog with my learnings from Refactoring UI

Let's go through each of them.

Keep My One-Man-Show business running

I started my own business in July 2018. At the end of 2018, this new experience was still fresh to me, and I wasn't sure how it would work. Now, a year later, I can say I'm still here, and my business year was pretty good. I managed to work on different client projects to bring in some money, and I was able to release and maintain my video course Laravel Core Adventures. (more on that later)

As a developer, I find it quite easy to find freelance jobs and to make a living from it. It just depends on how picky you are. I'm super picky, and this is why I was only working with three different clients this year. I need to have a good relationship with the people I work with, and I also need my projects to be challenging and exciting. If I don't find such a project for a month or two, that's ok. I can use the time for side projects, learning something new, or bookkeeping. I'm glad I found a great partner in last year. I'm helping their dev team out every now on then by refactoring some old parts of their codebase. They have an excellent team, and I enjoy working with them a lot.

In total, I'm delighted with how the year turned out for my company, and I'm already looking for the next one. Having your own company gives you a lot of freedom and I enjoy this a lot.

Release Laravel Core Adventures Full Site

In February 2019, I released the new full site of Laravel Core Adventures, which replaced the landing page and demo videos. The new site included a dedicated page for every category showing all the available videos. I wrote an in-depth article about the process of building this site.

Cover At Least 10 Different Topics

At the time of this writing, Laravel Core Adventures consists of 5 different categories. (The Request Life-Cycle, Facades, Eloquent, Service Container, and Notifications) So it is fair to say I failed this resolution badly.

It turned out that creating those videos takes much more time than I expected. I put in a lot of effort at the beginning of 2019, but in the second half of the year, I had to concentrate more on client work to pay my bills. This year I want to continue working on more videos.

Speak At A Laracon Conference

I'm thrilled there is now a resolution I rocked. For years I had the dream of speaking at my favorite conference called Laracon EU. After submitting three years in a row without luck, in 2019, this dream came true: My talk about notifications was accepted! 🥳

But that's not all. Next to Laracon EU in Amsterdam, I was also able to speak at the second one in Madrid, as well as the Laracon US in New York. It already sounds unreal, but there was more. I was also lucky enough to speak at Laravel Live conferences in London and Mumbai. 😲

It's easy to say that 2019 was by far my best conference year. Here are all the countries I visited for speaking at a conference: 🇮🇳 🇬🇧 🇪🇸 🇳🇱 🇺🇸 🇧🇪

A few years back, there was a time when I wasn't even able to speak at a meetup. And this year, I gave a talk in front of 900 people at Laracon US. 😵 It's crazy when you think about how that came together. I'm proud here of myself, and I'm glad I kept going all those years.

Freek, Nuno and me in India Christoph speaking at Laracon EU Christoph speaking at Laracon US New York Laracon US New York group photo

Start Working On A New Paid Product

We need to discuss this one. In 2018, I planned to release more free videos for Laravel Core Adventures and to start working on a new product I can sell. But after receiving such great feedback on my core videos, I decided to put more time into that project and add a paid version on top.

In July 2019, I released Laravel Core Adventures PRO. With a one-time payment, you will become a PRO user and gain access to all the videos. All other users will only be able to watch a few example videos for every category.

So I released a new paid product, but it was a different one from what I planned.

Do Another Little Redesign Of My Blog

This resolution is still on my list. I'm not satisfied with the look of my blog, and I want to add some information about myself as well. This will now become a new goal for 2020.

What Else Happened In 2019

I Took My First Ebook Offline

At the end of 2019, I decided to take my first ebook, "Build Chatbots with PHP" off the Internet. It was a hard and painful decision, but hosting the product cost me more than what I made from selling it. Also, the content wasn't up to date anymore, and I would have needed to update quite some parts of the book. But to be honest, I also feel a little relieved now it is offline.

The whole experience around this first product of mine was crazy. In one of my blog articles, I wrote about how my ebook was financially speaking a failure and how I still learned a lot after all. Check it out if you want to know more about that.

Where Is My Mailcoach?

This year was the first time in a long time that I noticed a lack of motivation now and then. On the one side, this is a typical problem when you are working alone. It is always more comfortable when you have other motivated people around you. But usually, I don't have this problem. I love what I do, and I have always been motivated and passionate about it. So this year it was something else.

In the first half of 2019, I was working a lot on Laravel Core Adventures. I mean a lot! It was about code, but it was not coding. I was digging into Laravel's core, doing research, preparing examples, recording videos, editing, and a lot of marketing. Next to these todos, I had a few client tasks, but not much. I just had no time.

In the second half of 2019, I was working a lot on client projects. Laravel Core Adventures brought in some money, but not enough for the time I have spent. For the rest of the year, I concentrated on making money to pay all my bills. I also moved to a new home and now need to pay a mortgage. So my costs are higher than in the last years. I was coding a lot, and the projects were cool. But freelancing is always different for me. It is what I do to make money, not what I enjoy deeply.

Last month I followed my friend Freek Van der Herten, building a newsletter application called Mailcoach. I just loved to see how much fun he had while creating it and how much joy it brought. It was then when I realized that I'm missing such side projects. To be fair, I'm not sure if it is still a side project to him, but you know what I mean.

In the past, I have always been creating side projects. Always! So what has changed? It took me a little bit to realize what was going on. Since I founded my company, a lot has changed. I decide myself when and how much I work, who I work with, and everything else. And this is great! But it turned how I feel about my time. Work and leisure time are not separated anymore. It is all mixed.

My point is, every time I think about doing something like a side project, my head says that I could spend this time also working on a project I get money for. Or I could work on more Laravel Core Videos, which also could bring in more money. This was different when I was employed. Everything I did at home was my time. I could do whatever I want and didn't have to think about what is right for my bank account, my business, my followers, etc.

Long story short, I need to bring back side projects and to stop thinking about my business all the time. Coding is not only business, or at least it shouldn't be for me. There are so many things you gain while working without obligations. I want this back!

Building Products Is Hard

If there is one thing I learned in 2019, it is that building your own products is hard. I mean, really hard. My Laravel core video course is going much better than my first ebook about chatbots. This is cool. But still, it just brings in a little amount of money, and I'm far away from living from my products. I sometimes wonder how long it will take me to get there. I could get a much higher income if I would accept more freelance projects or if I got back a fixed job at a company. But then I realize again why I started my company. It wasn't about money. It was about freedom and being happier in life. It was about working from home and have more time for my wife and later for kids. This is still what I want!

But after all, I think I'm doing well. I was able to release two products, and people pay for it. It could be worse. I'm on the right track, and I just need to keep going. I tell people to follow their dreams, and I need to do that as well. In 2020, I want to keep you more updated on how my business is doing. It will probably be a new blog post series.

My Personal Year

I'm not only a coder but also a human :-) Personally, it has been an exciting year. Claudia and I got married in August, and in December, we moved to our new home. After working 18 months from my living room, I now got a separated room, which is my office now. This is a big deal for me! I'm going to share some images when it's done.

Our wedding

The preparations for our wedding and our new home where super exhausting. Especially in combination with all my conference travels, it was a hard time for us. Additionally, my wife had her last exams at University. She is studying next to her 50 hours per week job. So we achieved a lot this year, but I'm also happy it is over, and I hope we will have a more relaxed year in 2020.

In the end, I'm super happy with my life and how everything turned out. I'm grateful for my family and friends and my wife, which supports me with everything I do. ❤️

My Resolutions For 2020

  • Write regularly about my business
  • Start tinkering with a new programming language
  • Redesign my personal blog
  • Release a new paid product
  • Find my Mailcoach (side project)
  • Speak at one Laravel conference
  • Release another Laravel Core Adventures category

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