My Coding Year 2020

#review

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, 2018 and 2019, this is now my sixths 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.

Photo of me before an online conference

My Resolutions From 2020

These are my resolutions from last year:

  • 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

Let's go through each of them.

Write Regularly About My Business ✅

I noticed that people are interested in my little company and how I keep it running. That's why I wanted to write regularly about it. I started the blog series My Company Of One Story and released three articles.

Besides the blog posts, I also started the podcast Call It A Day, where I also give some insights into my business and coding life. Generally speaking, I'm happy with sharing more about my business, but it feels like I haven't found the right concept or flow yet. Do I stick with blog posts? Do I stick with podcast episodes? Do I mix it? I don't know.

I want to find a better and more consistent way of doing that.

Start Tinkering With A New Programming Language ❌

Wow, I failed this resolution really bad. It is just hard to find the right starting point. Do I sit down one afternoon and tinker around with a new language? Should I save some hours every week to do so? Should I find a challenge or project to give me some purpose for the new language?

Probably, all of those variants would have been better than just not starting at all. How do you learn a new programming language? Please tell me.

Redesign My Personal Blog ✅

New homepage top section

I did it again. In the second half of 2019, I redesigned my whole blog (again). It wasn't necessary, but I just needed it, and I'm delighted with the outcome. It is still straightforward but looks fresh, colorful, and is good to read.

Jack McDade did this super entertaining video where he helped me a little with the design. I was desperate for help at this point.

Find My Mailcoach (Side Project)

Last year I wrote about how I'm missing a nice little side project similar to how Freek was working on Mailcoach.

I didn't find my Mailcoach, but I enjoyed working on my package Laravel Factories Reloaded. In February 2020, I talked about the idea on Laracon Online and soon released the first version. Many Laravel users were interested in this approach of dealing with factories, which motivated me a lot.

In summer 2020, Taylor Otwell switched with Laravel 8 to class-based-factories too. From that point, my package wasn't that interesting anymore, but that's fine. I still think my package helped improve how factories now work in Laravel, which feels good.

Speak At One Laravel Conference

In 2020, I spoke at Laracon Online and Laracon EU. Especially the first one was quite an experience I wouldn't miss. Even though I already spoke in New York in front of 900 developers, this online conference where I sat alone at home freaked me out. It is such a strange feeling just staring at your screen and knowing hundreds or thousands of people are watching from around the world.

I wrote about this conference on my blog.

Release Another Laravel Core Adventures Category ❌

August 2020 marked the first anniversary of my video course Laravel Core Adventures. I took the opportunity to write about The $4335 Video Course Launch That Made Me Think 💵💵💵💵💵.

Since my sales weren't that good and people didn't ask for more categories, I decided to leave the course as it was. I think I cover the most important topics like the service container, eloquent, facades, notifications, and the request life-cycle.

Release A New Paid Product ❌

I quit my job in 2017 for two reasons:

  • freedom
  • creating my own products

The first one I enjoy every day. I am my own boss! The second is something that didn't take off that well so far.

In 2018, I released my first product, which was an ebook about chatbots. I had to take it down in 2019 because it was already outdated, and sales became pretty low.

In 2019, I released my second product, a video course about the core of Laravel. This course was already more successful but still behind my expectations.

In 2020, I released...nothing. That's the thing with creative work: If you lack ideas, there are no results. It is also something you cannot force, and suddenly the year is over. That would be okay if I decided to concentrate on freelancing and making money. I did work a lot with new clients and new projects, but the outcome is not satisfying.

This leaves me now with a bad taste in my mouth. My two options as a business have always been:

  • working on my dream of living from my products
  • or making some good money with freelancing, which I do not enjoy

Now looking back at 2020, I didn't go for any of those options. I did not release a new product and did not earn enough money.

These are the days when I question the path I have taken. Maybe I'm not good at creating products. Perhaps I'm not good at being my own boss and running a business. I'm far away from having an awful year, to be fair, but I set my goals high to become successful in what I do. I'm not there yet.

What Else Happened In 2020

PhpStorm Tips with Christoph Rumpel

PhpStorm Tips with Christoph Rumpel is a video series I did together with JetBrains/PhpStorm and was released on their Youtube channel.

I'm a big PhpStorm fan, and working together with JetBrains was a great experience. I learned so much more about my favorite IDE, and I also took the opportunity to share my best tips & tricks on Twitter.

My Favorite Blog Articles

I wrote ten posts this year, which is a little less than I planned (12). Still, some of these are pretty long and in-depth, so I'm okay with that.

The most-read article of mine in 2020 was Refactoring PHP, and it is also the one I liked the most. Refactoring has become such an essential skill to me, and I love sharing my best practices. I plan to enhance this article with more tips.

Number two, in terms of most-read articles, is Laravel Real-Time Notifications. This is a very long article too. I spent a full day working on this one. Crazy! I worked with a client on real-time notifications, and I used my knowledge to write about it. There was also a lack of resources showing how to achieve real-time messaging in Laravel in detail from beginning to end.

Third, on my list and 11th on the most-read list of 2020, is my post The $4335 Video Course Launch That Made Me Think 💵💵💵💵💵. It is already a kind of tradition to share my deepest thoughts and numbers of my products. Not every launch is perfect, and it is essential to talk about them too.

Consulting

In the last years, I have been working with just a few clients, mostly from Austria. I'm helping them on their PHP projects by implementing new features.

In 2020, I was looking for new clients and started doing more consulting. Not because of me, but because of clients asking for that. What I don't like about it is that it is mostly talking. No coding, just discussing how others could or should do something. They also don't pay you for maybe or it depends. They pay for clear recommendations and solutions. So it would help if you were confident and loud. These are not the characteristics I would use to describe myself. That's why I was always skeptical about doing just consulting.

It turned out to be better than I expected, and I learned a ton in this new role. I'm coding for quite a time now, and I gained a lot of experience on the way. There is a lot I can help other companies with, and it is also sometimes fun to only work on the theoretical part or check PRs. I'm glad I tried something new this year, and as always, you can only learn and grow from new experiences.

The Laravel Podcast

Matt Stauffer's Laravel podcast is one of my favorite ones. I have been listening to all seasons, and I can only recommend it. This is also why I was super happy when Matt asked me to join this season to talk about Laravel's service container. We had a lot of fun, and I think we also did an excellent job at explaining what the container is and how to use it.

My Resolutions For 2021

  • Start Tinkering With A New Programming Language (for real)
  • Work On My Business Strategy / Plan
  • Publish Twenty New Podcast Episodes
  • Write Twelve Blog Posts
  • Give Streaming A Try
  • Publish Two New Products!
  • Send A Second 7A Boulder Route

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