2020 year in review

by Jeffrey van Rossum

Most posts on this website are quite technical in nature. This post will be a little different, no code snippets this time. This will be my first year in review (or recap) post. A lot has happened in 2020 and I would like to look back on the year, and a little bit ahead to the coming year.

Starting my own company

Nearing the end of 2019, the stars aligned and I made up my mind. I decided to start my own company. I will be doing work as a freelance PHP developer for clients, and I'll be working on my own projects.

It was quite a step to quit my full time job and say goodbye to a steady income. But this wasn't something that spontaneously came to mind. It's been something I wanted to do for quite some time. With some work lined up and a recently launched side project, I decided to take the leap.

Client work

I count myself lucky that, despite the corona pandemic, I've had a good year. Both personal as well as business wise. I had the pleasure to work on several client projects. Most of these projects involved developing new or continue development of custom WordPress themes and plugins. I also worked on several Laravel projects.

I'll just work from home, or…

Working from home made sense to me. I have a home office with all the equipment I need. I have a good coffee machine. Why would I rent an office space - that would be a waste of money.

After several months of working from home, I found I did miss the interactions you would normally have with colleagues. I would have the occasional Skype meeting, but that's just different.

In the summer I found a nice coworking space close to home where I can work alongside other entrepreneurs. I can now either work from home or go there when I feel like it. This has been a great decision. Being around other entrepreneurs, sharing knowledge and experience is worth a lot. It is motivational and inspiring. And admittedly, the coffee there is just better than it is at home.

Side projects

In August of 2019, I launched Addrow. It started out as a little invoicing tool for personal use, but at a certain point - after adding several handy features - I thought: why not make this publicly available?

I spent a little money advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn, and not long after I got my first paying customer. And that was incredibly exciting. It gave an enormous motivational boost, but also a sense of responsibility. You don't want to let your customers down.

Addrow has been, and still is, a project through which I learn a lot. Both as a developer, but also when it comes to more marketing related subjects.

Defining and reaching the target audience has been quite a challenge. I figured my audience would exist of people who for example, like me, just started their own company. Freelancers and small companies. People who aren't looking for an an overly complicated administrative system - but just a simple tool to easily create and manage invoices. But what makes it difficult, is that I'm not the only one trying to reach that audience. A lot of companies are.

Throughout the year, I've added and improved several features and I plan to keep on doing so. Additionally, I will try to make a more thought out plan when it comes to marketing. Maybe I need to narrow down my audience more?

Contributing to open source

I love open source. It's has brought some amazing things forward, including things like Laravel and WordPress. These are tools I work with on a daily basis. Years ago, when I got my first developer job, I was hired as a WordPress-developer. With WordPress being an open source project, one could argue that open source has been a huge factor in making my first job possible.

So aside from doing client work and working on side projects, I have also made some contributions to open source. I have done some - be it minor - contributions to other people's repositories.

I also continued to work on the Easy Liveblogs plugin for WordPress, releasing four new versions. I also started working on my first open source Laravel package called Laravel Simple Media.

In my client work, I primarily work with WordPress and Laravel. This year, I've embraced a utility based CSS framework called TailwindCSS. I first started using it one some Laravel projects, but now wanted to start using it when creating custom WordPress themes.

After setting up an initial theme with Tailwind and Webpack (using Laravel Mix), I decided to release that setup as a theme-boilerplate called TailPress.

I certainly plan to do more open source work in 2021. I'd love to contribute more to other repositories that I like to use. This year, I also started to sponsor a couple of people that I find are doing an amazing job in the open source community.

Blog and social media

When I've worked on something exciting or have learned something new, I often feel like writing about it. First on Medium, but since this year on here.

One of the things I wanted to do this year is write more. I ended up writing eleven posts, and while the pageviews are relatively low I'm noticing an upward trend. My aim for 2021 is to keep that trend going.


Pageviews up to December 20th

The most popular post this year was: Using Browsershot for PDF generation

I've been sharing my blog posts on Twitter and intend to be posting more on there too. Both sharing my blog posts as well as share more about what I'm working on in the coming year.

Another thing I'd like to do more, is making video's. Maybe to show what I'm working on, sharing insights and tips or even more tutorial-like video's. I've made some attempts this year, but this is very much an area in which I feel there is room for improvement.

Other year in reviews

I love reading other people's year in reviews. If you have written one yourself, please share it with me and I'll list it below if you want to.

This post was last modified 22 December 2020


Talk about this article on X.
Replied by Wouter Dijkstra
You go, man! Enjoy your Christmas and have a good 2021 πŸš€
Replied by Jeffrey van Rossum
Thanks! Wishing you a happy Christmas and good new year too! πŸ˜„
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