I feel a bit guilty writing this post. A lot of people are marking down 2016 as the worst year ever. But in my personal bubble, it has been pretty awesome. Maybe my best year ever?
It has been a year of focusing. Which is quite out of character. I tend to get bored quickly and love starting new things. In fact, one of my New Years Resolutions for 2016 was not to start anything new and focus on taking my current projects to the next level – even when they got boring.
And it seems to be working out.
I got engaged, left London, lived in 8 different countries, doubled the size of my biggest business, got this blog profitable and was promoted in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
You can check out my review of 2015 here.
Hitting The Road
Perhaps the biggest change in my life was the decision to become a nomad.
Since March I have been travelling the world with my laptop. Getting some work done in between sight seeing and trying to make new friends. I have lived in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Spain, Hungary, Croatia, Ireland, Gran Canaria and (of course) England.
It’s surprisingly difficult to see a laptop screen while wearing sunglasses. What a hard life…
It has been a blast. Absolutely awesome. I’ve met some great people and built memories that I will cherish forever.
But it has been quite different to expected.
I had this assumption it would be really cheap. I thought I would be able to live like a king, but at a fraction of the cost.
That turned out not to be true. The premium on short-term accommodation and the cost of travelling pretty quickly ate away the benefits of the lower cost of living. And the luxury of the occasional cheap 5-star hotel or beachfront condo was offset by the budget airlines and long coach journeys. I did end up spending a bit less than when I lived in London, but not much.
I also found that my productivity crashed. It’s one of the issues with being your own boss. If there’s a better offer than working, which there almost always is when in a new place, you can take it.
It has taken a bit of adjustment, but I’m starting to get into the swing of things. The last destination before Christmas was Gran Canaria. Not the most exotic location, but a hub for digital nomads. With events on most nights and lots people in the same situation as me. I stayed for six weeks, really settled in, made some great friends and got a lot done.
Here’s was my daily commute to the workspace along Las Canteras beach.
In April 2015 I started learning Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. And for the rest of that year, I took it really seriously. I broke two bones, trained most days of the week and got crushed in some tournaments.
Well, 2016 saw a slight change in my attitude. I went from trying to get as good as possible at any cost, to trying to enjoy it as much as possible.
I haven’t been injured since, still clocked up a lot of hours, got quite a bit better and had a great time. As well as getting to visiting the mecca of Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, Rio De Janeiro.
I’m the plonker in the purple kimono.
Jiu-Jitsu it turns out, is a great way to meet locals when visiting a new city. I have trained in clubs in most countries I have been to and can honestly say that they have all been incredibly welcoming.
I have been wined and dined, given free one-to-one coaching and just generally accepted.
In July, after I returned from training in Brazil, I was promoted to blue belt by my coach Jude Samuels.
I expect I’ll be continuing Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu for a long time to come. A massive thank you to all the clubs I’ve trained at and my teammates at Inglorious Grapplers for making the journey so awesome.
At the time of writing, we occupy four out of the top five spots on the Amazon bestseller list.
2016 has seen our sales double. Which is amazing considering we were the #1 bestseller last year as well. I think it has mainly been down to focusing on growing the brand outside of the UK. With good sales in USA and Germany.
We now have stock in: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. And in 2017 we plan to expand into India and Japan.
I am particularly pleased with the Eastfield Allround Professional bat, which we released in November. It took over a year to develop. And was constantly sent back to the drawing board again and again for slight improvements.
We wanted it to be perfect and kept pushing back the release date until it was. What we’ve ended up with is an incredibly high-quality bat that is about half the price of it’s nearest competitor.
We also started work on our the next bat. It is finished and is going through quality testing and tweaking. A bat that we believe will be good enough for any professional table tennis player to use, and at 50% of what they’re currently paying (we’re hoping to retail at around £100).
Other Businesses And Income Streams
In March 2014 we opened a coffee shop called The Wren. A not-for-profit business with the purpose of supporting a local Christian charity. It received critical acclaim and won an award for the best new coffee shop in London.
Since then it has been ticking along, slowly growing and becoming more efficient. In March this year we started to repay some of the loans we took out to open it.
Selling coffee is a very difficult way to earn money. I don’t recommend it. It is going to be years before the starting costs are repaid. Start an Amazon FBA business instead.
Ok. I lied when I said I didn’t start any new projects. I started one.
A one man band consultancy business.
The business was launched in September and since then I have averaged two clients a month. I am pretty happy with that and don’t plan to push it much harder. I enjoy it and have learned a lot. But it is very much a $ for time gig, which is not my favourite type of business.
The Expert in a Year book was released in August 2015 and has had steady sales ever since. In fact, sales have been growing and our best month ever was last month.
Even so, it doesn’t make a fortune. Around £500 a month.
I have continued to invest in the stock market and in peer-to-peer loans. I believe the best ‘passive income’ is investments and my goal is to grow my investment income to the point where it covers all of my expenses.
The one big change this year is that I have started moving my money from Funding Circle to Ratesetter (that’s a refer-a-friend link). I am going to go into the reasons why in detail in a future blog post. But in short: bad debt is rising on Funding Circle and Ratesetter is safer.
I have also started the process of trying to sell some property I have invested in.
2016 has been a very big year for the blog. In 2015 it made £1,600. In 2016 it made a whopping £27,000! That is some crazy growth.
On the downside, it seems to have plateaued over the last few months and in fact readership has dropped slightly. I need to come up with some good ways to attract more readers… any ideas?
In January 2015 we released a time-lapse video of me learning to play table tennis. It went viral and last year clocked up 2 million views, making about 900 euros from adverts on YouTube.
And in 2016 it got even more popular. It has now been watched an incredible 6.3 million times. Earning an extra 2,000 euros.
Not bad for a five minute video!
The not So Good Stuff
On paper, the year looks pretty epic. But there are some not so good stuff.
First off, I have been a lot less productive this year. You can’t really see that from the stats and growth, but a lot of the on-paper success from this year is in fact down to work put in in previous years. I am reaping the benefits now.
The drop in productivity is mostly due to the travelling. There is always an invitation to do something interesting and social, and that really eats into the time and energy I have for building businesses.
I’ve started to think that I have the energy to do two things really well each day. So I can do Work and Socialising. Or Socialising and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But I struggle to do Socialising, Brazilian Jiu-JItsu and Work.
Secondly, I think I have lost a lot of creativity this year. I just don’t feel as sharp as I did in 2015. It is partly that I am a bit fatigued from constantly moving house and travelling. But I think the key thing is that I am not doing as much creative stuff as I did in 2015.
For most of 2015 I wrote down 10 ideas a day. It forced me to be creative and exercise my brain.
But early this year I stopped. That combined with starting less projects (the starting always requires the most creativity) means that my brain has not been working as hard. It has got lazy.
That is something I need to fix in 2017. So let’s start by setting some targets:
New Year’s Resolutions
- Get married
- Average at least 5 hours a week at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Get to a conversational level of Spanish
- Start at least one new business
- Restart my daily ideas and average at least once every two days
- Double the readership of this blog
- Launch the table tennis business in India and Japan
For every one of these I don’t achieve I will donate £100 to charity.