2020 year in review

  • 📖 ~7 mins to read

2020 is coming to a close, a year that many would rather forget, but for me, it’s a year worth reflecting on.

I kicked the year off with plans and goals that I wanted to achieve and looking back, things got thrown in a completely different direction.

Whilst I didn’t accomplish many of the goals I set out to achieve, I finally managed to achieve one of my biggest and longest-standing goals – which was to go freelance full-time.

So here’s a look at my year, from a personal and business perspective.

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Business

At the start of the year, I didn’t imagine 12 months down the line I’d be working for myself.

Well, I’m 4 months in and I’ve earned more money, whilst working less than I did being employed full-time.

Some are frightened by the idea of not knowing how much they’ll earn each month – but I think it’s great. It means each month I have the potential to earn more than before.

No. work enquiries

I decided to go through my emails and CRM to find out the number of work enquires I received in 2020:

  • Serious enquiries: 30
  • Dev only enquiries: 21
  • Design only enquiries: 5
  • Design & dev enquiries: 4
  • Prismic enquiries: 16
  • Gatsby enquiries: 15
  • NextJS enquiries: 1
  • Projects closed: 9
  • Projects open for 2021: 9

I’d say I had a decent number of enquires throughout the year but I had to turn a lot of them down as I was employed full-time and didn’t have time to do them.

Key clients

Looking back over the past 4 months, I’m shocked at the number of different people I’ve been able to work with and the different types of projects I’ve been able to work on.

That being said here’s a look at some of the key projects I’ve worked on in 2020:

Pacific Produce

Role Tools/technologies used
Design Figma

Oxbury

Role Tools/technologies used
Development Gatsby
Prismic
Zen Sell
AWS
Bitbucket Pipelines
Storybook

Dashboard

Role Tools/technologies used
Development Gatsby
Prismic
Mailchimp
Netlify
Storybook

Kinta AI

Role Tools/technologies used
Design & Development Figma
Gatsby
Prismic
Mailchimp
Netlify
Storybook

Client testimonials

One of the nicest things (which I wasn’t expecting to be a big deal) are the nice things my clients have said about working with me:

Rob has a unique ability to understand user experience needs, produce aesthetically pleasing designs, and write maintainable/modular code. To anyone in search of a highly creative and experienced developer for their next project - look no further.

David Laub and Rohit Das – Co-Founders at Howl

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We are delighted with the outcome. It is a step-change from our previous website, and we can highly recommend Rob for his approach/web technology expertise / and all-around delivery.

Bryon Lowen – Programme Manager at Dashboard

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We love Rob’s redesign of our website. He did an awesome job gathering our thoughts and requests in a structured and efficient process, came up with creative ideas and solutions and delivered a great end-product on a tight deadline. Well done!

Max Feider – VP Operations at Kinta AI

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Personal

I’ve been locked up at home since March… so, I’d say 2020 has been somewhat uneventful compared to other years.

That being said, (outside of doing stuff) I feel like quite a lot has changed in my personal life compared to other years.

Planting trees with Ecologi

At the end of August, I signed up to Ecologi – a monthly subscription where they plant trees to offset your carbon footprint.

Over the past 4 months, I’ve planted 160 trees, which equates to:

  • 28,978 miles driven in a car
  • 35 metres2 of sea ice saved
  • 9 long haul flights

If you feel the desire to sign up to Ecologi, you can subscribe using my signup link and Ecologi will plant an extra 30 trees for both of us.

Cutting out travel miles

Like many, I’ve been working at home for most of the year. By working at home since March, I’ve cut out ~6,400 travel miles in my car, this also means I’ve saved a lot of money on fuel (an easy way to justify paying for Ecologi for me).

Investing in environmentally friendly products

In the latter half of 2020, I decided to start making more conscious decisions about the products I buy.

When looking to buy new products and swap out existing ones (when they’ve finished), I looked for things that are recyclable, little to no plastic and vegan.

These are little changes, but like most things, small changes over a long period make a big difference.

Environmentally friendly products – tea, washing machines capsules and vitamins

Dietary change

I wouldn’t say my diet has changed a lot in 2020, but my perspective has. The biggest change we can all make to reduce our impact on the environment is to adopt more of a plant-based diet.

In priors years, I’ve tried going vegan on several occasions with no prevail. Well, 2020 is no different, I’m not vegan and I don’t think I’ll ever be. But I’ve embraced vegetarian and vegan eating into my life.

Over the years I’ve massively reduced the amount of meat I eat and now I’m trying to add more plant-based meals into my diet – all of this has been a process to me and I think it’ll continue to be that way.

Investing in my health

For the past ~9 years I’ve considered myself to be a ”gym-goer”. I felt like I was someone who worked out quite a lot but in reality, I’d be lucky to hit 3 workouts a week.

My health has and always will be very important to me, but as someone who sits for most of the day, I couldn’t accept less than 3 hours of exercise a week to be acceptable.

So in the latter half of the year, I upped my exercise game.

Turning my garage into a gym

At the start of the year, I came up with a plan to turn my garage into a gym. But when Covid hit and we were all stuck at home, that plan became more important than ever.

To help fund this makeover, I decided I’d take on some freelance projects on the side to cover the cost (which became a massive help in taking that step to full-time freelance).

It was only in the latter part of the year, that I was able to get back into the swing of things. Kev Simpson and I have been training almost 5 days a week – 3 days of weight training and 2 days of bodyweight training using the Centr app by Chris Hemsworth.

I’ve never been a big fan of bodyweight workouts, but the combination of heavy lifting and endurance, bodyweight workouts are paying dividends in building more of a healthy body.

Garage gym transformation – before / after

Buying better quality supplements

Until 2020 the only supplement I took was protein powder. Over the years I’ve tried many, but towards the end of this year, I changed to Vivo life’s vegan protein powder.

As I mentioned before, I wanted to buy products that were better for the environment and a vegan protein powder is better for that then whey.

I also wanted a product that used high-quality ingredients, tasted good and didn’t have a grainy texture (like some other vegan protein powders I’ve tried before).

Besides protein powder, I also started taking a multi-vitamin and omega 3 supplements from Feel. Again, they’re made from high-quality ingredients and are vegan.

Vivo life vegan protein powder and creatine

Listened to fewer audiobooks

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read/listen to 30 books – that did not happen.

I’ve been a big fan of audiobooks for several years now, however this year I decided to cancel my Audible subscription.

It’s not because it sucks or that listening to books is bad, the problem was, now that I no longer had to drive to and from work (~40 min drive each way). I lost my opportunity to listen to audiobooks and since, I’ve not found a place in my routine where it works.

Also, now that I’ve had time to reflect, the act of reading 30 books isn’t as useful as it sounds. Reading a great book, but not actioning anything that you learnt in it, leaves a lot of value on the table.

And this is currently where I’m at in the crossroads. My plan for 2021 is to consume far fewer books, but actually, take action on them. Right now I don’t know what my plan for doing that looks like – but I’ll share my ideas when I know.

Closing thoughts

All things considered, my 2020 looks like it’s been a success. But like everyone, I also went through ups and downs and it took me a long time to find my feet through all of this.

Looking back to March when we went into lockdown, I feel like I was going through the motions, waking up, working, doing not much else in the evening, going to sleep and repeat.

I’d say a lot of my positive outcomes of 2020 happened in the latter part of the year.

I’m excited for the new year, I have big plans for the year and look forward to sharing them with you soon – so stay tuned for a lot more updates.

Rob Simpson

Freelance UI/UX designer and front-end developer