2023: Personal Snapshot

An annual review of 2023. I took a look at what went well in 2023 and what I should change for 2024.

2023: Personal Snapshot
Photo by Kajetan Sumila / Unsplash

Table of Contents

This is my annual review. It serves two purposes: a deep analysis of the past year and a record of my thoughts at the time of writing.

I hope it's fun to read or, at the very least, provides some interesting insights.

If it's me rereading this, welcome back. This is Dylan from 2023.

What went well?

According to my GitHub account, I committed code 276 out of 365 days in 2023. I likely coded even more since there were days when I didn't commit my code. Also, sometimes I used a different account for projects due to company policy.

Squint to see the secret message

The more I code the more I learn. So, as long as I stay honest and avoid committing useless code, coding serves as a good proxy of how much I've learned about technical topics throughout the year. This year, I felt I learned a lot, so I'm happy.

Despite reaching an all-time high compared to previous years, I think I could have achieved more. Sometimes, especially between projects or during periods when I felt burned out, I procrastinated quite a bit. Next year, I want to improve this.

I shipped five AI apps (not including client work). I developed four on my own and created one with a friend. Two of them made it to the front page of Hacker News and got featured in The Economist. Another one won brownie points in an AI Shark Tank.

AI apps I built in 2023

I also wrote 9 blog posts. I was very motivated at first and worked with a good friend, Jing, as an accountability partner. We ended up prioritizing other projects and stopped the accountability challenge, but it was fun and effective while it lasted. I'm very grateful to Jing for joining me in this challenge.

I focused on writing tutorials about AI topics, but I got tired after a while. Writing high-quality tutorials demands a lot of effort. Plus, AI evolves so fast that my tutorials often become outdated within months. That sucked!

My stats looking like 💩

When I stopped writing regularly, my site's traffic started to drop. I also believe ChatGPT was a major factor. My basic-level tutorials, which ChatGPT can easily replace, have stopped growing.

I'm making a change this year in my content creation strategy. I'll focus on creating videos for technical topics and write about evergreen subjects on my blog. I've realized that making videos for technical content is a time-saver compared to writing tutorials. Showing users directly through videos is simpler than writing detailed descriptions or taking screenshots and explaining them.

My original plan for my blog was to share my thoughts. I ended up writing technical tutorials because it was a more effective way to drive traffic, but in all honesty, I didn't enjoy it very much. So I'm going back to my original plan.

I posted more or less consistently on LinkedIn throughout the year. I got roughly 420k views on my posts. A third of those views came from a single post, and I gained ~2.3k followers.

The outcome of spamming LinkedIn

I met lots of great people and had tons of catch-ups this year. I am grateful for all the people I met this year. Special thanks go to Max, Emanuel, Sebastián, Edu, and Rhys for the collaborations we did. Not all things went as planned, but we had fun.

Posting random things online helps me chat, befriend, learn from, and even do business with people I wouldn't have met otherwise. It feels great!

I did more sales this year. I took part in two 6-figure proposals that didn't pan out, and landed two 5-figure contracts, each setting a new record for my hourly rate. I also sold quite a few small projects. Selling is fun but I'm not great at it. This is one of the focuses for next year.

Financially, things went well. Despite being more focused on learning than on making money this year, I made ~2.5x my annual burn rate (I'm frugal!). All my income was made through freelancing, and 68% of my income came from a single project. This situation is better than the past two years because I'm a bit less dependent on one client. But I'm still not where I want to be. To lower my risk, I want to spread my income more evenly across different clients.

Healthwise, this year went well. I completed 169 strength training sessions, averaging 3 gym visits per week. I'm pretty happy with that. I faced some minor injuries but dealt with them effectively.

Also, I completed 4,711 minutes of Z2 training (roughly 90 minutes per week). For Z2, I experimented with running, cycling, and stair-climbing. Running is my favorite, but stair-climbing lets me multitask. So, I mostly split my time between these two activities.

This year, I gave stand-up comedy a shot, all thanks to my wife. I've wanted to try it for a long time but kept coming up with excuses. For our fifth anniversary, she surprised me by signing me up for a course. It's my favorite gift since getting a Game Boy Advance twenty years ago.

Me, holding a fart on stage

For those who know me in real life, you'll know that I don't enjoy speaking in public. So this was a real challenge for me. I did a presentation with family and friends and went to four open mics.

IT WAS GREAT! Even though I felt terrified before stepping onto the stage, I ended up having a lot of fun. Most of my jokes made people laugh, which felt comforting.

I do need to work on my stage presence. I often stood in awkward places, struggled to make eye contact with the audience during punchlines, and frequently said "Ehhh... Uhhh..."

I've opened an IG account for my comedy stuff. I haven't posted anything yet, but I'm planning to start in the next few weeks. For now, I will post in Spanish. Follow me there if you want to stay updated!

Finally, this year has been good for my relationships with my wife, family, and friends. My wife and I continue to work as a team, each of us progressing in our respective areas and supporting one another. And I made time to enjoy with family and friends.

In my last snapshot, I didn't include any photos. When I revised it a few days ago, I realized I missed having them. So, this time, I've included a few.

This year, a family highlight was my in-laws' visit to Madrid for a few months. We found out that our family loves karaoke, especially my dad and my father-in-law. It was tough to get them off the microphone!

More importantly, my loved ones remain healthy and happy, and so am I.

What didn't go well?

I didn't write a 2022 personal snapshot. That wasn't a great way to start 2023.

After Entrepreneur First, I felt burned out and lacked the motivation to write a detailed review of the past year. I kept putting it off until it was way too late. And nobody wants to read your annual review in August!

I failed to get funding twice this year. First from Entrepreneur First, and second, from Speedinvest. Pitching, preparing the materials, and all the discussions involved were a cool experience, but the outcome was frustrating both times.

I'm not sure it would have worked out. In both cases, I wasn't too excited about the idea, but I thought it was worth a try. My main concern with raising venture capital money too early often leads to poor financial outcomes for founders. That's a no-no for me.

Though, bootstrapping isn't easy either. My most successful AI product made 60€. Just enough for a decent dinner for two in Madrid.

My "best" AI product

The AI apps I built this year landed me several freelancing projects. But they made little money by themselves. To be fair, I only launched two products you could pay for. I didn't intend the others to make money, at least not initially.

This year, I finally grasped something you might find obvious: to have products that generate revenue, you must be intentional about it. You must create opportunities for people to pay.

I used to believe that if I built something cool enough, people would discover it and somehow find a way to pay for it. I was wrong. I realized that I must actively set up a payment system for my products or deliberately plan how to monetize the attention they receive. Without that, after the initial burst of attention fades, you might end up with nothing. Many of my projects this year suffered this fate.

I've always dreamed of creating a product, so I ignored the market's pull towards a consulting company. Instead of doubling down on the demand, I often said no, aiming to focus on my product ideas. After spending much of this year like a person with a hammer in search of a nail, I've decided to reverse my approach.

Me running away from the demand

Now, I'll start with the demand and then figure out how to offer services to meet it. My focus will be on establishing a consulting practice. From there, I might develop a product. But then again, maybe I don't need to. I'm content with the idea of getting rich through a services-only company 😉

Although I'm satisfied with my physical fitness, I've noticed that I often don't rest enough. This happens either because I don't sleep enough or because I overtrain. I've started feeling some symptoms of this, so improving my rest is a goal for next year.

What are the plans for next year?

First, focus on building a successful consulting practice. I'll be doing a lot more sales this year and plan to share updates frequently. I have some exciting news about this that I'll be sharing soon.

Next, establishing a sustainable content engine. I believe shifting to video for technical content might yield a higher ROI than text. So, this year, I plan to explore this approach and reserve the blog for more personal articles.

Keep doing stand-up comedy. I haven't found such an enjoyable hobby in a long time. I want to do more of it. It also brings extra benefits, like improving my sales skills.

Finally, make time for rest. I often struggle with guilt over taking breaks, leading to very few days off throughout the year. But this isn't good for my mental and physical well-being. I aim to create more space for rest, and I'm sure my wife and family will appreciate that too 😁