2023 review of the year

2023 was a tough year, and my turnover fell considerably (down 25% on 2022, though that was a record year). On the plus side, I’m now spreading my income over more clients and projects, and being paid more per hour on average.

Things I did for the first time

Lost a large contract: A client who I had worked with for several years decided to stop my regular work. This wasn’t for any negative reasons on my part, but simply that there was not enough work available. It was a major blow to my income, but no contract lasts forever, and I have managed to make up around two thirds of the loss with two regular clients and one-off projects. On the plus side, I’ve now spread my income over more clients, which reduces the impact of losing a contract in the future, and the new work is at a higher hourly rate.

Things I’ve changed

More one-off projects: Carrying on from last year, and partly forced by the loss of some regular work, I’ve started reserving some of my time for one-off projects. Roughly two thirds of my time is now spent on regular work and the remaining third on one-off projects, which are usually a fixed fee. I completed 21 one-off projects this year, compared with 10 in 2022, and I already have 2 in the pipeline for 2024.

Launched side projects: I launched two side projects this year: Pick a Date (voting on the preferred date for an event) and Viking Mind (online bookmark management). Neither produce any income, but building them provided me with additional experience of creating a site from scratch using Slim, which should be useful for future paid work. It’s also been a bit of a morale booster seeing other people use the sites.

Timesheet management: I’ve always tracked the time I’ve spent on client projects, but this year I wrote additional software to analyse the raw data, as well as speed up my invoicing. I’ll provide a full write up of this in a later blog post.

Things to improve for 2024

Launch monitoring side project: The next side project I’m working on is a simple web application for monitoring websites, starting with SSL/TLS certificates. This is something I want for my own purposes, as well as alerting clients to certificates that are due to expire.

Get contracts reviewed by a lawyer: I’ve written my own contracts (Terms of Business Agreement etc.) which have served me well so far, but for my own peace of mind I would like to have them professionally reviewed.

Get a standard NDA: Some prospective clients ask me to sign their NDA before they will even discuss a project. There’s a lot of effort involved in this, as every NDA is unique and I have to check each clause carefully. Also, whilst I’ve always respected confidentiality of client data and code, I do need the ability to talk in broad terms about the work I’ve done, but NDAs are often written such that I cannot even disclose the client’s name. If I had my own NDA, I could ensure it strikes the right balance between respecting confidentiality and being able to mention what I’ve worked on recently.

Launch books site: There are several topics that I am writing books on, including all the advice on freelancing that I’ve dispensed over the years. I want to get these online in 2024, even if only in draft form, as they give me something to work on in quiet periods and hopefully will be of use to others. The online versions will be free, on the basis that they’re effectively a marketing aid (e.g. if you can see I write clearly about PHP problems, you might hire me to fix your PHP site).


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