My Year of Hustle & the Freckle-aversary

New Year’s resolutions, anyone?

Three hundred and sixty five days ago, I was drinking spiked punch and looking forward to Christmas.

Oh, and spending late, late hours in the office, busting tail to launch our time tracking service, Freckle. And working on our JavaScript performance book. (And later came Twistori Desktop for Macs.)

Even though it was December 2008, it was all part of my plan for 2009: my Year of Hustle.

Minus the punch, maybe.

Year of Hoositwhatnow?

Hustle. You know, that verb—like a fly-by-nighty who helps part fools from their money, using only his wits, walnut shells, and one little green pea.

Wait, no. Wrong definition.

In my sexy, twisted dictionary, hustling means taking advantage of every advantage you have, creating awesome goods, and selling ‘em. Shaking your moneymaker, metaphorically speaking. Yes, it involves money, but not sleaze.

My goal for 2009 was to ring in 2010 able to live off my income from products and services exclusively—products and services being something I created, mine mine mine. In fact, I really meant it as anything but exchanging one hour of work for one hour of pay. (The sad mathematics for helping other people get rich off your skillz.)

Since I was golden-handcuffed to consulting at the time, this was no small undertaking. I knew I was in for a lot of trial and error, hypothesis, tests, and analysis. I’d never sold a product or subscription service myself before, much less built one on the side.

Thus, the hustle.

I almost made it.

The results?

One year ago today, we launched Freckle to the world.

Today, even if we never touched it again, Freckle would earn over $60,000 for us in the coming year.

And, a mere 11 months ago, Thomas and I released the beta book of JavaScript Performance Rocks! Since then, we’ve sold over $30,000 worth of ebooks.

We’ve also put on a couple expert-level JavaScript workshops, which have done just fine. We have three more booked for the next year—two, inside megacorps, and one open to the public in Philadelphia at the end of January.

So, yeah, I almost made it.

It’s almost there, but not quite. The Freckle revenue we split with our partners. They’ve more than earned it. The book, of course, is money that Thomas and I share.

It’s not enough to live on. Not yet.

Inside my head, on this anniversary, I’m talking to myself, and the conversation goes something like this:

Voice One: So, self, how’s it feel to fall short of your goals? Your goal for an entire year?

Voice Two: Just fine, self. I made huge progress. It’s clearly a viable approach. All in all, I’m well-pleased by the results.

Voice One: *incomprehensible spluttering signaling the bursting of the Self-Righteous Snark Bubble*

Would I liked to have met my goal? Does a bear shit in the woods and then proceed to frolic with rolls of suspiciously cuddly toilet paper?

Hell yeah.

But I’m not weeping the bitter tears of disappointment becauseā€¦

This is my philosophy on goals: Goals are not so much for meeting, but for spurring. They’re there to poke you in the ribs with their sharp little metal spokes, and yell “Giddyup!

I did make a lot of progress, stacked against some pretty ridiculous circumstances. (For the record, I recommend neither traveling for 9.5 weeks with limited internet access, nor being sick for nearly three straight months.)

When it comes down to brass tacks—and, let’s face it, it’s either brass tacks or brass monkeyballs, so you know which I’d choose—I take full responsibility for not fulfilling the fuck out of my Year of Hustle.

But the magic of the thing is that I can see that I could have. I could have made it aaaaaaall the way.

I coulda been a contenda.

If only I’d worked more regularly on that ill-fated trip.

If only I’d been less indulgent with my own moodiness.

If only I’d press-ganged my fellow Frecklers into shipping the timer, and invoicing, sooner.

If only I’d spent less money, and taken on less outside paying work.

If only I’d been more rigorous about defending my health, and said “no thanks” to so many conferences (where I caught something that left me shivering and mewling, every damn time).

If only I’d marketed more. Wrote more articles, did more interviews, giveaways, redesigned the blog, sent more useful email tips. And asked for the sale.

Out of overspending, wallowing, globetrotting & constant flu, my biggest regret: Not. Enough. Marketing.

That last one really is the big one. Oh, yeah, I should have worked more diligently on that longass, soul-sucking trip. And fewer conferences looks like a good plan on paper. And, yes, I should have been more of a manager.

But, like I said, Not Enough Marketing is the one that really gets me. Because I know the secret.

The secret is:

I could have doubled what we made, if only I’d marketed some more.

I know it, because, holy crap, look at the results we’ve gotten with almost no marketing. I didn’t send out press releases, email bloggers, or do contests. I haven’t done interviews or guest-written on any popular sites. No promotions, no freebies, no nothing.

I posted to my blog, and I sent out a few emails, and a couple people have posted about us ever so briefly on their blogs.

It’s not nothing, but it’s not much, and it was almost all left to chance.

Because of me.

A dirty-mouthed wise lady once said, spend four times as much time on marketing as creating.

If I’d hewed to her wisdom, I would have reached my goal. And maybe then some.

I’m still pleased!

But whatever! Live and learn. I’m writing this with a smile on my face.

Maybe my projects aren’t earning as much as I would have liked, but look at the results. I have projects to discuss.

Before this push for the Year of Hustle, I had never completed (or really even begun) my own software, and never shipped any kind of product on my own.

Today, I can lay claim to a Software-as-a-Service product, a book (40,000 words), and a Mac app. Not to mention groundwork laid for future endeavors.

I didn’t do all the work, don’t get me wrong. Far from it. I got to spend huge amounts of time collaborating with people I respect and care about love and think are freakin’ awesome.

People like my husband Thomas, the boys at abloom, Dave Martorana, Samo Korosec, and Dana Vachon. To name only a few.

We’re crafting our better futures, and forging our own independence, together.

And I think that’s a pretty fucking great outcome for any year.

Are you gonna be hustlin’ come 2010?”

I asked on Twitter:

raise your tweet-hand if you want to change your life in 2010, by starting your own business or side-project?

And got lots of replies to the order of: Yes, me!

What about you?

11 Comments

  1. Simon says:

    Congratulations Amy – you (and the rest of the Freckle team) launched a great product and deserve to be proud of yourself for getting so close to your goal :)

    I’ve been thinking along similar lines recently and I’ve decided that I also want to be in a position where I don’t have to do client work by the end of 2010. I’ve got one ‘spare time’ project on the go at the moment and a couple more ideas so hopefully this time next year I won’t have to help other people get rich in order to earn a living.

  2. Eric Davis says:

    Amy,

    The amount of progress you made in one year is awesome and you should be proud. I have some plans for 2010 to do something similar (SaaS, info products). I wanted to start this year but I kept allowing myself to be pulled back into consulting work.

    If only someone who has done this before could build something to help kick my into gear. ;)

  3. Jeff says:

    2009 was definitely a good year for change.

    Those Javascript Master Classes have kickbacks built in for their “original home,” right? Hah!

    The best thought I had this year was “If not now, then when?” It helps me make both the short-run and long-run decisions, and so far things are working out.

  4. Toby Hede says:

    Awesome work!

    I turned down a rather kick-ass (not to mention well paid) position this morning so that I could work full-time on my own software.

    It is quite a leap of faith, but I am looking forward to 2010 …

  5. Holy crap! I had a personal epiphany the day before and wrote this. Hell yeah I’m down for my very own Year of the Hustle. 2010 is it!

  6. thesethings says:

    (How is it possible that this post has only gotten five comments?)

    Thanks for the inspiring write-up. And for the honesty about both the successes and challenges. It sounds like you’re doing great.

    I also read posts you did earlier in the year about your ebook launch, and how you made the Twistori-based site for SXSW. Those were great, too. (I’m a sucker for anything that demystifies stuff I guess.)

    And yes. You should totally do whatever “How to change your life by launching a side-project,” product you’re thinking of. That market could benefit from new/fresh/punk/fun/cool rolemodels :D

  7. Thanks so much for this awesome post sharing your year with us. What you’ve accomplished is truly impressive. If I could get a quarter of that done for myself in 2010 I’d be a happy man.

    I love the fact that you’ve got goals to improve your life. So many people just seem to drift through life without any awareness of what they want or how their life could be better. It’s so easy to let life just take over and sweep you along on an endless tide of chaos.

    I’ve been working on my time tracking product for a year now and I still don’t have anything out. But this will be the year! (Yeah, I know that’s what they said about Duke Nukem Forever too) My target is to be paying my bills from Lapsus by the end of 2010. We’ll see if that happens…

    Thanks again for a superb post!

  8. Berthold says:

    That’s awesome.

    How many people keep talking about how they’re going to eventually do something or other, they plan on releasing this and that and they never. bloody. ship.

    It’s not like I’m not guilty of this myself. I’ve spent years hatching plans. I have a whole box full of them somewhere. They are worth jack diddly squat. When I find it again, I will sift through it once more for some of my genious insights (like you look at the pictures you drew as a 4-yr old). And then burn that crap.

    There really is no point to talk about stuff you’re not gonna do in the end. From a marketing standpoint you become a person that never ships anyway. People start dismissing your business ideas and soon you personally. Even if you came up with the idea that saved the world, nobody listens any more.

    Check out Gary Vaynerchucks Talk on TED.com – it’s all about hustling. And check out more by Amy Hoy. She, too, is a hustler. Not the sleazy kind, tho.

    Hustle, damnit.

  9. […] might be my last year personally, I’ve decided to make it count. This year will be my “year of hustle“, as shall soon be further […]

  10. […] by @amyhoy’s 2009 year of hustle, I’m doing my […]

  11. KingFdh says:

    LOVE THESE, thanks andera! my girls had so much fun yesterday.. they came right home and told daddy all about it. nothing funner than playing in the rain! good think you’re so creative (and talented of course.)

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