J.Whiting.

A Year In Review: 2020

I took a few weeks off at the end of last year, so this article is coming a bit later - I just needed a break and it was great. Two weeks without touching work. Now I'm back I have jumped headfirst into the new year of work and projects.

Last year was tough but there were a few key moments which really stood out. I wanted to surmise them a little in this article and set off into 2021 with good footing.

First Full Year Freelancing

At the start of the year, I had a few projects on and everything was looking positive. However, when the UK lockdown was announced a lot of people panicked - work started falling through or being delayed. I wasn't sure if I was going to have to find a full-time job again or how long I could keep on freelancing. It wasn't until May (three months later) that work started to pick back up and increase.

I have had the privilege of working with a few amazing clients in 2020 - some more exciting than others, but all taught me a few lessons I can take forward with me. I've had some bad experiences that have made me learn to be more selective on clients. I have also had some great experiences with great people - which I've cherished.

  • At the beginning of the year, I worked on the new site for Kinder's BBQ. A completely bespoke Shopify theme to sell their products and let users know of great recipes.

  • In March I met the peeps at Tribe and helped them work on planning a few projects and executing a major rebuild for a client.

  • I also met Josh at Grizzlyware and helped his team to upgrade an archaic system from PHP 5.3 to 7.3 - we'd have gone further if we could but a few modules needed a complete rewrite.

  • Over the summer I also rebuilt my portfolio site, built with Nuxt, Nuxt Content, and Tailwind. A few tweaks here and there and a couple of SEO updates and the site is performing well with a 50% increase in traffic and in turn a lot of conversions to hopefully bring in new work for the new year. I also switched my site analytics to Plausible and recommend taking a look for your own site!

Learning

Every year I try to improve my skills or pick up new ones.

I spent a chunk of time learning Node and the ecosystem around it. I built, and rebuilt, and rebuilt a web scraper to compile and build Magic! The Gathering decks with logging of game history..

I watched a lot of YouTube and videos for hours trying to hone my design skills and putting them to use on this website - I think it turned out pretty well.

Testing has always been a hurdle for me when working on projects. During the end of 2020, I spent time working on improving my knowledge with PHPUnit and Jest. When working in an agency I didn't have the luxury of spending much time on skills. I found it hard but I feel for every test I write I become a little better.

Ideas

I have a problem finishing my own side projects. I get too invested in the tech, the stack, the way I can do these cool things and never actually get to finish or build the thing I want. I started to refactor my MTG (Magic! The Gathering) deck builder from Laravel to Node (as a way to learn node) but then found I would have just preferred it staying in Laravel with a Nuxt frontend.

I also started working on a complex boilerplate for integrating Shopify with Nuxt however this tailed off as the client I had scoped out have decided to use a different platform instead.

I have been looking for a great markdown editor that works online and syncs between all my devices but I'm yet to find one that really fits for me, so who knows I may end up building something this year if I get the time.

Favourites

I wanted to share a shortlist of a few of my favourite things I discovered, or that stood out, over the last year. The below is compiled into a list of books, movies, music, television, and games.

Books

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig - Matt Haig never lets me down, I have been a fan of his work since I read Reasons to Stay Alive and the Midnight Library was no different a beautiful piece with deep undertones in.

Runners Up: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline, The Witcher Series by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Movies

The Gentleman - Guy Ritchie produced a great piece here in the tried and tested style of his past movies. Between the way the characters interact and the stories unfold I was hooked all the way through. I've rewatched it a few times and love it every time.

Runners Up: Knives Out, Hamilton.

Television

Star Trek: Discovery - I had this on my watch list for a while but never gave it a chance until this year. I had seen season 3 was due to come out and binged the first two seasons in a week or so. Season 3 was great and I wasn't sure where it was going but the last few episodes had me hanging each week.

Runners Up: Mandalorian, Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, The Witcher.

Music

Dreamland by Glass Animals - My partner, child, and myself had this one on repeat around the house for several weeks. We couldn't get it out of our heads and therefore I think it deserves my top spot for the year. We have booked to see them in concert if everything goes to plan!

Runners up: Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa, Moral Panic by Nothing But Thieves, Levels by Fame on Fire.

Games

Assassin's Creed Valhalla - I'm a huge fan of open-world RPGs and after Cyberpunk launched in a sorry state Valhalla had to take my number one spot. The story was great and the quests felt less like cut and paste filler and more though out, each one had a unique element to them. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the DLC to have more time as a Viking.

Runners Up: Pokémon Shield (Got my child into this big time!), Civilization VI.

Goals for 2021

Freelancing was good last year but I definitely had a few dry spots that I would like to avoid if possible. My main problems occurred with scheduling work and then having it delayed for reasons out of my control. I want to get better at aligning work and having work that I can fall back to - even if it is a side project.

For a while, I have been toying with the idea of making video tutorials, streaming, and setting up a Nuxt course. I recently purchased the Elgato Wave:3, Camo (for using my phone as a webcam), and a ring light to get the setup ready. Hopefully, this will come into fruition in the first quarter of the year.

Finally, my last goal is to produce more quality blog posts covering some topics that I have been working with over the last year. I’ve had many ideas started many posts but never finished them to get them published. In 2021 I’m looking at producing more content around Laravel, Vue, and freelancing.

Wrapping Up

2020 has been a ride - whether positive or negative - with freelancing, the challenges of Coronavirus, securing work, homeschooling, and restrictions on life. I’m hoping 2021 keeps up with solid work leads and that we can all get back to a somewhat normal life situation.

Hope you all have a great 2021!