2017 year in review
I usually focus on business in these reviews (you can read 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 here).
I’m writing a different year-in-review this year. I’m grateful for 2017, even though personally it was my most difficult. I’m going to start with two new categories: what I learned, and what I’m thankful for.
If you’re interested, read on!
What I learned in 2017
Business isn’t the most important thing in life.
Ultimately, my most significant accomplishments won’t be “increasing my conversion by 10%.”
Owning your own business can make your life better. But it’s more of a sideshow. It’s not the main event.
Genuine human connection, quality relationships, meaningful experiences: these should be the pillars of our lives. We can pursue these, now, no matter what stage we’re at with our business.
Every technology has downsides
Before my family moved to BC, I got rid of all of my physical books. “I’m going digital!” I proclaimed.
The original plan is that I’d use my iPad Mini to read Kindle books.
Then my kids took the iPad, so I started reading on my iPhone.
This year, my youngest son was having trouble with reading at school. And I had this sudden realization:
“My kids never see me reading a physical book.”
To them, I’m always looking at my phone.
Getting rid of my physical books had another negative consequence. When my kids got bored, they can’t go and explore my bookshelf. Growing up, I’d always be looking at our family’s library for something to read. My parents’ books exposed me to new ideas and authors I wouldn’t have found on my own.
I’ve always been quick to point out the upsides to technology, but rarely do I stop and think about the downsides.
Technology can have adverse sociological, psychological, and environmental effects.
Technology always has a flip side.
There are benefits (convenience, speed, connectivity, creative empowerment)
But we don’t always see the negatives: loss of jobs, tech addiction, human isolation, consolidation of power…
— Justin Jackson (@mijustin) November 24, 2017
Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated by computers, and what we could make with them. Since I started using the internet in the early 90s, I’ve been eager to participate in it and encourage its growth.
But all of this connectivity has pitfalls. As a society, it’s something we need to consider. It’s something I’ll be thinking about a lot in 2018.
Your mental and physical health is your most important asset
If you’re not healthy, you can’t achieve anything worthwhile.
I’ve spent too much of my life seeing how “close to the metal” I can push myself.
I was reminded multiple times this year about the importance of having margin in your life. Give yourself a buffer! Don’t overexert yourself. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, and most importantly, get a therapist.
Get a therapist
For the first time this year, I started seeing a therapist regularly. In the past, I told myself I didn’t need therapy. It felt like it was too expensive, that I couldn’t find the time, that it would be too hard to find someone I could trust.
But this year a bunch of personal issues collided, and the result was anguish like I’ve never felt. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and into my counsellor’s office.
Now, in retrospect, I wish I’d found a therapist years ago. Counselling, without question, has saved my life this year.
There is no substitute for speaking to a professionally trained counselor. They will listen to you better than your friends can and give you the right tools for you and your situation. Don’t rely on the internet. Don’t try to solve all your problems yourself. And don’t put it off.
My friend Sherry Walling has a great guide on finding a therapist here.
What I’m thankful for
Revenue grew by 23%
2016 was my first year as a solo product entrepreneur. That year I did $146,000.
Like I mentioned, 2017 was challenging. There were many days where I was only able to get one hour of work done. However, business revenue still increased to $190,000.
I’m the only employee and took home about $120,000 (before tax) in salary and owner draws. The fact that I can do this work, and support my family of six, is still incredible to me.
By my calculation, my store made 2,513 sales last year. That’s thousands of people buying something I made. I’m so thankful for every one of them. Their encouragement these past few years has been invaluable.
Here’s the rough revenue breakdown:
Discomfort and pain
I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid discomfort.
2017 was the hardest year I’ve ever faced. I’ve had to reckon with personal issues that I’ve been hiding from for years. That’s meant confronting a lot of pain.
Experiencing all of this at once had a significant impact on my life, but it hasn’t all been negative.
If it hadn’t gotten this bad, I would have never reached out for help. I wouldn’t have started therapy. I would have kept running away from my problems.
I’m learning to face the discomfort.
In June, my family and I had an incredible adventure in Scotland. My wife and I have four kids, so this was a big one.
In the past, making a big international trip from Canada felt out of reach. But, we were able to get a crazy deal on flights to Glasgow, so we decided to go for 17 days and explore the whole country.
We hiked, climbed, and swam in the ocean at the Isle of Skye. We drove around the country in an RV. We toured castles, museums, and restaurants in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
It was awesome. We made memories we’ll remember forever.
My friend Bob is always saying:
“Justin, you think you’re motivated primarily by creativity, but you’re playing to your second strength. Your primary motivation is relationships.”
More and more, I think he’s right.
A lot of my past five years, I tried to hide away in my creative cave and make things. Making things is enjoyable for me.
But when I think back on this past year, my highlights aren’t from anything I’ve made. It’s all about the people I met.
For example, on our trip to Scotland, I loved the experiences we had, but my favorite part was meeting up with people I knew from the internet.
I also went on two retreats that had a massive impact on me.
Shawn Blanc, Sean McCabe, and James Clear invited me to their annual retreat. I joined 12 other men in Breckenridge, Colorado. The conversations we had about life and business were profoundly impactful.
I also traveled to Victoria to meet up with Paul Jarvis and Jarrod Drysdale for the first time. We’ve been online friends for years, and call each other every week. It was incredible to spend time with them in real life and make plans for the coming year.
At the end of the summer, my friend Mike Vardy and I took our kids to the waterpark and amusement park together.
Plans for 2018
I’m building a SaaS
The past year, I’ve made most of my income from training people how to do product development and marketing. My three biggest products by revenue are:
- Marketing for Developers – a book and course for programmers who want to learn how to launch and promote a product.
- MegaMaker Club – an online community for indie product people.
- Tiny Marketing Wins – growth tactics and training for software companies.
Most of what I teach was learned in the trenches while I was Product Manager at Sprintly and Mailout.
I want to practice what I preach. It’s time for a new challenge: to launch a profitable SaaS in 2018. The benefit for my customers is I’ll be sharing the new things I’m learning with them in real-time.
I’ve got something in the works. Stay tuned for details!
My courses and books will still be my primary source of income in the coming years. But, I’m excited to get back in the trenches, so I have more to teach!
Tiny Marketing Wins
Tiny Wins had a successful launch last February (my biggest ever). I still feel it has enormous potential. In 2018, Tiny Wins is the product I’ll be updating the most.
Initially, I thought people would want a general marketing tip each week. That turned out to be wrong. Instead, many folks have things they want to accomplish:
- “How do I create a Facebook Ad?”
- “I want to implement some basic SEO tactics on our website.”
- “I need to train our new hire on Google Analytics.”
So I’ve completely reorganized Tiny Wins around mini-courses. You can buy them individually ($39 – $99) in my store, or you can get access to all of them with a subscription.
I’m also hoping to launch the “done for you” service this year. If you don’t have time to implement a tactic yourself, my team of contractors will do it for you!
I’ve consolidated all my business stuff under the “MegaMaker” umbrella. If you want product and marketing advice, go to megamaker.co. This site (justinjackson.ca) is going to be shifting to more personal topics.
I love giving talks. Last year I spoke at MicroConf in Las Vegas (Thanks Mike and Rob!), and at Laracon in New York City (thanks Taylor!).
This year, I’m already booked to be a speaker (AND THE MC) at MicroConf Starter (May 1-3).
You can book me to speak here.
While I’m more wary of technology these days, I still strongly believe in this sentiment from Words:
You and I have been able to connect because of the web. Despite our different locations, devices, and time-zones we can connect here.
I’m so grateful for all the incredible human beings I’ve been able to meet through web pages, tweets, and podcasts.
Thanks for being a part of my story, and allowing me to be a part of yours.
Notes from Justin Jackson
Startup stories, lessons, and tips.
Sent on Saturday mornings.
(Read it while you drink your coffee)