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2015 Year in Review

Travel Selfie by Seth Eckert

 

As a freelancer and small business owner, I find it vitally important to take a regular step back and look at what I’ve been working on for the past year, to help shape the year ahead.

I’ve had my head so buried in work in recent months that it’s taken the Christmas break for me to come up for air and look back at what’s been achieved in 2015.

These annual reviews are more for me than for you, but some of the thoughts / lessons here might be useful for you as well.

This is my second year doing an annual review post. You can read the previous year here.

Other reviews of 2015 I’ve enjoyed reading at include Nathan Barry, Stephen Waddington and Neil Perkins.

Highlights

Blogging

Here are the main stats for this blog in 2015 compared to 2014:

  • Number of published posts:
    • 2014: 100
    • 2015: 115
  • Total Views:
    • 2014: 43,171
    • 2015: 123,654
  • Comments:
    • 2014: 252
    • 2015: 748

The second half of the 2014 was the most time I’ve ever spent consistently blogging, racking up around 30 posts at over 1,000 words each in a 6 month period. The end goal in mind was to pull those blog posts together into an ebook, which turned out as Freelance in 30 Days. This meant that a lot of 2015’s traffic come from 2014’s work.

2015 itself was a slow year for me blogging wise. I published just 15 posts of varying quality, with only 2 of them making my top 10 most viewed posts for this year (see below for a summary). However, I tripled the traffic to my site in 2015 and now get over 13,000 views comfortable in any given month, with little input on my part.

I’ve also generated quite a few new business leads through this blog, so well worth picking up the blogging more in 2016 to drive even more.

I saw a big jump in views around June 2015, which may or may not have been down to a Google algorithm update, I don’t know.

benrmatthews blogging figures 2015

Top Posts

1. Freelance Consultant Rates: How To Work Out Your Hourly, Daily or Project Rate

Views: 29,765

Word Count: 2,634

I predicted that this post would be well read for the next year at least and I was right – jumping to the number 1 position in 2015 from number 5 in 2014.

 

2. Japan on a Budget for 2 Weeks

Views: 21,723

Word Count: 1,756

My most read post of 2014 has also been well read in 2015. The post definitely reaches its target audience – people who want to know how to travel to Japan on a budget from someone who has already done the same trip. Adding “2 weeks” into the title also helped, as it seems that’s how long many people go for – perhaps 1 week is too short if you’re travelling all that way, but more than 2 weeks in Japan makes it too expensive to stay longer?

 

3. Freelance Statistics 2015: The Freelance Economy in Numbers

Views: 10,306

Word Count: 827

A shorter post, but with good content sourced from multiple sources. This post has become a go-to for anyone looking for up to date stats on the freelancer economy, so I may well update this post for 2016 as well. Not to mention the likes of Mashable have been linking through to this post as well.

 

4. How to Become a Freelance Consultant

Views: 6,564

Word Count: 2,294

This was my first long-form post and the foundation for Freelance in 30 Days. Loads of great comments from freelancers I know as well, so worth a look.

 

5. Where To Find London Tech Events, Meetups and Hack Days

Views: 4,298

Word Count: 658 words

A post from 2013, but still a useful one.

 

And the best of the rest:

6. Suggestions for When That Perfect Domain Name or Twitter Username is Taken (Views: 2,421)

7. Free 7 day freelance course (Views: 2,269)

8. 29 essential freelance tools you need to be a productive freelancer (Views: 2,232)

9. Find freelance work online with these freelancer job sites (Views: 2,145)

10. 28 tips from freelance job sites that you can use to be a successful freelancer (Views: 1,889)

Travel

2014 was a big year in travel for me, with trips to:

  • Berlin (Germany)
  • Seville (Spain)
  • San Francisco (US) to pitch at Y Combinator
  • Tokyo and Kumamoto (Japan)
  • New Delhi (India)
  • Amsterdam (Holland)

2015 was just as good for travel, with trips to:

  • Lisbon (Portugal)
  • Havana (Cuba)
  • Istanbul (Turkey)
  • Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • Geneva (Switzerland)
  • Barcelona (Spain)

Most of these were a mix of work and pleasure, where we were still on call for client work but just happened to be working from a different country. Thank you AirBnb, Skype, Google and other companies that helped make this happen!

I’m planning to write an extensive post on how I’m balancing travel with freelancing, taking into account all of these above trips to give real life examples of how we did it.

Reading

A good year for reading, with the below being my favourite books from the year, in no particular order:

  • A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
  • Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel
  • The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau
  • A Tale For the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
  • The Guest Cat, Takashi Hiraide
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • The Good Terrorist, Doris Lessing
  • Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

Currently Reading:

  • Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
  • City On Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg
  • Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Work

This has been a very productive year for work and looks set to continue for 2016.

Montfort continues to grow, with a brilliant set of clients that we’ve really enjoyed working with, including UNHCR, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPCA, Reader’s Digest, Harper Collins, 10:10 and many more.

We were shortlisted for Best Use of Twitter at the Social Buzz Awards, following our work with British Future on the #WalkTogether campaign.

Montfort also became a Recommended Agency on the Recommended Agencies Register.  It’s particularly exciting for Montfort to be awarded this, as it means we’ve been highly rated by our clients for the great work we do for them – a good sign for anyone who might be looking at working with us.

We’ve worked with some excellent partner agencies, including Ruder Finn, The Romans and GOOD Agency, all of whom have been fantastic to work with.

We’ve expanded our service offering to include WordPress website design and digital transformation, with our first projects in these areas seeing great results and more clients lined up for early 2016 in both of these areas already.

The Montfort team has also grown, with a larger network of freelancers working under our name. If you like the look of Montfort and want to find out more about working with us, head over to the Mates With Montfort page for details of the kind of people we’re looking for.

I joined the PRCA’s Independent Consultants group as its youngest member, also speaking at a recent event about 10 Digital Trends for Freelancers.

Lastly, I came runner up on the IPSE Freelancer of the Year Awards 2015. Need to write up a post about the award, so that’s one blog post for next year.

Plans for 2016

I’m planning to write more about my plans for 2016, but to summarise:

  • See more of friends and family
  • Continue to take great care of our fantastic Montfort clients
  • Get back into blogging by publishing at least 30 longer posts
  • Evolve the Freelance in 30 Days book to include additional material and resources
  • Build the internal PR tool I’ve been working on and make it client facing
  • Improve how Montfort works with freelancers to establish this way of working
  • Keep on travelling to new places

All of that sounds achievable, right?

How was 2015 for you? What are your plans for the year ahead?

Here’s to a fantastic 2016!

Ben Matthews

Ben Matthews is a digital marketing consultant specialising in tech, media and charity sectors.

https://benrmatthews.com/

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