2023 – Year in Review

As we’re coming to the end of the year I thought I’d take a look at some of the work I’ve done and how the business has performed in 2023. Overall, professionally it’s been a solid year, with the usual ups and downs. In a way my struggles this year have been no worse than anybody else in technology – a field that has struggled a bit on 2023 with mass layoffs. I’m counting that as a win. However, in my last blog post of the year I’m going to focus on things that I are positive and I can shout about.

Website & Newsletter

In August I celebrated 5 years freelancing, which was a huge milestone for me. Knowing it was coming up it was something I wanted to focus on in 2023. The year began with launching a new website (of course, spotting this meant I’ve seen a mistake on the design I need to fix, which I will add to my workload!), and generally focus more on the site and the brand here.

This year I also launched a newsletter. I’ve sent a few out and people seem to enjoy it so if you want I would appreciate if you subscribe. It’s not that regular (usually around whenever I post on here) so I hardly clog up your inbox, but I do try to add value. Plus you can unsubscribe anytime.

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I freely admit I’m terrible at promoting this.

Non Website Work

In 2023 I began to go to conferences a bit more. I took myself off to WordCamp Europe 2023 in Athens (you can read the roundup here) which was one of the better WordCamp Europes I have been to. July saw me go to the WeAreDevelopers World Congress in Berlin, which was a fair way outside my comfort zone (a more general developer conference than just WordPress), but I saw Sir Tim Bernes-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, give a talk which was a particular highlight.

I also launched a plugin. My first new WordPress plugin in about 5 years – Preload LCP Image went live towards the end of January. It fixed a very specific problem I had on this site. The feedback has been excellent and I’ve got a definitive roadmap for improvement…when I have the time to do so.

One of my goals for 2023 was to appear on a podcast, and I did! I was on OMG Center’s “…and we have an office Dog” Podcast in Sepetember. On it I talked with Chris Simmance about working with digital marketing agencies as a freelance developer. It’s definitely something I want to do more of in 2024, so if you have a podcast or a videocast(?) and want a WordPress developer with over 15 years commercial experience to come on and talk about things – please get in touch.

Freelancing in 2023

I did the maths and over the course of the year I’ve worked with 26 clients, from full web builds, to optimisations, to custom plugin work and WooCommerce. Some agencies, and some cover for other people. A lot of this was retainer/maintenance client work from anything from international brands to one man bands. It’s nothing if not varied! I couldn’t tell you how many sites I’ve gotten out the door sadly, which scuppered my original plan of trying to come up with a bunch of numbers. A kind of Welsh web developer Spotify wrapped.

This year for the first time I contracted out work on this site to other people, and I wanted to celebrate them. During the middle of the year I worked with Marge Bradshaw on some proper branded photoshoots that wasn’t just taken with a battered old mobile in front of my kitchen wall. I think they turned out fantastically – and captured things I like (video games) as well as given the air of being professional, what do you think?

The other freelancer I’ve been working with on this site was Laura Phillips of Salt and Paper Digital. Laura helped me with the “What is the Fastest WordPress Page Builder?” post, changing the structure of the article, and making what I wrote flow better. It has showed as that has been the most popular blog post on this site this year. Also, she helped put together potential blog post ideas for this site.

Both Marge & Laura come highly recommended by me.

Sponsorships

I don’t believe you make your own luck but you can help make others. One thing I’ve been focusing on this year is giving back to causes I believe in. One cause saw something special happen as my third year of Colwyn Bay sponsorship saw us play in the Cymru Premier for the first time in our history, as we got promoted as champions. I’ve potentially a few other causes I’m looking to approach in 2024 to sponsor. Watch this space.

Highlights for 2024?

As we wind down for 2023, your mind invariably turns to 2024. It’s a big year with a big milestone. I turn 40 in March, so I think about the potential goals and growth for my business. 2024 should start well: I’m already comfortably booked for January so new builds are being taken on in February. I’ve been ripping out a couple of WordPress page builders and replacing them with Gutenberg (which makes me incredibly happy). Also recently I’ve a been dabbling more in WooCommerce & WPML recently as well.

I’ve a page in my drafts about a potential new service. I’ve been working a lot on stuff with the working title of “Really cool stuff with WordPress and making it sing beautiful SEO”. This isn’t making sure Yoast SEO is set up correctly (though I can do that), this is more deep dives into things. Taking metadata for pages and setting up Schema.org markup. Using focus keyphrases and doing some Opengraph work. Looking at product feeds and generating things using AI to help it rank better. Using AI to analyse content to set up canonicals. Wee bit fancy stuff. Would love to have a chat on this with folks – as always get in touch for a natter.

I’d like to potentially meet up in the community a bit more. I had a great time at WordCamp Athens, and would love to get to WordCamp Europe 2024. I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t. Other than that, I’d like to continue being safe, healthy and happy with my work. Personally and professionally I’ve built up a lot of confidence and I want that to continue.

Christmas Opening Hours

In closing, my last working day before Christmas is 21st December 2023, at which point I’m reducing to only emergencies. I’ll have my laptop and will check my emails every now and again. Obviously if something is wrong (such as a site going down), then I can jump on things. I return to work on January 3rd 2024.

May I wish all readers, clients and colleagues a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Nadolig Llawen!

Rhys

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