9 Years on the Road
Today is my 9th indie-versary, the anniversary of quitting my last full time job1. Every year I write a set of reflections on how it’s going, taking the time to reflect back.
I ended last year’s recap with this note:
I’m going to pull myself out of this identity slump by sheer force of will. Watch me (tune in next year to see how that goes).
Oof. What a year it’s been. Turns out I managed to do this but it took ALL. DAMN. YEAR. For most of this year, something was blocked. I felt stuck, paralyzed and confused.
First, the Highlights
- Roxy is 7.5 and full of a burning desire for independence and autonomy (where could she have gotten that from I wonder?!). This has at times made our home an us vs them environment of parents vs Roxy. Thankfully we’re finding a much better balance in the second half of the year.
- Indy is almost 4 and really coming into his own with personality, pizazz and a love of building spaceships out of magnatiles (and he now has foam ninja swords that he uses liberally)
- Instead of putting the kids in summer camp we took an extended European vacation as a family, taking almost 7 weeks off. This is the first year that both kids are officially in school schedules and it’s weird to start to think about every year having a specific “shape” - of summer holidays, school dates and more.
- I took three work trips and.. this was too much. The projects were exactly the kind of projects I want to work on, but I’ve got to find clients in NYC (or at least the east coast!) that I can work with in this capacity
This year wasn’t my best year for consulting (that was 2018) and it wasn’t my best year for the SEO MBA (that was 2022) but combined this year nudged into my best revenue year ever (blue = consulting, red = SEO MBA):
This year the SEO MBA is back in balance with my consulting revenue, about ~30% of my consulting income.
Stuck to Unstuck
I tried therapy, I tried an executive coach, I tried joining random slack communities. I tried yelling, I tried crying. I tried sitting at my computer for days, hours, weeks at a time. I tried hiding.
I tried a bunch of things - figma thinkers cohort, SEO MBA live cohort, joining random discord groups. This kind of flailing did not feel like play. But perhaps it should have. Acknowledging that I was going through an identity transition and leaning into the playful nature of it could have helped?
Ultimately working with my executive coach was the kind of emotional
If you want to get a taste of exactly how and why I was stuck listen here:
In Working Identity, Herminia Ibarra argues that the process of transitioning from one career to another is both usually and necessarily messy and disordered, more like playing than like planning. During a transition, it can seem like nothing is happening, or too much is happening, or somehow both simultaneously. Often someone in the middle of a transition experiences a lot of pressure, both internally and from kin, to stop fucking around and get on with it. But that may be profoundly the wrong advice.
The NEW MBA
After running the live cohort at the start of the year, the SEO MBA has mostly been on hiatus while I developed and launched the next iteration. It’s a separate brand but definitely an evolution of the same idea: that
Evolution of the ideas in the SEO MBA and hopefully inclusive of ideas like the Figma Thinkers cohort that Nate and I ran this year.
I just f*(&^)ing LOVE consulting
Listen. It’s a privilege to be able to do consulting work
What does the work look like?
- After reading Cedric’s series on MBR, reading working backwards and delving into input metrics I designed an MBR packet for a client that I’m very proud of.
- Functioned as a management player/coach - more than a coach, less than a fractional executive. Attending quarterly resource planning sessions and getting involved
- Design and product sprints
- Branding and positioning projects
I’ve continued the idea of doing work that is P&L-first
- How to find another anchor client that is in the US, not Australia…
- How to find clients willing to bring you into the executive team (and/or how to accelerate your journey from consultant to advisor)
The book is coming!
My close friend Brian created a little book of testimonials and blurbs for my book and handed it to me on my 40th birthday party. It floored me. You are the best Brian. And thank you to everyone who included a blurb. The overwhelming support for the book is a real driving force and I love you all.
The good news is that the book is coming! I’ve been jamming with fellow indie consultant Tim Casasola on the outline and structure for the book and I think I’m finally arrived at somewhere I’m happy with. The book is entering the final stretch and I’m hopeful to
Thanks to Paul Millerd and Erica Heinz for countless self-publishing questions AND emotional support and encouragement. They’ve both put incredible and beautiful self-published books out in the world and I’m grateful for both of them.
Writing has given me everything. And Twitter’s woes have meaningfully disrupted this whole ecosystem but I need to return to a regular blogging cadence and remember that despite all it’s flaws RSS is responsible for the whole caboodle. Some things I wrote this year I’m proud of:
- The magic of small databases: https://tomcritchlow.com/2023/01/27/small-databases/
- Riffs: https://tomcritchlow.com/2023/02/10/riffs/
- Input Metrics: https://newsletter.seomba.com/p/input-metrics-for-seo
I didn’t publish as much this year as I’d like. Yes, I’ve fractured my writing across a few newsletters and blogs now but it’s important that I keep this habit going. After all, a blog post is a very long and complex search query to find fascinating people and make them route interesting stuff to your inbox
Oh my. It’s the people stupid. I feel so incredibly grateful and thankful for everyone who has showed up to support me. Twitter, private discord groups, DMs, coffee shops. The distributed indie thinking cognistnti
So, What’s Next Kid?
Well, more writing obviously? Even projects like Little Futures continue to surface in interesting spaces.
- More writing
- Launch the first cohort courses
- Seek out more senior, retained work
- Build out a deeper “management toolkit” to be able to operate across finance, operations, marketing and product.
- Publish the damn thing!
- More please.
- Some more code experiments
Well, actually it’s October 24th, but since having kids deadlines are a mere illusion, shadows of their former selves. ↩