The year I started a profitable, six-figure business

Every year I take some time to quietly reflect on my goals for the year and whether my decisions led to achieving those goals. In 2017, my goal was to earn six figures, and my mantra was “hustle”. This year, I’ve decided to document some of my findings in order to help both myself and my readers learn from my good and bad decisions. Here’s how it went:

What went well

Holding hands with baby autumn

Baby Autumn was born

This fall I had the privilege of witnessing the birth of my first child, a healthy, strong, loud baby girl. We had a home birth that blew my expectations away. Labor lasted about 6 hours and Fuka handled it like a pro. Dealing with the stress of a new baby is a challenge and has literally given us a few gray hairs, but fatherhood is the single most rewarding venture of my life.

I started Foursails Technology Group, Inc.

I spent every day through the end of the winter season working to build my reputation, manage leads, and acquire customers. By the time spring arrived, I had more customers than I could handle. The time had come for me to officially incorporate and take advantage of the tax benefits of operating an S-Corporation. In March of 2017, Foursails Technology Group, Inc. was created.

I had formed Foursails Technology Group, LLC in 2014 while I was still working on EasyTerritory with hopes of slowly building a side business that I could jump into full time when the time was right. With none of my attention, we acquired no leads, no customers, and no revenue. Rather than dissolving the LLC, I simply opted out of filing my annual report and let the government force dissolution. This was a mistake as when I tried to incorporate the name was unavailable. This is what led me to incorporate as a corporation rather than an LLC. I learned later that an LLC was the right choice all along, as the rules surrounding the corporation’s documentations are numerous and strict. I officially filed the dissolution for the LLC this month, but it will be another year before I can recover the name.

I earned six figures

I had set a goal of earning $100k in 2017. Though the number is arbitrary, the extra digit in the number feels really good. I decided beforehand that I would measure this by amount invoiced since I had been prepaid for some contracts in 2016. By the end of the year I had invoiced about $102k. I had hired a contractor to handle some of the contracts I did not have enough time for in March, so the actual number is a bit lower, but still close enough that I can say I reached my goal.

I formed lasting relationships with incredible partners

One client reached out to me in January for enterprise support on an Aurelia application. I was finally brought in as a consultant after six months of working through paperwork and waiting for management buy-in. During that time, my prospective client had successfully built one of the best, cleanest prototypes I had ever seen and evangelized Aurelia throughout his organization. I had the privilege of advising on much more difficult problems than usual which has been a fun challenge and good opportunity. We worked out a much larger contract for 2018.

Another client reached out to me at the last minute in 2017 for some training on a small app they were building. I bootstrapped a minimum viable product for their business and trained them on how to build and maintain the application. Though it was one of my smallest contracts of the year, I also see it as one of my biggest successes because of the incredibly high ROI for both of us.

We enjoyed lots of quality family time

Fuka and I have been playing video games together since we married. We both really enjoy it, and it has been an excellent way to improve our communication since the words we use when playing games are much different from the words we use in every day life. Up until the birth of our daughter, we consistently enjoyed family game time. Even during my trip to Colorado, we were able to enjoy some time together across the world.

We also took some enjoyable trips. We opted to take shorter and more frequent local trips since neither of us are good travelers. My favorite trip of the year was a day trip to the Asahiyama Zoo, a place Fuka had visited many times as a girl. We also toured Furano–something I had seen advertised everywhere since I first arrived in Japan in 2014 but never had a chance to see–and the Hokudai Shokubutsuen (garden).

I am debt free

Less than five years after leaving higher education once and for all, all debts are paid. I had received some criticism that paying off loans below market rates is not the best use of money. Though technically correct, I believe being debt free is more than just a financial decision, but also a moral decision. Having become debt free, I can rest easier and risk bigger.

What could have gone better

Fuka and I at Asahiyama Zoo

I abandoned an extremely viable project

Towards the end of 2016, I began building a Patreon alternative called Sponse. I had done quite a bit of market research that led me to believe that this was potentially–but not surely–a viable idea and had moved into storyboarding and building a foundation for the application. Since this was not making me any money, instead of playing around with the idea I shifted gears into consulting, which I viewed as both safer and more enjoyable.

Then two big opportunities arrived: In July, Patreon banned Laura Southern from the platform, and in December, Patreon introduced a very unpopular pricing update that they later reversed. These two events prompted many content creators, concerned about free speech, to look for an alternative. MakerSupport, not Sponse, was there, waiting, ready to receive them.

I had done some preliminary and inconclusive market research that had led me to believe this idea may or may not be worth doing. As a result, I picked up the project, gave it 110%, and quit before I had finished. Big mistake. In future projects, if I start, I’m going to do whatever it takes to finish; if I’m not sure whether the idea is viable, I will simply invest less time and effort. Leaving it unfinished, however, was simply a missed opportunity and a complete waste of time.

I did not get back to exercising

I love lifting weights, but in 2016 a wrist injury led me to take a break right before we moved to Japan. My wrist has healed since then, but the lack of availability of weightlifting gyms in Japan and some incredibly tight schedules encouraged me to abandon exercise altogether for most of the year. I had a few weeks where I exercised in the house, push ups, squats, and other calisthenics, but I didn’t stick to the discipline. Since exercise like weightlifting is not just a hobby, but also a vital component to a healthy and well-rounded life, it’s back to calisthenics in 2018.

My Japanese didn’t improve

I spent too much time focused on work and goals and did not take advantage of the excellent opportunities to improve my Japanese available to me. Japanese is no longer just a hobby for me, it is integral for communicating with Fuka and teaching baby Autumn. That’s why I’m picking Japanese study back up. Right now I’m studying with WaniKani, which focuses on kanji and vocabulary, my biggest weaknesses at the moment.

I didn’t explore Sapporo

With 2 million people packed into the most rural prefecture of Japan, Sapporo is a beautiful city with lots to explore. When I first arrived, it was not uncommon for me to blow off a work day searching for a new restaurant, coffee shop, work space, or attraction. When Fuka and I met, despite her having lived her whole life in Hokkaido, I was actually more acquainted with the city. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time to keep exploring since returning. We’ll get back to trying something new and interesting both on work days and date nights.

What I wish I had known

Having a great time at the Garden

Every job has two figures

I started 2017 with a bank account to match my student loans. With this in mind, the value I assigned to each opportunity was equal to the amount I expected to be paid. But there is another, hidden, and arguably more important value that I wish I had known about.

A few of the projects I worked on this year didn’t go so well, though I can honestly say I’ve done my best on them. Due to factors often out of my control, deadlines were missed, budgets were blown, communication broke down, and other factors led to missed goals and expectations. Though I was still paid for my time as agreed on these projects, I’m now seeing that I lost a great deal in opportunity cost. Not only are these projects not going to be able to build up my portfolio or lend to my credibility, but they took my time and attention away from projects that would have given me a leg up on subsequent projects.

The biggest value I will get from any project I work on is the success value, the value of having my name in the credits of a shipped blockbuster. It is important to evaluate the success value of every potential project and to join only those opportunities that are likely to succeed with my help. It is equally important to know when a failing project can be resurrected and when it will only take you down with it.

Networking is not just connections and leads

I’ve always dismissed networking as most important for those who depend on others to get the job done. People who get things done need less networking and more marketing, right? I’ve come to find that’s not the whole story.

It has been said that you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. I don’t think I spent time with five people in 2017, and I sure felt it. I didn’t grow much, I didn’t try many new things, I wasn’t exposed to many new ideas, and I wasn’t challenged out of many bad habits. People are always changing. Relationships from five years ago may not make as much sense today. That’s why continuously networking, building new and meaningful relationships, is an integral part to growing as both a professional and a person, not only for the benefits you will receive, but also for the benefits you will provide.

What to expect in 2018

More risks, bigger risks

Had I purchased 7.3 Bitcoin for about $7k on January 1st, 2017, I could have sold it on December 31st, 2017 for $102k. All I had to do was sit on it.

I took very few risks in 2017, opting for the safety and security of consulting over the opportunity of investment. I think that was the right decision for my growing family, but the opportunity cost was certainly high. Now that I have a bit of a safety net, I plan on taking bigger, calculated risks. My mantra for 2018 is “risk big”. I’m going to be focusing on the long-term value of opportunities, and I’m willing to waste time or lose money today if I can expect exceptional returns down the road.

$20k in passive income

Had I held my 7.3 Bitcoin, they would have appreciated $28k so far in 2018, just one week later.

Software consulting, while reliable, profitable, and even enjoyable, is only sustainable so long as I am able to keep working. In 2018, I’m going to start making investments of both time and money that will pay dividends well into the future. I’m not exactly sure what those investments will be just yet, but my goal is to have earned $20k in non-wage, non-hourly income before the year is over.