Dylan Smith

Banner year

Last December, I tweeted:

Some years you climb, other years you enjoy the view.

2015–16 was challenging for me professionally. I left a job, started freelancing, and took several months to find my stride. I worked my ass off and, by the end of it, anticipated that 2017 would bear fruit.

I was right. This will be a little self-indulgent, but fuck it. It’s my blog. Here are the highlights of my year.

I hit my revenue target working 2–4 days a week.

As part of my plan for the year, I laid out a few career goals. One goal was income-based, and another was to take 40+ weekdays off. I exceeded both.

From January to June or so, I worked two days/week from my home office and two days/week in a client’s office. Around July, I moved to going in-house every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I could have worked more and made more, but it was an incredible luxury to be able to have time off during the week — and never have to work Mondays.

Alana and I got a new flat…

In January, after months of emails and viewings and stress, Alana and I signed a lease on a flat. I’d seen this place in several of my searches and loved it, but it was sadly out of our budget. When viewing another property with the letting agent, he told us he could talk the landlord down, and he did.

Almost a year on and we’ve really turned it into a home. I suppose the next step is to buy, though I’m more than happy here for years to come.

…and a puppy.

We spoke for months — maybe years — about having a dog. We knew we wanted one, and we knew it would be a corgi. When we got a large flat beside the park, there were no more reasons not to go for it.

In September, Alana’s dad and I drove to West Wales and back to bring home our boy Louis. Though there were some trying times in the beginning, we got over the hump and I can’t imagine life without him.

Corgi asleep on sofa in warehouse conversion flat
Louis as this article was being written

I flew my mom to London.

This was a big personal achievement for me. The only family “vacation” I remember taking as a kid was to spend the day at a theme park for my stepdad’s corporate party. We stayed in a motel and drove home in the morning. Holidays just weren’t something we had money for.

In October, my mom flew to London to stay with me for a week and a half and I made sure she didn’t pay a single cent for any of it. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple years and she’d never been here (but always dreamt of it), so it felt amazing to be able to make this happen.

I took a full-time job.

After nearly a year of working with the Taxi for Email team (first on a separate project and then on Taxi itself), they realised they should stop enabling the cushiony lifestyle I detailed above and offer me a salary to work five days a week like a normal human and be their Design Lead. I accepted.

I went freelance partly because I didn’t think work could get any better than the way I’d do it for myself. Being self-employed taught me a lot about what I like, don’t like, want to do, and don’t want to do. I also got to see the way a lot of other companies are doing things, for better or worse. When faced with continuing to look around or settling down in a situation I know works, the decision was simple.

(I nodded along to this entire episode of Clients from Hell in which its former editor-in-chief Bryce Bladon describes his jump from freelancing back to employment. Never mind that I was on that same podcast in March swearing up and down that I’d remain independent.)

I turned 30.

When I was in my early twenties, I sometimes said I wouldn’t make it to 30. I don’t think I meant it. I didn’t have alcoholism or a drug addiction or any other reason to reasonably die young. It spoke more to my lack of ambition — or unfocused potential. At times when you don’t have much going for you, it’s hard to look too far ahead.

Being 30 doesn’t mean much to me, but turning 30 meant a lot. I was able to reflect on how far I’ve climbed, turn around, and enjoy the view.

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