Week 52: Closing thoughts for 2016
It’s a wrap: the 52nd and final weekly recap of 2016. A few thoughts on five topics that were important this year.
Hello, this is Harry, one of the founders of diesdas.digital, a digital studio which started business exactly one year ago. Since then we’ve been writing at least one blog post per week, filled with observations and learnings. This is the final post of this type for 2016—let’s get going! 💫
1. A year shattering all expectations
2016 has been a spectacular first year for us. I vividly remember scraping all my money together in the end of 2015 and pouring it all into the founding of this company, looking at a quite uncertain future. Would we find clients? Would we be able to pay ourselves salaries? Would we make it through the first year? These were some of the questions haunting us… I, for one, was always convinced that it would all work out somehow, but I definitely expected to take things a little more slowly and the road to be more bumpy.
But then we were slammed with work from the very start, Nicolás joined us in July, Sharon in August, Santiago in November and so in less than a year we grew to become a team of seven people, almost double compared to what we started out with. This is especially mind-boggling to me for two reasons: firstly that we could win over enough clients to keep everyone busy (+ paid) and secondly that all these people put their trust in us as a team to succeed together. I couldn’t be more happy with the team that we have right now and I’m super excited for 2017, to see who will join us next on this ride.
What’s also been surprising to me is the breadth of projects we got to work on… from small promo videos for an app on the AppStore, to a cinema spot, small websites for small companies, small websites for large companies, large websites for small companies and large websites for large companies, strategic workshops, rebrandings, web apps and online shops… this year really had it all, testing our skills on so many fronts. I learned countless new things on the way; it’s really been quite exhilarating. 🎢
2. Big challenges ahead
That being said, there is no time to rest, as we face big challenges going into 2017: Moving into our new office in February is an obvious one. Feels like growing up, moving out of your parents’ house (👋 haebmau) and comes with a ton of work: we’re busy organizing all the furniture, contracts and insurance required, to hopefully have a smooth transition to the new place without being forced into home office for more than a few days. If it all works out, we’ll be at Oranienstraße 6 in Kreuzberg, starting the second week of February. #fingerscrossed
Apart from the office matters we’re also looking to grow the team, as we are in dire need of more development power. Therefore we recently posted a job ad for the first time in the hopes to find somebody from outside our circles, whom we don’t know yet and who can add a new perspective to the team. The response has been very positive, with people sending us compliments on the job posting itself, but also receiving quite a few applications. We’re excited to see what comes out of this process in the coming weeks.
With more people on the team and our own office, one of the challenges in 2017 will be bringing a bit of structure to our processes and workflows, without constraining creativity while doing so. But that’s a post for another time. 😇
In general I am very optimistic, because we survived 2016 without any major disagreements or fights when it came to decision-making or concerning everyone’s vision for this company. Even though we never formally agreed on a direction, everyone instinctively acted in concert, working together and having fun, which is something we take for granted by now, but is actually quite amazing over this long period of time. I’m sure it won’t always be like that, but this year we’ve established a solid foundation of trust and therefore we go into all future discussions with respect and valuing the other opinions.
In the beginning of 2016, bootstrapping this adventure, we came up with a revenue target for this year and now, looking at our finances, we surpassed it by almost 50%. This is absolutely incredible, but we remain cautious, because if we learned one thing this year, then it was that everything is much more expensive than you initially expect. It might have been a year on the calendar now, but we haven’t completed the full cycle of closing the yearly accounts and paying all taxes yet. More hidden costs shall be discovered! 💸
Then there’s the new office which is a massive, but necessary investment… considering all things we’re in more than good shape financially, but we still debate all bigger expenses thoroughly. The goal has been and still is to leave as much money in the company as possible to build a comfortable financial buffer which could get us through tougher times. Certainly no individual is getting rich just yet. 🐶 #allesfürdenclub
4. All the new things
I touched on the incredible amount of new things we had to learn before, but that was regarding technical and design skills—the even bigger part is all the hard and soft skills required to run a company. From grasping the legal aspects, insurances, accounting, to the intricacies of employing people, to winning projects, renting office space and in general handling everything yourself. It’s really quite crazy to look at all the things we had to wrap our heads around to make this work. And maybe even more fascinating is that all of this hasn’t been a chore, but genuinely interesting. We were eager to learn about accounting and contracting, about writing invoices and proposals… none of this was perceived as a burden (well, at times accounting was, admittedly), but rather necessary knowledge.
I see it like this: As a front-end developer I am expected to understand interface design, typography, motion design, copywriting, all these neighboring fields, to be able to communicate with people from these disciplines. Now that we run a company, the same applies: We’re also expected to understand the basics of accounting, legal matters and budgeting, because we need to talk to people from these disciplines and make decisions. And you know what? That’s fun! It’s been an intense year of professional growth for all of us.
5. Lastly: about these blog posts
As a company we published 56 blog posts this year: All of them combined we wrote ~72.500 words—if you read all the posts as a book, the volume would be slightly thicker than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and slightly shorter than the first Harry Potter book (not at all implying they’d be equally entertaining 😅). They came with ~620 photos (out of tens of thousands that were taken), were accompanied by 285 gifs on Tumblr, 157 Instagrams, a few hours of Snapchat video and 430 tweets.
Phew. That’s more output than many companies with a dedicated department produce and honestly I am quite proud of that. Sure, not all of the posts had a real topic, not all of them were well written or can even be considered interesting and most of them revolve around ourselves too much. But to me, the routine of forcing myself to write one each week, was strangely therapeutic, prompting me to reflect on what was important each week, essentially keeping a diary which happened to be public. And then, to me own surprise, people liked them, congratulated us on the directness, the honesty, telling us again and again that this insider perspective provides a unique and very personal look at founding a company.
We did this without a strategy and without dedicating much time to it. It just sort of happened, costing very little money, but having a fairly large effect. When I wrote the first post after the first week back in January, I didn’t think it would turn into this massive series, and yet here I am, writing the 52nd weekly recap, one post having led to the next.
We didn’t gather a massive audience, initially very much staying within the circle of people who already knew us personally, but by the end of the year reaching many new people as well. Medium says ~4000 people read this publication over the course of the year, with most posts falling between 200 and 500 clicks, but I have no idea how accurate these counts are. We got invited to publicly talk about our experiences at a handful of occasions, we got compliments on the insights from around the world, got recognized in person at a random Starbucks and on the street. We reached our peers, our parents, friends, but also new and returning clients.
None of this was easy though… I wrote most posts on Saturdays and each article easily took between 5 and 7 hours to compose. That’s a modus operandi we cannot continue in 2017, because this whole company endeavor is stressful enough and we all need our weekends to relax and recharge. Taking photos across the whole week is also something you have to force yourself to do, constantly hovering on this meta level of inspecting everything that happens and how it could be used in a blog post. It’s sometimes stressful, sometimes annoying, but most of the time super damn fun.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed spending all this time on social media this year … my writing improved, I take better photos than before and the positive feedback makes every hour worthwhile in hindsight. We don’t have any specific social media plans for 2017, but we’ll just approach it like we did a year ago: one post at a time, seeing where it takes us, with curiosity and an open mind. The only goal I have is to get more of us onto the blog, either as authors or interviewees and possibly have guest writers as well. This Medium publication slowly evolved to basically become our company website, which I find rather amazing.
Finally, it’s cliché, but we’d like to thank all of you for your heart-warming support this year: whether we worked together, whether you referred us to potential clients, sent us projects, recommended our posts [❤] or simply followed our journey by reading this blog. You’re the best and I hope to see all of you again next year! Stay safe during New Year’s and have a fantastic start of 2017! 🎆
I’ll end this by quoting myself from our very first post, published about a year ago, because it still rings true:
Alright, thanks for checking in! We’ll be back next week with more to share!
Indeed! See you then! 🙌
diesdas.digital is a nimble branding and product development studio in Berlin, featuring an interdisciplinary team of seven designers, developers and strategists, each with years of experience in branding, interaction design and programming. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces.
Wanna team up for a project? We’d be delighted! Simply shoot us an email, reach out on Twitter, drop us a message on Facebook or send us grimaces via Snapchat. We’re also on Instagram and we got gifs over on tumblr, just sayin’.
No matter the channel: We’re looking forward to hear from you! 🙌