02023 Annual Report

Tuesday, February 20th, 02024 at 13:31 UTC

Each year, we try to put some rough numbers together. It can be depressing to look at other companies and see all the amazing stuff they produce and look back at yourself and wonder how unproductive you really are. You should never compare your life with someone else’s highlight reel – it’s too painful!

The goal of this article is to layout some of our numbers in all the boring detail. Hopefully, other freelancers or small business can use this as a bench mark for themselves. “Hey, we’re not doing so bad after all”.


Since COVID, we have been out of the loop. We haven’t made many new contacts. Our travel has been minimal, interactions locally have all but dried-up. It is no surprise that we have not diversified our client income as much as we’d liked.

In 02023, we invoiced only 3 different customers. Two them were abroad and the 3rd was a local company we had helped over the years and we finally settled an invoice for just a few hours of work (probably from a year or more prior). That one invoice to our one local customer accounted for 0.1% of our income. The vast majority 98.9% comes from a single US customer that we are on retainer. It’s great work, fun, and interesting, but if that well runs dry, we’d be scrambling to make-up the deficit!

That’s not to say we are not doing other work or have other revenue streams. Our iOS app income is pitiful. We started to experiment with KDP print on demand to see if we could make some passive income. We got our first payout in early 02024 and the amount sent was less than the banking fees, so we actually lost money!

Then there are other projects like PETALS where we are volunteering. There is no direct income (yet) but is a way to market ourselves and potentially turn a hobby idea into a product!

Overall, in 02023 we lost money. It sounds like a bad thing, but isn’t (yet). When a company makes a profit, there is surplus cash. You can continue to build it up, or you can re-invest it. You do so by making purchases or hiring more people. That means you spend more until those investments can start to turn your revenue positive again, where in you re-invest that money again and repeat.



The vast majority of what we get paid for is programming. It’s easily 70% of the workload. These are projects like the school surveys, prototypes, one-off projects, internal projects and more. Just about everything has some sort of programming aspect to it.


The next 20% of our time is probably spent in meetings! You always underestimate how much of your day is spent in meetings. Especially with remote teams, we have daily syncing meetings, plus break out meetings or catch-up meetings to sync with the folks who you need to talk to for the next day’s tasks.

Plus, we have meetings to plan new projects, or to win new projects, or to talk about to customers to figure out what they really need. Sometimes we’re shield from all this and just given a brief, other times we need dig a bit deeper and find out what the problem really is.

Data Analysis

For the SpellStruck project, our main roll is data analytics. We are creating weekly reports for Disney and helping the team to answer questions and review how changes in the app have impacted any number of variables.

We also continue with the school surveys, but the analytics portion has now been so turn-key that we’re not involved much in any of the data exploration or analysis. Our role is mostly programming to improve the data collection.


We had a few consulting projects in 02023. Right at the end, we got pulled into a due diligence project. A friend of a friend was going to invest in a company, but before doing so, he wanted to make sure the tech was legit. It trickled down to us and we had a call, reviewed the product and got API access. Our goal was to spend a day trying to build as simple ‘hello world’ app to validate what they said it could do.

A big part of the consulting we do is just listening. People and teams need someone external to bounce their ideas off of to make sure their not crazy or haven’t overlooked something.


Office Supplies7.73%3.39%1.49%3.80%2.44%12.29%7.1%1.96%
Professional Services4.24%2.83%2.72%5.56%1.64%2.36%2.7%2.68%

When we look at our general expenses in 02023, we’ve done better in some categories than others. For instance, our professional services average has been around 2-3% for several years. Office supplies were notably lower this year than previously. We have peaks and troughs, some years we need to renew computer hardware, other years it’s just pens and paper. This year was a quiet year for office suppliers.

In 02021, we converted the company from an SLF (personally liable company) to an EHF (limited liability company). In doing so, we had to shuffle things around and only really started in 02022. This means some of the taxes hit us in different ways since the EHF had no previous income. The TAX and SALARY values are flipped for 02023, but combined they account for around 90% of the company’s expenses for the last few years.

Being a small, digital company, the single most expensive part of the operations are the people. We need to reminder ourselves that every once and awhile when we are wondering if we should make a smaller purchase. Yes, it might feel expensive, but the percentage over the whole year is tiny compared the quality of life increase you get from people.

Travel & Conferences

In 02023, we took one trip to the west coast of the USA in March. We managed to squeeze a lot in during that week. We went to GDC (Game Developers Conference) in San Francisco, then headed down to Burbank for some Disney meetings regarding the release of SpellStruck. After that we went back up to Cupertino to the old Apple Campus for some meetings with the Arcade team.

Web Stats

We don’t do any paid advertising. The way we get people to know about us is via what we write and say. Any time we’re on a podcast, interview or conference we are representing (optional.is) and are promoting our expertise. This is a very slow burn. It might take a long time between someone seeing or reading and contacting us, but when it does we have already set some sort of understanding.

The other way is for us to constantly produce written works. That’s via the /required articles like this one and our newsletters. We don’t look closely at the stats because it might influence how or what we write about. We even removed all the tracking from the newsletters and send them ourselves – not through a 3rd party company.

Here is a breakdown of the top articles in 02023. Some are very old and have lots of link juice in search engines. Some of the new articles have a quick burn of a month or less and others sleep for awhile until someone re-posts and we get lots of traffic from a random forum or school course curriculum.

Print on Demand0201012.38%
Yankee Candles Levels of Abstraction0202212.10%
Poisonous People0201010.14%
CERN: Line Mode Browser020138.80%
PaperNet Boarding Pass020108.65%
What 2D Barcodes aren’t020118.42%
Spimes: A Happy Birthday Story020136.12%
Metrics and Dashboards020134.69%
Spime inspiration020144.00%
SF Symbols Font020193.88%
PDF Creation from HTML service020143.86%
Omnibus 02012020133.69%
Business Card Notebooks020232.26%
NeXT Sounds020232.12%

The best time to start writing was yesterday, the second best time is today!

Only two articles from 02023 made it into the top list. We’re looking everything we wrote in 02023 as not having enough time to mature yet. Articles from 10+ years ago are driving a lot of traffic, but 10 years ago they probably weren’t. Things do take time to find their audience.

The Yankee Candles article was published in December 02022. For the 10 months the number of visits was below 100 readers. Then in October it was posted on a forum and exploded until the end of the year. It was the most popular article in December by a long way!

It goes to show you never know what will become popular, from where or when. Our advice is to keep writing what you’re interested in, what you know and what you like. It takes time, but if you can invite people to you and explicitly know you are available for work, good things can happen.

Open Office Hours

In 02023, we managed to make 2 connections. Both old friends who reached out again. It was great to catch-up and learn what they are up to these days.

We still have open office hours were you can book a 30 minute chat with us.

If you’re interested, feel free to book some time to chat.


We need to streamline all our projects. In the long-term, we want a healthy mix of income. Some from client work and some from products. That means keeping an eye on all those side-projects and reviewing which to keep pushing forward and which to let go.

This year, we’re jettisoning two older projects. They are not going to disappear, but we are going to extricate ourselves from them on a day-to-day basis. These both involve external members whom for what ever reason are not going to give them their full focus – which is sad, but acceptable. Everyone’s on different paths and at different points in the journey. Expecting everyone to race to where you are or want to be isn’t feasible. So in the meantime, good luck, and these projects are on their shoulders at their pace.

Having given over the authority on some projects means we have time to explore new ones. Our first is print on demand. Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Publishing Direct) is an interesting way to get your PDFs printed, bound and shipped to people. This has always been a big hurdle for previous project. The up-front capital for printing and shipping. Kickstarter removed that risk, but at a small scale you can’t get around inventory, trips to the post office, shipping, taxes, returns, etc. The more you can punt on this for quick ideas, the better. Sure, we wished their were more viable options than Amazon, and their cut is steep compared to if you do it yourself with an existing product, but for prototypes, were in the early experimental phase.

We also have several ideas percolating in the digital space. The biggest issues we are having is not the ideas part, but the business model part. We’ve worked in the mobile gaming space for a while now. It is near impossible to make money. People don’t want to pay, ad revenue is tiny, marketing budgets need to be big and royalties to rights owners isn’t cheap. The odds you’ll make it are slim. On the Web, you can create a product and ask people to pay for it, only if it delivers value. Finding those problems and taking away the pain is certainly something people pay for. We are looking long and hard about what ideas we want to develop further. Someone also once said: “Don’t think about what you want to do if it goes big, but think about what you want to do when it goes big!” That stuck with us, because if you assume what you build next will be big and take-up all of your working hours, you’d better be sure that you are working on things you actually enjoy. No one wants to be saddled 24-7 with something they don’t like, but pays the bills. There are no shortage of ideas, build the ones that don’t feel like work.

Notes for 02024

This year is off to a rocky start, but we’re looking forward to the cards in front of us. Apple released their Vision Pro headset. It will take some time for it to find its feet for sure, but it is great to see more people in this space. We’ve already had a few companies approach us with their ideas for us to help vet the possibilities and architecture.

We’re in the process of remodeling the office. It has taken much longer than expected. It is a game of Tetris moving boxes from one-side to the other to work. We’ve also invested an additional WiFi access point to help boost our signal. The infrastructure part is usually pretty boring, but we enjoy it. This year we continue to improve our back-up system. We planned on investing in a NAS (Network Attached Storage) system, but since the AirPort Extreme can act as a NAS, we purchased a cheaper DAS (Direct Access Storage) system and connect that on the network via the router as an effective NAS.

We don’t have any travel plans or conferences lined-up in 02024 (yet). One customer wants us to come onsite for a week and help power through the prototype and/or train their internal team, but until they get organized that’s on hold. We’d like to get back to speaking at conferences, but at the moment, we haven’t gone deep on any one topic. We’re spread-out over lots of themes. What we would be best at talking about is “how to keep a small business ticking over”, but that’s not exactly the most exciting topic or something your big company would send you to go see.