Content Creator Path 5-Month Update

A quick update on where I am with my creative sabbatical and transitioning to a creative career.

I am now 5 months into my creative sabbatical (7 if you include the 2-month break I took at the beginning).

My goal for this sabbatical was:

  1. To take a mental break from the 9 - 5 (or 8 - 6) that is professional software development.
  2. To lean into my creative passions and see if I could help people and carve a different career out for myself.

I have enjoyed the experience so far and discovered a few things about myself along the way.

For one, I enjoy writing more than I do writing code. I have always been an avid learner, and I have enjoyed taking my knowledge and turning it into helpful articles. If I can make a career out of helping people with my writing, then that is what I am going to do.

Most of all, I have realised how much I value my freedom. I am not talking about the freedom to travel the world and become a digital nomad. Being in my mid-30s with a wife and 2 children means that I don’t have as many options when it comes to mobility.

However, being free to plan my day has benefitted my mental health and general well-being. Even if you are in full-time employment, do everything you can to try to get some autonomy over your time, it is definitely worth it.

On the downside, my creative projects haven’t been particularly profitable, at least not yet.

I knew going in that it was going to be a while before my creative pursuits bore fruit, but it does take a fair amount of personal strength to see your savings going down each month without anything coming in.

Thanks to a fairly frugal lifestyle, I am not at risk of going broke, but I would like to see some money coming in. I have been looking into freelance writing as a way to at least covers some expenses and extend the sabbatical for a bit longer. Especially given the job market for software developers at the moment.

A lot of companies are advertising for freelance technical writers, generally paying between $300 to $600 per article. I contacted 10 companies last week, but I haven’t heard back yet. I suspect with the recent company lay-offs, there is either more competition or companies can’t afford to pay for freelancers. I will let you know how I get on.

YouTube and Blogging

Most of my time recently has been spent creating videos and writing articles on my website.

I am still trying to find the right balance. I started my sabbatical with the goal of writing 2 blog posts and 2 videos every week.

It turns out that editing a video is a ridiculously time-consuming exercise. I can’t justify paying out for an editor, and to be honest I quite enjoy the editing process.

I quickly moved down to 1 video a week which I have been able to manage since which gave me more time to write.

At the start of this year, I set myself the ambitious goal to write every single day.

It lasted 3 weeks.

Since then, I have been writing 4 times a week. 3 articles and 1 newsletter, with one of those articles making up the script for my YouTube video.

All the creativity has paid off in terms of traffic and subscribers. At the start of my sabbatical (October 2022), I had the following stats:

  • YouTube Subscribers: 51
  • Medium Followers: 2
  • Dev.to Followers: 1
  • Blog Pageviews: 5,800 a month

As of today (February 2023) I have:

  • YouTube Subscribers: 872 (+1,610%)
  • Medium Followers: 150 (+7,400%)
  • Dev.to Followers: 145 (+14,400%)
  • Blog Pageviews: 10,100 a month (+74%)

Everything is definitely growing in the right direction. The increase in blog traffic has come from keyword research. I am getting quite good at writing articles and having them rank on the first page of Google for the respective keywords.

It can take a couple of months though for them to work their way up the rankings.

What’s Next?

Going forward, I am going to put more focus on my YouTube channel. I am currently gaining on average around 5 subscribers a day and 200 video views.

After some tweaks to my office and a change of camera (I am now using my iPhone) I am finally happy with the quality of the videos I am producing. It only took 26 videos to get there!

I am hoping that will be enough to increase the views and finally get my channel monetised.

I am dropping my writing down (yet again) to 3 posts a week. This should give me some more time to get ahead of my YouTube schedule and allow me to produce a few shorts as well.

The added benefit of producing YouTube videos off the back of my articles is that they should rank better in YouTube searches. The few videos that are consistently bringing in views are the few that I have optimised for search.

This does mean my content for the next few months is going to be more technical in nature while I try to produce videos that are going to do well in the long run.

❤️ Picks of the Week

📝 Article - Spiky Point of View. This was an interesting article about using controversy to gain a following online. I might have to use some of these methods for growing on Twitter.

📨 Newsletter - On the rewarding art of not stopping. I have been subscribed to Alex Mather's newsletter for a little while now. He has some great insights into being a creator, and I really like his artwork.

👨‍💻 Latest from me

🎬 YouTube - #1 Biggest Regret as a Software Engineer. Many developers spend too long in one job without actually growing and learning new skills. When they come to get a new job, it can be incredibly difficult if they are lacking experience in the latest technologies. The article on this did really well on Dev.to, so I hope this video will do well too.

P.S. Let me know if you can see the difference in the video quality for this video. This was filmed on my iPhone XR, you really don't need a fancy camera.

📝 Article - Software Testing Methodologies. A quick look at the different software testing methodologies and how they relate to the software development lifecycle in each case.

📝 Article - Hexagonal Architecture: What Is It and Why Do You Need It? I used hexagonal architecture on one of the bigger projects I did at work a few years back. It is incredibly useful for large applications.

💬 Quote of the Week

"If you’re bummed out and hating your work, pick somebody special in your life and make something for them. If you have a big audience, make them something special and give it away. Or maybe even better: Volunteer your time and teach someone else how to make what you make and do what you do. See how it feels. See whether it puts you in a better place."

From Keep Going (affiliate link) by Austin Kleon. Resurfaced with Readwise.