2023 Year in Review

Covering freelance, content, and personal life

Year in reviews is my favourite for one big reason: YOU PROCESS YOUR ACTIONS.

If you are doing content with a full-time job or a side hustle, you constantly do many activities and lose track of your time. You never know when quarters passed or how you are two years into the industry already.

You miss the checkpoints. Reviews give you that.

They help you process your actions and reflect on how you can grow your biz.

So here I am, doing this in public. I’ll cover reports of:

  • Freelance

  • Content

  • Personal aspects like social life, health, travel, sports

Freelance Biz

1️⃣ My earnings increased by 51.87% compared to 2022. I am okay with the growth and the projects I have worked on this year. I’m looking forward to how the financial year will turn out (only because numbers are better hehe.)

2️⃣ Worked with 12 brands

3️⃣ The work diversified: from only writing in 2022 to writing, strategy, and consultation in 2023

4️⃣ I took two breaks in February and December. I did minimal client work during these months. In February, it was to focus on my mental health and in December, it was to reset my content systems. If you can, I recommend you take a month off every year. I know you can’t completely escape it, but you can keep the work minimal. The key is to take this decision consciously and not as a forced option

5️⃣ I niched down to newsletters and emails this year and it is going well so far. All my focus is on how I can make money for brands with newsletters. I might also get into product package copy as 2024 progresses. If you’re not sure about niching down, I’d advise you to explore different categories to figure out the intersection of what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what pays well. I niched down to newsletters after working on social media, blogs, websites, video scripts, etc.

Current banner that sums up my niche:

6️⃣ I was reading my 2022 review. There is one big difference I noticed in my approach between 365 days. I wrote this last year:

I was ready to work for less money to learn content and deliver results. It was a good step back then to onboard as many clients as possible and then build on it

Today, I still feel there is a mountain to climb and an iceberg-sized knowledge to break into, but I believe I am ready to write for big brands. Like really BIG brands. I will particularly pick these top brands and pitch them

7️⃣ Speaking of pitching, my outreach system was disappointing. I should have reached out more. My content brought a good amount of inbounds, and I became lazy about outbound leads. It’s a top priority now

8️⃣ My most interesting gigs this year were writing for PLAYMOBIL about Naruto and scaling Moolah’s newsletter to 3000 subscribers and 600+ active readers

9️⃣ Job vs Freelance: Many freelancers are adamant about jobs, but honestly, I don’t mind taking up one. I don’t see myself working for one company for 3 years or more. But if anyone wants me for a year or so with a defined target, I am happy to work for them and not onboard other clients. The only criterion is the target should be challenging enough with good pay

Content Biz

1️⃣ I love how dramatic content creation is for me. I have invested the last two years in creating the best content I can and earned 0$ from it. Yes I have got some gigs but there was no direct money

2️⃣ Apart from my love for knowledge sharing, I do content because I see it as a monetizable business. I am confident I will do well as a creator and earn good money, but imagine investing these many years and going nowhere in the end. Quite a scary thought

The disappointment is in the number of hours invested vs the returns from content. In freelancing, I have invested way fewer hours than I’d hoped, but the money in exchange was in proportion.

For every 10-12 hours invested, I have earned 20-30k INR

But with content, I have spent 3-4x of time with no money made

I am aware content doesn’t work the way freelancing does and it takes time to build a monetizable brand (and only a few get there), but honestly speaking, it’s demotivating sometimes

Quality was always present. We lack distribution.

…which is why all my future plans are based on speed: how can we get readership from A → B quickly

3️⃣ For the longest time, I focussed on content alone, not the business side.

It’s the classic artist vs. businessman conflict: giving my everything to create the best content I can but failing to distribute content as a product

It has changed this year—at least in perspective if not actions

4️⃣ I am happy with how Cognition has progressed in the last 6 months

We have introduced community, guest emails, referral program, and subscriber-exclusive hacks.

Readership growth in the last two years:

2021 December: 0 subscribers
2022 December: 254 subscribers
2023 December: 634 subscribers

Sounds insane, but we are planning to hit 10,000 subs in 2024

Action plans are *almost* ready

5️⃣ I started my second newsletter, Vikra’s Café this February

Honestly, I was doubtful

I didn’t feel readers would be interested in knowing snippets of my life, travel stories, perspectives on different topics, etc.

But turns out, “Vikra’s Café feels like home to readers.”

I was aware I brewed interesting conversations when I met people in person, but I was slightly skeptical about how these personal thoughts might reflect on public platforms. Glad I went ahead anyway.

I was talking to Mitesh when I met him in February and he said, “people are more interested in our lives than we think.” So true.

In 10 months, Vikra’s Café grew from 0 → 277 subscribers

I couldn’t focus on marketing VC in the last two months because I was totally into Cognition, which affected the growth. We have hardly gained 20 subscribers in the last 40 days

6️⃣ I got into teaching. I partnered with My Captain in February and started my teaching journey in April. I teach the basics of business writing and in the last nine months, I have taught seven batches with 400+ students.

Apart from understanding how much I enjoy teaching, I actually got used to giving long webinars. Today, if I have enough depth on the topic, I can give a three-hour webinar without losing my energy and audience.

Speaking of webinars, FuelerX session was fun!

7️⃣ Shashank is building dopecontent’s website. I felt it was high time we needed a content hub for everything we do, and we didn’t want it to be a simple link in the bio or a plain text website like our current one.

The website is 70% ready and we should be able to go live in 7-10 days

8️⃣ I have hired on and off to outsource my freelance work but I have not hired a team for content before mid-2023. In the previous 6 months, I have realized I should outsource a few things and invest my time and energy more wisely.

It took some time to understand how to build the team and what I expected of the members. I won’t say I figured it out now, but things are better settled. I’m not sure if this is relevant, but the experience of leading cricket teams is definitely helping.

Priya designs the awesome thumbnails you see on Cognition’s page. She is also designing a few social media posts—you’ll get to see these on my IG, X, and LI.

Aditya primarily markets the newsletters and handles sponsorships but I just defined some tasks and targets for him (again, learning month on month.) This will help all three of us reach our goals faster.

The vibe is good, which I think is crucial in building any team.

9️⃣ I’ve realized I suck at short-form and excel at long-form content. This is a problem because social media traction is crucial to increase newsletters’ readership. If our engagement is not up, our growth will be slow.

I am studying top-performing social media posts so I can improve.

Personal life

1️⃣ Physical Health:

I can say it’s ending well. My physical health lacks consistency and I stress eat. I have managed to pull back to shape every time things got worse but that’s not good enough or healthy.

It was hard to dedicate time to my physical fitness after I gave up on professional cricket, but I am starting to see the downside of not prioritizing health.

2️⃣ Mental Health:

2023 was hard but I was able to handle most troubles. I got better at understanding my behaviour and patterns I am not proud of. Yes there were many breakdowns and I messed up a lot, but I was always conscious about it the next time.

If I compare it to early 2022, I have come a long way.

3️⃣ Social Life:

My social life has expanded after the Gang happened. I have been going out more, doing different things, and it’s definitely helping me balance my solitude and social life. I feel less lonely.

The friendships from previous years have only grown stronger.

4️⃣ Travel:

I have spent INR 84,848.78 on travel this year and it was worth every penny.

Travel in India is affordable than you think, especially if you’re backpacking. I have travelled to Bangalore, Goa, Coorg, Pune, and Mulki.

This is my first time taking more than one trip a year. I used to take trips with family once every two years. I am totally in love with this new phase and look forward to my travel goals.

Few reasons why these trips were special:

  1. Bangalore: Met many friends, and the Gang bonded so fine here

  2. Goa: My best friend, Aishu and I wanted to go on a trip for many years. It was our first trip and Goa was beautiful

  3. Coorg: My first solo trip

  4. Pune: Realized I love exploring cities and met my friends

  5. Mulki: Learned surfing

5️⃣ Watches:

I have developed a special interest in the art of watches. I always loved them as an accessory, but now I am invested in learning the watchmaking craft.

I began collecting watches. The goal is to make my own watch one day.

6️⃣ Cricket:

Although I have stopped playing professionally, I still go to my academy and play lots of academy and corporate cricket.

2023 has been good. Played more matches than I played in any calendar year. I don’t think it will happen any time soon.

7️⃣ Meeting Twitter Folks:

I remember tweeting ‘I should meet my online friends in 2023’ in December 2022. The tweet certainly aged well.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to meet so many folks but I am grateful it happened.

I was lucky enough to share a meal with:

…and met many new, interesting people on my trips.

2023 was not smooth but it was definitely fulfilling.

Hello 2024 👋