2020 Into 2021: Looking Backwards – and Forwards

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Where do you even start with a retrospective of 2020?!

It was the year that changed everything. The word “unprecedented” was a cliché by March. Every month that followed brought new challenges and a roller-coaster of ups and downs that people will still be talking about decades from now.

In this article, I’m going to take a brief look back at 2020, with a particular focus on the unexpected explosion in home working. After that, you will get a sneak preview of what we have planned for the HomeWorkingClub site as we move into 2021.

When Remote Working Went Mainstream

There was a phrase I used again and again in articles and interviews during 2020: “The genie’s not going back into the bottle.”

Millions of people started working from home for the first time, due to lockdowns and social distancing. Zoom video calls, once primarily the preserve of freelancers and more progressive remote companies, are now a part of life for almost everybody.

Technology has kept life ticking over, facilitating everything from governments making decisions at a distance, to keeping elderly people in touch with their grandchildren.

There’s no denying that there’s a pent-up demand, among some, to return to “normal.” – and that includes getting back to the office. However, it seems likely that some kind of hybrid model will replace the way things were for all but the most stubborn companies.

Why waste time, create pollution, incur travel costs, and compromise work/life balance for tasks that people have proved they can do from home?

In a world beset with tragedy, it doesn’t feel quite right to say that “good” has come from the events of 2020. But this acceleration of remote working IS a good thing. The evolution was already underway, but it’s been speeded up immeasurably.

As I say, that genie is out of the bottle. The onus has shifted now. It’s not about employees asking to work from home – it’s about employers having to justify why they can’t. The best talent will move to companies that don’t implement rules for the sake of it, as our survey earlier in the year proved.

Unexpected Consequences

As the reality of 2020 set in and home working became big news internationally, you’d probably expect that things became rather hectic for this home working site?!

In many ways they did. There was certainly a flurry of interviews and press contributions. I heard from old contacts who’d been quiet for years, suddenly interested in a project that had randomly become a talking point.

But there was another side to it too: The relevance of home working means that EVERYONE writes about it now: national newspapers, local newspapers, and global sites like Forbes. 

Here’s a graph that tells a story:

Home working search position

After working really hard on HomeWorkingClub, I’d managed to get to the very top of Google for the search term “home working” in 2019.

But as you can see, I suddenly found myself in an extremely crowded space! Subjects I’d written thousands of words about were pushed down the rankings simply because every big news site started turning out generic content on the same topics!

I’ll be honest: it stung! While the site still had well over half a million page-views in 2020, it’s currently the “mom and pop” burger restaurant that’s had not just MacDonald’s, but also Five Guys, Burger King and every other big chain open up next door!

Them’s the breaks – and it’s not something I could have predicted this time last year. But it certainly left a bitter taste, especially when so many people contacted me to say “your site must be BOOMING!”

Hopefully 2021 will see the big media outlets move on to other things!

Freelancing Thrives

The events of 2020 also had a massive impact on the world of freelancing. Surprisingly, many freelancers have seen demand and income rise, despite such monumental world events.

Freelancing always booms during times of adversity. One big reason for this is that companies still need work doing, but are reluctant to commit to hiring full-time staff.

In the second half of 2020, survey after survey showed increases in freelance vacancies. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from several freelancers who’ve had their best ever year, despite headlines suggesting endless economic doom and gloom.

But it is, of course, crucial to remember that different people have had vastly different experiences of 2020. Freelancers in sectors like events and entertainment, for example, have had a terrible year. My heart goes out to them.

Just as this terrible virus doesn’t discriminate, there’s been a horribly random element to whose careers have been destroyed and whose have thrived.

So if you are one of the people who’s managed to keep your work and finances on the level in the past year, please dig deep for empathy and understanding. You got lucky – and not everyone did.

The good news is that freelancers can always pivot towards different things. Perhaps 2021 is the time to branch out into something new? Perhaps it’s time to finally try doing the type of work you’ve always wondered about?

On a personal level, I’ve been delighted to see dozens of readers sign up for my Freelance Kickstarter course, which I launched back in September. I’ve already heard and shared success stories, and hope to bring you lots more in the coming months.

We Learned About Resilience

As I discussed in an article on the things I learned during lockdown, we’ve all had to dig deeply into our reserves of resilience during 2020. I think I may have run for the hills if somebody had told me my wife and I would have to do all of our work for over 140 straight days with a two-year-old and a six-year-old home full time!

But we did it. And no doubt there are many things you managed to do too – so please take the time to take some pride in that.

It feels like a strange thing to say, but I think in many ways I’ll look back fondly on this bizarre, frightening, challenging and – yes – unprecedented year. The challenging times are far from over, but gratitude for simple things like health and family goes a long way towards preparing us all for whatever comes next.

Plans for 2021

We’ve now looked back on the year that’s passed, so let’s take some time to look to the year ahead.

I’m ready to share some of the plans I have for the site in the coming months, so you know what free content you can expect from us.

Before I start, I’d like to emphasise something really important: this site is for YOU, the readers. There wouldn’t be much point in it otherwise! As such, please don’t be shy! If there’s something you want us to write about, all you have to do is contact me and let me know.

New Topics

I have an enormous list of articles still to write for HomeWorkingClub, and despite my efforts it seems to get longer, rather than shorter!

Here are just a few of the things you can expect new features on in the coming months:

Self Publishing

If there’s a book inside you straining to get out, you should really enjoy the articles I have planned on self-publishing. I’ve published two books now, a non-fiction one on Moving to Portugal, and a children’s picture book. I have lots of hints and tips to share, about something that’s both potentially lucrative and hugely rewarding.

Print on Demand

Having recently finished our children’s book, my next “mini project” is going to be around print-on-demand. I plan to produce some designs for T-shirts, tote bags and other merchandise, and sell them using POD marketplaces.

I’ve wanted to give this a go since the early days of this site, when I featured somebody making good money from doing the same on Society 6. As well as creating some interesting content for the site, this endeavour will help me work on my design skills, and (hopefully) produce another pleasing little stream of passive income.

Workspaces and Productivity

Very much a “by popular demand” subject, we intend to publish several articles around creating a good home working environment this year.

Music equipment and a computer

Productivity is another related topic, and something I know many readers struggle with maintaining consistently.

Our existing articles around things like time management have always been very popular, so expect lots more on this.

You can also be sure we will continue to share lots of job ideas and opportunities. Again, contact me if there’s something specific you’d like to know about.

A Move into Video

2021 is going to be the year I finally get over my fear of producing video content!

There are lots of tips and tricks I think would be better explained with the help of some videos, so I’ve set myself the target of producing at least a few for you each month. The first, around setting your goals for the months ahead, should be ready at the start of January – the perfect time for that subject.

Over the last couple of months. I’ve produced lots of video lessons around starting a blog for my private Patreon group. You can access all of them right now if you sign up here.

More Product Reviews

Review posts have always been popular on this site. In 2021 I intend to publish lots more of them.

I’ve switched a lot of my software solutions in recent months: new web hosting, a new email solution, and lots of fresh apps and programs. It’s time for me to start discussing these products while they’re still fresh in my mind.

Newsletters and Podcasts

Finally, you can count on a steady trickle of weekly newsletters and slightly-less-frequent podcasts from HomeWorkingClub in 2021.

These are two things I’d particularly like your feedback on, especially if you’re a regular visitor to the site. Do the newsletters give you what you want? Are the job opportunities useful to you? Do you enjoy the podcasts? Are there any topics you’d like us to discuss?

As I’ve tried to make clear, the site is for YOU! So please do send me some feedback. We can only create the site you want if you tell us what that entails…

That concludes my rounding up of 2020 and my sneak preview of 2021. I wish you a happy new year, and thank you for supporting the site. Stay safe!

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