2021 Year in Review

This year was one of the most exciting and productive in recent memory. I’m excited to use the momentum from the latter half of 2021 to kick start 2022. But before I dive headfirst into the new year, I thought it would be fun to look back on the past twelve months to get a sense of where I’m heading.

Six highlights define my year: Build Your Bridge, my updated personal site, Twitter, Super templates, NFTs, and mind and body improvements. Let’s start with BYB.

1. Build Your Bridge

For the past few years, I’ve managed to cultivate a creator community around my email newsletter. But over the past year, something unexpected started happening: my subscribers began to email me. A lot.

Almost half of my subscribers (42%) reached out directly to ask a question, share an idea, or get my opinion on something. So many insightful conversations came from these interactions, and I feel more connected to my community than ever before.

But the discussions we had were challenging. They forced me to hone my messaging and dial in my own unique skills and strengths. It’s been equal parts humbling and rewarding.

What’s been interesting is that so many folks in my community are dealing with the same challenges. With every additional conversation, I felt more compelled to find a way to tie these ideas and obstacles together. There were too many common threads to ignore.

After taking a few months to reflect, I realized that to amplify the concepts and ideas that will help my community grow, I’d need to build something bigger than me. Moving from a 1:1 model towards a community-driven one seemed like the way to unlock the most benefit for everyone.

The result is Build Your Bridge — the culmination of my entrepreneurial experience with a focus on issues that creators in my community are dealing with most:

  • Utilizing their skillset to productize their services
  • Building more value through reputation
  • Generating more self-sustaining income

These are the three pillars that will form the building blocks of our community at Build Your Bridge. In the coming year, I’ll develop more content for creators and find ways to construct an inclusive and premier community looking to learn and grow alongside like-minded people.

If you’re interested in joining the community, visit the new site and sign up. We’d love to have you! And don’t forget to follow Build Your Bridge on Twitter for content I don’t share anywhere else.

2. mattdowney.co

This year I was finally able to refresh my site — made possible by separating myself from my newsletter and launching Build Your Bridge. In doing so, I now have the freedom to showcase my varying interests in a space that can evolve along with me over time.

I’ve gotten some great feedback on the site and have received more interest (and traffic) than in years past. Since one of my goals for 2021 was to increase visits and page views, let’s look at the numbers.

For context, the goal I set last year was 5,000 users and 10,000 pageviews in 2021. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had doubled the number of users and tripled the number of page views.

mattdowney.co Analytics

Here’s a top-level breakdown:

  • Users: 11,472 (+175.44% YoY)
  • New users: 11,420 (+175.05% YoY)
  • Sessions: 18,436 (+250.69% YoY)
  • Sessions Per User: 1.61 (+27.32% YoY)
  • Pageviews: 29,595 (+207.99% YoY)
  • Pages Per Session: 1.61 (-12.18% YoY)
  • Avg. Session Duration: 00:56 (-30.66% YoY)
  • Bounce Rate: 71.28% (-6.09% YoY)

This growth is incredible — and I attribute it to my increased presence on Twitter in the latter half of this year. Speaking of Twitter, let’s break things down to see how it helped drive more engagement on my site.

3. Twitter

One of my goals this year was to be more active on Twitter. Although I didn’t reach the 2,000 follower mark in 2021, I hit that mark yesterday with this tweet.

Getting involved in NFTs helped fuel my Q4 growth (more on that below), and I’m hoping to ride that momentum into the new year.

Here’s the breakdown for 2021:

  • Followers: 1,859 (+12.7% YoY)
  • Tweets: 458 (+1,074.36% YoY)
  • Impressions: 193,800 (+372.82% YoY)
  • Profile visits: 63,231 (+3,783.97% YoY)
  • Mentions: 255 (+2,733.33% YoY)
  • New followers: 211 (+513.73% YoY)

But the growth didn’t just come from my involvement with NFTs. Another significant number of Twitter followers were from the Notion and Super communities. More on that below.

4. Super templates

The month of August super-charged my year — starting with Super.

I’d seen Super before but hadn’t looked at the platform closely. I’m not sure why I finally decided to poke around one day, but when I zoomed in, I could tell Traf and the team were doing good work.

Around that time, Super had just started their Market and started releasing templates for Notion-powered sites. When I saw this, my spidey senses started tingling.

As you may or may not know, Tumblr invited my agency to help launch their theme store back in the day. Because of that experience, I understand the dynamic nature of building themes for platforms.

In addition, one of my goals for 2021 was to create a product I could build once and sell repeatedly. When I saw what Super was up to, it was a no-brainer — I started working on my first theme in August and published it to the Super Market on September 1st. I got my first sale on September 3rd — that was just the validation I needed to start designing more.

Since then, I’ve designed and built a total of four Super templates — all but one specifically for digital creators using Notion to power their sites.

Here’s a breakdown of my theme sales in 2021:

Folio

Folio

Share your projects, case studies, and blog posts in style.

Sales: 54 (33%)

Primer

Primer

Make your site unique by choosing custom background, text, and accent colors.

Sales: 74 (46%)

Digital

Digital

Highly customizable and designed specifically for digital creators.

Sales: 27 (16%)

Apply

Apply

A beautifully minimal and customizable resume template for creators.

Sales: 2 (1%)

Super Bundle

Super Bundle

Three of my best-selling templates are bundled together for digital creators.

Sales: 5 (3%)

Since September, these five products have brought in a total of $2,487. I have a few more templates in the works and will release them in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Now, let’s move on to the most influential and out-of-left-field part of 2021 — NFTs.

5. NFTs

I had been lurking around the NFT space for months, but I didn’t officially dip my toe into the waters until September of 2021.

Up to that point, the only experience I had with the blockchain, gas fees, and digital ownership was registering mattdowney.eth.

The first NFT I purchased was the Woodies Mint Passport. Their minting process was so magical and fun that I think without that initial experience, I might not have fallen down the rabbit hole.

But down the rabbit hole, I fell — hard.

Around the same time I started making Super templates, Traf was busy getting the Antifiat Crypto Club off the ground. I joined on September 17th, 2021 — a move that would jumpstart my NFT and crypto obsession.

After a few weeks in the NFT space, I became obsessed with Cryptoadz and Nouns — two creative projects that both happened to be CC0. I fell in love with the community and all of the derivative projects coming out of these two public domain powerhouses.

My favorite mashup of 2021 was The Noadz — equal parts Cryptoadz and Nouns. The artist, Ser Noadz, respects the history of both projects and has built a loyal sub-community by being open, fun, and engaging. It’s been a blast being a part of the Noadz fam and watching the growth.

And speaking of growth, that leads me to my final section: mind, body, and soul.

6. Mind and body

Last year I set goals around mind and body improvements. Let’s take a look at how I did:

Meditation

I set a goal to meditate at least 240 days in 2021. According to Calm, I came up just short at 233 days. Not bad, but I definitely could have done better.

Increase activity

Last year, I set a goal to close all three of my rings for 230 days in 2021. I’m happy to report I beat my goal by eight days, logging 238 days of complete ring closures.

Redesign my office

I’ll count this as a W, even though I’m only 90% done with my office. I still need to get a few prints on the wall, but it’s the most creative and productive it’s ever been. Pictures coming soon!

Read more books

As someone who barely sits down to read books, I knocked this one out of the park this year. Since I spend most of my time reading emails, articles, and Twitter, reading fiction seemed like the best place to start. And since I’d never read the Harry Potter series before, it was a no-brainer.

I was able to get through Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire. I’ve started Order of the Phoenix, and I’ll make sure to finish the series this year.

Reduce alcohol intake

I set a goal to reduce my alcohol intake by 25%, and I accomplished this easily while still making a lot of great tiki drinks from Smuggler’s Cove.

Conversational Spanish

My wife is bilingual and for years I’ve wanted to improve my Spanish. In 2021 I took the first step to speaking fluently by starting Duolingo. I’ve done lessons for 130 straight days now, and I can tell that my Spanish retention and understanding have grown significantly. I’m not quite conversational yet, but I can watch shows and listen to podcasts with a lot more confidence.

Wrapping up

2021 was a growth year — both personally and professionally. I’m excited to extend that momentum into the new year and create more. In the next week, I’ll work on gathering my goals for the coming year.

Until then, I’d love to hear what you’re working towards in 2022. Hit me up on Twitter and tell me what you have in the pipeline. And if you need someone to help you stay accountable, let me know — the buddy system can work wonders!