My girlfriend gave me a gift for Christmas of 2015. It was a workbook by Lisa Jacobs called Your Best Year 2016. I wanted to set ambitious goals for 2016 and this was just what I needed. It began with a set of exercises to audit the previous year (2015) and used the results to shape goals for 2016.

After doing the audit, I was saddened to find 2015 was probably my most unproductive year ever. I had a accomplished some great things, but none of them felt as if they served my vision for the future.

One of the problems was my vision for the future was pretty foggy. I was going in circles.

Then it finally clicked. I suddenly realized I need to buckle down and make some serious changes. If you don’t make changes, you can only expect the same results.

I found clarity in what I wanted 2016 to become and I developed a set of goals I actively worked towards every day this year. There’s no doubt I was able to achieve many great things this year, but it would not have been possible without this linear roadmap.

What I Accomplished in 2016

My main goal for 2016 was to develop a presence as a professional hand-lettering artist. I would do this by overhauling my personal brand, doing excellent work for paying clients, and publishing content that provided teachings and inspiration for aspiring artists.

I want to share my results for 2016. This post primarily is meant to document progress in the early steps of a long journey. But I also hope it can inspire you to think big.

Everyone is capable of accomplishing amazing things if they put their mind to it.

Joined a Community of Likeminded People

Technically, I joined the seanwes community just a couple days before we turned the calendar, but I consider it a 2016 thing.

seanwes community logo

I wasn’t surrounded by people who doubted me, but I was feeling the need to be surrounded by more people who would be able available and willing to critique my ideas and approaches objectively. This community is full of amazing people who are all working towards building an audience-driven business.

I’ve developed some amazing relationships and have received an unbelievable amount of value. The feedback and advice has helped in pushing my efforts to the next level.

Launched My Website

Launching jakerainis.com was the biggest undertaking this year because my own platform is the cornerstone of all the content I publish.

jake rainis website screenshot

I wanted to have a weekly blog, newsletter signups, featured work, detailed case studies, and a written process with a conditional contact form which would allow me to filter correspondence.

I have done front-end web development in the advertising field for years now and I’ve dabbled in WordPress here and there. However, it had been quite a while since I’ve taken a website from the preliminary strategy phase all the way to server configuration and launch.

Developed a Writing Habit

My website didn’t actually launch until the end of February, but I wrote viciously through the development period because one of my goals was to produce a blog post for every week of the calendar year. I launched with 7 or 8 posts and had another 4 or 5 in the queue.

Blogging might seem like a simple feat, but it is actually quite difficult. Coming up with fresh topics, writing extensively on them in a way that is going to provide value to people, editing, formatting, coming up with a featured image, etc. This all takes time and dedication.

There were moments where I wanted to quit, but I knew I was capable of doing this. I continued to flesh out my editorial calendar, stick to schedule, publish every Thursday morning. Sometimes, I was up against the clock and sometimes I was weeks ahead.

However, it was most comfortable during the periods where I made time to write every day. Not everything gets published, but there are many ideas that come from writing even if it just spends an eternity in a text file on my computer.

I haven’t yet decided if I’ll continue blogging every week for the foreseeable future. But regardless of the decision, I plan to make a serious effort to write every day.

Started a Weekly Newsletter

Publishing blog posts is great and was proud of all the information I was sharing, but I needed a way to get it in front of people.

jake rainis website screenshot

This was the original reason I started a weekly newsletter. People who were interested could sign up and have the opportunity to consume my content without having to remember to visit my site every week.

However, the real benefit came from being able to engage with my audience. Exchanging emails with people I’ve never met about content they’re interested in is a great way to speak directly to the people you’re trying to reach.

Like blogging, I’ve sent an email newsletter every week and even though my list started out small (and still is), its only started to grow rapidly in the past month after nearly a year of weekly activity.

Began Producing Video Content

My video game is still pretty novice, but I overcame my fear of talking to a camera and shot over a dozen videos this year. Most of them were time lapses of my calligraphy work, but it got me comfortable producing content in an unfamiliar medium. As a result, I feel like a whole new world of opportunities have opened up.

I’m still in the process of writing my 2017 goals, but I can assure you video is going to be a big one.

Developed Healthier Habits

I turned 30 this year and I even though I wasn’t unhealthy in my 20’s, I still wanted to make a conscious effort to develop better eating habits. The metabolism I used to have was no longer and I was indulging in craft beers and going out with friends a little too often.

I spent January doing a cleanse diet which allowed me to shed (and keep off) about 10 pounds. This is a decent change for someone of my frame and for someone who really hates exercising, it wasn’t something I thought I could do.

This was a small win but I’m proud of it and I’m planning on developing a new set of health related goals in 2017.

Developed New Client Relationships

One of my major goals this year was to complete as many awesome client projects as possible. And I did! I was fortunate to work with some really amazing people to help shape their brands and products. A couple of the bigger projects I did are under wraps for the moment, but there are a number of other case studies I have published this year.

One of my most exciting moments in 2016 was seeing the Dorchester Brewing Co. sign I designed go up just in time for their grand opening.

Dorchester brewing company completed building sign

Featured Work in 2 Gallery Shows

This opportunity came out of nowhere, but I couldn’t pass it up. My brother John Rainis is printmaker associated with Anti-Designs in South Boston. Anti was co-sponsoring a gallery show called Go to the Light.

Go th the light show

My brother, who is also a very talented illustrator collaborated with me on the first piece. The show ended up going over so well that the group ended up doing another event several months later. Anti gave me the opportunity to have my own solo piece in the show.

The best part about the Go to the Light shows was it was in the dark and all of the pieces were screen printed in glow-in-the-dark and blacklight reactive ink. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was amazing to see so much amazing work in this unique context.

Attended the seanwes Conference

I’ve been to my fair share of conferences, but nothing like the seanwes conference. I won’t gush about how amazing the experience was because I already did so at length.

So many new friends!
So many new friends!
So many new friends!
So many new friends!
So many new friends!
So many new friends!

I can’t even begin to explain how life-changing this conference was. I made countless life-long connections and left feeling more inspired than I have ever been in my entire life. I can’t wait for next year. I already bought my ticket.

Found an Accountability Partner

One of the amazing friends I made at the seanwes conference is with Pam Tremble. Pam is a designer specializing in brand management and marketing strategy — and she’s incredible at it.

Pam Tremble, my accountability partner

Pam and I set up a phone call a couple weeks after the conference to discuss some of our takeaways. We ended up having such a valuable conversation, we decided to forge an accountability partnership.

Pam and I speak every Saturday morning to discuss the previous week’s challenges and accomplishments, to set goals for the following week, and to discuss long-term goal strategy and approach. Not only is this process productive and motivating, but it also helps us tackle lag measures and move towards our goals quicker.

Joined a Mastermind Group

Another amazing result of the conference was the beginning of a mastermind group.

Mastermind groups are similar to an accountability partnership, but have some important differences. They tend to be less intimate and generally contain members who are pursuing something similar (or share a similar background). This allows for the opportunity to share connections, resources, and other forms of support.

My group consists of my friends Ryan, Tim, and Nacho. All of us have programming backgrounds and share the same driven business philosophy. We’re only about 2 months in, but I’m confident of all the value that will come from this.

Started a Podcast

Yeah! You probably aren’t aware because I don’t talk about it here. The reason for this is because it’s not specifically lettering-related. I started it several months back with my friend and colleague Mike Miles.

It’s called Developing Up and it’s about the non-technical aspects of being a developer. We talk about career growth, goals, productivity, and other similar topics. Even though the conversation can be developer-centric, it’s still something anyone can relate to. Give it a listen and let us know what you think!

developing up podcast cover art

I’ve always wanted to have a podcast and I’m grateful I finally have the opportunity. It’s much harder than I expected and requires time and energy, but the payoff is rewarding.

Doubled my Instagram Followers

Followers aren’t everything. Particularly if they’re bots, inactive accounts, or people who don’t engage. I’m not saying I don’t have any of those, but the ever-growing number of new conversations and engagements I’m having reassures me my work is reaching people.

@jakerainis instagram feed

It just goes to show — if you develop a curated feed and publish to it frequently, people will begin to notice you and your audience will grow as a result.

Farewell, 2016. Hello 2017!

I can’t believe how fast 2016 flew by. It feels like just yesterday I was doing my 2015 audit. Feeling Disappointed.

2016 was the first year I was able to prove to myself I could incite major change in my life with such a niche passion. And now that I’ve completed my first year of goals and laid the groundwork for my future, it’s time to move forth towards bigger things.

If you’ve done big things with lettering in 2016, I want to see. Please send me an email and share your accomplishments. I’d love to take a look!

See you next year!