How Payment for Order Flow (PFOF) Works
What is PFOF?
PFOF is a brokerage firm's compensation for directing orders to different parties for trade execution. The brokerage firm receives fractions of a penny per share for directing the order to a market maker.
Each optionable stock could have thousands of contracts, so market makers dominate options trades. Order flow payments average less than $0.50 per option contract.
Order Flow Payments (PFOF) Explained
The proliferation of exchanges and electronic communication networks has complicated equity and options trading (ECNs) Ironically, Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi schemer, pioneered pay-for-order-flow.
In a December 2000 study on PFOF, the SEC said, "Payment for order flow is a method of transferring trading profits from market making to brokers who route customer orders to specialists for execution."
Given the complexity of trading thousands of stocks on multiple exchanges, market making has grown. Market makers are large firms that specialize in a set of stocks and options, maintaining an inventory of shares and contracts for buyers and sellers. Market makers are paid the bid-ask spread. Spreads have narrowed since 2001, when exchanges switched to decimals. A market maker's ability to play both sides of trades is key to profitability.
A broker receives fees from a third party for order flow, sometimes without a client's knowledge. This invites conflicts of interest and criticism. Regulation NMS from 2005 requires brokers to disclose their policies and financial relationships with market makers.
Your broker must tell you if it's paid to send your orders to specific parties. This must be done at account opening and annually. The firm must disclose whether it participates in payment-for-order-flow and, upon request, every paid order. Brokerage clients can request payment data on specific transactions, but the response takes weeks.
Order flow payments save money. Smaller brokerage firms can benefit from routing orders through market makers and getting paid. This allows brokerage firms to send their orders to another firm to be executed with other orders, reducing costs. The market maker or exchange benefits from additional share volume, so it pays brokerage firms to direct traffic.
Retail investors, who lack bargaining power, may benefit from order-filling competition. Arrangements to steer the business in one direction invite wrongdoing, which can erode investor confidence in financial markets and their players.
It has always been controversial. Several firms offering zero-commission trades in the late 1990s routed orders to untrustworthy market makers. During the end of fractional pricing, the smallest stock spread was $0.125. Options spreads widened. Traders found that some of their "free" trades cost them a lot because they weren't getting the best price.
The SEC then studied the issue, focusing on options trades, and nearly decided to ban PFOF. The proliferation of options exchanges narrowed spreads because there was more competition for executing orders. Options market makers said their services provided liquidity. In its conclusion, the report said, "While increased multiple-listing produced immediate economic benefits to investors in the form of narrower quotes and effective spreads, these improvements have been muted with the spread of payment for order flow and internalization."
The SEC allowed payment for order flow to continue to prevent exchanges from gaining monopoly power. What would happen to trades if the practice was outlawed was also unclear. SEC requires brokers to disclose financial arrangements with market makers. Since then, the SEC has watched closely.
2020 Order Flow Payment
Rule 605 and Rule 606 show execution quality and order flow payment statistics on a broker's website. Despite being required by the SEC, these reports can be hard to find. The SEC mandated these reports in 2005, but the format and reporting requirements have changed over the years, most recently in 2018.
Brokers and market makers formed a working group with the Financial Information Forum (FIF) to standardize order execution quality reporting. Only one retail brokerage (Fidelity) and one market maker remain (Two Sigma Securities). FIF notes that the 605/606 reports "do not provide the level of information that allows a retail investor to gauge how well a broker-dealer fills a retail order compared to the NBBO (national best bid or offer’) at the time the order was received by the executing broker-dealer."
In the first quarter of 2020, Rule 606 reporting changed to require brokers to report net payments from market makers for S&P 500 and non-S&P 500 equity trades and options trades. Brokers must disclose payment rates per 100 shares by order type (market orders, marketable limit orders, non-marketable limit orders, and other orders).
Richard Repetto, Managing Director of New York-based Piper Sandler & Co., publishes a report on Rule 606 broker reports. Repetto focused on Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E-TRADE, and Robinhood in Q2 2020. Repetto reported that payment for order flow was higher in the second quarter than the first due to increased trading activity, and that options paid more than equities.
Repetto says PFOF contributions rose overall. Schwab has the lowest options rates, while TD Ameritrade and Robinhood have the highest. Robinhood had the highest equity rating. Repetto assumes Robinhood's ability to charge higher PFOF reflects their order flow profitability and that they receive a fixed rate per spread (vs. a fixed rate per share by the other brokers).
Robinhood's PFOF in equities and options grew the most quarter-over-quarter of the four brokers Piper Sandler analyzed, as did their implied volumes. All four brokers saw higher PFOF rates.
TD Ameritrade took the biggest income hit when cutting trading commissions in fall 2019, and this report shows they're trying to make up the shortfall by routing orders for additional PFOF. Robinhood refuses to disclose trading statistics using the same metrics as the rest of the industry, offering only a vague explanation on their website.
Payment for order flow has become a major source of revenue as brokers offer no-commission equity (stock and ETF) orders. For retail investors, payment for order flow poses a problem because the brokerage may route orders to a market maker for its own benefit, not the investor's.
Infrequent or small-volume traders may not notice their broker's PFOF practices. Frequent traders and those who trade larger quantities should learn about their broker's order routing system to ensure they're not losing out on price improvement due to a broker prioritizing payment for order flow.
This post is a summary. Read full article here
More on Economics & Investing
8 months ago
How to Use the 2023 Recession to Grow Your Wealth Exponentially
This season's three best money moves.
“Millionaires are made in recessions.” — Time Capital
We're in a serious downturn, whether or not we're in a recession.
97% of business owners are decreasing costs by more than 10%, and all markets are down 30%.
If you know what you're doing and analyze the markets correctly, this is your chance to become a millionaire.
In any recession, there are always excellent possibilities to seize. Real estate, crypto, stocks, enterprises, etc.
What you do with your money could influence your future riches.
This article analyzes the three key markets, their circumstances for 2023, and how to profit from them.
Ways to make money on the stock market.
If you're conservative like me, you should invest in an index fund. Most of these funds are down 10-30% of ATH:
In earlier recessions, most money index funds lost 20%. After this downturn, they grew and passed the ATH in subsequent months.
Now is the greatest moment to invest in index funds to grow your money in a low-risk approach and make 20%.
If you want to be risky but wise, pick companies that will get better next year but are struggling now.
Even while we can't be 100% confident of a company's future performance, we know some are strong and will have a fantastic year.
Microsoft (down 22%), JPMorgan Chase (15.6%), Amazon (45%), and Disney (33.8%).
These firms give dividends, so you can earn passively while you wait.
So I consider that a good strategy to make wealth in the current stock market is to create two portfolios: one based on index funds to earn 10% to 20% profit when the corrections end, and the other based on individual stocks of popular and strong companies to earn 20%-30% return and dividends while you wait.
How to profit from the downturn in the real estate industry.
With rising mortgage rates, it's the worst moment to buy a home if you don't want to be eaten by banks. In the U.S., interest rates are double what they were three years ago, so buying now looks foolish.
Due to these rates, property prices are falling, but that won't last long since individuals will take advantage.
According to historical data, now is the ideal moment to buy a house for the next five years and perhaps forever.
If you can buy a house, do it. You can refinance the interest at a lower rate with acceptable credit, but not the house price.
Take advantage of the housing market prices now because you won't find a decent deal when rates normalize.
How to profit from the cryptocurrency market.
This is the riskiest market to tackle right now, but it could offer the most opportunities if done appropriately.
The most powerful cryptocurrencies are down more than 60% from last year: $68,990 for BTC and $4,865 for ETH.
If you focus on those two coins, you can make 30%-60% without waiting for them to return to their ATH, and they're low enough to be a solid investment.
I don't encourage trying other altcoins because the crypto market is in crisis and you can lose everything if you're greedy.
Still, the main Cryptos are a good investment provided you store them in an external wallet and follow financial gurus' security advice.
We can't anticipate a recession until it ends. We can't forecast a market or asset's lowest point, therefore waiting makes little sense.
If you want to develop your wealth, assess the money prospects on all the marketplaces and initiate long-term trades.
Many millionaires are made during recessions because they don't fear negative figures and use them to scale their money.
1 year ago
The latest “bubble indicator” readings.
As you know, I like to turn my intuition into decision rules (principles) that can be back-tested and automated to create a portfolio of alpha bets. I use one for bubbles. Having seen many bubbles in my 50+ years of investing, I described what makes a bubble and how to identify them in markets—not just stocks.
A bubble market has a high degree of the following:
- High prices compared to traditional values (e.g., by taking the present value of their cash flows for the duration of the asset and comparing it with their interest rates).
- Conditons incompatible with long-term growth (e.g., extrapolating past revenue and earnings growth rates late in the cycle).
- Many new and inexperienced buyers were drawn in by the perceived hot market.
- Broad bullish sentiment.
- Debt financing a large portion of purchases.
- Lots of forward and speculative purchases to profit from price rises (e.g., inventories that are more than needed, contracted forward purchases, etc.).
I use these criteria to assess all markets for bubbles. I have periodically shown you these for stocks and the stock market.
What Was Shown in January Versus Now
I will first describe the picture in words, then show it in charts, and compare it to the last update in January.
As of January, the bubble indicator showed that a) the US equity market was in a moderate bubble, but not an extreme one (ie., 70 percent of way toward the highest bubble, which occurred in the late 1990s and late 1920s), and b) the emerging tech companies (ie. As well, the unprecedented flood of liquidity post-COVID financed other bubbly behavior (e.g. SPACs, IPO boom, big pickup in options activity), making things bubbly. I showed which stocks were in bubbles and created an index of those stocks, which I call “bubble stocks.”
Those bubble stocks have popped. They fell by a third last year, while the S&P 500 remained flat. In light of these and other market developments, it is not necessarily true that now is a good time to buy emerging tech stocks.
The fact that they aren't at a bubble extreme doesn't mean they are safe or that it's a good time to get long. Our metrics still show that US stocks are overvalued. Once popped, bubbles tend to overcorrect to the downside rather than settle at “normal” prices.
The following charts paint the picture. The first shows the US equity market bubble gauge/indicator going back to 1900, currently at the 40% percentile. The charts also zoom in on the gauge in recent years, as well as the late 1920s and late 1990s bubbles (during both of these cases the gauge reached 100 percent ).
The chart below depicts the average bubble gauge for the most bubbly companies in 2020. Those readings are down significantly.
The charts below compare the performance of a basket of emerging tech bubble stocks to the S&P 500. Prices have fallen noticeably, giving up most of their post-COVID gains.
The following charts show the price action of the bubble slice today and in the 1920s and 1990s. These charts show the same market dynamics and two key indicators. These are just two examples of how a lot of debt financing stock ownership coupled with a tightening typically leads to a bubble popping.
Everything driving the bubbles in this market segment is classic—the same drivers that drove the 1920s bubble and the 1990s bubble. For instance, in the last couple months, it was how tightening can act to prick the bubble. Review this case study of the 1920s stock bubble (starting on page 49) from my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises to grasp these dynamics.
The following charts show the components of the US stock market bubble gauge. Since this is a proprietary indicator, I will only show you some of the sub-aggregate readings and some indicators.
Each of these six influences is measured using a number of stats. This is how I approach the stock market. These gauges are combined into aggregate indices by security and then for the market as a whole. The table below shows the current readings of these US equity market indicators. It compares current conditions for US equities to historical conditions. These readings suggest that we’re out of a bubble.
1. How High Are Prices Relatively?
This price gauge for US equities is currently around the 50th percentile.
2. Is price reduction unsustainable?
This measure calculates the earnings growth rate required to outperform bonds. This is calculated by adding up the readings of individual securities. This indicator is currently near the 60th percentile for the overall market, higher than some of our other readings. Profit growth discounted in stocks remains high.
Even more so in the US software sector. Analysts' earnings growth expectations for this sector have slowed, but remain high historically. P/Es have reversed COVID gains but remain high historical.
3. How many new buyers (i.e., non-existing buyers) entered the market?
Expansion of new entrants is often indicative of a bubble. According to historical accounts, this was true in the 1990s equity bubble and the 1929 bubble (though our data for this and other gauges doesn't go back that far). A flood of new retail investors into popular stocks, which by other measures appeared to be in a bubble, pushed this gauge above the 90% mark in 2020. The pace of retail activity in the markets has recently slowed to pre-COVID levels.
4. How Broadly Bullish Is Sentiment?
The more people who have invested, the less resources they have to keep investing, and the more likely they are to sell. Market sentiment is now significantly negative.
5. Are Purchases Being Financed by High Leverage?
Leveraged purchases weaken the buying foundation and expose it to forced selling in a downturn. The leverage gauge, which considers option positions as a form of leverage, is now around the 50% mark.
6. To What Extent Have Buyers Made Exceptionally Extended Forward Purchases?
Looking at future purchases can help assess whether expectations have become overly optimistic. This indicator is particularly useful in commodity and real estate markets, where forward purchases are most obvious. In the equity markets, I look at indicators like capital expenditure, or how much businesses (and governments) invest in infrastructure, factories, etc. It reflects whether businesses are projecting future demand growth. Like other gauges, this one is at the 40th percentile.
What one does with it is a tactical choice. While the reversal has been significant, future earnings discounting remains high historically. In either case, bubbles tend to overcorrect (sell off more than the fundamentals suggest) rather than simply deflate. But I wanted to share these updated readings with you in light of recent market activity.
10 months ago
A student trader from the United States made $110 million in one month and rose to prominence on Wall Street.
Genius or lucky?
From the title, you might think I'm selling advertising for a financial influencer, a dubious trading site, or a training organization to attract clients. I'm suspicious. Better safe than sorry.
But not here.
Jake Freeman, 20, made $110 million in a month, according to the Financial Times. At 18, he ran for president. He made his name in markets, not politics. Two years later, he's Wall Street's prince. Interview requests flood the prodigy.
Jake Freeman bought 5 million Bed Bath & Beyond Group shares for $5.5 in July 2022 and sold them for $27 a month later. He thought the stock might double. Since speculation died down, he sold well. The stock fell 40.5% to 11 dollars on Friday, 19 August 2022. On August 22, 2022, it fell 16% to $9.
Smallholders have been buying the stock for weeks and will lose heavily if it falls further. Bed Bath & Beyond is the second most popular stock after Foot Locker, ahead of GameStop and Apple.
Jake Freeman earned $110 million thanks to a significant stock market flurry.
Online broker customers aren't the only ones with jitters. By June 2022, Ken Griffin's Citadel and Stephen Mandel's Lone Pine Capital held nearly a third of the company's capital. Did big managers sell before the stock plummeted?
Recent stock movements (derivatives) and rumors could prompt a SEC investigation.
Jake Freeman wrote to the board of directors after his investment to call for a turnaround, given the company's persistent problems and short sellers. The bathroom and kitchen products distribution group's stock soared in July 2022 due to renewed buying by private speculators, who made it one of their meme stocks with AMC and GameStop.
Second-quarter 2022 results and financial health worsened. He didn't celebrate his miraculous operation in a nightclub. He told a British newspaper, "I'm shocked." His parents dined in New York. He returned to Los Angeles to study math and economics.
Jake Freeman founded Freeman Capital Management with his savings and $25 million from family, friends, and acquaintances. They are the ones who are entitled to the $110 million he raised in one month. Will his investors pocket and withdraw all or part of their profits or will they trust the young prodigy for new stunts on Wall Street?
His operation should attract new clients. Well-known hedge funds may hire him.
Jake Freeman didn't listen to gurus or former traders. At 17, he interned at a quantitative finance and derivatives hedge fund, Volaris. At 13, he began investing with his pharmaceutical executive uncle. All countries have increased their Google searches for the young trader in the last week.
Naturally, his success has inspired resentment.
His success stirs jealousy, and he's attacked on social media. On Reddit, people who lost money on Bed Bath & Beyond, Jake Freeman's fortune, are mourning.
Several conspiracy theories circulate about him, including that he doesn't exist or is working for a Taiwanese amusement park.
If all 20 million American students had the same trading skills, they would have generated $1.46 trillion. Jake Freeman is unique. Apprentice traders' careers are often short, disillusioning, and tragic.
Two years ago, 20-year-old Robinhood client Alexander Kearns committed suicide after losing $750,000 trading options. Great traders start young. Michael Platt of BlueCrest invested in British stocks at age 12 under his grandmother's supervision and made a £30,000 fortune. Paul Tudor Jones started trading before he turned 18 with his uncle. Warren Buffett, at age 10, was discussing investments with Goldman Sachs' head. Oracle of Omaha tells all.
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1 year ago
A 19-year-old dropped out of college to build a $2,300,000,000 company in 2 years.
His success was unforeseeable.
2014 saw Facebook's $2.3 billion purchase of Oculus VR.
19-year-old Palmer Luckey founded Oculus. He quit journalism school. His parents worried about his college dropout.
Facebook bought Oculus VR in less than 2 years.
Palmer Luckey started Anduril Industries. Palmer has raised $385 million with Anduril.
The Oculus journey began in a trailer
Palmer Luckey, 19, owned the trailer.
Luckey had his trailer customized. The trailer had all six of Luckey's screens. In the trailer's remaining area, Luckey conducted hardware tests.
At 16, he became obsessed with virtual reality. Virtual reality was rare at the time.
Luckey didn't know about VR when he started.
Previously, he liked "portabilizing" mods. Hacking ancient game consoles into handhelds.
In his city, fewer portabilizers actively traded.
Luckey started "ModRetro" for other portabilizers. Luckey was exposed to VR headsets online.
“Man, ModRetro days were the best.”
Palmer Luckey used VR headsets for three years. His design had 50 prototypes.
Luckey used to work at the Long Beach Sailing Center for minimum salary, servicing diesel engines and cleaning boats.
Luckey worked in a USC Institute for Creative Technologies mixed reality lab in July 2011. (ICT).
Luckey cleaned the lab, did reports, and helped other students with VR projects.
Luckey's lab job was dull.
Luckey chose to work in the lab because he wanted to engage with like-minded folks.
By 2012, Luckey had a prototype he hoped to share globally. He made cheaper headsets than others.
Luckey wanted to sell an easy-to-assemble virtual reality kit on Kickstarter.
He realized he needed a corporation to do these sales legally. He started looking for names. "Virtuality," "virtual," and "VR" are all taken.
If Luckey sold a hundred prototypes, he would be thrilled since it would boost his future possibilities.
John Carmack, legendary game designer
Carmack has liked sci-fi and fantasy since infancy.
Carmack loved imagining intricate gaming worlds.
His interest in programming and computer science grew with age.
He liked graphics. He liked how mismatching 0 and 1 might create new colors and visuals.
Carmack played computer games as a teen. He created Shadowforge in high school.
He founded Id software in 1991. When Carmack created id software, console games were the best-sellers.
Old computer games have weak graphics. John Carmack and id software developed "adaptive tile refresh."
This technique smoothed PC game scrolling. id software launched 3-D, Quake, and Doom using "adaptive tile refresh."
These games made John Carmack a gaming star. Later, he sold Id software to ZeniMax Media.
How Palmer Luckey met Carmack
In 2011, Carmack was thinking a lot about 3-D space and virtual reality.
He was underwhelmed by the greatest HMD on the market. Because of their flimsiness and latency.
His disappointment was partly due to the view (FOV). Best HMD had 40-degree field of view.
Poor. The best VR headset is useless with a 40-degree FOV.
Carmack intended to show the press Doom 3 in VR. He explored VR headsets and internet groups for this reason.
Carmack identified a VR enthusiast in the comments section of "LEEP on the Cheap." "PalmerTech" was the name.
Carmack approached PalmerTech about his prototype. He told Luckey about his VR demos, so he wanted to see his prototype.
Carmack got a Rift prototype. Here's his May 17 tweet.
John Carmack tweeted an evaluation of the Luckey prototype.
Dan Newell, a Valve engineer, and Mick Hocking, a Sony senior director, pre-ordered Oculus Rift prototypes with Carmack's help.
Everyone praised Luckey after Carmack demoed Rift.
Palmer Luckey received a job offer from Sony.
It was a full-time position at Sony Computer Europe.
He would run Sony’s R&D lab.
The salary would be $70k.
Who is Brendan Iribe?
Brendan Iribe started early with Startups. In 2004, he and Mike Antonov founded Scaleform.
Scaleform created high-performance middleware. This package allows 3D Flash games.
In 2011, Iribe sold Scaleform to Autodesk for $36 million.
How Brendan Iribe discovered Palmer Luckey.
Brendan Iribe's friend Laurent Scallie.
Laurent told Iribe about a potential opportunity.
Laurent promised Iribe VR will work this time. Laurent introduced Iribe to Luckey.
Iribe was doubtful after hearing Laurent's statements. He doubted Laurent's VR claims.
But since Laurent took the name John Carmack, Iribe thought he should look at Luckey Innovation. Iribe was hooked on virtual reality after reading Palmer Luckey stories.
He asked Scallie about Palmer Luckey.
Iribe convinced Luckey to start Oculus with him
First meeting between Palmer Luckey and Iribe.
The Iribe team wanted Luckey to feel comfortable.
Iribe sought to convince Luckey that launching a company was easy. Iribe told Luckey anyone could start a business.
Luckey told Iribe's staff he was homeschooled from childhood. Luckey took self-study courses.
Luckey had planned to launch a Kickstarter campaign and sell kits for his prototype. Many companies offered him jobs, nevertheless.
He's considering Sony's offer.
Iribe advised Luckey to stay independent and not join a firm. Iribe asked Luckey how he could raise his child better. No one sees your baby like you do?
Iribe's team pushed Luckey to stay independent and establish a software ecosystem around his device.
After conversing with Iribe, Luckey rejected every job offer and merger option.
Iribe convinced Luckey to provide an SDK for Oculus developers.
After a few months. Brendan Iribe co-founded Oculus with Palmer Luckey. Luckey trusted Iribe and his crew, so he started a corporation with him.
Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey launched a Kickstarter.
Gabe Newell endorsed Palmer's Kickstarter video.
Gabe Newell wants folks to trust Palmer Luckey since he's doing something fascinating and answering tough questions.
Mark Bolas and David Helgason backed Palmer Luckey's VR Kickstarter video.
Luckey introduced Oculus Rift during the Kickstarter campaign. He introduced virtual reality during press conferences.
Oculus' Kickstarter effort was a success. Palmer Luckey felt he could raise $250,000.
Oculus raised $2.4 million through Kickstarter. Palmer Luckey's virtual reality vision was well-received.
Mark Zuckerberg's Oculus discovery
Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey hired the right personnel after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Oculus needs a lot of money for engineers and hardware. They needed investors' money.
Series A raised $16M.
Next, Andreessen Horowitz partner Brain Cho approached Iribe.
Cho told Iribe that Andreessen Horowitz could invest in Oculus Series B if the company solved motion sickness.
Mark Andreessen was Iribe's dream client.
Marc Andreessen and his partners gave Oculus $75 million.
Andreessen introduced Iribe to Zukerberg. Iribe and Zukerberg discussed the future of games and virtual reality by phone.
Facebook's Oculus demo
Iribe showed Zuckerberg Oculus.
Mark was hooked after using Oculus. The headset impressed him.
The whole Facebook crew who saw the demo said only one thing.
This surprised them all.
Mark Zuckerberg was impressed by the team's response. Mark Zuckerberg met the Oculus team five days after the demo.
First meeting Palmer Luckey.
Palmer Luckey is one of Mark's biggest supporters and loves Facebook.
Zuckerberg wanted Oculus.
Brendan Iribe had requested for $4 billion, but Mark wasn't interested.
Facebook bought Oculus for $2.3 billion after months of drama.
After selling his company, how does Palmer view money?
Palmer loves the freedom money gives him. Money frees him from small worries.
Money has allowed him to pursue things he wouldn't have otherwise.
“If I didn’t have money I wouldn’t have a collection of vintage military vehicles…You can have nice hobbies that keep you relaxed when you have money.”
He didn't start Oculus to generate money. His virtual reality passion spanned years.
He didn't have to lie about how virtual reality will transform everything until he needed funding.
The company's success was an unexpected bonus. He was merely passionate about a good cause.
After Oculus' $2.3 billion exit, what changed?
Palmer didn't mind being rich. He did similar things.
After Facebook bought Oculus, he moved to Silicon Valley and lived in a 12-person shared house due to high rents.
Palmer might have afforded a big mansion, but he prefers stability and doing things because he wants to, not because he has to.
“Taco Bell is never tasted so good as when you know you could afford to never eat taco bell again.”
Palmer's leadership shifted.
Palmer changed his leadership after selling Oculus.
When he launched his second company, he couldn't work on his passions.
“When you start a tech company you do it because you want to work on a technology, that is why you are interested in that space in the first place. As the company has grown, he has realized that if he is still doing optical design in the company it’s because he is being negligent about the hiring process.”
Once his startup grows, the founder's responsibilities shift. He must recruit better firm managers.
Recruiting talented people becomes the top priority. The founder must convince others of their influence.
A book that helped me write this:
The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality — Blake Harris
*This post is a summary. Read the full article here.
1 year ago
I finally achieved a $100K freelance income. Here's what I wish I knew.
We love round numbers, don't we? $100,000 is a frequent freelancing milestone. You feel like six figures means you're doing something properly.
You've most likely already conquered initial freelancing challenges like finding clients, setting fair pricing, coping with criticism, getting through dry spells, managing funds, etc.
You think I must be doing well. Last month, my freelance income topped $100,000.
That may not sound impressive considering I've been freelancing for 2.75 years, but I made 30% of that in the previous four months, which is crazy.
Here are the things I wish I'd known during the early days of self-employment that would have helped me hit $100,000 faster.
1. The Volatility of Freelancing Will Stabilize.
Freelancing is risky. No surprise.
Here's an example.
October 2020 was my best month, earning $7,150. Between $4,004 in September and $1,730 in November. Unsteady.
Freelancing is regrettably like that. Moving clients. Content requirements change. Allocating so much time to personal pursuits wasn't smart, but yet.
Stabilizing income takes time. Consider my rolling three-month average income since I started freelancing. My three-month average monthly income. In February, this metric topped $5,000. Now, it's in the mid-$7,000s, but it took a while to get there.
Finding freelance gigs that provide high pay, high volume, and recurring revenue is difficult. But it's not impossible.
TLDR: Don't expect a steady income increase at first. Be patient.
2. You Have More Value Than You Realize.
Writing is difficult. Assembling words, communicating a message, and provoking action are a puzzle.
People are willing to pay you for it because they can't do what you do or don't have enough time.
Keeping that in mind can have huge commercial repercussions.
When talking to clients, don't tiptoe. You can ignore ridiculous deadlines. You don't have to take unmanageable work.
You solve an issue, so make sure you get rightly paid.
TLDR: Frame services as problem-solutions. This will let you charge more and set boundaries.
3. Increase Your Prices.
I studied hard before freelancing. I read articles and watched videos about writing businesses.
I didn't want to work for pennies. Despite this clarity, I had no real strategy to raise my rates.
I then luckily stumbled into higher-paying work. We discussed fees and hours with a friend who launched a consulting business. It's subjective and speculative because value isn't standardized. One company may laugh at your charges. If your solution helps them create a solid ROI, another client may pay $200 per hour.
When he told me he charged his first client $125 per hour, I thought, Why not?
A new-ish client wanted to discuss a huge forthcoming project, so I raised my rates. They knew my worth, so they didn't blink when I handed them my new number.
TLDR: Increase rates periodically (e.g., every 6 or 12 months). Writing skill develops with practice. You'll gain value over time.
4. Remember Your Limits.
If you can squeeze additional time into a day, let me know. I can't manipulate time yet.
We all have time and economic limits. You could theoretically keep boosting rates, but your prospect pool diminishes. Outsourcing and establishing extra revenue sources might boost monthly revenues.
I've devoted a lot of time to side projects (hopefully extra cash sources), but I've only just started outsourcing. I wish I'd tried this earlier.
If you can discover good freelancers, you can grow your firm without sacrificing time.
TLDR: Expand your writing network immediately. You'll meet freelancers who understand your daily grind and locate reference sources.
5. Every Action You Take Involves an Investment. Be Certain to Select Correctly.
Investing in stocks or crypto requires paying money, right?
In business, time is your currency (and maybe money too). Your daily habits define your future. If you spend time collecting software customers and compiling content in the space, you'll end up with both. So be sure.
I only spend around 50% of my time on client work, therefore it's taken me nearly three years to earn $100,000. I spend the remainder of my time on personal projects including a freelance book, an investment newsletter, and this blog.
Why? I don't want to rely on client work forever. So, I'm working on projects that could pay off later and help me live a more fulfilling life.
TLDR: Consider the long-term impact of your time commitments, and don't overextend. You can only make so many "investments" in a given time.
6. LinkedIn Is an Endless Mine of Gold. Use It.
Why didn't I use LinkedIn earlier?
I designed a LinkedIn inbound lead strategy that generates 12 leads a month and a few high-quality offers. As a result, I've turned down good gigs. Wish I'd begun earlier.
If you want to create a freelance business, prioritize LinkedIn. Too many freelancers ignore this site, missing out on high-paying clients. Build your profile, post often, and interact.
TLDR: Study LinkedIn's top creators. Once you understand their audiences, start posting and participating daily.
For 99% of People, Freelancing is Not a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme.
Here's a list of things I wish I'd known when I started freelancing.
Although it is erratic, freelancing eventually becomes stable.
You deserve respect and discretion over how you conduct business because you have solved an issue.
Increase your charges rather than undervaluing yourself. If necessary, add a reminder to your calendar. Your worth grows with time.
In order to grow your firm, outsource jobs. After that, you can work on the things that are most important to you.
Take into account how your present time commitments may affect the future. It will assist in putting things into perspective and determining whether what you are doing is indeed worthwhile.
Participate on LinkedIn. You'll get better jobs as a result.
If I could give my old self (and other freelancers) one bit of advice, it's this:
Despite appearances, you're making progress.
Each job. Tweets. Newsletters. Progress. It's simpler to see retroactively than in the moment.
Consistent, intentional work pays off. No good comes from doing nothing. You must set goals, divide them into time-based targets, and then optimize your calendar.
Then you'll understand you're doing well.
Want to learn more? I’ll teach you.
11 months ago
I Posted Six Times a Day for 210 Days on Twitter. Here's What Happened.
I'd spend hours composing articles only to find out they were useless. Twitter solved the problem.
Twitter is wrinkled, say critics.
Nope. Writing is different. It won't make sense until you write there.
Twitter is resurgent. People are reading again. 15-second TikToks overloaded our senses.
After nuking my 20,000-follower Twitter account and starting again, I wrote every day for 210 days.
I came across the strange world of microblogging.
Traditional web writing is filler-heavy.
On Twitter, you must be brief. I played Wordle.
Twitter Threads are the most popular writing format. Like a blog post. It reminds me of the famous broetry posts on LinkedIn a few years ago.
Threads combine tweets into an article.
Sharp, concise sentences
No regard for grammar
As important as the information is how the text looks.
Twitter Threads are like Michael Angelo's David monument. He chipped away at an enormous piece of marble until a man with a big willy appeared.
That's Twitter Threads.
I tried to remove unnecessary layers from several of my Wordpress blog posts. Then I realized something.
Tweeting from scratch is easier and more entertaining. It's quicker and makes you think more concisely.
Superpower: saying much with little words. My long-form writing has improved. My article sentences resemble tweets.
You never know what will happen.
Twitter's subcultures are odd. Best-performing tweets are strange.
Unusual trend: working alone and without telling anyone. It's a rebellion against Instagram influencers who share their every moment.
Early on, random thoughts worked:
My friend’s wife is Ukrainian. Her family are trapped in the warzone. He is devastated. And here I was complaining about my broken garage door. War puts everything in perspective. Today is a day to be grateful for peace.
Documenting what's happening triggers writing. It's not about viral tweets. Helping others matters.
There are numerous anonymous users.
Twitter uses pseudonyms.
You don't matter. On sites like LinkedIn, you must use your real name. Welcome to the Cyberpunk metaverse of Twitter :)
One daily piece of writing is a powerful habit.
Habits build creator careers. Read that again.
Twitter is an easy habit to pick up. If you can't tweet in one sentence, something's wrong. Easy-peasy-japanese.
Not what I tweeted, but my constancy, made the difference.
Daily writing is challenging, especially if your supervisor is on your back. Twitter encourages writing.
Tweets evolved as the foundation of all other material.
During my experiment, I enjoyed Twitter's speed.
Tweets get immediate responses, comments, and feedback. My popular tweets become newspaper headlines. I've also written essays from tweet discussions.
Sometimes the tweet and article were clear. Twitter sometimes helped me overcome writer's block.
I used to spend hours composing big things that had little real-world use.
Twitter helped me. No guessing. Data guides my coverage and validates concepts.
Test ideas on Twitter.
It took some time for my email list to grow.
Subscribers are a writer's lifeblood.
Without them, you're broke and homeless when Mark Zuckerberg tweaks the algorithms for ad dollars. Twitter has three ways to obtain email subscribers:
1. Add a link to your bio.
Twitter allows bio links (LinkedIn now does too). My eBook's landing page is linked. I collect emails there.
2. Start an online newsletter.
Twitter bought newsletter app Revue. They promote what they own.
I just established up a Revue email newsletter. I imported them weekly into my ConvertKit email list.
3. Create Twitter threads and include a link to your email list in the final tweet.
Write Twitter Threads and link the last tweet to your email list (example below).
Initial email subscribers were modest.
Numbers are growing. Twitter provides 25% of my new email subscribers. Some days, 50 people join.
Without them, my writing career is over. I'd be back at a 9-5 job begging for time off to spend with my newborn daughter. Nope.
Collect email addresses or die trying.
As insurance against unsubscribes and Zucks, use a second email list or Discord community.
What I still need to do
Twitter's fun. I'm wiser. I need to enable auto-replies and auto-DMs (direct messages).
This adds another way to attract subscribers. I schedule tweets with Tweet Hunter.
It’s best to go slow. People assume you're an internet marketer if you spam them with click requests.
A human internet marketer is preferable to a robot. My opinion.
210 days on Twitter taught me that. I plan to use the platform until I'm a grandfather unless Elon ruins it.