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Ben

Ben

1 month ago

The Real Value of Carbon Credit (Climate Coin Investment)

More on Web3 & Crypto

Sam Hickmann

Sam Hickmann

7 months ago

Token taxonomy: Utility vs Security vs NFT

Let's examine the differences between the three main token types and their functions.

As Ethereum grew, the term "token" became a catch-all term for all assets built on the Ethereum blockchain. However, different tokens were grouped based on their applications and features, causing some confusion. Let's examine the modification of three main token types: security, utility, and non-fungible.

Utility tokens

They provide a specific utility benefit (or a number of such). A utility token is similar to a casino chip, a table game ticket, or a voucher. Depending on the terms of issuing, they can be earned and used in various ways. A utility token is a type of token that represents a tool or mechanism required to use the application in question. Like a service, a utility token's price is determined by supply and demand. Tokens can also be used as a bonus or reward mechanism in decentralized systems: for example, if you like someone's work, give them an upvote and they get a certain number of tokens. This is a way for authors or creators to earn money indirectly.

The most common way to use a utility token is to pay with them instead of cash for discounted goods or services.

Utility tokens are the most widely used by blockchain companies. Most cryptocurrency exchanges accept fees in native utility tokens.

Utility tokens can also be used as a reward. Companies tokenize their loyalty programs so that points can be bought and sold on blockchain exchanges. These tokens are widely used in decentralized companies as a bonus system. You can use utility tokens to reward creators for their contributions to a platform, for example. It also allows members to exchange tokens for specific bonuses and rewards on your site.

Unlike security tokens, which are subject to legal restrictions, utility tokens can be freely traded.

Security tokens

Security tokens are essentially traditional securities like shares, bonds, and investment fund units in a crypto token form.

The key distinction is that security tokens are typically issued by private firms (rather than public companies) that are not listed on stock exchanges and in which you can not invest right now. Banks and large venture funds used to be the only sources of funding. A person could only invest in private firms if they had millions of dollars in their bank account. Privately issued security tokens outperform traditional public stocks in terms of yield. Private markets grew 50% faster than public markets over the last decade, according to McKinsey Private Equity Research.

A security token is a crypto token whose value is derived from an external asset or company. So it is governed as security (read about the Howey test further in this article). That is, an ownership token derives its value from the company's valuation, assets on the balance sheet, or dividends paid to token holders.

Why are Security Tokens Important?

Cryptocurrency is a lucrative investment. Choosing from thousands of crypto assets can mean the difference between millionaire and bankrupt. Without security tokens, crypto investing becomes riskier and generating long-term profits becomes difficult. These tokens have lower risk than other cryptocurrencies because they are backed by real assets or business cash flows. So having them helps to diversify a portfolio and preserve the return on investment in riskier assets.

Security tokens open up new funding avenues for businesses. As a result, investors can invest in high-profit businesses that are not listed on the stock exchange.

The distinction between utility and security tokens isn't as clear as it seems. However, this increases the risk for token issuers, especially in the USA. The Howey test is the main pillar regulating judicial precedent in this area.

What is a Howey Test?

An "investment contract" is determined by the Howey Test, a lawsuit settled by the US Supreme Court. If it does, it's a security and must be disclosed and registered under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

If the SEC decides that a cryptocurrency token is a security, a slew of issues arise. In practice, this ensures that the SEC will decide when a token can be offered to US investors and if the project is required to file a registration statement with the SEC.

Due to the Howey test's extensive wording, most utility tokens will be classified as securities, even if not intended to be. Because of these restrictions, most ICOs are not available to US investors. When asked about ICOs in 2018, then-SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said they were securities. The given statement adds to the risk. If a company issues utility tokens without registering them as securities, the regulator may impose huge fines or even criminal charges.

What other documents regulate tokens?

Securities Act (1993) or Securities Exchange Act (1934) in the USA; MiFID directive and Prospectus Regulation in the EU. These laws require registering the placement of security tokens, limiting their transfer, but protecting investors.

Utility tokens have much less regulation. The Howey test determines whether a given utility token is a security. Tokens recognized as securities are now regulated as such. Having a legal opinion that your token isn't makes the implementation process much easier. Most countries don't have strict regulations regarding utility tokens except KYC (Know Your Client) and AML (Anti Money-Laundering).

As cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies evolve, more countries create UT regulations. If your company is based in the US, be aware of the Howey test and the Bank Secrecy Act. It classifies UTs and their issuance as money transmission services in most states, necessitating a license and strict regulations. Due to high regulatory demands, UT issuers try to avoid the United States as a whole. A new law separating utility tokens from bank secrecy act will be introduced in the near future, giving hope to American issuers.

The rest of the world has much simpler rules requiring issuers to create basic investor disclosures. For example, the latest European legislation (MiCA) allows businesses to issue utility tokens without regulator approval. They must also prepare a paper with all the necessary information for the investors.

A payment token is a utility token that is used to make a payment. They may be subject to electronic money laws. 

Because non-fungible tokens are a new instrument, there is no regulating paper yet. However, if the NFT is fractionalized, the smaller tokens acquired may be seen as securities.

NFT Tokens

Collectible tokens are also known as non-fungible tokens. Their distinctive feature is that they denote unique items such as artwork, merch, or ranks. Unlike utility tokens, which are fungible, meaning that two of the same tokens are identical, NFTs represent a unit of possession that is strictly one of a kind. In a way, NFTs are like baseball cards, each one unique and valuable.

As for today, the most recognizable NFT function is to preserve the fact of possession. Owning an NFT with a particular gif, meme, or sketch does not transfer the intellectual right to the possessor, but is analogous to owning an original painting signed by the author.

Collectible tokens can also be used as digital souvenirs, so to say. Businesses can improve their brand image by issuing their own branded NFTs, which represent ranks or achievements within the corporate ecosystem. Gamifying business ecosystems would allow people to connect with a brand and feel part of a community. 

Which type of tokens is right for you as a business to raise capital?

For most businesses, it's best to raise capital with security tokens by selling existing shares to global investors. Utility tokens aren't meant to increase in value over time, so leave them for gamification and community engagement. In a blockchain-based business, however, a utility token is often the lifeblood of the operation, and its appreciation potential is directly linked to the company's growth. You can issue multiple tokens at once, rather than just one type. It exposes you to various investors and maximizes the use of digital assets.

Which tokens should I buy?

There are no universally best tokens. Their volatility, industry, and risk-reward profile vary. This means evaluating tokens in relation to your overall portfolio and personal preferences: what industries do you understand best, what excites you, how do you approach taxes, and what is your planning horizon? To build a balanced portfolio, you need to know these factors.

Conclusion

The three most common types of tokens today are security, utility, and NFT. Security tokens represent stocks, mutual funds, and bonds. Utility tokens can be perceived as an inside-product "currency" or "ignition key" that grants you access to goods and services or empowers with other perks. NFTs are unique collectible units that identify you as the owner of something.

Max Parasol

Max Parasol

9 months ago

What the hell is Web3 anyway?

"Web 3.0" is a trendy buzzword with a vague definition. Everyone agrees it has to do with a blockchain-based internet evolution, but what is it?

Yet, the meaning and prospects for Web3 have become hot topics in crypto communities. Big corporations use the term to gain a foothold in the space while avoiding the negative connotations of “crypto.”

But it can't be evaluated without a definition.

Among those criticizing Web3's vagueness is Cobie:

“Despite the dominie's deluge of undistinguished think pieces, nobody really agrees on what Web3 is. Web3 is a scam, the future, tokenizing the world, VC exit liquidity, or just another name for crypto, depending on your tribe.

“Even the crypto community is split on whether Bitcoin is Web3,” he adds.

The phrase was coined by an early crypto thinker, and the community has had years to figure out what it means. Many ideologies and commercial realities have driven reverse engineering.

Web3 is becoming clearer as a concept. It contains ideas. It was probably coined by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood in 2014. His definition of Web3 included “trustless transactions” as part of its tech stack. Wood founded the Web3 Foundation and the Polkadot network, a Web3 alternative future.

The 2013 Ethereum white paper had previously allowed devotees to imagine a DAO, for example.

Web3 now has concepts like decentralized autonomous organizations, sovereign digital identity, censorship-free data storage, and data divided by multiple servers. They intertwine discussions about the “Web3” movement and its viability.

These ideas are linked by Cobie's initial Web3 definition. A key component of Web3 should be “ownership of value” for one's own content and data.

Noting that “late-stage capitalism greedcorps that make you buy a fractionalized micropayment NFT on Cardano to operate your electric toothbrush” may build the new web, he notes that “crypto founders are too rich to care anymore.”

Very Important

Many critics of Web3 claim it isn't practical or achievable. Web3 critics like Moxie Marlinspike (creator of sslstrip and Signal/TextSecure) can never see people running their own servers. Early in January, he argued that protocols are more difficult to create than platforms.

While this is true, some projects, like the file storage protocol IPFS, allow users to choose which jurisdictions their data is shared between.

But full decentralization is a difficult problem. Suhaza, replying to Moxie, said:

”People don't want to run servers... Companies are now offering API access to an Ethereum node as a service... Almost all DApps interact with the blockchain using Infura or Alchemy. In fact, when a DApp uses a wallet like MetaMask to interact with the blockchain, MetaMask is just calling Infura!

So, here are the questions: Web3: Is it a go? Is it truly decentralized?

Web3 history is shaped by Web2 failure.

This is the story of how the Internet was turned upside down...

Then came the vision. Everyone can create content for free. Decentralized open-source believers like Tim Berners-Lee popularized it.

Real-world data trade-offs for content creation and pricing.

A giant Wikipedia page married to a giant Craig's List. No ads, no logins, and a private web carve-up. For free usage, you give up your privacy and data to the algorithmic targeted advertising of Web 2.

Our data is centralized and savaged by giant corporations. Data localization rules and geopolitical walls like China's Great Firewall further fragment the internet.

The decentralized Web3 reflects Berners-original Lee's vision: "No permission is required from a central authority to post anything... there is no central controlling node and thus no single point of failure." Now he runs Solid, a Web3 data storage startup.

So Web3 starts with decentralized servers and data privacy.

Web3 begins with decentralized storage.

Data decentralization is a key feature of the Web3 tech stack. Web2 has closed databases. Large corporations like Facebook, Google, and others go to great lengths to collect, control, and monetize data. We want to change it.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba, and Huawei, according to Gartner, currently control 80% of the global cloud infrastructure market. Web3 wants to change that.

Decentralization enlarges power structures by giving participants a stake in the network. Users own data on open encrypted networks in Web3. This area has many projects.

Apps like Filecoin and IPFS have led the way. Data is replicated across multiple nodes in Web3 storage providers like Filecoin.

But the new tech stack and ideology raise many questions.

Giving users control over their data

According to Ryan Kris, COO of Verida, his “Web3 vision” is “empowering people to control their own data.”

Verida targets SDKs that address issues in the Web3 stack: identity, messaging, personal storage, and data interoperability.

A big app suite? “Yes, but it's a frontier technology,” he says. They are currently building a credentialing system for decentralized health in Bermuda.

By empowering individuals, how will Web3 create a fairer internet? Kris, who has worked in telecoms, finance, cyber security, and blockchain consulting for decades, admits it is difficult:

“The viability of Web3 raises some good business questions,” he adds. “How can users regain control over centralized personal data? How are startups motivated to build products and tools that support this transition? How are existing Web2 companies encouraged to pivot to a Web3 business model to compete with market leaders?

Kris adds that new technologies have regulatory and practical issues:

"On storage, IPFS is great for redundantly sharing public data, but not designed for securing private personal data. It is not controlled by the users. When data storage in a specific country is not guaranteed, regulatory issues arise."

Each project has varying degrees of decentralization. The diehards say DApps that use centralized storage are no longer “Web3” companies. But fully decentralized technology is hard to build.

Web2.5?

Some argue that we're actually building Web2.5 businesses, which are crypto-native but not fully decentralized. This is vital. For example, the NFT may be on a blockchain, but it is linked to centralized data repositories like OpenSea. A server failure could result in data loss.

However, according to Apollo Capital crypto analyst David Angliss, OpenSea is “not exactly community-led”. Also in 2021, much to the chagrin of crypto enthusiasts, OpenSea tried and failed to list on the Nasdaq.

This is where Web2.5 is defined.

“Web3 isn't a crypto segment. “Anything that uses a blockchain for censorship resistance is Web3,” Angliss tells us.

“Web3 gives users control over their data and identity. This is not possible in Web2.”

“Web2 is like feudalism, with walled-off ecosystems ruled by a few. For example, an honest user owned the Instagram account “Meta,” which Facebook rebranded and then had to make up a reason to suspend. Not anymore with Web3. If I buy ‘Ethereum.ens,' Ethereum cannot take it away from me.”

Angliss uses OpenSea as a Web2.5 business example. Too decentralized, i.e. censorship resistant, can be unprofitable for a large company like OpenSea. For example, OpenSea “enables NFT trading”. But it also stopped the sale of stolen Bored Apes.”

Web3 (or Web2.5, depending on the context) has been described as a new way to privatize internet.

“Being in the crypto ecosystem doesn't make it Web3,” Angliss says. The biggest risk is centralized closed ecosystems rather than a growing Web3.

LooksRare and OpenDAO are two community-led platforms that are more decentralized than OpenSea. LooksRare has even been “vampire attacking” OpenSea, indicating a Web3 competitor to the Web2.5 NFT king could find favor.

The addition of a token gives these new NFT platforms more options for building customer loyalty. For example, OpenSea charges a fee that goes nowhere. Stakeholders of LOOKS tokens earn 100% of the trading fees charged by LooksRare on every basic sale.

Maybe Web3's time has come.

So whose data is it?

Continuing criticisms of Web3 platforms' decentralization may indicate we're too early. Users want to own and store their in-game assets and NFTs on decentralized platforms like the Metaverse and play-to-earn games. Start-ups like Arweave, Sia, and Aleph.im  propose an alternative.

To be truly decentralized, Web3 requires new off-chain models that sidestep cloud computing and Web2.5.

“Arweave and Sia emerged as formidable competitors this year,” says the Messari Report. They seek to reduce the risk of an NFT being lost due to a data breach on a centralized server.

Aleph.im, another Web3 cloud competitor, seeks to replace cloud computing with a service network. It is a decentralized computing network that supports multiple blockchains by retrieving and encrypting data.

“The Aleph.im network provides a truly decentralized alternative where it is most needed: storage and computing,” says Johnathan Schemoul, founder of Aleph.im. For reasons of consensus and security, blockchains are not designed for large storage or high-performance computing.

As a result, large data sets are frequently stored off-chain, increasing the risk for centralized databases like OpenSea

Aleph.im enables users to own digital assets using both blockchains and off-chain decentralized cloud technologies.

"We need to go beyond layer 0 and 1 to build a robust decentralized web. The Aleph.im ecosystem is proving that Web3 can be decentralized, and we intend to keep going.”

Aleph.im raised $10 million in mid-January 2022, and Ubisoft uses its network for NFT storage. This is the first time a big-budget gaming studio has given users this much control.

It also suggests Web3 could work as a B2B model, even if consumers aren't concerned about “decentralization.” Starting with gaming is common.

Can Tokenomics help Web3 adoption?

Web3 consumer adoption is another story. The average user may not be interested in all this decentralization talk. Still, how much do people value privacy over convenience? Can tokenomics solve the privacy vs. convenience dilemma?

Holon Global Investments' Jonathan Hooker tells us that human internet behavior will change. “Do you own Bitcoin?” he asks in his Web3 explanation. How does it feel to own and control your own sovereign wealth? Then:

“What if you could own and control your data like Bitcoin?”

“The business model must find what that person values,” he says. Putting their own health records on centralized systems they don't control?

“How vital are those medical records to that person at a critical time anywhere in the world? Filecoin and IPFS can help.”

Web3 adoption depends on NFT storage competition. A free off-chain storage of NFT metadata and assets was launched by Filecoin in April 2021.

Denationalization and blockchain technology have significant implications for data ownership and compensation for lending, staking, and using data. 

Tokenomics can change human behavior, but many people simply sign into Web2 apps using a Facebook API without hesitation. Our data is already owned by Google, Baidu, Tencent, and Facebook (and its parent company Meta). Is it too late to recover?

Maybe. “Data is like fruit, it starts out fresh but ages,” he says. "Big Tech's data on us will expire."

Web3 founder Kris agrees with Hooker that “value for data is the issue, not privacy.” People accept losing their data privacy, so tokenize it. People readily give up data, so why not pay for it?

"Personalized data offering is valuable in personalization. “I will sell my social media data but not my health data.”

Purists and mass consumer adoption struggle with key management.

Others question data tokenomics' optimism. While acknowledging its potential, Box founder Aaron Levie questioned the viability of Web3 models in a Tweet thread:

“Why? Because data almost always works in an app. A product and APIs that moved quickly to build value and trust over time.”

Levie contends that tokenomics may complicate matters. In addition to community governance and tokenomics, Web3 ideals likely add a new negotiation vector.

“These are hard problems about human coordination, not software or blockchains,”. Using a Facebook API is simple. The business model and user interface are crucial.

For example, the crypto faithful have a common misconception about logging into Web3. It goes like this: Web 1 had usernames and passwords. Web 2 uses Google, Facebook, or Twitter APIs, while Web 3 uses your wallet. Pay with Ethereum on MetaMask, for example.

But Levie is correct. Blockchain key management is stressed in this meme. Even seasoned crypto enthusiasts have heart attacks, let alone newbies.

Web3 requires a better user experience, according to Kris, the company's founder. “How does a user recover keys?”

And at this point, no solution is likely to be completely decentralized. So Web3 key management can be improved. ”The moment someone loses control of their keys, Web3 ceases to exist.”

That leaves a major issue for Web3 purists. Put this one in the too-hard basket.

Is 2022 the Year of Web3?

Web3 must first solve a number of issues before it can be mainstreamed. It must be better and cheaper than Web2.5, or have other significant advantages.

Web3 aims for scalability without sacrificing decentralization protocols. But decentralization is difficult and centralized services are more convenient.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin himself stated recently"

This is why (centralized) Binance to Binance transactions trump Ethereum payments in some places because they don't have to be verified 12 times."

“I do think a lot of people care about decentralization, but they're not going to take decentralization if decentralization costs $8 per transaction,” he continued.

“Blockchains need to be affordable for people to use them in mainstream applications... Not for 2014 whales, but for today's users."

For now, scalability, tokenomics, mainstream adoption, and decentralization believers seem to be holding Web3 hostage.

Much like crypto's past.

But stay tuned.

Ashraful Islam

Ashraful Islam

11 months ago

Clean API Call With React Hooks

Photo by Juanjo Jaramillo on Unsplash

Calling APIs is the most common thing to do in any modern web application. When it comes to talking with an API then most of the time we need to do a lot of repetitive things like getting data from an API call, handling the success or error case, and so on.

When calling tens of hundreds of API calls we always have to do those tedious tasks. We can handle those things efficiently by putting a higher level of abstraction over those barebone API calls, whereas in some small applications, sometimes we don’t even care.

The problem comes when we start adding new features on top of the existing features without handling the API calls in an efficient and reusable manner. In that case for all of those API calls related repetitions, we end up with a lot of repetitive code across the whole application.

In React, we have different approaches for calling an API. Nowadays mostly we use React hooks. With React hooks, it’s possible to handle API calls in a very clean and consistent way throughout the application in spite of whatever the application size is. So let’s see how we can make a clean and reusable API calling layer using React hooks for a simple web application.

I’m using a code sandbox for this blog which you can get here.

import "./styles.css";
import React, { useEffect, useState } from "react";
import axios from "axios";

export default function App() {
  const [posts, setPosts] = useState(null);
  const [error, setError] = useState("");
  const [loading, setLoading] = useState(false);

  useEffect(() => {
    handlePosts();
  }, []);

  const handlePosts = async () => {
    setLoading(true);
    try {
      const result = await axios.get(
        "https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com/posts"
      );
      setPosts(result.data);
    } catch (err) {
      setError(err.message || "Unexpected Error!");
    } finally {
      setLoading(false);
    }
  };

  return (
    <div className="App">
      <div>
        <h1>Posts</h1>
        {loading && <p>Posts are loading!</p>}
        {error && <p>{error}</p>}
        <ul>
          {posts?.map((post) => (
            <li key={post.id}>{post.title}</li>
          ))}
        </ul>
      </div>
    </div>
  );
}

I know the example above isn’t the best code but at least it’s working and it’s valid code. I will try to improve that later. For now, we can just focus on the bare minimum things for calling an API.

Here, you can try to get posts data from JsonPlaceholer. Those are the most common steps we follow for calling an API like requesting data, handling loading, success, and error cases.

If we try to call another API from the same component then how that would gonna look? Let’s see.

500: Internal Server Error

Now it’s going insane! For calling two simple APIs we’ve done a lot of duplication. On a top-level view, the component is doing nothing but just making two GET requests and handling the success and error cases. For each request, it’s maintaining three states which will periodically increase later if we’ve more calls.

Let’s refactor to make the code more reusable with fewer repetitions.

Step 1: Create a Hook for the Redundant API Request Codes

Most of the repetitions we have done so far are about requesting data, handing the async things, handling errors, success, and loading states. How about encapsulating those things inside a hook?

The only unique things we are doing inside handleComments and handlePosts are calling different endpoints. The rest of the things are pretty much the same. So we can create a hook that will handle the redundant works for us and from outside we’ll let it know which API to call.

500: Internal Server Error

Here, this request function is identical to what we were doing on the handlePosts and handleComments. The only difference is, it’s calling an async function apiFunc which we will provide as a parameter with this hook. This apiFunc is the only independent thing among any of the API calls we need.

With hooks in action, let’s change our old codes in App component, like this:

500: Internal Server Error

How about the current code? Isn’t it beautiful without any repetitions and duplicate API call handling things?

Let’s continue our journey from the current code. We can make App component more elegant. Now it knows a lot of details about the underlying library for the API call. It shouldn’t know that. So, here’s the next step…

Step 2: One Component Should Take Just One Responsibility

Our App component knows too much about the API calling mechanism. Its responsibility should just request the data. How the data will be requested under the hood, it shouldn’t care about that.

We will extract the API client-related codes from the App component. Also, we will group all the API request-related codes based on the API resource. Now, this is our API client:

import axios from "axios";

const apiClient = axios.create({
  // Later read this URL from an environment variable
  baseURL: "https://jsonplaceholder.typicode.com"
});

export default apiClient;

All API calls for comments resource will be in the following file:

import client from "./client";

const getComments = () => client.get("/comments");

export default {
  getComments
};

All API calls for posts resource are placed in the following file:

import client from "./client";

const getPosts = () => client.get("/posts");

export default {
  getPosts
};

Finally, the App component looks like the following:

import "./styles.css";
import React, { useEffect } from "react";
import commentsApi from "./api/comments";
import postsApi from "./api/posts";
import useApi from "./hooks/useApi";

export default function App() {
  const getPostsApi = useApi(postsApi.getPosts);
  const getCommentsApi = useApi(commentsApi.getComments);

  useEffect(() => {
    getPostsApi.request();
    getCommentsApi.request();
  }, []);

  return (
    <div className="App">
      {/* Post List */}
      <div>
        <h1>Posts</h1>
        {getPostsApi.loading && <p>Posts are loading!</p>}
        {getPostsApi.error && <p>{getPostsApi.error}</p>}
        <ul>
          {getPostsApi.data?.map((post) => (
            <li key={post.id}>{post.title}</li>
          ))}
        </ul>
      </div>
      {/* Comment List */}
      <div>
        <h1>Comments</h1>
        {getCommentsApi.loading && <p>Comments are loading!</p>}
        {getCommentsApi.error && <p>{getCommentsApi.error}</p>}
        <ul>
          {getCommentsApi.data?.map((comment) => (
            <li key={comment.id}>{comment.name}</li>
          ))}
        </ul>
      </div>
    </div>
  );
}

Now it doesn’t know anything about how the APIs get called. Tomorrow if we want to change the API calling library from axios to fetch or anything else, our App component code will not get affected. We can just change the codes form client.js This is the beauty of abstraction.

Apart from the abstraction of API calls, Appcomponent isn’t right the place to show the list of the posts and comments. It’s a high-level component. It shouldn’t handle such low-level data interpolation things.

So we should move this data display-related things to another low-level component. Here I placed those directly in the App component just for the demonstration purpose and not to distract with component composition-related things.

Final Thoughts

The React library gives the flexibility for using any kind of third-party library based on the application’s needs. As it doesn’t have any predefined architecture so different teams/developers adopted different approaches to developing applications with React. There’s nothing good or bad. We choose the development practice based on our needs/choices. One thing that is there beyond any choices is writing clean and maintainable codes.

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Carter Kilmann

Carter Kilmann

3 months ago

I finally achieved a $100K freelance income. Here's what I wish I knew.

Source: Canva

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.

  1. Although it is erratic, freelancing eventually becomes stable.

  2. You deserve respect and discretion over how you conduct business because you have solved an issue.

  3. Increase your charges rather than undervaluing yourself. If necessary, add a reminder to your calendar. Your worth grows with time.

  4. In order to grow your firm, outsource jobs. After that, you can work on the things that are most important to you.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

Jenn Leach

Jenn Leach

2 months ago

In November, I made an effort to pitch 10 brands per day. Here's what I discovered.

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

I pitched 10 brands per workday for a total of 200.

How did I do?

It was difficult.

I've never pitched so much.

What did this challenge teach me?

  • the superiority of quality over quantity

  • When you need help, outsource

  • Don't disregard burnout in order to complete a challenge because it exists.

First, pitching brands for brand deals requires quality. Find firms that align with your brand to expose to your audience.

If you associate with any company, you'll lose audience loyalty. I didn't lose sight of that, but I couldn't resist finishing the task.

Outsourcing.

Delegating work to teammates is effective.

I wish I'd done it.

Three people can pitch 200 companies a month significantly faster than one.

One person does research, one to two do outreach, and one to two do follow-up and negotiating.

Simple.

In 2022, I'll outsource everything.

Burnout.

I felt this, so I slowed down at the end of the month.

Thanksgiving week in November was slow.

I was buying and decorating for Christmas. First time putting up outdoor holiday lights was fun.

Much was happening.

I'm not perfect.

I'm being honest.

The Outcomes

Less than 50 brands pitched.

Result: A deal with 3 brands.

I hoped for 4 brands with reaching out to 200 companies, so three with under 50 is wonderful.

That’s a 6% conversion rate!

Whoo-hoo!

I needed 2%.

Here's a screenshot from one of the deals I booked.

These companies fit my company well. Each campaign is different, but I've booked $2,450 in brand work with a couple of pending transactions for December and January.

$2,450 in brand work booked!

How did I do? You tell me.

Is this something you’d try yourself?

Adam Hayes

Adam Hayes

5 months ago

Bernard Lawrence "Bernie" Madoff, the largest Ponzi scheme in history

Madoff who?

Bernie Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors over at least 17 years, and possibly longer. He pioneered electronic trading and chaired Nasdaq in the 1990s. On April 14, 2021, he died while serving a 150-year sentence for money laundering, securities fraud, and other crimes.

Understanding Madoff

Madoff claimed to generate large, steady returns through a trading strategy called split-strike conversion, but he simply deposited client funds into a single bank account and paid out existing clients. He funded redemptions by attracting new investors and their capital, but the market crashed in late 2008. He confessed to his sons, who worked at his firm, on Dec. 10, 2008. Next day, they turned him in. The fund reported $64.8 billion in client assets.

Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felony counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury, and money laundering. Ponzi scheme became a symbol of Wall Street's greed and dishonesty before the financial crisis. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $170 billion, but no other Wall Street figures faced legal ramifications.

Bernie Madoff's Brief Biography

Bernie Madoff was born in Queens, New York, on April 29, 1938. He began dating Ruth (née Alpern) when they were teenagers. Madoff told a journalist by phone from prison that his father's sporting goods store went bankrupt during the Korean War: "You watch your father, who you idolize, build a big business and then lose everything." Madoff was determined to achieve "lasting success" like his father "whatever it took," but his career had ups and downs.

Early Madoff investments

At 22, he started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. First, he traded penny stocks with $5,000 he earned installing sprinklers and as a lifeguard. Family and friends soon invested with him. Madoff's bets soured after the "Kennedy Slide" in 1962, and his father-in-law had to bail him out.

Madoff felt he wasn't part of the Wall Street in-crowd. "We weren't NYSE members," he told Fishman. "It's obvious." According to Madoff, he was a scrappy market maker. "I was happy to take the crumbs," he told Fishman, citing a client who wanted to sell eight bonds; a bigger firm would turn it down.

Recognition

Success came when he and his brother Peter built electronic trading capabilities, or "artificial intelligence," that attracted massive order flow and provided market insights. "I had all these major banks coming down, entertaining me," Madoff told Fishman. "It was mind-bending."

By the late 1980s, he and four other Wall Street mainstays processed half of the NYSE's order flow. Controversially, he paid for much of it, and by the late 1980s, Madoff was making in the vicinity of $100 million a year.  He was Nasdaq chairman from 1990 to 1993.

Madoff's Ponzi scheme

It is not certain exactly when Madoff's Ponzi scheme began. He testified in court that it began in 1991, but his account manager, Frank DiPascali, had been at the firm since 1975.

Why Madoff did the scheme is unclear. "I had enough money to support my family's lifestyle. "I don't know why," he told Fishman." Madoff could have won Wall Street's respect as a market maker and electronic trading pioneer.

Madoff told Fishman he wasn't solely responsible for the fraud. "I let myself be talked into something, and that's my fault," he said, without saying who convinced him. "I thought I could escape eventually. I thought it'd be quick, but I couldn't."

Carl Shapiro, Jeffry Picower, Stanley Chais, and Norm Levy have been linked to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC for years. Madoff's scheme made these men hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1960s and 1970s.

Madoff told Fishman, "Everyone was greedy, everyone wanted to go on." He says the Big Four and others who pumped client funds to him, outsourcing their asset management, must have suspected his returns or should have. "How can you make 15%-18% when everyone else is making less?" said Madoff.

How Madoff Got Away with It for So Long

Madoff's high returns made clients look the other way. He deposited their money in a Chase Manhattan Bank account, which merged to become JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2000. The bank may have made $483 million from those deposits, so it didn't investigate.

When clients redeemed their investments, Madoff funded the payouts with new capital he attracted by promising unbelievable returns and earning his victims' trust. Madoff created an image of exclusivity by turning away clients. This model let half of Madoff's investors profit. These investors must pay into a victims' fund for defrauded investors.

Madoff wooed investors with his philanthropy. He defrauded nonprofits, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Peace and Hadassah. He approached congregants through his friendship with J. Ezra Merkin, a synagogue officer. Madoff allegedly stole $1 billion to $2 billion from his investors.

Investors believed Madoff for several reasons:

  • His public portfolio seemed to be blue-chip stocks.
  • His returns were high (10-20%) but consistent and not outlandish. In a 1992 interview with Madoff, the Wall Street Journal reported: "[Madoff] insists the returns were nothing special, given that the S&P 500-stock index returned 16.3% annually from 1982 to 1992. 'I'd be surprised if anyone thought matching the S&P over 10 years was remarkable,' he says.
  • "He said he was using a split-strike collar strategy. A collar protects underlying shares by purchasing an out-of-the-money put option.

SEC inquiry

The Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating Madoff and his securities firm since 1999, which frustrated many after he was prosecuted because they felt the biggest damage could have been prevented if the initial investigations had been rigorous enough.

Harry Markopolos was a whistleblower. In 1999, he figured Madoff must be lying in an afternoon. The SEC ignored his first Madoff complaint in 2000.

Markopolos wrote to the SEC in 2005: "The largest Ponzi scheme is Madoff Securities. This case has no SEC reward, so I'm turning it in because it's the right thing to do."

Many believed the SEC's initial investigations could have prevented Madoff's worst damage.

Markopolos found irregularities using a "Mosaic Method." Madoff's firm claimed to be profitable even when the S&P fell, which made no mathematical sense given what he was investing in. Markopolos said Madoff Securities' "undisclosed commissions" were the biggest red flag (1 percent of the total plus 20 percent of the profits).

Markopolos concluded that "investors don't know Bernie Madoff manages their money." Markopolos learned Madoff was applying for large loans from European banks (seemingly unnecessary if Madoff's returns were high).

The regulator asked Madoff for trading account documentation in 2005, after he nearly went bankrupt due to redemptions. The SEC drafted letters to two of the firms on his six-page list but didn't send them. Diana Henriques, author of "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust," documents the episode.

In 2008, the SEC was criticized for its slow response to Madoff's fraud.

Confession, sentencing of Bernie Madoff

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC reported 5.6% year-to-date returns in November 2008; the S&P 500 fell 39%. As the selling continued, Madoff couldn't keep up with redemption requests, and on Dec. 10, he confessed to his sons Mark and Andy, who worked at his firm. "After I told them, they left, went to a lawyer, who told them to turn in their father, and I never saw them again. 2008-12-11: Bernie Madoff arrested.

Madoff insists he acted alone, but several of his colleagues were jailed. Mark Madoff died two years after his father's fraud was exposed. Madoff's investors committed suicide. Andy Madoff died of cancer in 2014.

2009 saw Madoff's 150-year prison sentence and $170 billion forfeiture. Marshals sold his three homes and yacht. Prisoner 61727-054 at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.

Madoff's lawyers requested early release on February 5, 2020, claiming he has a terminal kidney disease that may kill him in 18 months. Ten years have passed since Madoff's sentencing.

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme aftermath

The paper trail of victims' claims shows Madoff's complexity and size. Documents show Madoff's scam began in the 1960s. His final account statements show $47 billion in "profit" from fake trades and shady accounting.

Thousands of investors lost their life savings, and multiple stories detail their harrowing loss.

Irving Picard, a New York lawyer overseeing Madoff's bankruptcy, has helped investors. By December 2018, Picard had recovered $13.3 billion from Ponzi scheme profiteers.

A Madoff Victim Fund (MVF) was created in 2013 to help compensate Madoff's victims, but the DOJ didn't start paying out the $4 billion until late 2017. Richard Breeden, a former SEC chair who oversees the fund, said thousands of claims were from "indirect investors"

Breeden and his team had to reject many claims because they weren't direct victims. Breeden said he based most of his decisions on one simple rule: Did the person invest more than they withdrew? Breeden estimated 11,000 "feeder" investors.

Breeden wrote in a November 2018 update for the Madoff Victim Fund, "We've paid over 27,300 victims 56.65% of their losses, with thousands more to come." In December 2018, 37,011 Madoff victims in the U.S. and around the world received over $2.7 billion. Breeden said the fund expected to make "at least one more significant distribution in 2019"


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