More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
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.
Alana Rister, Ph.D.
1 year ago
Don't rely on lessons you learned with a small audience.
My growth-killing mistake
When you initially start developing your audience, you need guidance.
What does my audience like? What do they not like? How can I grow more?
When I started writing two years ago, I inquired daily. Taking cues from your audience to develop more valuable content is a good concept, but it's simple to let them destroy your growth.
A small audience doesn't represent the full picture.
When I had fewer than 100 YouTube subscribers, I tried several video styles and topics. I looked to my audience for what to preserve and what to change.
If my views, click-through rate, or average view % dropped, that topic or style was awful. Avoiding that style helped me grow.
Vlogs, talking head videos on writing, and long-form tutorials didn't fare well.
Since I was small, I've limited the types of films I make. I have decided to make my own videos.
Surprisingly, the videos I avoided making meet or exceed my views, CTR, and audience retention.
A limited audience can't tell you what your tribe wants. Therefore, limiting your innovation will prohibit you from reaching the right audience. Finding them may take longer.
Large Creators Experience The Same Issue
In the last two years, I've heard Vanessa Lau and Cathrin Manning say they felt pigeonholed into generating videos they didn't want to do.
Why does this happen over and over again?
Once you have a popular piece of content, your audience will grow. So when you publish inconsistent material, fewer of your new audience will view it. You interpret the drop in views as a sign that your audience doesn't want the content, so you stop making it.
Repeat this procedure a few times, and you'll create stuff you're not passionate about because you're frightened to publish it.
How to Manage Your Creativity and Audience Development
I'm not recommending you generate random content.
Instead of feeling trapped by your audience, you can cultivate a diverse audience.
Create quality material on a range of topics and styles as you improve. Be creative until you get 100 followers. Look for comments on how to improve your article.
If you observe trends in the types of content that expand your audience, focus 50-75% of your material on those trends. Allow yourself to develop 25% non-performing material.
This method can help you expand your audience faster with your primary trends and like all your stuff. Slowly, people will find 25% of your material, which will boost its performance.
How to Expand Your Audience Without Having More Limited Content
Follow these techniques to build your audience without feeling confined.
Don't think that you need restrict yourself to what your limited audience prefers.
Don't let the poor performance of your desired material demotivate you.
You shouldn't restrict the type of content you publish or the themes you cover when you have less than 100 followers.
When your audience expands, save 25% of your content for your personal interests, regardless of how well it does.
1 year ago
Facebook is going away. Here are two explanations for why it hasn't been replaced yet.
And tips for anyone trying.
We see the same story every few years.
BREAKING NEWS: [Platform X] launched a social network. With Facebook's reputation down, the new startup bets millions will switch.
Despite the excitement surrounding each new platform (Diaspora, Ello, Path, MeWe, Minds, Vero, etc.), no major exodus occurred.
Snapchat and TikTok attracted teens with fresh experiences (ephemeral messaging and rapid-fire videos). These features aren't Facebook, even if Facebook replicated them.
Facebook's core is simple: you publish items (typically text/images) and your friends (generally people you know IRL) can discuss them.
It's cool. Sometimes I don't want to, but sh*t. I like it.
Because, well, I like many folks I've met. I enjoy keeping in touch with them and their banter.
I dislike Facebook's corporation. I've been cautiously optimistic whenever a Facebook-killer surfaced.
Why? Two causes, I think:
People couldn't switch quickly enough, which is reason #1
Your buddies make a social network social.
Facebook started in self-contained communities (college campuses) then grew outward. But a new platform can't.
If we're expected to leave Facebook, we want to know that most of our friends will too.
Most Facebook-killers had bottlenecks. You have to waitlist or jump through hoops (e.g. setting up a server).
Same outcome. Upload. Chirp.
After a week or two of silence, individuals returned to Facebook.
Reason #2: The fundamental experience was different.
Even when many of our friends joined in the first few weeks, it wasn't the same.
There were missing features or a different UX.
Want to reply with a meme? No photos in comments yet. (Trying!)
Want to tag a friend? Nope, sorry. 2019!
Want your friends to see your post? You must post to all your friends' servers. Good luck!
It's difficult to introduce a platform with 100% of the same features as one that's been there for 20 years, yet customers want a core experience.
If you can't, they'll depart.
The causes that led to the causes
Having worked on software teams for 14+ years, I'm not surprised by these challenges. They are a natural development of a few tech sector meta-problems:
Lean startup methodology
Silicon Valley worships lean startup. It's a way of developing software that involves testing a stripped-down version with a limited number of people before selecting what to build.
Billion people use Facebook's functions. They aren't tested. It must work right away*
*This may seem weird to software people, but it's how non-software works! You can't sell a car without wheels.
Startup entrepreneurs build new things, not copies. I understand. Reinventing the wheel is boring.
We know what works. Different experiences raise adoption friction. Once millions have transferred, more features (and a friendlier UX) can be implemented.
3. Cost scaling
True. Building a product that can sustain hundreds of millions of users in weeks is expensive and complex.
Your lifeboats must have the same capacity as the ship you're evacuating. It's required.
4. Pure ideologies
People who work on Facebook-alternatives are (understandably) critical of Facebook.
They build an open-source, fully-distributed, data-portable, interface-customizable, offline-capable, censorship-proof platform.
Prioritizing these aims can prevent replicating the straightforward experience users expect. Github, not Facebook, is for techies only.
What about the business plan, though?
Facebook-killer attempts have followed three models.
Utilize VC funding to increase your user base, then monetize them later. (If you do this, you won't kill Facebook; instead, Facebook will become you.)
Users must pay to utilize it. (This causes a huge bottleneck and slows the required quick expansion, preventing it from seeming like a true social network.)
Make it a volunteer-run, open-source endeavor that is free. (This typically denotes that something is cumbersome, difficult to operate, and is only for techies.)
Wikipedia is a fourth way.
Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites and a charity. No ads. Donations support them.
A Facebook-killer managed by a good team may gather millions (from affluent contributors and the crowd) for their initial phase of development. Then it might sustain on regular donations, ethical transactions (e.g. fees on commerce, business sites, etc.), and government grants/subsidies (since it would essentially be a public utility).
When you're not aiming to make investors rich, it's remarkable how little money you need.
If you want to build a Facebook competitor, follow these tips:
Drop the lean startup philosophy. Wait until you have a finished product before launching. Build it, thoroughly test it for bugs, and then release it.
Delay innovating. Wait till millions of people have switched before introducing your great new features. Make it nearly identical for now.
Spend money climbing. Make sure that guests can arrive as soon as they are invited. Never keep them waiting. Make things easy for them.
Make it accessible to all. Even if doing so renders it less philosophically pure, it shouldn't require technical expertise to utilize.
Constitute a nonprofit. Additionally, develop community ownership structures. Profit maximization is not the only strategy for preserving valued assets.
Nobody has killed Facebook, but Facebook is killing itself.
The startup is burying the newsfeed to become a TikTok clone. Meta itself seems to be ditching the platform for the metaverse.
I wish I was happy, but I'm not. I miss (understandably) removed friends' postings and remarks. It could be a ghost town in a few years. My dance moves aren't TikTok-worthy.
Who will lead? It's time to develop a social network for the people.
Greetings if you're working on it. I'm not a company founder, but I like to help hard-working folks.
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1 year ago
Instagram NFTs Are Here… How does this affect artists?
Instagram (IG) is officially joining NFT. With the debut of new in-app NFT functionalities, influential producers can interact with blockchain tech on the social media platform.
Meta unveiled intentions for an Instagram NFT marketplace in March, but these latest capabilities focus more on content sharing than commerce. And why shouldn’t they? IG's entry into the NFT market is overdue, given that Twitter and Discord are NFT hotspots.
The NFT marketplace/Web3 social media race has continued to expand, with the expected Coinbase NFT Beta now live and blazing a trail through the NFT ecosystem.
IG's focus is on visual art. It's unlike any NFT marketplace or platform. IG NFTs and artists: what's the deal? Let’s take a look.
What are Instagram’s NFT features anyways?
As said, not everyone has Instagram's new features. 16 artists, NFT makers, and collectors can now post NFTs on IG by integrating third-party digital wallets (like Rainbow or MetaMask) in-app. IG doesn't charge to publish or share digital collectibles.
NFTs displayed on the app have a "shimmer" aesthetic effect. NFT posts also have a "digital collectable" badge that lists metadata such as the creator and/or owner, the platform it was created on, a brief description, and a blockchain identification.
Meta's social media NFTs have launched on Instagram, but the company is also preparing to roll out digital collectibles on Facebook, with more on the way for IG. Currently, only Ethereum and Polygon are supported, but Flow and Solana will be added soon.
How will artists use these new features?
Artists are publishing NFTs they developed or own on IG by linking third-party digital wallets. These features have no NFT trading aspects built-in, but are aimed to let authors share NFTs with IG audiences.
Creators, like IG-native aerial/street photographer Natalie Amrossi (@misshattan), are discovering novel uses for IG NFTs.
Amrossi chose to not only upload his own NFTs but also encourage other artists in the field. "That's the beauty of connecting your wallet and sharing NFTs. It's not just what you make, but also what you accumulate."
Amrossi has been producing and posting Instagram art for years. With IG's NFT features, she can understand Instagram's importance in supporting artists.
Web2 offered Amrossi the tools to become an artist and make a life. "Before 'influencer' existed, I was just making art. Instagram helped me reach so many individuals and brands, giving me a living.
Even artists without millions of viewers are encouraged to share NFTs on IG. Wilson, a relatively new name in the NFT space, seems to have already gone above and beyond the scope of these new IG features. By releasing "Losing My Mind" via IG NFT posts, she has evaded the lack of IG NFT commerce by using her network to market her multi-piece collection.
"'Losing My Mind' is a long-running photo series. Wilson was preparing to release it as NFTs before IG approached him, so it was a perfect match.
Wilson says the series is about Black feminine figures and media depiction. Respectable effort, given POC artists have been underrepresented in NFT so far.
“Over the past year, I've had mental health concerns that made my emotions so severe it was impossible to function in daily life, therefore that prompted this photo series. Every Wednesday and Friday for three weeks, I'll release a new Meta photo for sale.
Wilson hopes these new IG capabilities will help develop a connection between the NFT community and other internet subcultures that thrive on Instagram.
“NFTs can look scary as an outsider, but seeing them on your daily IG feed makes it less foreign,” adds Wilson. I think Instagram might become a hub for NFT aficionados, making them more accessible to artists and collectors.
What does it all mean for the NFT space?
Meta's NFT and metaverse activities will continue to impact Instagram's NFT ecosystem. Many think it will be for the better, as IG NFT frauds are another problem hurting the NFT industry.
IG's new NFT features seem similar to Twitter's PFP NFT verifications, but Instagram's tools should help cut down on scams as users can now verify the creation and ownership of whole NFT collections included in IG posts.
Given the number of visual artists and NFT creators on IG, it might become another hub for NFT fans, as Wilson noted. If this happens, it raises questions about Instagram success. Will artists be incentivized to distribute NFTs? Or will those with a large fanbase dominate?
Elise Swopes (@swopes) believes these new features should benefit smaller artists. Swopes was one of the first profiles placed to Instagram's original suggested user list in 2012.
Swopes says she wants IG to be a magnet for discovery and understands the value of NFT artists and producers.
"I'd love to see IG become a focus of discovery for everyone, not just the Beeples and Apes and PFPs. That's terrific for them, but [IG NFT features] are more about using new technology to promote emerging artists, Swopes added.
“Especially music artists. It's everywhere. Dancers, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians. My element isn't just for digital artists; it can be anything. I'm delighted to witness people's creativity."
Swopes, Wilson, and Amrossi all believe IG's new features can help smaller artists. It remains to be seen how these new features will effect the NFT ecosystem once unlocked for the rest of the IG NFT community, but we will likely see more social media NFT integrations in the months and years ahead.
Read the full article here
1 year ago
The world's 36th richest man uses a 5-step system to get what he wants.
Ray Dalio's super-effective roadmap
Ray Dalio's $22 billion net worth ranks him 36th globally. From 1975 to 2011, he built the world's most successful hedge fund, never losing more than 4% from 1991 to 2020. (and only doing so during 3 calendar years).
Dalio describes a 5-step process in his best-selling book Principles. It's the playbook he's used to build his hedge fund, beat the markets, and face personal challenges.
This 5-step system is so valuable and well-explained that I didn't edit or change anything; I only added my own insights in the parts I found most relevant and/or relatable as a young entrepreneur. The system's overview:
Have clear goals
Identify and don’t tolerate problems
Diagnose problems to get at their root causes
Design plans that will get you around those problems
Do what is necessary to push through the plans to get results
If you follow these 5 steps in a virtuous loop, you'll almost always see results. Repeat the process for each goal you have.
1. Have clear goals
a) Prioritize: You can have almost anything, but not everything.
I started and never launched dozens of projects for 10 years because I was scattered. I opened a t-shirt store, traded algorithms, sold art on Instagram, painted skateboards, and tinkered with electronics. I decided to try blogging for 6 months to see where it took me. Still going after 3 years.
b) Don’t confuse goals with desires.
A goal inspires you to act. Unreasonable desires prevent you from achieving your goals.
c) Reconcile your goals and desires to decide what you want.
d) Don't confuse success with its trappings.
e) Never dismiss a goal as unattainable.
Always one path is best. Your perception of what's possible depends on what you know now. I never thought I'd make money writing online so quickly, and now I see a whole new horizon of business opportunities I didn't know about before.
f) Expectations create abilities.
Don't limit your abilities. More you strive, the more you'll achieve.
g) Flexibility and self-accountability can almost guarantee success.
Flexible people accept what reality or others teach them. Self-accountability is the ability to recognize your mistakes and be more creative, flexible, and determined.
h) Handling setbacks well is as important as moving forward.
Learn when to minimize losses and when to let go and move on.
2. Don't ignore problems
a) See painful problems as improvement opportunities.
Every problem, painful situation, and challenge is an opportunity. Read The Art of Happiness for more.
b) Don't avoid problems because of harsh realities.
Recognizing your weaknesses isn't the same as giving in. It's the first step in overcoming them.
c) Specify your issues.
There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution.
d) Don’t mistake a cause of a problem with the real problem.
"I can't sleep" is a cause, not a problem. "I'm underperforming" could be a problem.
e) Separate big from small problems.
You have limited time and energy, so focus on the biggest problems.
f) Don't ignore a problem.
Identifying a problem and tolerating it is like not identifying it.
3. Identify problems' root causes
a) Decide "what to do" after assessing "what is."
"A good diagnosis takes 15 to 60 minutes, depending on its accuracy and complexity. [...] Like principles, root causes recur in different situations.
b) Separate proximate and root causes.
"You can only solve problems by removing their root causes, and to do that, you must distinguish symptoms from disease."
c) Knowing someone's (or your own) personality can help you predict their behavior.
4. Design plans that will get you around the problems
a) Retrace your steps.
Analyze your past to determine your future.
b) Consider your problem a machine's output.
Consider how to improve your machine. It's a game then.
c) There are many ways to reach your goals.
Find a solution.
d) Visualize who will do what in your plan like a movie script.
Consider your movie's actors and script's turning points, then act accordingly. The game continues.
e) Document your plan so others can judge your progress.
Accountability boosts success.
f) Know that a good plan doesn't take much time.
The execution is usually the hardest part, but most people either don't have a plan or keep changing it. Don't drive while building the car. Build it first, because it'll be bumpy.
5. Do what is necessary to push through the plans to get results
a) Great planners without execution fail.
Life is won with more than just planning. Similarly, practice without talent beats talent without practice.
b) Work ethic is undervalued.
Hyper-productivity is praised in corporate America, even if it leads nowhere. To get things done, use checklists, fewer emails, and more desk time.
c) Set clear metrics to ensure plan adherence.
I've written about the OKR strategy for organizations with multiple people here. If you're on your own, I recommend the Wheel of Life approach. Both systems start with goals and tasks to achieve them. Then start executing on a realistic timeline.
If you find solutions, weaknesses don't matter.
Everyone's weak. You, me, Gates, Dalio, even Musk. Nobody will be great at all 5 steps of the system because no one can think in all the ways required. Some are good at analyzing and diagnosing but bad at executing. Some are good planners but poor communicators. Others lack self-discipline.
Stay humble and ask for help when needed. Nobody has ever succeeded 100% on their own, without anyone else's help. That's the paradox of individual success: teamwork is the only way to get there.
Most people won't have the skills to execute even the best plan. You can get missing skills in two ways:
Others' (requires humility) light
On knowing what to do with your life
“Some people have good mental maps and know what to do on their own. Maybe they learned them or were blessed with common sense. They have more answers than others. Others are more humble and open-minded. […] Open-mindedness and mental maps are most powerful.” — Ray Dalio
I've always known what I wanted to do, so I'm lucky. I'm almost 30 and have always had trouble executing. Good thing I never stopped experimenting, but I never committed to anything long-term. I jumped between projects. I decided 3 years ago to stick to one project for at least 6 months and haven't looked back.
Maybe you're good at staying focused and executing, but you don't know what to do. Maybe you have none of these because you haven't found your purpose. Always try new projects and talk to as many people as possible. It will give you inspiration and ideas and set you up for success.
There is almost always a way to achieve a crazy goal or idea.
Enjoy the journey, whichever path you take.
1 year ago
What is headline inflation?
Headline inflation is the raw Consumer price index (CPI) reported monthly by the Bureau of labour statistics (BLS). CPI measures inflation by calculating the cost of a fixed basket of goods. The CPI uses a base year to index the current year's prices.
As it includes all aspects of an economy that experience inflation, headline inflation is not adjusted to remove volatile figures. Headline inflation is often linked to cost-of-living changes, which is useful for consumers.
The headline figure doesn't account for seasonality or volatile food and energy prices, which are removed from the core CPI. Headline inflation is usually annualized, so a monthly headline figure of 4% inflation would equal 4% inflation for the year if repeated for 12 months. Top-line inflation is compared year-over-year.
Inflation erodes future dollar values, can stifle economic growth, and can raise interest rates. Core inflation is often considered a better metric than headline inflation. Investors and economists use headline and core results to set growth forecasts and monetary policy.
Core inflation removes volatile CPI components that can distort the headline number. Food and energy costs are commonly removed. Environmental shifts that affect crop growth can affect food prices outside of the economy. Political dissent can affect energy costs, such as oil production.
From 1957 to 2018, the U.S. averaged 3.64 percent core inflation. In June 1980, the rate reached 13.60%. May 1957 had 0% inflation. The Fed's core inflation target for 2022 is 3%.
A central bank has privileged control over a nation's or group's money and credit. Modern central banks are responsible for monetary policy and bank regulation. Central banks are anti-competitive and non-market-based. Many central banks are not government agencies and are therefore considered politically independent. Even if a central bank isn't government-owned, its privileges are protected by law. A central bank's legal monopoly status gives it the right to issue banknotes and cash. Private commercial banks can only issue demand deposits.
What are living costs?
The cost of living is the amount needed to cover housing, food, taxes, and healthcare in a certain place and time. Cost of living is used to compare the cost of living between cities and is tied to wages. If expenses are higher in a city like New York, salaries must be higher so people can live there.
What's U.S. bureau of labor statistics?
BLS collects and distributes economic and labor market data about the U.S. Its reports include the CPI and PPI, both important inflation measures.