Freelancing, Reflections

Reflections On A Self-Employed Year

Been a while — I apologize in advance for the quality of this post, it’s a smorgasbord of article drafts combined into a bigger update.

Overall it’s been a great year. Full of up and downs but I’m excited about what I’m building for the future.

Revisiting The Website Stats

Last time I wrote, I talked about what I’m doing and how the Sports Data Direct Blog was doing. I kept up with the Daily Fantasy Sport’s Recaps, see all 14 here. But, I made the decision to focus on other things starting in December.

Sports Data Direct Stats

I almost hit 2,000 pageviews in December in spite of only posting 3 times.

Looking back on my experience, blogging took a ton a of time but I gained some authority on the internet. Strictly from being consistent.

I now have something to stand on if I ever do something bigger in the Sports Data space like creating an online course.  As far as direct results go, I’ve converted 2 customers and received a few inquiries about Sports Data Direct thanks to all my hard work.

My Sales Funnel

I love shows about empires. As a kid I was fascinated by the Roman empire and to this day I still love it. I think most people are fascinated by empire building. Isn’t it thrilling to watch Breaking Bad and how they slowly take on the cartel? Or how efficient a serial killer like Dexter can be?

I’m no mafioso but it was so satisfying to see one of my new Sports Data Direct customers come through the funnel. For those of you who aren’t familiar, an online sales funnel generally consists of high quality informational or intrique content that attracts a demographic. This wide net feeds into articles that go in depth building authority for the seller and desire for the product-> and finally take them to the place where you can make the actual sale.

This guy found my historical draft kings scraping article from google. Followed it to my freebie dataset on github, followed that to sportsdatadirect.com where he viewed my blog. Read a few articles spending 10 minutes plus on each and then went back to sportsdatadirect.com to purchase the data. Isn’t that kinda cool? All my hard work resulted in that sale. That’s not to say the funnel is going great, I only have 3 current customers including myself and a close friend. But hey, it’s a start.

By the way, many of my competitors don’t have a way to signup, pay, and receive immediate access. Last summer when I was building everything, I wanted to make sure my sales process could be as friction-less as possible. Having that automated payment and provisioning process was super important because what software engineer wants to spend his days sending out activation emails? Not this guy.

The Posts

Every week I posted my article on reddit and generally received great feedback. I think I’m finally to a point where I can automate 80% of the content for an article and churn ’em out much faster each week. At first they took 10 hours to write but later on I got that down to about 2 hours.

Next NFL season I want to do something similar, but using my sports data more directly (ha, sports data direct?!?!?!). Something like an NFL strategy article that analyzes offensive tendencies by teams each week. I think the market will be way bigger for that type of thing.

Basically, I want to write posts that journalists can’t write because they don’t have the analytic or data capabilities that I have thanks to Sports Data Direct.

Ergo Sum

My Draft Kings scraping post continues to do really well. Did I ever mention one of the reasons I started blogging was when I checked my stats and was shocked by how many people clicked on this article a few years ago about javascript tables? Yeah, that was one of the deciding factors when I quit my job last May.

Here’s my Google search results from the last 28 days. The datatables article received 66 clicks

Search Results January

 

I’m Excited for the 2018 NFL Season

I thought things would pick up again in September and boy was I right. I’m on track to have my most pageviews in a month and I didn’t even write a single article or do any promotion.

Zero. ZILCH. NADA.

Here are the updated stats for Sports Data Direct

Sports Data Direct Stats 2017-2018 NFL SeasonPart of this bump happened due to new search traffic interest: search “draftkings millionaire maker winners 2017” and ya boy is on the top (at least right now). I learned about “cornerstone” content about a year ago and it’s finally paying off. (Cornerstone content is an ideal entrypoint for reader’s and search engine’s into your blog).

And I found another big surge thanks to a link from someone on a major daily fantasy sports forum, Rotogrinder.com (link goes to article)

Rotogrinder's Link
Good feedback on my blog posts

I wrote articles in a very specific niche but I aimed to be the absolute best in it. I’m glad at least some people seem to agree.

Aftermath of August Interest

2 new paying sports data customers (matching my total from last season)

5 more email subscribers (up to 33)

Plan for 2018 Season

I’m launching a Sports Analytics Course! I’m hoping it will bridge the divide between customers that love my blog posts and those who end up paying me for data. Also this has the added benefit of boosting my professional image – which helps me raise rates and win more proposals.

I’m going to keep up with the weekly recaps and try to break into an article series relevant to NFL viewers. Probably similar to my DFS recaps but with auto-generated articles and information on team strategy. Of course, I’ll tie this back into how readers can pay me to learn how to do this and get data so that they can get started immediately.

Also, add NBA data.

I think anything more would be too ambitious and I can spend time marketing and advertising.

 

What I Want

I feel like I’m up there with one of the laziest people you’ll ever meet. Don’t take my word for it, take it from my girlfriend/now fiancee/soon to be wife.

When we first started dating she thought I was this mysterious, intriguing guy (ok ok maybe not that mysterious but still). Now she lives with me  After a few weeks of living together she told me,”Wow, you really don’t move off the couch… or leave the house. Like ever. (I’m sure lots of guys have had this same experience).

But as I look back on the years, I feel like I do managed to do a lot. I think it’s because I’m always juggling like 6 different things. It’s just how I like to work: websites, image processing, natural language processing , pressure cook some beef stock for red eye gravy, blow torch some lamb I’ve finish sous videing, and workout.

I Want Independence

I want to have the ability to say F You to anyone and be OK. Not that I would, but I at least want to know I could. I’m not sure I’ve written about my hunter gatherer mindset but it shapes a lot of my decisions. It started out when I was working at Capital One. I was making more money than I needed and it made money less important to me.

At first it was cool getting a promotion. But once I had that, I was sitting with even more money than I needed and trapped in an office. Working really drove me nuts when we had a string of 65+ degree days in April and I was spending my time on silly conference calls dealing with all the extra work bureaucracy brings. Why can’t I take those days off and work extra on the bad weather days?

Staring out window

I think being a trader is such an attractive career. So long as the exchanges don’t ban you and the SEC doesn’t hate you, you can keep on keeping on.

Even consulting is similar. Once I get my top client, my caribou if you will, I can be free the rest of the year. And since I’m lazy, next year I want to get that caribou faster. If that means I set up a farm or a settlement (think passive/scalable income) maybe that’s what I do.

And when I say be free the rest of the year, I don’t mean sit on my ass watching Netflix (although there would be plenty of that). I mean the freedom to work on projects like

  • create a digital exchange for sports betting contracts
  • humanoid robots
  • a breakfast/lunch joint that doesn’t make much money but has a few customers and a lot of fun
  • work for charities or the government
  • combine robots with the restaurant and see if that works
  • start a large garden or farm
  • try to divert a river out in Montana with a shovel (but probably upgrade to machines)
  • smoke some meat

Think of all the businesses you can start if your chief good isn’t money. Looking back on another business I tried, I apologized to one of my early employees for the lack of success but he told me that he gained a lot from the experience and was able to get a job because of it.

I think working for people/companies can be good, but it also comes with different incentives. Take for instance the grant system for research. It would be quite difficult to be a new physicist to get a grant on something vague like find a new model besides the standard model of subatomic physics — hell it’s even called “standard”. And because of that, it’s unlikely someone would get such a grant without having a career to risk.

But it’s clear that the standard model is not perfect and only a good approximation like the periodic table. To work on something ambitious enough like proposing a model that doesn’t assume the mass of a proton and neutron is the same and gives good results would be difficult. That’s because it’s vague and not concrete. Naturally it doesn’t fit in the scope of a grant committee or a business.

Here’s a more intelligble less extreme perspective from a professor at Illinois.

Consulting

Consulting has been full of high’s and lows. It’s starting to balance out but damn can it be stressful always juggling to find new clients, managing deadlines, and actually working on the projects. I’ve started to specialize in “data” and more specifically data analytics, science, and engineering. That’s still a broad set of skills but I’m honing my proposal letters and cutting back.

Right now I’m in a good spurt but it changes every week, day, and hour. I applied to 100 jobs in 3 months and got about 5-10 of them. I’ve had countless interviews and average about a phone call a day. The good news is that a lot of clients seem to be giving or want to give me more of their business.

I’d really like to get into strategy consulting for clients and have an article series planned for that. The best part is you and the client know they aren’t paying you for your time but for your experience and wisdom. It’s a lot easier to make money that way and less effort. Of course you need to have experience and wisdom first 😛

Annoying

One thing I’ve had to deal with lately is being presented with some outrageous contracts to sign. I’ll go through a pitch, sounds like they want to hire, they send me over documents, and then I find out they have an absurdly one-sided contract. If an NDA is 7 pages something is probably wrong…

They want me to agree to be liable for any damage they claim to have without proving if they say I broke their terms. Not only that but I have to agree to fly out to their local court and pay attorney fees if I lose. Also for the rest of my life, I have to give any potential business partner or employer a copy of the contract I signed for this client.

The client basically wants me to sign a sheet of paper that says, at their option, they can fuck me in the ass at their neighborhood bar and I have to fly out for it.

All over a ~$2,000 max contract, a lifetime of liability, or in one case a whopping $100 contract to draft a proposal. One client wanted me to agree that if anything in my proposal didn’t work out, I had to pay him for damage to his business like a lost enterprise client. Or people he paid to implement proposal needed more money because I incorrectly estimated a timeline, and work for free until he was 100% satisfied. To argue… fly out to his neighborhood courthouse.

It’s outrageous that some clients even send these contracts, and I wonder how enforceable all the terms are. I mean of course they want to have me sign that document, but no way can I. I never had an issue until this month where I’ve gotten two contracts just like this. Next time it happens I’ll finally buck up and talk to a lawyer for some advice on how to approach these situations.

That’s all for this recap. I’ll update again once I got something good.

2 thoughts on “Reflections On A Self-Employed Year

  1. “New research seems to prove the theory that brainy people spend more time lazing around than their active counterparts.

    Findings from a US-based study seem to support the idea that people with a high IQ get bored less easily, leading them to spend more time engaged in thought.

    And active people may be more physical as they need to stimulate their minds with external activities, either to escape their thoughts or because they get bored quickly.”

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