25 February 2023 - December earnings

Let’s wrap up the year 2022 with the final December earnings.

Still freelancing and selling my book. I will take into account also advertising in December as an expense.

Item Income/Expense
Amazon book sales +107.94 $
Upwork freelancing +277.34 $
Advertising spending -61.29 $
Digital Ocean droplets -4.88 $
Total +319.11 $

I must have worked a lot on freelancing in December and the earning show it. For the first time, they are double the income from the book, which is nice.

Book sales also picked up in December, partly due to the Christmas shopping period I think. Unfortunately, no Gumroad sale, which confirms that the ad experiment has been a failure.

Increasing the freelancing rate and working more freelancing hours will help, but I don’t see it happening soon. Also, Upwork is taking a 15% fee on my earnings. Which is quite a lot, to be honest. Great place to find clients, but awful to grow an income. I will think about that.

11 December 2022 - November earnings

Back writing something. To be honest not much has happened over the last 4 weeks so I will just write down a summary of November earnings.

My main income is always from freelancing and selling my book. I also spent some money on advertising the book in November so I will take that into account as an expense. Let’s summarize it into a table

Item Income/Expense
Gumroad book sales +9.90 $
Amazon book sales +78.29 $
Upwork freelancing +71.82 $
Advertising spending -61.29 $
Digital Ocean droplets -4.92 $
Total +93.80 $

It might be that the advertising spending is the cause for the increase in book sales in Gumroad, but I doubt that the Amazon sales can be attributed to that. In fact, in October (when no advertising was in place) the revenue was around 60$. From Gumroad analytics, I see that 75 people clicked on my Ad in November and none bought the book. Probably I should consider it a failed experiment but let’s see how it goes in December.

Freelancing takes into account only November work, which is a bit less than October since I could only do it part-time and I didn’t apply for any other client work. The amount will fluctuate around this value for the next months too if I do not increase my rate (which might happen) or start to work longer hours (which will not happen).

Not a bad month but unfortunately I don’t see any margin for growth from here. I can only do freelancing part-time and to increase my rate I will need to find at least another client. The book revenue is going to stay the same and advertising is not going to move the needle (actually is costing me money so far). I will have to find other opportunities and start to experiment with new ideas if I want to grow my side income.

14 November 2022 - Upwork, books and the World Cup

I am back in Milan, in the last 2 weeks I traveled a lot and it’s time to write again.

I focused on the Upwork freelancing side and managed to conclude one fixed payment contract. Meanwhile, I am still working for the hourly one, a few hours per week. I didn’t have much time in the last weeks as I started to work at my full-time job again but I think with a bit of discipline I can handle 5-10 freelancing hours every week, without sacrificing a lot of my free time in the weekend. My earnings from these 2 contracts in October are a healthy 179$ after fees and taxes. It’s good for a start, the next step is to reach 200$ per month. I spent quite a lot in AWS fees for one of these projects, around 45$. Which makes the net revenue decrease to 134$. Still good, but a long way to 200$.

The book sales in October kept growing, also thanks to an ads deal I made at 150£ for 3 months. Between KDP and Gumroad I sold 14 books in October for a total revenue of 108$. Not bad for a completely passive income stream. I am seeing book sales increasing this month, in KDP we are already at 11 copies sold. This is something I expected as we approach the World Cup and the interest in football increases.

I think I will try to build a simple model for predicting World Cup matches outcome in the next few days, similar to what I did for the previous edition. It could be a fun exercise and could be a way to enjoy the World Cup, now that Italy has not qualified (again).

23 October 2022 - Upwork works!

Ok, 5 days since the last post, I am getting better.

Lots of progress on Upwork, I got 2 contracts signed. One is an hourly contract, to do some analysis on social media posts with python (data aggregation and segmentation for an analytic dashboard). The other one is a fixed-price contract, about automatic video making with python (using FFmpeg and other custom tools).

Things that helped me win the contracts:

  • Having a portfolio. I showcased my Twitter Report app, which looks similar to the social analytics dashboard, and I can say it was appreciated.
  • Research on the clients. One of the clients is Italian. I figured it out by looking up the previous posts he made and the people he hired (they were all Italians). So I wrote the proposal in Italian and surely it helped me get noticed.
  • Send a sample of my work. The video-making job mentioned a tool and I took a little time to go and learn how to use it. Made a video sample and sent it to the client. He appreciated that, and called mine a “nice proposal strategy”.

Hope these tips above can help people out there that are starting freelancing. I am grateful for the tips I received from some YT videos like this.

Money-wise, the fixed contract is 50$ and the hourly one is 15$/hour. Not life-changing but something significant for a side job. Moreover, the clients already look like they would work with me in the future on other projects, which means stable income and projects coming in the next weeks.

The book sales keep trickling. We are at 44€ in royalties so far this month. I spent 150£ on ads for the next 3 months so I hope these will pay off long term.

18 October 2022 - The first gig on Upwork?

I let one week pass until my last post, this should not happen. Will try to post more often in the future.

I deployed the Twitter Report on Digital Ocean last week but could not make the Django scheduler work. So I got back to the old-style solution, cron jobs. It took like one day to make it work, mostly permission-related issues. But now everything is great and the app data is up to date, you can check it here.

Last week I got almost no feedback from the websites I contacted regarding advertisements so I decided to explore Reddit Ads. I did my maths and with 200$ I could get something between 150 to 500 clicks on my ad. With a conversion of 2\% (historical data for my Gumroad landing page), this would translate into 3 to 10 sales. With an average purchase value of 25$, I could get anything between 75$ and 250$. Probably I will lose money on this. Let’s see because even a 1% change in conversion can swing a lot the numbers. So far it has been running for 3 days. So far I spent 18$, got 44 clicks and 1 download of the free book version. Yesterday I heard back from one of the websites. It’s the best offer, 150£ for 3 months on their site. They get 15k pageviews per month which is very good traffic. I think I am going to switch to them at the end of the week and pause the Reddit Ads for now.

Upwork goes slowly. I only started this week to send proposals. I am sending 3-4 per day and I personalize every single one of them. I think it’s worth the effort. Also, I use those Connects to boost the proposals and get them on top of the queue. I managed to get in touch with an Italian company and they seem interested. I wrote them in Italian (checked that they had hired only Italian people recently and went for it) and this helped me to stand out I think. I got in touch with the job poster and already exchanged some files to work on. It looks like a Data aggregation task on a FB post dataset. Set my rate pretty low at 15$/hour which becomes 12$ after fees. I got a message where the guy was ready to start the contract with me but I was a bit slow to reply this morning, which might have lowered my chances. I hope it goes through, fingers crossed.

The book keeps selling on Amazon KDP. We are at 31€ royalties for this month, a bit lower than last month but good anyway. Let’s see if we end strong and let’s wait for the World Cup hype.

I have seen today that YouTube is releasing handles in the next weeks. Could there be a little business opportunity here? Maybe an app that checks if a handle is free or a marketplace to exchange handles? It probably goes against the ToS but only if they are sold for money…

11 October 2022 - On Render, Digital Ocean and slow sales

I finally managed to deploy the Twitter Report App. I spent the last 3 days trying to do it.

Heroku would be the best solution BUT they are going to increase their prices like crazy soon. I tried Render and it doesn’t work for me. Easy to deploy the Django app, but then I cannot create the admin user because I cannot access their console without paying. Useless.

I ended up using Digital Ocean. Paid 5 $ for a Droplet and that’s it. You get a machine you can ssh into and there are nice tutorials on how to configure a Django app. I configured Gunicorn, and Nginx, which had 100 issues, but thanks to StackOverflow I was able to solve them all. I added some data to the DB and it can even serve static files! Watch here

Cool, so the next step is to showcase this and other projects, cross my fingers and start to look for freelancing jobs on Upwork.

Slow or Zero progress on the other projects. Still have not heard from the advertisement opportunity at 150 GBP for 3 months. Will probably go for the other one (it is so expensive though, will try to negotiate). The book has only sold 3 copies on KDP. October revenue is estimated to be around 50 €.

Nothing worth it on MicroAcquire. Too many e-commerce at my price point.

5 October 2022 - On CTR and future opportunities

These last few days I looked for some more opportunities to advertise my book. I now have 2 offers

  • 150 GBP for 3 months on a website with 14k visits per month (estimated)
  • 200 GBP per month on a website with 15-20k visits per month (verified)

The first offer is better and I could run it until the World Cup when I expect the website to get a traffic boost, it always happens during the World Cup. But the second offer seems more professional, the guy replied to my emails very quickly and I am more certain that the relationship will be smooth once I place the ad. Will have to decide before the end of the week.

I looked for some advice on IH about this ad thing and I found a nice post on newsletter ads, with a framework I could use to manage my expectations. The Click Through Rate (CTR) on an ad is usually below 1%, let’s say 0.5%. Once the user gets to my page it will convert more or less at the average conversion rate I get on Gumroad (which is around 5%). So, from 15k users, 75 will see my Gumroad page, and 3 or 4 of them will purchase. Which means something around 60 to 80 USD per month. Probably not worth it but I am leaning toward trying it anyway. Maybe the audience will be extremely targeted and I will get a higher conversion than average.

I made some progress on the Twitter Report app. Added a scheduler to query the Twitter API, integrated the chartJS and now it’s almost ready. Will write the last page tomorrow and then will look for ways to deploy it. Hope to publish it in my portfolio on Upwork soon. I should start applying to Upwork jobs, I am really curious how much money (if at all) can I make in 1 month on the platform.

Kept my eyes on MicroAquire, still looking for a B2B around 10k ARR, but couldn’t find anything that suits me. I will keep looking, I feel like I could find some great opportunity soon.

2 October 2022 - On Ads, Django and Moscow

Long time since the latest blog. Traveled a lot and discarded it, unfortunately.

Some days ago I heard back from one of the tipsters’ websites. I planned to advertise my book in their newsletter. Turns out they do not run a newsletter, but I could place an ad on their website. Their quote is interesting and I think they have a large traffic (they rank pretty high on Google). I have asked them for proof of traffic in August. As soon as I have it I will decide what to do, probably will run an ad for 1 month and see how it goes. For this reason, I spent some time designing a banner for the ad, it doesn’t look horrible and it took me just a little time to do. Probably not worth making something professional and spending money on it, given I don’t know how much it will convert. Once it’s live and I have an idea of the conversion rate, I will see if it is worth it, and ask for a professional.

One of my book readers asked me for some advice on the application of the model with more advanced statistics. I do not have the time to go about this so I told him I would be able to do some consulting on it. Didn’t go well, but I think it was the right move. Maybe one day I will be able to do some consulting.

Made some progress on the Twitter report tool, almost ready with a Django website for it. Probably will be ready by the end of the week, when I will try to put it live somewhere (render.com maybe?). Once it’s live I will have something to show in my portfolio for Upwork.

I am in Moscow to visit family now. Quite difficult to work from here, but with VPNs and deleting cookies regularly it can be done. Will see how it goes, I had to take October off from work, so I’d better make the best out of it. Let’s try to (micro)blog more often.

23 September 2022 - On Gumroad, Upwork and the Italian Reddit scene

I woke up super early this morning to catch a train to France. In the last two days, I managed to work on some stuff.

  • Twitter report: there are many posts on Upwork asking for freelancers to make a report on Twitter users and so on. I am thinking about freelancing on Upwork in the future, but I have nothing to show in my Portfolio. I took one job offer and tried to build the same thing the guy was asking about (report about followers, tweets, and retweets of a user in the last week). I already wrote the script to extract this info from the API, and today I made a skeleton of the web app.

  • Gumroad: I asked for advice on IH on increasing the number of reviews for my books. One I got was to ask for a review of the description. It could work. I have neglected those products for some time anyway, so I updated the descriptions to ask for reviews and add some more interesting info to attract potential customers.

Good news from Gumroad by the way. Today I sold 2 more copies. Total revenue for September 95 €. Not a bad result.

I also spent some time on Reddit these days. The ItaliaPersonalFinance sub is flooded with requests for advice on how to invest a small sum of money (around 10k). I just suggested acquiring a startup on MicroAcquire and trying to make it grow. Many people got interested and started to ask me questions in my DMs. I am very happy I got this interest, will be great to know I inspired a person to grow a business online. Maybe there is also a product idea in it, some kind of curated list for MicroAcquire, who knows?

Sometimes I think it’s just enough to put yourself out there, whatever you do.

21 September 2022 - I’m back

Yeah, this is the first post in Alex West style. Daily, short, and to the point. Let’s see if I can keep it this way. I almost forgot how this Jekyll blog works after more than one year since the last post. Need to read the docs again.

Long day at work today, and I feel tired. I was toying with the idea of boosting sales for my two books and found out that Gumroad has an affiliate program (maybe Peter Codes spoke about it recently, I can’t remember honestly).

This evening I went out and drafted a semi-generic email and sent it to two tipster websites. They rank pretty high on google and look like they have a big audience, one of them with more than 10000. If I can reach even 1% of them (I don’t expect more than that), I could sell another 100 copies, which could mean 1500 € or so.

Amazon KDP paid their royalties today. In August they were around 81 €. Not bad at all, considering I put 0 effort into marketing on KDP (and I wouldn’t know where to start).

Also, I had a great chat with Gianluca today, a guy looking for a freelance Data Scientist for his newly founded company. I spread the word among my friends. I hope they can get some side gigs too.

Enough for today. I should work on my side projects more in the morning. I cannot find the time and energy in the evenings.