A 2022 Review
A review of what freelancing in 2022 was all about
2022 Year in Review
I look back at 2022 and reflect on a year filled with a healthy amount of uncertainty but also some untamed pride, all thanks to going full-time with freelancing. After the many nudges from Aron Korenblit it all became real as I started paying the bills thanks to the freelance I took on with clients from around the world!
And, when the work wasn't consistently there – because that's a reality all freelancers face – I was lucky to have friends like Evan LePage bombard me with ideas that kept me feeling productive.
In no particular order, here are some quick hits and marquee projects I took on in 2022.
This project kicked off my year and I learned a ton. From prospecting new leads for your managed marketplace product to how to excel as a small remote team, I was able to address a very specific need for the team at Continuum while getting to build a workflow that enabled a few thing:
the team was able to weigh in on applications as soon as they came in and completely asynchronously
automatic messaging and status updates for applicants in the pipeline meant that all parties were kept informed on where different applicants were in the process without losing that personal touch
applicants booked their interviews via Calendly and their interviewers were delivered a unique brief in the form of a Google doc for each applicant
I've been itching to get another newsletter together and after a couple of attempts to find the right focus, I landed on WTF No Code: Criticisms about the complicated side of No Code tech with a healthy dose of updates about my freelance projects.
So far, the feedback has been great and I've connected with some awesome folks as a result.
The thing that slowed me down the most was the format of the newsletter itself. As much as I keep an open mind to this changing, I needed the right amount of structure so I could carve out time in my day to the right kind of work at the right time.
Everything started to fall into place once I realized WTF No Could could also serve as a glimpse into how I'm building Podcast Delivery.
Altogether, WTF No Code is a forcing function for accountability and a project archive that compliments my portfolio.
I think this came together because I was bored of all the behind-the-scenes plumbing I was doing. There's very little colour in that kind of work and I was clearly craving something captivating.
A lot of the design was template-based and complete exercise in how to build in Webflow in this decade (my last full-on Webflow design started in 2017 and I was only haphazardly maintaining things since). I was able to keep some semblance of organization with classes and the design patterns responsible for my pages' structure.
SocialLeaderboard.co was the vehicle that let me test the waters with a more official design stage. I tapped my friend Ben for some high-quality and straightforward branding guidance with a strong focus on the logo and colour palette. When a project lets your work with good friends, it also sweetens the deal and makes everything that much more enjoyable. To have that all happen at the concept stage meant I didn’t jump into Webflow and feel it out afterwards – Ben and I spent time crafting a plan.
I also got to play with Stripe's Pricing Tables product – something else that I was sorely in need of years ago without really knowing it.
Oh, and the narrative of how SocialLeaderboard.co came together proves to draw people in. Every few weeks someone reaches out asking about how a leaderboard can help them drum up demand from their community members. That was my only goal for this project – to showcase a lightweight no code app while also acting as a lead magnet for my freelance business.
Where do I start?
The evergreen engine that keeps me flush with content to share on Twitter or in WTF No Code continues to bear no code fruit.
The biggest change worth mentioning was the migration from Mailchimp to Beehiiv. I had grown so frustrated by Mailchimp's UI and incessant AB testing that I built a newsletter content management layer on top of Mailchimp. But, the final straw was their September 2021 sale to Intuit. That $12 billion deal motivated me passively research replacement platforms and when I landed on Beehiiv I knew I had found something special.
@PodcastDelivery@beehiiv 1️⃣ Flexible gating for published posts.
Archives are almost meant to collect dust. I want you to be able to uncover any edition of Podcast Delivery and join in on the fun by subscribing.
The old way of doing that was cluuuunky and now it's a breeze 👇
— Stephen O'Grady (@orishnal)
Nov 21, 2022
tl;dr for Podcast Delivery in 2022
IN: BeehiivMore Subscribers
OUT: MailchimpZapierBespoke Referral AppSpending Money Aimlessly
Stealth-ish Pet Service Marketplace
From the minds of a wildly ambitious pet owner on the other side of the world comes a two-sided managed marketplace to connect pet owners with pet service providers.
Looking back on this project, I have some mixed feelings. My involvement started on the backs of a previous freelancer absolutely ghosting the client. Win for me but a loss for freelancers at large. There are always more graceful ways to wind down a working relationship and anyone neglecting off-boarding shouldn't even bother onboarding anyone. That applies to customers and to colleagues alike and if you want the business-jargon version of that it's that every event and interaction is a moment to consider customer retention.
Given that this marketplace was conceptualized and initially worked on by someone else, my work here wasn't very run of the mill. For a number of workflows, I was presented with an existing, often broken Integromat scenario that was usually meant to do one specific thing in repetition. I would be tasked with getting that up and running again which meant I had to reverse engineer that to understand exactly what the original no code developer had in mind. Layer on the Integromat-to-Make migration and there were some small details to fret from time to time.
From there, I would regularly tie things back to the bigger technical picture and deduce what technical requirements were involved in the first place, all the while keeping a keen eye on the overarching business requirements for a proof-of-concept business that had plenty of prospective customer and market research to point to.
If ever there was a case for having a Product Manager, proper version controls, and Github involved in an iterative, no code development process it was this project and eventually, an official title was given to the newest technical employee which meant I worked myself out of a job. I think.
It was all hard to surmise at that point but I undoubtedly learned a ton. One of the most intriguing dynamics I uncovered is that while a no code stack is typically quick to spin up, its "nimbleness" can lead to a pitfall where you're constantly refactoring something to be more efficient or to produce a more favourable customer experience.
No code: 1Code: also 1
Automated PDF Filling & Filing for an Architectural Design Firm
This project was a dream and what every budding freelancer wants to have under their belt one day. I say this because there was a lot of required up front work; but once that was done there it came down to a lot of rinsing and repeating.
The challenge the client faced was simple – the state of California requires an ungodly amount of paperwork to be filled and filed for every building project they take on. They're a small team and found some opportunities to streamline the manual work required to do that, but it wasn't perfect.
Enter Airtable as a CRM. Add one-click PDF-filling and we're saving the team from hundreds of hours of data entry.
The best part is how the underlying mechanics can easily be repurposed to fit similar needs for companies in other industries. There's a whole lot that has yet-to-be digitized so that means they'll be relying on the trusty PDF as their intake form, at least for the time being.
I created and covered this recently enough that a lot has yet to happen here, but there has been some early learnings and feedback to build off.
The biggest takeaway worth sharing here is that AI won't be going anywhere anytime soon and once makers get into the habit of using AI from day 0, we'll see some impressive first principles serving as the foundation to some impressive tools & services.
Since GPT4's release is only a mere six months away, everything will get levelled up and people will again lose their minds at just how impressive its outputs can be.
Maybe there was a particular order to this list since I know I wanted to keep this project to the end. Working with the Airtable team behind this project was a stellar reminder that small, open-minded teams willing to take risks can still exist within a growing company.
Using a custom built Airtable base to track the trends of the singers & songwriters participating in the reality show competition was a lot more fun than I had expected. Some of that may have to do with having our regular meetings revolve around Snoop Dogg's IG TV counts or Michael Bolton's recurring need to change his Youtube channel name, but the hallmark of this project and collaboration with Airtable was the whitespace I was afforded.
We knew very early on that there was a wealth of data at our disposal and that we could craft a meaningful narrative as the competition progressed week after week. In its simplest form, that narrative was that each competitor's social media clout would have an outsized influence on where they landed in the weekly voting as well as the overall competiton.
Well, we were right. At least we were right once we corrected for the mainstream artist factor.
As the competition neared its end, the well-established artists like Jewel and Sisqo (yes, Sisqo) were cut from the competition leaving a smattering of lesser-known artists and when push came to shove the artist with the largest social media following (as calculated by the custom aggregation score I built) made their way to the winner's podium.
These represent the wide range of projects I worked on throughout 2022. There was little consistency in how things started or took off which is exactly what I would pine for when I found myself traditionally employed and in the 50th minute of a meeting that never needed to happen. On the flip side of that coin, there were some other projects that ended up being complete duds.
Getting into that might actually be a little more on brand.
Should I cover some of my 2022 projects that weren't so great?
The freelance life means you're rolling the dice at the start of any project. Sometimes, those projects go nowhere.
Looking ahead to the next 12 months suggests I'm doing something right because I've been able to schedule some repeat business with a couple of projects going through new iterations and additions.