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Growing pains: The (late) Technical Area, October 2023
This month at SCOUTED, Tom got the London Lurgy.
Remember October? Spooky season, Manchester United were shit, some other stuff happened probably? I wrote this blog back in those heady days. Since then, I’ve been struck down by London Lurgy and unable to muster the brain cells to click ‘publish’. Apologies.
I am glad I spent some time reflecting on this piece. It’s a little different to the stuff I’ve published here before: less formal and far more honest (to a fault, as Stephen might say). But ultimately I think it’s closer to my preferred means of communicating with you all.
So. On with the show.
Last month I wrote about how close we were to our short-term goal of 500 subscribers, the trigger for raising our freelancer rates and the floor from which I’d like to push towards our medium-term goal of 1000.
Sadly, that milestone has still not arrived. This month has been consumed by making new friends and forging new partnerships. I can’t speak about those yet, but suffice it to say we’re very excited about them; expect more news soon.
Turns out you can’t just write good stuff, you have to market it too. Sigh. So in a month that has seen subscriber growth stall but other opportunities move forward, I wanted to lift the curtain a bit on the realities of running a small business. The Technical Area began with a promise of transparency and I want that to go further than sharing subscriber numbers and obscure graphs.
There is absolutely no point, in my mind, in running a writer-owned, reader-funded independent publication if we hide behind the same kind of corporate obfuscation the big boys use to defend their share prices. Until we have share prices, at which I will turn into Scrooge McDuck.
I have always wanted to run my own publication professionally. Partly because I am terrified of working a normal, grown-up job; I have always known I don’t have the fortitude to come home after a long day in the office and put a second shift in to turn my dreams into reality.
But also because I’ve always wanted to write the things I wanted to write. I once heard Neil Gaiman say something to the effect of: “I woke up one day and realised I had become someone who replied to email professionally and wrote as a hobby.” This fear drove me to found Scouted in 2014 as a 17-year-old.
My friends, I was a stupid idiot.
The idea that the easiest path to becoming ‘just a writer & editor’ is to start your own business is so hilariously childish it’s hard to believe only a decade separates me and that person (that’s not to say I’m any less of a stupid idiot, just slightly less naive). I’m sure anyone who also works for themselves is laughing reading this.
Running a business is about wearing so many hats at once you forget what your face looks like. It’s about being a marketing expert, a bookkeeper, a legal professional, a salesman and a commercial manager. And in my case, someone who posts magazines professionally and sometimes takes a two-week break to write them. Llew was a great scout, analyst and writer; now he’s also a professional social media manager and graphic designer. Stephen has become an SEO expert, and somehow even more Australian (he’s rocking the shaved head/moustache combo these days).
Please don’t misconstrue this as complaining. I don’t work particularly hard and my job now mostly involves sitting at a laptop - hardly bone-crushing stuff. But running a business without knowing what the hell you’re doing can be…isolating. There have been long periods in which I existed in a kind of haze of endless panic that metamorphosed into real health problems and a sense the future had disappeared. I thank my co-editors for pulling me through those.
Don’t misoncstrue this as complaining, but do consider subscribing. That would be handy.
Christ, this is getting off-track. You come here expecting deets on the next generation of teenagers from the Belgian third tier and you get a sob story?
I kinda had a point when I started writing this: it was mostly to illustrate during periods of stunted growth, I have to ask myself which hat I’ve been wearing, and whether I should switch it out for a different one. This month, I’ve been wearing the ‘commercial manager’ variety (a black bowler of felt - not to be worn without an umbrella and monocle). Now that we’ve developed the foundations of exciting partnerships to build upon for the next year, I need to turn my attention to growing Notebook itself and drawing more people into discovering what we do. Marketing hat it is (a bright orange cap with some stupid hipster slogan on it).
This is largely why these blog posts are so long, rambling and unfocused - this is the one time a month I get to settle back into being just a writer and nothing else. So thanks for allowing me the space to do this dumb shit, even if most have tuned out by now.
Bright orange cap with a stupid hipster slogan on it
It’s November, which means most online businesses are preparing for - how can I put this gently - an onslaught of ravenous consumerism that will crush all trace of humanity beneath its iron-clad boots. Yup, Black Friday is coming.
This is a great opportunity for me to don that bright orange marketing cap - people are online and ready to spend, happy days. This period was always very busy when we were producing print magazines, as they were a perfect present for the football-loving person in any given life. But a digital magazine is harder to sell.
We’re not The Athletic; we don’t have tons of budget (or any budget tbqh) to throw at social media campaigns or spend on ads. But what we do have are friends, so we’ll be relying on them this month to get the word out. Expect to see some cool crossovers and campaigns with some of our favourite creators over the holiday-ish period as we attempt to cross that magical 500.
I count you guys among our friends too, whether you like it or not. So please, if you like what we do, recommend us! You can gift memberships, and referrals get you cool bonuses like free months. But the simplest gift - just linking someone to one of our free newsletters, like our story on Royale Union Saint-Gilloise or SCOUTED Digest, is a great way to introduce people to what we do.
From the office
We don’t have an office (yet). But we do make attempts to foster an office environment because without that I’d go utterly insane. So here’s what we’ve been up to.
Tom moves about
It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to live in London. I know Londoners will cringe at that - sorry, but it’s true. Anyway, that happened this month. And somehow I managed to end up in a house two streets over from one Mr Joe Donnohue.
Is it everything I imagined? Well, we walked home from the park the other day holding hands. Decide for yourselves.
Stevie shaves his head
Stephen has shaved his head. The resemblance (spotted by Llew - Llew) to famed character-actor John Turturro is now uncanny.
Llew travels time
Llew has this weird habit of leaving paragraphs completely unfinished. When pressed, he said this:
Coming soon: a temporal pincer article, only on SCOUTED.
That’s it, I promise
I took some creative liberties this month, I know. But like I said - what’s the point of being indie and broke if you can’t do what you want?
Football media has always been about the football and not the people who write it - it’s a landscape still largely wrapped up in the machismo it was built upon, I think. It’s all a product and as such must be proper.
I saw one of my favourite writers get twatted on ‘X’ recently for sharing a fairly nondescript opinion - one reply read something like ‘stick to writing poetry about corner flags you dickhead.’ I’ve often struggled with the idea of putting more of my sensibilities into my football work. I’d quite like to write poetry about corner flags, but I guess I’m perpetually scared of getting bullied on Twitter. You can do that here, by the way.
Anyway. See you next month.
Love and peace,