A Decade of Self-Employment: My Top 10 List

Today marks the 10th anniversary of my last day as an employee.

After eight years at The Courier News in Elgin, Ill. (then a Copley Newspaper), I resigned on March 26, 1999 to pursue a freelance marketing and writing path. Over the past decade, I’ve been most fortunate, with encouragement and all manners of support from my fantastic wife, Bridgett, to be able to maintain my self-employed status.

Things haven’t always worked out as I planned. In fact, it’s usually turned out even better.

Oftentimes, that is because I was willing to listen to the marketplace when it told me that it wasn’t interested in my ideas. Then, the marketplace would add, “But, hey, if you might be able to do XYZ, would you be interested?”

Almost always, whether it’s providing marketing services for a couple looking to adopt a baby girl or helping a restaurant boost its sales, my answer has been, “You bet!”

I have never applied for a job, and I have never seriously thought of doing so. My entrepreneurial streak is too strong, and the wide-ranging work has just been too fun to ever look back.

Here, then, is a Top 10 List of Self-Employment Memories, listed in no particular order, over the past 10 years.

1. From 2000 to 2004, roving around the Midwest for Time magazine in pursuit of interviews with the likes of Tiger Woods, The Smiley Face Bomber’s college buddies and basketball phenom LeBron James (as a high school senior and later during his rookie season in the NBA).

2. Covering a variety of towns and cities for the Chicago Tribune (1999-2005, with a little work thereafter). After the August 2003 birth of my twin children, Zachary and Maggie Rose, I would often type up my reports with one of them sleeping in my lap.

3. Moving my office from the living room to the second bedroom to Panera and, then, in June 2007, to my current “real office” location a few miles from home.

4. Joining the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce in October 2005 to promote my personalized story service, Your Front Page.

While the service has not quite captured the public’s imagination (yet), that first Chamber meeting led to a great six-month gig as community relations liaison for Boston Market’s healthier-food prototype experiment in River Forest.

5. In the summer of 2006, joining Oak Park Partners, a chapter of Business Networking International (BNI) whose purpose is to provide client referrals to one another.

The affiliation has surrounded me with top individuals who have not only referred numerous clients to me, but have also inspired me to develop myself professionally.

6. Realizing in late 2006 that, OK, I guess it was all right to call myself a publicist. After more than 20 years as a diehard journalist, this was no simple step. Of course, my entire Inside Edge philosophy revolves around the journalistic information-gathering and story-telling style.

7. Following a suggestion by a former editor, Scott Stone (now a Daily Herald VP) and creating a math literacy seminar for journalists, Go Figure: Making Numbers Count.

That move has sent me all around the country since 2001, training the media (usually at state press association conventions) as I share my passion for telling stories skillfully, ethically and responsibly. My next training is in eight days, at the New York Press Association convention in Saratoga Springs.

8. In October 1999, getting published in Sports Illustrated, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. The brief item on the Home Run Power Ratio, a baseball statistic I created, provided me with a much-needed confidence boost.

9. In January 2007, catching on with Five Seasons Family Sports Club as the publicist for its Northbrook and Burr Ridge clubs, and immediately helping secure global coverage for a Guinness World Record attempt.

10. Delivering phone books one day in November 1999. I got a bonus for being extra-diligent in securing signatures from recipients!

I have certainly overlooked dozens of other worthy candidates. But there’s always my Top 20 list, due for release on March 26, 2019.

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Cubs, Sox Out: Bye-Bye, By The Numbers

Last week, I offered this equation: October + Baseball=By the Numbers, as I reprised my research-and-writing role for the Daily Herald.

I was hoping for a month filled with Chicago baseball. With both the Cubs and White Sox in the post-season, and the Cubs sporting the best record in the National League during the regular season, I figured I’d be wearing out my calculator.

Alas, both teams flopped–especially the Cubbies, who were swept for the second straight year. You know it doesn’t bode well when I’m spending an inordinate amount of time researching Chicago players’ errors, strikeouts at the plate, and streaks such as the last time a certain slugger (yeah, you, Alfonso Soriano) had homered.

For the By the Numbers’ body of evidence of Chicago baseball woes, see:

White Sox, Game 1 preview

White Sox, Game 1

White Sox, Game 2

White Sox, Game 3

Cubs, Game 1

Cubs, Game 2

Cubs, preview Game 3

October + Baseball=By the Numbers

It’s October and Chicago playoff baseball is under way, so that means my statistical hat is fit snugly atop my head.

Allowing my numerical passions to run wild again is Daily Herald sports editor Tom Quinlan, who began publishing my “By The Numbers” baseball blurbs on the Cubs and White Sox in today’s newspaper.

My numbers-related writing dates back to August 1997, toward the end of my eight years at The Courier News in Elgin, Ill., when I began writing a weekly “By the Numbers” column. It was later syndicated by Copley News Service, and served as the springboard for my numeracy training program called “Go Figure: Making Numbers Count.”Along the way, I had a stats column for Sports Illustrated For Kids and developed the Home Run Power Ratio, an inflation index for home runs.

This is the fourth time over the past six Octobers that the Daily Herald has allowed me to be a part of their baseball post-season coverage.

On the Herald‘s website, you can read the first round of figures I came up with in connection with the Chicago Cubs and their Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as previewing the Chicago White Sox’s Game 1 clash with the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon.

Why I Always Bring A Camera To Chicago

I took my children to downtown Chicago today. On the “el,” I applied too much sunscreen around Zach’s eyes, resulting in no small amount of stress as he expressed displeasure in a way that only he can.

We then walked at least two miles as we meandered from spot to spot, never quite having The Experience that I’d hoped for. Then, on our way back to the “el,” we came upon this scene–a man doing what I call a Funky Freeze routine.

It was time to get out the digital camera/video: