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What’s my typical day like?

A day in the life of The Milelion.

When I decided to leave Mileslife to work on The Milelion full-time, one question I got a lot was “how will you spend your time?”I suppose that’s only natural, given that the term “blogging” conjures images of someone lazing by the pool all day taking photos with an unhealthy clothing deficit.

It’s still early days, but switching from employment to self-employment has been equal parts thrilling and terrifying. You have unimaginable levels of freedom, but it’s also all on you to make it work. That said, I’ve had no problem filling my days so far. For those of you who’d like an inside look, I thought I’d share some snippets of a typical day of full-time Milelioning…

9.30 am- Arrive at the office

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Contrary to popular belief, The Milelion does not operate out of a secret milecave, a.k.a my parent’s house. Far from it. Staying home all day didn’t strike me as particularly healthy for mind or body, so I went looking for co-working space.

I struck gold with SMUAA’s tie up with JustCo, which gives all SMU Alumni members free hotdesking space at seven of JustCo’s locations. This normally would cost about $400 a month, but I just need to pay my $60/year SMUAA fees. Bootstrapping FTW.

As a bonus, two of my ex-colleagues from consulting days are also working here at a startup.

“How does it feel like not having a real job?” they ask.

“I don’t know, how does it?” I reply.

9.45 am- While you were sleeping

The first order of business is getting online and taking stock of what happened last night. I generally go to bed around 11 pm, so I need to make sure that the world (or rather, The Milelion) didn’t end in the wee hours of the morning.

My standard morning ritual is to check site stats, comments, emails, affiliate applications and the Telegram group for drama (it’s amazing how many people still get a kick out of arguing on the internet).

I also use this time to answer reader questions. I get maybe 10-15 emails per week, and I try as far as possible to answer all of them (side note to: leonard.sm, I can’t reply to you because your return email address is wrong). Unless, of course, it’s something I’ve already written extensively about before, in which case I wonder whether history would judge me harshly if I were to reply with lmgtfy links.

I also tend not to reply to questions like this:

My all time favorite question? Nothing even comes close to this:

So. Much. Win.

10.30am- Conference call with programming team

Websites aren’t static- they’re living, growing things. Just because everything works fine today doesn’t mean it’ll be okay next week when a new plugin or feature is added.

I know absolutely nothing about coding, CDNs, Ajax calls, HTML5 or CSS. Fortunately, my programmer Mughees does. I found him on Upwork, and his team renders the tech support needed to keep the site up and running all the way from Faisalabad, Pakistan. He’s the one who made last year’s big site overhaul possible, and never complains when I panic text him at midnight saying the site is down.

On the call, I run through with Mughees the list of things that need to be fixed on the site, which currently includes:

  • Load more button at the bottom of the screen sometimes skips one week of posts when clicked
  • Cache needs to be manually purged once a week or else homepage ads won’t load
  • Contact Us form outputs ‘Thank You’ note in strange non-standard font
  • Site keeps doing self-pingbacks ever since I switched to https

In the midst of puzzling over how to edit my functions.php file, it dawns on me that if I were more attractive I could just move to Instagram full time and spare myself all this aggravation.

11.00 am- Research, draft and publish new articles

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Although The Milelion now does events, consulting and a whole lot of other things, writing is and will always be my first love. It’s why I started the site, after all.

I keep promising myself that I will one day invest in the software needed to create a proper content calendar, but until then it’s pen and paper for me. Every time an idea come to mind, I add it to the list. Article ideas come from pretty much anywhere- a news article, a throwaway comment, a tip-off from a reader, or just something I’ve always found fascinating.

The agenda for today is to find out whether Star Alliance partners are still able to access SQ 787 Business Class awards. Historically this hasn’t been a problem, but I’ve seen reports that United, Aeroplan, and ANA are no longer able to see them on many routes. Does this mean this aircraft type has been blocked? Is it just a seasonal limitation? Is it a route limitation? Is it possible for partners to book 787 J seats on routes where aircraft swaps have not happened yet eg TPE? What does this mean for combination SQ/Star Alliance awards redeemed through partner programs like LifeMiles?

So many questions, but the first step is to collect data. I fire up KVS and start running filtered searches for SQ 787 space via the ANA engine. This will probably take 3-4 hours of research over a few days. Is it worth all that effort for what will in all likelihood be a one-time article?

Absolutely.

12.30pm- Lunch at Daily Cut

I work around Dhoby Ghaut, so why would I religiously take the train every day to Raffles Place? Two words: Daily Cut.

With my wedding just two months away, I’ve switched to a wholegrain diet in the hope that the first unclothed form my wife ever sees will be somewhat presentable. Wholegrain tastes disgusting, like cardboard mixed with sandpaper mixed with more cardboard. But since I’ve started my diet, I’ve lost 6 kilos and 4% body fat. Beat that, Atkins.

Oh, and Daily Cut’s on Mileslife too. I use my OCBC Titanium Rewards card to earn 6 mpd, all the while wishing I had the courage to strike up a conversation about The Milelion with the guy next to me who’s using a Citi Rewards card to pay for lunch. Curse this social awkwardness.

1.30pm- Meeting with SingSaver

After lunch I head to the Tanjong Pagar area for a meeting with SingSaver. We started working together on credit cards back in July, and these check-ins help us coordinate campaigns and events better. It’s also an opportunity to raise the issues that readers have encountered with application and gift fulfillment.

One important discussion point is on customer service. Most people would agree that SingSaver has great sign up gifts, but unfortunately that counts for very little if you’re waiting 3 months to get yours with radio silence from customer service.

We discuss the status of some initiatives to improve the situation, like scaling up the customer care team, automating the rewards form acknowledgement email and creating a system to track rewards status (much like a delivery tracker). Most of these initiatives are on schedule, but the major bottleneck still rests with the banks. SingSaver updates me on what they’re doing to ensure that approvals reports are sent faster, and we agree to meet and review the situation again in a month.

3.30pm- View event space

After the meeting, it’s time to view a potential event space at Singapore Shopping Centre.

On average I try to run three to four events each month. Not only are they a great way to meet the miles community, they also help keep me sharp. It’s always an amazing moment when someone points out a better way of doing something, or a nifty loophole that I never thought of, and the whole class kind of goes “ohhhhhh”.

I do run some events at SingSaver and Skyscanner, but I also need to source ad-hoc space from time to time. I would absolutely love to hold the classes in a nice, swanky hotel, like a fly-by-night investment guru. Unfortunately, when hotels ask for $55 a head and your ticket prices average $40, your options are more functional than luxurious:

At one event, a lady from Australia came up to say hi after the class, remarking that back home she’d paid $3,000 to attend a 3 day travel hacking course by someone called The Flight Doc.

“Oh that’s no problem,” I said, gritting my teeth and wishing I’d started The MileWallaby instead.  “I love helping people out.” My eye probably twitched a bit too.

4.00pm- Crunch some numbers

Back in the office once again and it’s time to look at some data. Five years of management consulting has given me something of a spreadsheet fetish, and that occupational hazard has carried on to my current situation.

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Here’s the issue I’m trying to crack: We just started online webinars, which are broken into two parts because one-hour is about the limit for online attention spans. However, splitting the sessions into two also means there’s potential for dropout.

How many people attend the first but not the second session? Why didn’t they attend the second session? Did they forget, or did they not like the first session? If it’s former, is there a way to remind them? If it’s latter, was it a technical, content or presentation issue? Was I too soft, or just too aggressively charming (as I am wont)? If it’s a technical issue, is Webinar Ninja the right platform to use?

The current dropout rate is ~24%, which isn’t terrible but means there’s definitely room for improvement. By building a spreadsheet, I can easily track and reach out to dropouts, which provides a valuable source of feedback.

5.00pm- Review event feedback and revamp slides

I’ve been running events for a few months now, but only recently formalized a way of tracking feedback. Participants fill in a three question survey (satisfaction from 1-5, what did you like, what didn’t you like) to get a copy of the slides, and I make it a point to read through the feedback before hosting another session of the same workshop.

I read every comment, and I won’t lie: even if I see mostly 4’s and 5’s, all it takes is one 2 or 3 to bum me out. People pay good money to attend these talks, and I don’t want anyone going away feeling like he or she got ripped off.

Today I’m preparing for Alternative Frequent Flyer programs, so I call up the Google Sheet and have a readthrough of what people did and didn’t like last time round:

Refreshments are a commonly requested amenity from participants, but it’s difficult to provide that at the current price point. My solution has been to engage venue sponsors who are willing to provide both space and refreshments, and events from December onwards should be getting better catering.

Based on the feedback for Alternative FFPs, it seems like a couple of people wanted some SkyTeam coverage. Wait, what, I think. Why would anyone want to learn about SkyTeam? It’s like the D-list of alliances. GarudaMiles, occasional 90% sale aside, offers very poor value otherwise, and I’m pretty sure Flying Blue underwent an epic devaluation earlier this year.

But I do a bit of digging and learn that although the new Flying Blue is a hopelessly confusing and illogical FFP, there does exist occasional good value thanks to the monthly discounted redemptions.

A few hours of research and slidemaking, and I’m able to add a Flying Blue segment to the presentation. I’ll run this with the new class next time round (those who attended previous sessions are always welcome to attend a future run of the same session; they just need to drop me an email beforehand).

Remember I said something about events keeping me sharp? This is exactly what I meant by that. The whole process of researching, benchmarking and evaluating Flying Blue has helped me to learn something I didn’t know before.

7.00 pm- Drinks with The Milelion community

Ok, finethis isn’t part of an average day but I wanted to mention it anyway. Tonight we’re resuming The Milelion’s Monthly Miles Meetup after a three month hiatus. These meetups, which started in October last year, are meant to create a place where miles chasers can meet and shoot the breeze about the hobby.

Back in university we did an MBTI test and I scored a 100% on introversion. That kind of made sense, given that I frequently hide in the loo during networking sessions and pray that no one makes eye contact. Social events drain me, and it takes a lot to work up the courage to meet 9 or 10 complete strangers every month. But I’m always glad I do because the people you get to know at these sessions are absolutely fantastic.

You meet all sorts: bankers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, insurance agents, entrepreneurs, social media specialists, fund managers, public relations professionals, dog groomers, professional chefs, former cabin crew. What unites us? A shared love of miles and points.

As the alcohol flows, so does the geek talk. “Why do a mattress run when you can plan a cheap Marriott Rewarding Event?” “Can the Alaska Milege Plan one-way trick be used with a double open jaw?” “Is there a better way of finding LAN award space for an Asia Miles MCA?” 

Someone says something that really resonates with me. “It’s so nice to be able to talk about this stuff with people who don’t think I’m crazy”. Everyone nods in agreement.

It’s like group therapy.

11.00pm- To sleep, perchance to dream

Back home now and I spend a bit of time browsing Boarding Area and FlyerTalk to make sure I’m up to date with the latest happenings in miles and points.

It’s fast approaching 11 pm and time to hit the hay. Did I do everything I wanted to today? A quick glance at my to-do list suggests not. But that’s the fun in being your own boss- you decide when to start and when to call it quits. There’ll be plenty of time tomorrow to prepare slides for a loyalty consulting engagement, hop on a conference call with a bank, work on a campaign emailer, pitch to a potential event sponsor and write, write, write.

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All that’s left to do now is dream of last-seat saver award space.


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Ken
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Ken

Keep flying, keep writing… Cheers, Aaron! ??

Thor
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Thor

Couldn’t agree more with “It’s so nice to be able to talk about this stuff with people who don’t think I’m crazy”. Thanks for organising monthly Meetup. Thoroughly enjoyed myself!

bernardtglim
Member
bernardtglim

It’s a fun few hours. I enjoyed the company.

Ee Ling
Guest
Ee Ling

I think I remember who said this haha! My first foray into the world of miles eliteness and my face is here. So honored. Thanks for the nice chat everyone and thanks Aaron for organizing 🙂

Bert
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Bert

Great site and keep up the writing!

BeginnerMH
Guest
BeginnerMH

Maybe it will help further if you actually took your time to listen to people reaching out to help you instead of just brushing them aside and going radio silence. And especially when community members only tend to help the vastly experienced/senior peeps that now forms somewhat an “inner” circle.

RTK
Guest
RTK

Good luck Aaron, and here’s to new vistas.

On the question of article ideas, I thought I saw something on Conrad Maldives from Luis / You. Couldn’t find it, couldn’t be sure 🙂

Ken l
Guest
Ken l

Thanks for writing!

Thanks to your help we just came back from an awards paid trip to Vancouver!

RND
Guest
RND

And here I was thinking that you wrote all of these posts at home in your bathrobe… 🙂

On a serious note, how does the SMUAA cost compare with, say, WeWork or other hipster coworking spaces run from older HDBs? As you are self-employed now, could you get a tax deduction as this is clearly a business expense?

Raymond Wee
Guest

Great and entertaining writing as always!

morning wood
Guest
morning wood

start work earlier bro

Drakka
Guest
Drakka

Aaron, i work in Orchard area too. Since you work near Dhoby Ghuat, i’d thought it will be good to share two more lunch alternatives besides going to Raffles Place for Daily Cut. You can try Mak’s Noodle (Centerpoint) & Som Tam (Orchard Central). Both provide cheap and good lunches. More importantly, both provide you to use the combination of Mileslife AND Chope, at the same time. And you can walk there, save the train fare, get some exercise

SQ Meow
Guest
SQ Meow

HI Aaron, I’m the lady that you mentioned that attended the Flight Doc event haha but I’m actually Singaporean who flew all the way to Australia to attend the 3 day course (not 2 days) before you organized the inaugaral Miles and Points conference so you can make that correction :). I think the Milelion worked way better than Milewallaby because I stumbled upon your powerpoint slide online and stated reading your blog so that got me started on this miles hobby and within 1 year, coupled with some of the strategies you mentioned, I chalked up enough points to… Read more »

Yar
Guest
Yar

Thanks for sharing a glimpse of a startup. Keep up the good work.

Aman
Guest
Aman

Thanks for sharing