State of the Nation: 2016 Member Survey Results (Plus How to Run a Survey For Your Audience)

state of the nation survey results 2016One of the best ways to figure out how to better serve your customers or your audience is to, well, ask them. 

So I set out to create my (annual?) member survey and see if I could get some insights into where readers and listeners are at in their side hustle journey, what types of businesses you’re working on, and what your biggest challenges are.

I also wanted to find out about how you were interacting with the Side Hustle Nation content; the blog, podcast, and email newsletter.

Last year’s survey resulted in initiatives, including the public coaching experiment, our free SH Nation Facebook community (now with over 1600 members), and updated podcast cover art.

My Survey Requirements:

  • Short – I wanted to be respectful of subscribers’ time, and also knew this would improve response rate.
  • Mobile-friendly – Since I was only sending the survey invite via email, it had to be mobile-responsive.
  • Actionable – I wanted to be able to DO something with the results! Not much point in going through this exercise if it doesn’t result in any new action.

The Set Up

Instead of dedicated survey software like Survey Monkey, I went with my tried-and-true Google Forms.

It’s easy to set up and edit, and all the responses get dumped into a handy spreadsheet for you.

member survey google forms

I like it because it’s simple and you can choose between multiple choice, free-response, optional questions, and you have decision logic on pagination of where to send people based on what answer they select.

The design may not be the prettiest in the world, but it is mobile responsive.

Oh, and it’s free. :)

My survey had 10 questions, mostly multiple-choice, split over 4 or 5 pages (depending on your answers). I broke up the questions on different pages because I reasoned having ALL 10 questions on ONE page might seem intimidating and hurt the completion rate.

Plus Google Forms will show a little progress bar that completionists like me really want to see hit 100% once I start.

Marketing the Survey

I sent out one dedicated email asking subscribers to complete the survey, and sent a reminder in the weekly newsletter a few days later.

To give people an incentive to complete it, I gave away a free 30-minute consultation. Here’s the message I sent:

Hey Nick,

It’s time for the second-annual Side Hustle Nation member survey!

Last year I got a ton of awesome responses — but we’ve grown quite a bit since then.

These few quick questions will help guide the direction of Side Hustle Nation for the rest of this year.

Your responses help me better understand and serve this incredible “Nation,” plus you’ll have the option to be entered to win a free Side Hustle Strategy Session with yours truly, just for filling out the survey.

Please Click Here to Complete the Survey [link]

It should only take a couple minutes and you can even do it from your phone.

Responses are totally anonymous — unless of course you want to enter the drawing for the free Strategy Session.

Thank you so much for your input!

Hustle on,

Nick Loper
SideHustleNation.com

In total, I got more than 500 responses!

If you don’t have the email list to send to, you can do one-on-one outreach, or post in relevant FB groups you’re active in.

The Questions and Results

Question 1: The Baseline

Goal: Figure out where your audience is today so you can create content to best serve them.

My phrasing: “Where are you at with your side hustle today?”

I used this this multiple-choice question to kick off the survey because it would be very quick to answer and hopefully build momentum into the rest of the questions.

The options were:

  • Nowhere. Research phase.
  • I’ve started, but haven’t earned anything yet.
  • I’m making some money on the side.
  • I’m earning $1000+ / month outside a traditional job.

Results:

how much are you earning on the side right now

This tells me that over 40% of the audience hasn’t decided the best course of action yet, and fully two-thirds are still “pre-revenue.”

The remaining third of the audience IS making money and presumably looking for ideas and tactics to take their business to the next level.

Question 2: The Direction

Goal: Find out what type(s) of businesses the audience is working on.

My phrasing: “What type of business / side hustle are you running or are you most interested in? Please check all that apply.”

It’s another quick-response multiple choice question designed to build momentum and help me understand the types of content that would be most helpful to focus on.

The options were:

Results:

what type of business are you interested in

This distribution is interesting to see, but also something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The “hustles” to the left already have a lot of content created, which is probably how people discovered the site/podcast in the first place.

The hustles to the right, I haven’t created as much content for.

Still, it’s good for me to see the types of businesses people are most interested in and spend the majority of my effort on those.

Question 3: The Pain

Goal: Find out what subscribers are currently struggling with.

My phrasing: “When it comes to your business or side hustle, what’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? For example, finding the right idea or opportunity, not enough time, finding clients, etc.”

This was the last question on Page 1 of the survey, and was a free-response question. The theory is, once you know what your audience is struggling with, you can craft a plan to help them.

Results:

biggest challenge survey results

Other responses included:

  • Believing in myself
  • Accountability / support
  • Legal / admin Stuff
  • Technology / web development
  • Fear and inadequacies
  • I don’t have any skills
  • Information overload
  • Patience
  • The internet is so crowded now. How do I stand out?

And in these results you’ll see some common themes like productivity and generating ideas. The good news is I love learning and writing/talking about pretty much all of these.

I thought motivation was the most surprising recurring answer. If you’re investing your spare time learning about online business and side hustles, it seems like you’re pretty motivated to me!

One respondent even put their biggest challenge was simply, “Getting off my ass after a day’s work and just doing it.”

Another added, “My desire for additional income is not higher then my desire for free time :-).” OK then!

One thing I CAN say is that time is a universal struggle, even for full-time entrepreneurs.

Case in point: when was the last time you were bored? If you can’t remember, yoooou just might be a hustler. (Cue the Jeff Foxworthy voice.)

There will always be more things you want to do than there are hours in the day, so it becomes a battle of prioritization. And that battle is even more apparent after the arrival of our son.

Questions 4-7: The Content Relationship

Goal: Discover how people were engaging with the Side Hustle Nation content through the email newsletter, the blog, and the podcast.

My phrasing: The weekly Thursday email newsletter:

  • Is a welcome and valuable addition to my inbox.
  • Is OK but I already subscribe to the blog/podcast via RSS/Feedly or iTunes/Stitcher.
  • Usually gets deleted.
  • I don’t know yet.

The purpose of this question was to determine if it made sense to begin more advanced subscriber segmentation, where people could opt-out of the weekly Thursday broadcasts, but stay subscribed to other updates.

Results:

weekly thursday newsletter survey results

Of course these results are horribly unscientific because 97% of the people I invited to take the survey didn’t.

What it does tell me, which isn’t super surprising, is that the people who open the messages generally find value in them. Makes sense; otherwise why would they open?

If I can figure out the segmentation and an automated way to add subscribers to the different subscription “levels” it’s somethings I’ll explore. Not sure if I can get this done with the new AWeber Campaigns tool or if it will require switching email service providers.

If anyone knows the best way to do this, let me know!

My phrasing: The Side Hustle Nation blog …

  • I read it every week or almost every week.
  • I read it when the content interests me.
  • Dude, you have a blog?

Results:

blog readership survey results

The purpose of this question was to gauge whether I could safely dial back the written content creation. The blog portion of Side Hustle Nation takes a ton of time, and doesn’t seem to perform as well as the podcast.

For instance, posts like this one on how to build a membership site can take up to 8 hours to write, edit, format, link, and add images. That post has been viewed around 1100 times since I hit publish. In contrast, each podcast episode may take half the time to produce and is downloaded at least 8000 times within a few weeks of its release.

It’s interesting to me, since it definitely started as a blog first, podcast second platform!

Could I go from a weekly posting schedule to a 2x/month posting schedule? Looks like I probably shouldn’t stress too much if I miss a week.

Note: In hindsight, “I read it when the content interests me” was a pretty dumb way to phrase the answer. I mean, I only read stuff that interests me and wouldn’t expect any different behavior from my readers.

My phrasing: Optional: Any particular post(s) or type of post that really stand out in your memory? Favorite(s)? Most valuable? Ones you’ve taken action on?

This was kind of a wasted question. Given the above results about what types of businesses the audience is most interested in, and where they’re currently at with their progress, I could figure out which ones had the best impact.

In terms of popularity, I can find that data through Google Analytics.

Results:

Most people left this blank, and many who did fill it in mentioned podcast episodes and not blog posts.

My phrasing: The Side Hustle Show podcast …

  • I listen every week or almost every week.
  • I listen when the subject interests me.
  • I usually just read your “highlight reel” PDFs.
  • What’s a podcast?

This question was designed to help me better understand how people are engaging with the audio content, and also the PDF highlight reels I send in the newsletter.

Results:

podcast survey results

Again, “I listen when the subject interests me” was pretty poor phrasing. What might have been more interesting would have been to find out if listeners subscribed to the show on their devices, or listened in their browser, or just downloaded one-off episodes to listen to.

It was also good to see that the highlight reel PDFs ARE getting read and have value beyond just their use as content upgrades/lead magnets for the individual episodes.

The next challenge for me relates back to the email question above. Is there a smart way to segment subscribers in a way that lets them choose what content they receive and at what frequency?

Questions 8-9: Let’s Take This Offline

Goal: Find out if subscribers would be interested in a paid, live in-person Side Hustle Nation event.

My phrasing: Would you attend a 1-day in-person mastermind session near you?

Here’s what I’m envisioning: 8-12 side hustlers / entrepreneurs coming together (plus me and potentially another “co-host”) for a day (probably a Saturday) of analyzing each other’s businesses to identify next steps, growth tactics, or “breakthrough” opportunities. Does that sound valuable? Would you pay $250 to attend?

This was a little awkwardly phrased as well, but I have several trips planned before the end of the year, and wanted to see if there was a demand enough to host a couple live workshops.

Credit where credit is due: Inspiration for this question comes from Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker’s 1-Day Business Breakthrough events.

Results:

mastermind event survey results

Even though more than half the people said “no,” I was really encouraged by these results. Now of course I understand there’s a BIG difference between checking “yes” on a survey and pulling out your credit card, but I felt like it was an important first step toward validating this idea.

The next question, which was only shown to people who answered “yes,” centered on the geography and potential ballpark dates for this event.

My phrasing: For this one-day event, which of these locations and potential times would be best for you?

  • Seattle (June)
  • Chicago (July)
  • San Francisco (August)
  • San Diego (September)
  • Other

Results:

1-day live event locations

Awesome results. I’m working on planning the Chicago event, and was encouraged to see some of my other favorite cities make the “write-in” list as well; Atlanta, NYC, and Washington DC.

I haven’t been back to the ATL since I moved west 9 years ago!

If you didn’t get a chance to fill in the survey but are interested in joining one of these future Side Hustle Accelerator sessions, be sure to put your name and email down on the “notify me” list here.

Question 10: The Catch-All

Goal: Find out any other juicy intel that was on subscribers’ minds.

My phrasing: Anything else you want to add?

This optional open-ended question was designed to let people explain or expand on some of their previous answers, or just air whatever was on their mind.

Multiple choice answers are quick to analyze and great to boil down into charts and graphs, but sometimes it makes sense to offer a little more “voice.”

Results:

I read each of the responses several times through, and there were quite a variety of comments.

Many people took a moment to say thanks (which was nice!), others made content suggestions like more step-by-step stuff for beginners or to resume the public coaching experiment, and others let me know how they “discovered” Side Hustle Nation.

Your Turn

Think you can borrow some of my questions/formats and learn from my mistakes?

Have you run a survey to your audience recently? Did you take action based on the results?

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5 thoughts on “State of the Nation: 2016 Member Survey Results (Plus How to Run a Survey For Your Audience)

  1. The answers to your “pain” question are spot on! Time/energy, the right idea, and growth/marketing are my biggest problem areas in my side hustle/online business. I look forward to reading your suggestions on how to tackle those issues.

  2. Thank you for sharing some wonderful information. Surveys are indeed a great way to gauge your audience and find out what they are looking for. Freelancers can use these great research pieces to grow their business as long as they listen to the results.

  3. Awesome post Nick! So cool to see where one fits on the grand scheme of your nation.
    I’m still holding out for that PC offer….
    But I’m afraid looks like only next year at this point for me.

  4. Comment on your this question:
    [Question 2: The Direction
    Goal: Find out what type(s) of businesses the audience is working on.

    My phrasing: “What type of business / side hustle are you running or are you most interested in? Please check all that apply.”]

    Well your lender hustle choice might be affected by culture, ethics or religious views.I mean as lending and interest rates allowed and something like that . Contact me If you want to have a discussion on this topic.

    • Now about this question:
      [Questions 8-9: Let’s Take This Offline
      Goal: Find out if subscribers would be interested in a paid, live in-person Side Hustle Nation event.

      My phrasing: Would you attend a 1-day in-person mastermind session near you?]

      well If you do in Pakistan or Lahore. Please don’t charge any fees of attending. You can even contact planx etc. or Arfa software technology park/PITB.

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