2014 Annual Review: What Was Awesome, What Sucked, and What’s Next

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2014 annual reviewThis is my first attempt at an annual review.

Why go through this exercise?

It’s time to evaluate what happened this year, to see you achieved your goals, and to ask if you’re happier or otherwise better off than you were a year ago.

So am I?

I am!

Things are moving in the right direction. Even though I had to shut down one of my businesses, and had another costly speculative investment loss (see below), I’m confident I’ll be able to replace those income streams.

In some sense, it’s a game of Side Hustle Whack-a-Mole, where one area falls, another can rise up.

For 2015 and beyond I hope to continue to learn, to build more income streams or grow existing ones, and to help make an impact in our growing Nation of side hustlers.

Growth of the Nation

Blog traffic growth:

blog traffic growth 2014

The SideHustleNation site averaged 236 visits a day in December 2013, compared with 852 visits a day this month. (3.5x growth!)

Podcast download growth:

podcast growth 2014

The show averaged 89 downloads a day in December 2013, compared with 654 this month. (7x growth!)

Email list growth:

email list growth

There were around 330 subscribers in December 2013, compared with around 4700 today. (14x growth!)

Looks pretty nice, right? Up and to the right in all categories!

How’d I Do On My Goals?

At the beginning of the year I set 2 goals:

  1. To write 500 words a day 5 days a week.
  2. To turn Side Hustle Nation into a business, not just a blog.

I knocked the writing goal out of the park. (Maybe it was too low!) It wasn’t a consistent daily habit, but with some batched writing days it averaged out to well above the 125,000 word target.

My total for the year at press time: 196,933.

And how about the business end of SHN?

I did start to see some more revenue from the site and podcast this year. I “monetized” in several ways:

  • Affiliate and referral relationships on the blog and podcast.
  • Side hustle coaching and consulting.
  • Mastermind hosting (see below).
  • A Udemy course (see below).
  • The occasional sponsored blog post.
  • Side Hustle swag.

Is it enough to live on? Absolutely not. But it’s a start, and just one of several income streams I’m working on.

So what happened this year?

The Highlight (and Lowlight) Reel

January

I attended New Media Expo and got a natural high from being with my people. The following week I was back in Vegas for Affiliate Summit.

I recorded a session with Alex Barker, who convinced me I should start a private mastermind group for Side Hustle Nation. Soon after that I formed a small group of beta testers, and a month later I began accepting applications for the first official group.

I was pretty nervous to put a price tag on something like that, but the suggestion has turned out to be one of my most challenging and rewarding projects of the year. During our weekly meetings it’s sometimes tough to see the big picture progress, but over the course of several months it’s obvious and impressive.

If you’re interested in joining the next round, which will start mid-January, I encourage you to check it out and apply.

February

I analyzed a year’s worth of expenses to determine our “Rat Race Freedom Number.” If you haven’t gone through this exercise, I highly recommend it to find out exactly where your money is going, AND what it’s going to take to break free.

March

In March, I recorded a podcast with Nick Reese, who convinced me to begin taking cold showers. I started that afternoon expecting to try it for 30 days, but some good things started happening and I haven’t hit the warm water since.

Toward the end of March I woke up one morning to an inbox flooded with Fiverr orders. Turns out they’d put one of my gigs on the homepage, which resulted in a lot of hustle to fill all the orders but ultimately earned more than $900 over 10 crazy days.

April

In April, I started going to yoga. Not every day or even every week, but every once in a while.

I also bought a site on Empire Flippers. It was all going well until a Google update in September sent the site into search engine oblivion. I was fully aware of the risks, and I’m still high on the idea of alternative investments, but this one stacks up as the year’s most costly loss and probably will earn a post of its own later.

Maybe if I worked on it I could recover the site. But it’s not really an area of expertise and I haven’t made it a priority yet… any SEO recovery experts want to lend a hand?

May

In early May, I celebrated the 1-year Anniversary of Side Hustle Nation, and compared the growth of the blog with the growth of the podcast.

I spent much of May on a new book project and preparing for the launch. I’d attempted to launch my last book while I was traveling in SE Asia, and it didn’t work so well, so I was determined to do a better job this time around.

June

The book launch for Work Smarter was a big hit, by far my bestselling Kindle title to date.

August

In August I made the difficult decision to shut down ShoeSniper, my original side hustle and my longest-running business.

I also made an uncharacteristic last-minute decision to attend Podcast Movement, which was a ton of fun, even if I did get trapped in a mall late at night and had to run through a lightning storm to catch Jaime Tardy’s keynote :)

September

In September I had my biggest “bucket list” moment of the year (though not a huge fan of that term), which was speaking at our local TEDx event.

The theme of the event was Creativity, and I was charged with speaking on how Millennials are using exercising their creativity to become the most entrepreneurial generation in modern history.

I don’t have the video just yet but will be sure to share it when it’s available.

It was an awesome experience, and I shared the stage with some truly amazing people, but I was such a nervous wreck for the 48 hours leading up to my talk I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have!

November

In November I took another crack at launching a Udemy course, this time aimed at aspiring Kindle authors and sharing everything I did before and after to launch Work Smarter with a bang, along with some other cool tactics I learned along the way.

It took a long time to fully outline and create the course and shoot and edit all the videos, but it did well, earning over $1000 during launch week and over $2500 in the first month.

I was also fortunate to spend most of November traveling with Bryn, first to Spain and Portugal, and then to Southern California for Thanksgiving. I didn’t get much work done on the road, but love the experience and adventure of travel.

My Top 10 Posts of 2014

(As measured by pageviews in Google Analytics.)

1. 10 Famous Quotes About Hustling

Not my best work but apparently a surprising number of people are searching for this.

2. How I Earn an Extra $500 per Month With Amazon’s FBA Program

This was actually a guest post from Travis Scott, and I’m really excited to see it crack the top 10. This post was given new life when a post I did on ThePennyHoarder on the 15 most popular side hustles linked to it.

3. How I Got on the Homepage of Fiverr and Earned $920 in 10 Days

This was a fun rush, as I was in LA when the deluge hit and found myself knocking out these orders from the hotel room, from Starbucks, and from a random square on the UCLA campus.

4. The Definitive Guide to Rat Race Math

This post shares my Rat Race Freedom Number and shows you how and why to find yours.

5. Kindle Launch Plan: $1400 in 30 Days and How to Go From Zero to Amazon Bestseller

I was surprised to see this one rank so highly since it’s essentially just an advertisement for my Udemy course, but hey, I’ll take it.

6. Girl Scouts Are Better Hustlers Than Cub Scouts – And What It Means For Your Business

I think this one must have gotten picked up by some proud Girl Scout groups on Facebook because I saw a big spike in FB traffic. And rightly so, because they put the Cub Scouts to shame.

7. Should Side Hustlers Build Active or Passive Income Streams?

This is another one I was surprised with the response. Some of my posts take 8+ hours to write … and this was I one I banged out pretty quickly but generated a lot of comments and social shares.

8. How to Save $804 Per Year on Your Cell Phone Bill

Happy to see this one resonating with people because this was a great “win” for the year. Switching to Ting is like finding free money :)

9. Hacking SlideShare: The Surprising Site That Sends More Referral Traffic Than Facebook or Twitter

Here’s the basic idea with SlideShare. Put together a good-looking presentation and get a few people to share it once it goes live. They’re likely to feature it on the homepage.

10. Killing My Baby: Why I Shut Down My Longest-Running Business

Tough decision to make, and tough to write about, but I’m confident it was the right move going forward.

My Top 10 Podcast Episodes of 2014

Measured by downloads. These are heavily skewed toward the second half of the year as the audience has grown.

1. How to Make a Full-Time Living on Craigslist, with Ryan Finlay

2. How I Earned $7490 in My First 14 Months on Fiverr (and my plans to double it)

3. How Ryan Quit His $50k/year Job to Sell Online Full-Time, with Ryan Grant

4. The Path to Passive Income on Udemy – Even If You’re Not an Expert, with Scott Britton

5. The 8 Income Streams I’m Working on Right Now

6. $5k a Month Passive Income Sharing What You Already Know, with Rob Cubbon

7. $33k in 30 Days? Getting Started with Private Labeling and Amazon FBA, with Andy Slamans

8. 20 Hours to a Side Hustle Consulting Business That Gets Paid, with Kai Davis

9. Growing a $4k a Month Business in an Hour a Day, with Kellie Gimenez

10. How to Build and Monetize an Authority Site, with Matt Giovanisci

The podcast is the highlight of my week and I owe it all to the amazing guests who are willing to come on and share their story and provide such awesome value.

What’s Next?

I’m working on coming up with some big-picture goals for next year, which I’ll share here on the site.

A few things are certain though, and those are to continue creating the podcast and the blog content, and continuing to build the existing income streams and hopefully add new ones!

What about you? Are you better off today than you were 12 months ago?

If so, why?

If not, why not?

I urge you to conduct a similar “annual review,” and if you do, feel free to link it up in the comments below with a couple highlights. Cheers!

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29 thoughts on “2014 Annual Review: What Was Awesome, What Sucked, and What’s Next

  1. I’ve also been enjoying my own game of Side Hustle Whack-a-Mole since I found SHN back in April with the Fiverr buzz. Am definitely better off than a year ago.

    You’ve been providing a steady stream of new ideas, strategies, and insight that I’m attempting to model with my own blog & brand.

    I really like these types of posts, thanks for sharing it. (Fingers crossed for quarterly reports going forward.)

    Keep up the good work!

  2. What a year, eh? Congrats on the upward movement and your success in many of your experiments. Can’t believe you are still doing to cold shower thing :)

    Doing a review like this is great idea – perhaps slightly uncomfortable, but great.

    Thanks for the transparent sharing, and look forward to more of your podcasts and blog posts in 2015.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Like Naima, I really love the transparency with you publishing and “screenshotting” your visitor and podcast stats.

    And, my interview is in the top 10! Awesome!

    I always I’m doing reviews and setting goals, great fun :)

  4. Excellent post Nick! You’ve had great progress and I anticipate a December 2015 post about how exponential your growth was in 2015. Great job man, and I’m glad you came to Podcast Movement. Was great meeting you and spending time together at a 2am dinner get together!

  5. Great year Nick! I’m a fan of the blog and podcast. Thank you for the great content!

    You mention “Is it enough to live on? Absolutely not.” MJ DeMarco talks about being “monogamous” with one business and scaling it before moving on. Is this something you could do you think? Like, more Kindle books or more masterminds or whatever – but one thing?

    Don’t get me wrong man. NO WAY am I trying to be that douchey judgey guy. Just wondering… :)

    • Haha no offense taken! That’s definitely something I struggle with — FOCUS and finding that “ONE THING.” Several people have recommended that book btw so I better read it soon :)

      Or I’ll try and convince myself that my “one thing” is a diversified series of side hustles all under one umbrella. Bah. Very good point though.

      Would you be interested in coming on sometime and sharing your story? From what I can gather, I think it’s something a lot of people would be interested in.

  6. So, on that point about diversified gigs under one umbrella, I’m a guy with a full-time job and a double interest in copywriting and writing fiction. It seems I have to pick one or the other to maximize my free time. Do you think it’s possible to cater to two audiences, copywriting clients and fiction readers, from one site? I currently have two sites, but running them both makes me feel overwhelmed, and one inevitably falls static while the other one grows. Any thoughts would be welcomed! Thanks for the amazing content. I only came on board a couple months ago but am loving all the great info.

    • Hmm that’s a tough one. I think in this case it makes sense to maintain two separate “brands” because you’re serving two pretty different audiences. I’d still link to my other site in the “about” section of each site though.

  7. Thanks for your annual review, Nick. You’ve been a true inspiration for me this year, and I expect there are many others who feel the same. There’s no way to put a value on the positive difference you make in our lives, but please know that it is there, and it is deeply appreciated.

    Keep hustling.

  8. Really cool achievements. I was a bit slow with my business this year (about 70% of what I earned in 2013), but there’s an explanation for it and it’s 11 months old :)

    Running a business, blogging and also caring for a baby were a tad challenging, but it’s easier every day. I hope to be able to get my business back to a better position in 2015.

  9. Great progress Nick and thank you for all the sharing, both now and with every experiment you take.
    I think I’ll be joining Sean on offering maybe trying to focus on some of the more successful ventures you had (maybe more courses?) and try to utilize your existing skills. Even if you stick with the constant experimentation, I’ll probably benefit from it more than you…..
    As for me and better off then last year – hell yeah! Last December I had a tired pissed off heavily pregnant wife, demanding job and nothing but dreams of freedom. Now I have a great child, happy wife, 2 active sites and a job that is nothing but a time filler for now as we are planning to move countries. I guess 2015 is all about making it all better, bigger and more effective.
    Have a great year.

  10. Hey Nick ! This is great. Thank you for being so transparent. As I was reading and you said in December 2013 who had a little over 200 readers for your blog a day, I was thinking “whoa, I’d love to have even half of that !!” LOL.

    I have been following you and trying to model your success. You are an inspiration and I look forward to growing alongside you in 2015.

    • Thanks Gertrude — it’s definitely a marathon! The consistency is a challenge; especially when it’s hard to pinpoint a direct ROI to the big time commitment in creating content.

  11. Thanks Nick this is possibly one of the most interesting posts I have read in a while, for two reasons first of I picked up on your 500 words a day challenge and was surprised you had kept to it “producing new content is not my thing” For me that’s a whole lot of content. Your post demonstrates quite clearly that creating all this new content worked very well! The second thing was asking us to do an annual evaluation. I haven’t done one since 2009 after that it has been all downhill, I kinda knew that I had probably bottomed out a few months back. So I did do one and it ain’t pretty :-) Knowing content is the key I’m following your plan for 2015 200 words a day I picked this # for a reason I’m not a writer and I feel I can easily add 200 words a day to my existing content. I also know that this would drastically improve my sites and income. Thanks!

    • I’ve got to butt in here. Neale, you are a writer, buddy! What you wrote there was top notch!

      Interesting to hear your take on Nick’s great post. And, do the annual evaluation, you’ll be surprised how much it subconsciously helps you. :)

      You can do it!

  12. Sounds like you had an impressive 2014. Congrats on all of your successes and lessons learned.

    Trapped in a mall, eh? That’s a weird one. :)

    I’m looking forward to seeing you continue to kick ass in 2015. Keep it up!

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