138: Authority Site Case Study: How an Air Force Flight Surgeon Took His Side Hustle Full-Time

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I first met Ryan Gray at New Media Expo in 2014. He introduced himself and when I asked what he did, he said he was a doctor.

“Really? What brings you here, to this weird little Internet conference?”

Turns out that Dr. Gray was a doctor with a side hustle. He, along with his wife (also a doctor), was building MedicalSchoolHQ.net, a resource for med school and premed students.

It’s another perfect example of building an authority site around a particular area of expertise, much like Matt did with his pool care site.

Since that first meeting, Ryan and I have hung out at several other conferences, most recently Podcast Movement this summer. There I learned that he’d actually turned the website and podcast into a full-time business and quit his Air Force job. (Separated from the military; not retired. I learned there’s an important distinction there.)

Everyone starts with no audience and only the expertise in their head. What could you build in the next couple years?

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  • Ryan’s inspiration for this project and his initial investment.
  • How he gained traffic and exposure for the site leveraging an existing platform.
  • How his podcast added credibility and led to more people discovering the site.
  • Ryan’s original monetization tactics, and how the site earns money today.
  • The technology he uses to run the membership site component of MedicalSchoolHQ.
  • Ryan’s #1 tip for Side Hustle Nation.


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Nick Loper

About the Author

Nick Loper is a side hustle expert who loves helping people earn more money and start businesses they care about. He hosts the award-winning Side Hustle Show, where he's interviewed over 500 successful entrepreneurs, and is the bestselling author of Buy Buttons, The Side Hustle, and $1,000 100 Ways.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Entrepreneur, Forbes, TIME, Newsweek, Business Insider, MSN, Yahoo Finance, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times, Bankrate, Hubspot, Ahrefs, Shopify, Investopedia, VICE, Vox, Mashable, ChooseFI, Bigger Pockets, The Penny Hoarder, GoBankingRates, and more.

5 thoughts on “138: Authority Site Case Study: How an Air Force Flight Surgeon Took His Side Hustle Full-Time”

  1. Another home run Nick. Thanks for introducing Ryan. This episode gives me some ideas on various avenues I can look into as monetization.

    I like that Ryan is providing so much one-on-one mentoring. No doubt this will help to build his tribe. I would be interested in knowing more about his methods for growing to 100,000 pageviews a month.

    • Hi Jon,

      Thanks for the comments!

      The 100k page views has grown over a long period, obviously.

      For a long time my most visited page was one that really had nothing to do with my niche. I wrote a post about writing prescriptions, aimed at helping medical students, but then I decided to focus only on premeds. I found that the majority of people looking at that page were neither.

      I have one page that gets about 35% of my page views – which helps students understand the difference between MD physicians and DO physicians. I have several others that do > 10k views each. I didn’t do any keyword research – I just wrote for my audience.

      If you write it – they will come :)

  2. Hey Nick! Nice show. I like it that it seems Ryan success came down to just doing some work (man, I need to stop playing xbox).

    I may have to give this one a relisten. When a podcast is good and thought provoking, I often start thinking about how I could apply in my own situation and zone out of listening (it’s not a knock, it’s a positive).

    I did have a question for Ryan if he’s lurking around here. You mentioned that you were thinking of scrapping your forum and going to private Facebook group. I’ve been thinking of adding a forum to my site where it would be private either through monthly subscription or part of my one time product (raising its price).

    My feeling is that a forum would be better because it allows for better search and perusal by the members. With a private FB group, it seems that discussions are lost forever once they’re a couple days old (unless the user does a search).

    With a forum, some of the Q&A would be evergreen so a topic discussed today would still be valid for a new member 6 months from now.

    Is your potential switch to FB due to the labor involved in running a forum? I’ve heard they can get out of control.

    One plus I see of FB group is that early on with a small member base, it won’t look like too much of a ghost town as opposed to a beginning forum.

    • Jason,

      With my community – they are on FB. Yes – a forum can include some better abilities to pin things, keep documents and other abilities, but it’s another place for people to check, another sign-in, another “must-do.”

      People are already on FB – the posts pop-up into their feed – it’s easy to respond, easy to interact.

      For my community (and most forums that I’ve seen) – it’s a giant Q&A – and the questions just repeat over and over – with the typical “here’s my EXACT situation” disclaimer. Facebook is perfect for this.

      If you’re finding people are asking some very specific questions that can be answered with an evergreen post – make one – and make sure people know about it. What I’ve found is that my true followers will point people in the right direction.


  3. This just goes to show that if you really stick to your guns and are dedicated to making a QUALITY site, it will pay off in the end. And the pool care guy shows that it doesn’t even matter what the niche is. Most people want to go after the fancy high dollar niches, but you could make a site about pool cleaning and make a killing if you do it well.


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