I hope you’re having an awesome start to your year so far.
The first half of 2023 has been filled with exciting new projects, experiments, wins, challenges, and everything in between for Side Hustle Nation.
In this progress report, I want to give you an inside look behind the scenes at what I’ve been working on so far this year. The goal is to provide a transparent view into running this side hustle that’s now over 10 years old.
There’s been some new habit installations, email marketing tests, product launches, podcast experiments, website updates, and more. I’ll share what’s going well, what’s still a work in progress, and what’s on the horizon for the rest of 2023 and beyond.
- What Was That Like — Unreal situations, real people – experience gripping stories on the What Was That Like podcast!
Make Small New Daily Habits for 2023
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I am a fan of installing positive new micro-habits that can stack up over time. So instead of setting huge audacious goals, I decided to focus on just two small daily habits I wanted to build in 2023.
Walk at least one mile per day. This has been surprisingly easy to stick with, thanks in large part to my son’s elementary school being exactly a half mile away. Heading out for a quick lap in the morning or afternoon means I can knock out my daily minimum while also getting some bonus dad points for walking him to or from school.
3-Question Journal. For this one, I ask myself three simple questions before bed:
- What did I get done today? – Allows me to celebrate progress and small wins from the day
- What am I grateful for? – Taps into the scientifically-validated benefits of practicing gratitude
- How will I win tomorrow? – Prompts me to do a quick mental download and get clear on my biggest priorities and goals for the next day
I’ve found this 3 question journaling ritual to be super quick and high leverage. It takes just a couple of minutes but shifts my mindset in a really helpful way as I wind down each day.
I’d experimented with journaling apps and other frameworks over the years, but they never stuck for more than a few weeks. Putting pen to paper in a simple notebook has been the winning formula this time around.
I haven’t missed a day in 2023 so far!
The 3Q Journal
In May, I took the 3 question journal concept and turned it into an actual paperback journal product. I called it The 3-Question Journal and it simply prompts you to answer those same three questions each day.
The goal with 3Q Journal was not to make millions or even cover the costs of creating it. I priced it at $4.99, which is about the minimum price Amazon allows for a paperback.
My hope was that people would grab a copy and build the same simple yet high-leverage daily journaling routine.
You can learn more about 3Q Journal or grab your own copy at 3QJournal.com. I’d love to hear if you find it as useful as I have for reflecting and resetting each evening.
The Side Hustle Show Playlist Quiz
If you’ve listened to the Side Hustle Show podcast, you know I’m always looking for ways to enhance engagement and help match listeners with the most relevant episodes for them.
So back in February, I created a fun podcast playlist generator quiz to do exactly that.
This has generated some great results:
- 4500 quiz starts
- 3300 quiz completions
- 2500 email opt-ins
Here was my thinking:
With over 550 episodes in the archive, I know it can be daunting for new listeners to know where to start. But if I could ask a few short multiple-choice questions about their goals and interests, I could instantly recommend a custom playlist of my best episodes that are most relevant to that person.
For example, maybe you’re most interested in content related to Etsy, social media marketing, or starting a blog. The quiz results will serve up a tailored playlist just for you on those topics.
So how did I actually build this?
The technical backbone is software called Interact.
Within Interact, you can create multiple-choice questions, text questions, image questions, and more. You can also set conditional logic so that the questions change based on previous responses.
The final step is connecting your results to some type of outcome. In this case, I tied each potential results combination to a specific pre-made playlist on Spotify.
Interact integrates directly with ActiveCampaign, which is the email service I use to manage my subscriber list. This allows quiz takers to enter their email address in order to receive their playlist results.
Here’s how it works:
- Go to hustle.show and take the Side Hustle Show Playlist Quiz
- Answer 5-6 multiple-choice questions about your goals and interests
- Enter your email address to view playlist results
- You receive an email with your custom playlist
- I now have a new subscriber who is highly engaged from the start!
Why I Almost Switched Email Service Providers
For the past several years, ActiveCampaign has been my go-to email service provider. It’s where I manage my subscriber list, send broadcasts, run automations, track analytics, and much more.
But I came dangerously close to dropping it for a different provider.
Out of the blue, I received notice that ActiveCampaign would be significantly increasing their pricing due to “inflationary costs.” This came less than three months after I had already crossed a pricing threshold because my list surpassed 100,000 subscribers in December.
I got on the phone with their customer service team to voice my concerns and try to come up with an alternative solution.
We went back and forth for a while, but ultimately settled on this annual prepaid plan at a moderate discount. It wasn’t ideal, but switching services would have taken an enormous amount of work.
So despite my frustrations, the prepaid deal made the most sense at the time. I paid the $7,000+ invoice, hoping that would be the end of it.
Just hours after submitting payment, I got an email from a reader who had taken the Side Hustle Show Playlist Quiz. They asked why their quiz results email showed up completely blank.
I did some investigating and discovered ActiveCampaign had removed a key feature I relied on without any notice.
They eliminated something called “conditional content” which allowed me to selectively display certain text, images, or links within an email based on specific criteria.
Without conditional content, my interactive quiz was totally useless!
Suffice it to say, I was absolutely fuming. It felt like a total bait and switch.
Thankfully, after a few strongly worded messages, they agreed to re-enable that feature on my account. Disaster averted, but a frustrating experience nonetheless.
The Curious Case of 8,516 “Warners”
On occasion, I’d notice 600-800 new subscribers in a day, 10x the normal amount.
Tracing the source, they all came from one opt-in form: the “Newsletter Niches” lead magnet from my interview with Danielle Desir-Corbett about her $1,300/mo newsletter side hustle.
I assumed the episode was driving major traffic, but analytics didn’t show anything unusual those days.
A few weeks later, I noticed new subscribers from that form being added sporadically between my Teachable course enrollments, and every single one had a Yahoo email address and the first name “Warner.”
It means that over the course of months, 8,516 fake “Warners” joined my list and never opened a message!
So I added a CAPTCHA to prevent more Warners in the future. My open and click rates improved with 8,516 dead subscribers off the list.
Ramping Up One-Off Email Campaigns
Earlier this year I was re-reading an excellent book called From 6 to 7 Figures by my friend Austin Netzley.
One of Austin’s core principles is removing yourself as a bottleneck in your business as the owner. Rather than doing everything, you should aim to transition into a leader/manager role instead.
In one of his chapter action items, Austin asks:
“What is the simplest and most direct path to serving your existing audience better?”
The answer was obvious — I needed to get better at selling products and services to my current email subscribers and website visitors.
Growing my traffic and audience is great, but the most direct path to growth was better monetization of my existing audience.
So I made a conscious effort to send more dedicated email campaigns promoting products, services, deals, and offers beyond just my 1-2 times per month newsletter.
I call these “one-off emails” and they’ve become a key part of my promotional strategy this year.
Here are some examples of one-off campaigns I’ve sent:
- A limited-time increased bonus offer for a specific business credit card aimed at entrepreneurs
- An affiliate promo for Sharetown, a company that helps you resell furniture and mattress returns
- An exclusive sale on my Podcast Growth Playbook course after hitting the big 25M lifetime download milestone
It’s a mix of my own offers and affiliate promotions for products/services I believe in.
I don’t have one lined up every week, but so far they’ve been well-received.
BC Stack is an annual bundle promotion of digital products related to blogging, podcasting, and social media.
Dozens of online business owners and bloggers contribute one of their courses or products to a bundle that’s available for a steep discount for a limited time.
There are a few big benefits:
- Buyers get access to tons of amazing products for one low price
- Creators get to build their email list by requiring an opt-in to access the content
- Affiliates like me earn commissions for promoting the deal
I’ve participated in BC Stack as both a customer and an affiliate for the past several years with great results.
This year, the theme of the whole bundle was traffic. I already had created The Traffic Course, but didn’t feel totally comfortable discounting it all the way down to $49, which is the price of BC Stack.
So instead, I pulled one section out of The Traffic Course and created Easy Content Makeover.
This allowed me to retain the value of my core course while creating a new lead magnet product I could use to:
- Promote the BC Stack as an affiliate
- Give buyers their first taste of my teachings
- Start building a testimonial base for this new product
During the 1-week sales period, I was able to generate over $10,000 in revenue.
Beefing Up Content on Side Hustle Nation
This website serves as the online home base for all my work, so keeping the blog updated with fresh content has always been a priority.
This year so far, I’ve published 17 new articles focused specifically on search engine optimization and generating organic traffic.
A few examples are:
These types of evergreen “listicle” articles tend to attract search traffic for years after being published if I target the right keywords.
The combined results so far are:
- 10,000 incremental monthly visits
- An estimated $300 in monthly affiliate revenue
Truthfully, those results aren’t very exciting. Maybe I need to target keywords with more search volume, given the history and authority of the site.
Greatest Hits Episodes
I made it 9 years and 500 episodes before playing a “rerun” episode, but have started mixing in some “greatest hits” from the archives.
These give new listeners a chance to hear some of my favorite (and still relevant) episodes from years ago. And they make my workload a little easier.
I’ve done 5 so far this year, and going forward, plan to air one “greatest hits” episode per month.
In terms of downloads, the performance is indiscernible from the “all new” episodes.
I’m excited to finish up a new children’s book before the end of 2023. It’s based on an imaginary cheetah my son created.
I have the rhyming story written, now just have to tackle illustrations. Hoping to collaborate with a professional artist to bring the story life.
Other plans include:
- Creating more of those SEO side hustle articles
- Redesigning SideHustleNation.com for the first time since 2017
- Shipping 1-2 monthly one-off email promotions
My to-do list is always longer than hours in the day, but that’s a good problem to have. It means there’s no shortage of fun stuff to work on!
How About You?
What’s one new habit you could adopt or project you could start in the next 90 days? Let me know in the comments below.