Q3 2019 Progress Report

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

teachable challengeProgress report time!

(It’s a tradition on the blog.)

Why Progress?

So why a “progress” report? Because that’s what it’s all about.

To me, progress means forward motion, or actively taking the steps to improve each day. It’s one thing we can control.

Progress is universal; everyone can make progress toward their goals in some meaningful way, however small the steps may seem.

In fact, I’ve even got a physical productivity journal called The Progress Journal.

It centers on 5 key habits I’ve found make me feel more effective and happier when I do them consistently. You can learn more about the journal and what’s inside here:

5 Ways to Be More Effective Every Day – In Just 5 Minutes

Growth of the Nation

There are 3 main metrics I track:

  1. Website traffic
  2. Podcast downloads
  3. Email subscribers

Twitter followers and Facebook likes are great, but these are the numbers I pay the most attention to. And like the great Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.”

Blog traffic growth:

Side Hustle Nation earned around 6500 visits a day during Q3. That’s up about 10% compared with Q2.

q3 2019 traffic growth

Traffic was pretty consistent throughout the quarter without any major spikes or troughs.

Even though there’s no “hockey stick” growth to report here, one bright spot is an increase in search traffic. Organic traffic was up 16% in Q3 compared with Q2, so it’s nice to see some of that SEO focus paying off.

Podcast download growth:

The Side Hustle Show received nearly 10,000 downloads a day in Q3! That compares pretty nicely to last quarter, considering I released 3 fewer episodes.

q3 2019 podcast growth

The show remains my primary content focus. It’s a fun creative challenge to keep coming up with new episode ideas. I’m happy to see a nice little upward trend there in September.

Compared to last year, the show was up 22% for the quarter.

We’re closing in on 10 million lifetime downloads!

Email list growth:

Historically I’ve considered this my most important metric, but I’ve kind of backed off that. I’ve made some strategy shifts on the site to de-prioritize email capture a little bit.

(For instance: removing popups, making fewer content upgrades for the podcast.)

Of course, I still want your email–there’s tremendous value in being able to reach people in their inbox–but I want people to want to get email from me.

I want to earn it, perhaps moreso than I did in the past, if that makes sense.

email list growth q3 2019

Because I continue to delete inactive subscribers (people who haven’t opened an email in 6 months), there’s a little bit of 2-steps forward, 1-step back here.

I’ve actually been stuck at or near this 70,000 subscriber plateau for a couple years. One encouraging tidbit is the pace of growth this quarter compared to last seemed to have ticked up a bit; adding a net of 10 new subscribers per day as opposed to 5.

(If those numbers seem really low, they are. I actually add around 100 people a day to the list, but those are offset by removing inactive old subscribers.)

Open rates were typically between 25-30%. I’d love to hit 30% consistently!

Best performing subject line:Paid to breathe” – 28.4% open rate.

These numbers are from my email service provider, ActiveCampaign. You can read my full ActiveCampaign review and check out my video demo here.

What I’ve Been Working On

The Teachable Creator Challenge: Building an Online Course of My Own

I joined Teachable’s Creator Challenge to create and launch an online course of my own this summer.

In June, I outlined all the content which put me in a good place to finish and launch the course by the end of August.

The course is The Side Hustle Quick Start Challenge — aimed at helping people generate a service business idea and make their first sales. Want to be the first to hear about it when it re-opens? Sign up here.

quick start challenge cover image

In July, I recruited 20 students at a special pre-sale price. Then I added 14 more in September with another limited launch.

I’m working with these groups to make any necessary updates and improvements to the material and structure.

Hiring an Executive Assistant / Content Manager

After collecting 50+ applications, and going through some interviews and trial tasks, I still haven’t made a hire. In retrospect, I think the pain of inaction isn’t so urgent.

I need to really define the role I have in mind and the qualities in the best-fit candidate.

In the meantime, still running super lean.

9 Blog Posts

It was a pretty light quarter in terms of creating written content. These were the most popular posts from the quarter:

Of the 9 posts:

  • 3 were guest posts or ghost written
  • 3 were updates of older content
  • Most important: 4 are ranking on the first page of Google for their primary keywords.

It’s super rewarding to put in the work on these posts and have them rank pretty quickly!

13 Podcast Episodes

My main focus has been on The Side Hustle Show, trying to create great radio and get better as a host every week.

The most popular episodes of the quarter were:

There was a fun mix of content, including:

Is there a particular topic you’d like to hear on an upcoming episode?

Let me know in the comments below!

My Alexa Skill: The Money Making Minute

The good news: The Money Making Minute Alexa flash briefing skill continues to grow a larger audience every week.

alexa skill growth q3 2019

The bad news: I worry about running out of content and am not sure this yet justifies the time it takes to produce.

Even though I can batch a ton of “minutes” at once, it’s still a big effort to script, record, edit, and schedule these. I’m trying to take the stance that this is a long-term play, and that getting in on the ground floor of this new media channel will have some benefits down the road.

After all, if I’d pulled the plug on the podcast after just a few months, it would’ve been a huge mistake!

Do you have a money-making idea or tactic to share?

Hit me up with 150-200 words and I’ll get it going.

New Side Hustle Nation T-Shirts Designed

I wanted to get some new shirts made, so turned to the community for input on what should be on them:

t-shirt poll

“Make something happen,” the positive, proactive tagline from the end of nearly every Side Hustle Show episode was the winner.

I then put the word out for a design contest inside the group but was pretty vague about the prize money and didn’t get many submissions.

So I turned to DesignCrowd, and got tons of options to choose from. Inspired by shirts from Thomas Frank, ConvertKit, Teachable, and others, I went with this one:

make something happen shirt

And then came the fun part. Trying to figure out the best place to print and ship them from!

Dropshipping on Etsy

I’ll admit it. I’ve become a bit of a t-shirt snob.

And my favorite shirts are Next Level Triblend. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anyone to make these print-on-demand with no minimums.

If you have a lead on a source for these, definitely let me know!

So I went with the next best thing, a Bella+Canvas Triblend. And I was really excited to learn I could set up my own customer-facing shop for these on Etsy:

my new etsy shop

Why not Merch by Amazon? I may put the design over there at some point, but even their “premium” shirts aren’t this nice.

I set this up with a platform called Gooten, which actually has all sorts of products/sizes/colors available. As you create them, you can push them to your Etsy store.

When someone orders, Etsy automatically sends the order to Gooten, which prints and ships out your product to the customer. That’s a really cool inventory-less e-commerce system!

As the seller, you just make the spread between your price (minus Etsy fees) and the product cost + shipping. At the $24 price point, I make $5-6 a shirt.

I can definitely see myself expanding this shop and playing around with this platform more in the future.

Working on the Side Hustle Nation Facebook Group

I made a couple changes to the group this summer. First, I changed the name of the group from SH Nation to Side Hustle Nation.

I’d originally “obscured” the “side hustle” part in case people were afraid of employer backlash for joining a side hustle FB group.

There were a couple reasons for the change. The first was to make it obvious this was THE official group for Side Hustle Nation. (At least one other group had popped up using that same name.)

The second was to test out Facebook’s group search as a potential discovery channel for new readers/listeners/followers/fans. Now if people search “side hustle” on FB, they group will show up.

The change does seem to have sparked some accelerated membership growth:

changed fb group name

That’s brought some new challenges in keeping the spam, recruiting, and self-promotion in check. Huge thank you to all the volunteer moderators!

If you want to help out, let me know!

The other change I made to the group was adding questions for new members to fill in when they request to join. The questions I added were whether or not you’re subscribed to the podcast and email list.

I’ll probably change those up (they’re admittedly a little self-serving), but it was part of my experiment to see if it could drive downloads and email sign-ups.

While I am starting to see some podcast download growth again, I have no evidence it’s coming from the group. There’s also no measurable correlation on email list sign-ups:

fb group to email list

The real way to test would be to create a specific landing page / opt-in form that was only for the group. Maybe that’s the next experiment!

Mini Content Audit

I removed another 10% worth of the content on the site–mostly old, outdated stuff that wasn’t getting any traffic.

I do this periodically to help improve the overall quality of the site and to see if that makes any impact on search rankings and how Google perceives the site’s authority.

Probably too early to tell if it’s working, but all in the name of building a better SEO foundation.

Adding a Table of Contents

Hat tip to Robert Farrington for this one, but I added a Table of Contents to most of my posts and am already seeing those links show up in search results:

table of contents links in google

Those links in the box are pulled directly from the table of contents on this post. I’d coded ToCs manually for long articles before, but never saw them in the SERPs like this.

For long content, this can improve the user experience as well, since users can just skip right to the section they’re most interested in.

There are lots of options out there but I used the free Easy Table of Contents plugin. It worked as advertised.

Adding Tags and Playlists to YouTube

I sat in on several YouTube sessions at FinCon last month, and I’m excited about playing around more with my channel on that platform.

I took action on a couple ideas already.

The first was adding more tags to my most popular videos. Apparently these can help your videos show up as related and recommended content.

You can use the free TubeBuddy extension to see what tags the most popular videos on your topic are already using and just copy or modify those.

The other thing I did was add 3 “playlists” to feature on my channel homepage. I’d always seen these on other channels but never sat down to make them myself.

It’s still pretty bare-bones at the moment, but I created playlists for:

youtube playlists

Even though the views are down vs. last month, the revenue is up. This is the first time it’s ever been over $200 for the last 28 days, which is exciting!

youtube channel experiments

(I’m not too stressed about the view count being off since I published a video in August but not in September.)

Cool Biz / Lifestyle Stuff that Happened

I Celebrated 11 Years of Self-Employment

Every year that goes by builds more confidence I’m not going to have to go back!

Visiting the Fam

In August, we visited family in Washington. There was lots of swimming, blueberry picking, and seeing friends and family.

We even played tourist a little bit and took a seaplane ride!

Here’s the local branch of Side Hustle Nation:

bellevue meetup 2019

I Spoke at FinCon

This was my 5th FinCon, a financial media conference that’s become my favorite event of the year. I’ve been working through my homework ever since I got back.

I also broke my own rule of not seeking out any speaking gigs–and got back up on the stage to share “10 FinCon breakthroughs that tripled my business.”

speaking at fincon 2019

A podcast version of that talk will be available soon.

We had a great turnout for a local Side Hustle Nation meetup in DC as well. Thanks to everyone who came out!

A Year — and 750 Miles — of E-Biking

And while we’ve started to take a few family bike rides, most of those miles are strictly for transportation. That means that’s 750 miles that didn’t go on my car!

The exception:

full fam bike ride

We typically ride to school every morning and I’ll take it downtown once a week for yoga and coffeeshop time.

Great to be outside, getting fresh air, and not burning gas.

Huskies Road Trip

Some college friends and I saw the Huskies blow out BYU in Provo. Did you know they give ice cream to the out of town fans? I thought that was pretty cool.

Then I held a joint meetup with the local ChooseFI crew on Sunday.

SLC meetup 2019

What I Read

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – I missed Ramit’s first edition 10 years ago, so picked up this updated version. It actually wasn’t what I expected (I figured it would have been more business/entrepreneurship-focused), but was a good personal finance overview for young professionals.

My highlights:

  • “It’s a lot more fun to be the captain of my own ship, even if I go off course sometimes.”
  • Ramit’s CEO Method: Cut costs, Earn more, and Optimize your existing spending.
  • Three to six months before you ask for a raise, sit down with your boss and ask what it would take to be a top performer at your company. Get crystal clear about what you’d need to deliver. And ask how being a top performer would affect your compensation. On the day you negotiate, come in with your salary, a couple of competitive salaries from salary.com and payscale.com.
  • “Once you’ve won the game, there’s no reason to take unnecessary risk.”

Small Blog, Big Income – I read this in preparation for my interview with Carol Tice.

Bad Blood – I’m a sucker for “business thrillers” lately, and this story of the rise and fall of Theranos was pretty fascinating.

Shoe Dog – This is the inside story of the early days of Nike (started as a side hustle!), as told by founder Phil Knight. It was excellent! I had no idea the company began by importing Onitsuku and spent a decade+ on the brink of insolvency–because they plowed every dollar of cash flow back into more inventory.

My notes:

  • People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and now I reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. You must forget that internal voice screaming, begging, “not one more step!” And when it’s not possible to forget it, you must negotiate with it. I thought over all the races in which my mind wanted one thing, and my body wanted another, those laps in which I’d had to tell my body, Yes, you raise some excellent points, but let’s keep going anyway…”
  • “I wanted what everyone wants. To be me, full-time.” [For context, this quote was from when Phil was splitting time between his day job and his side hustle, the company that would eventually become Nike.]
  • “Life is growth. You grow or you die.” (A counterpoint to my conversation with Paul Jarvis.)
  • “What difference would a few more words make? What difference would a few more hours make?” [Context: his parenting or lack of time with his sons.]
  • “Maybe the cure for any burnout, I thought, is to just work harder.”
  • “I redefined winning, expanded it beyond my original definition of not losing, of merely staying alive.” 
  • “The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”

Seriously, it’s a great story. And that’s me as a Husky fan overlooking all the Oregon Duck love!

Superfans – What can I say? I’m a Pat Flynn Superfan. Have been for years. This book is filled with the exact tactics you can use to convert casual followers to raving fans.

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child – While some of the references in here are dated (the book came out in the late 1990s), I actually found it really helpful in my interactions with my oldest son. And I need all the help I can get!

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool – I skipped a good chunk of this one — 0 to 12 months? It’s too late for us! There were some interesting tidbits for older kids though, especially as it related to screen time and TV. The book attempts to summarize all the research in certain areas and make recommendations, or more often, tell parents to chill out.

The Life You Can Save – I’m still working through this one, but it’s all about effective altruism and our moral obligation to help others. It’s definitely eye-opening and pertinent to conversations we’ve been having around how to best give back. Big thanks to Andrei for the recommendation!

Your Turn

How’d the last quarter shape up for you?

How are you tracking toward your goals?

9 thoughts on “Q3 2019 Progress Report”

  1. Wow the Gooten + Etsy duo for merch, I’ll have to look into that! I’ve been using Amazon Merch but quality isn’t amazing obviously. Also like that you read I Will Teach You To Be Rich – I’ve been recommending that to my younger coworkers fresh out of college which I think is the perfect audience for it.

    This is my first time looking through your progress report and it’s inspiring me to measure progress somehow as well. I think it’d be motivating to compare stats over time as I don’t do that right now.

  2. You are my Tier 3 friend. I can have enough of your thoughts. I wish I met you when I was younger. Even now your brains are heavily accelerating my wisdom personally and as a good parent for my sons. Keep inspiring us!

  3. These quarterly updates are sooo useful. So many golden nuggets.

    Interesting to hear about you trimming your email list.
    Good to hear about the table of content SEO hack.
    A POD fulfilment site that pushes to Etsy I hadn’t heard of (Gooten)
    Even tips on running a first class Facebook group.

    You’re a legend, Mr. Loper!

  4. Nick I want to say hi as someone who signed up to your email list as a result of the questions while joining the facebook group. This was after listening to your podcast for a couple of years now – so it does work!

    I have to say one of the things I really like about you is that you are not spammy. So much of online business is very in your face with pop ups and constant calls to action.

    I get that this stuff must work, but as a Brit it comes across to me as snake oil selling, to the point that I wonder if I could ever be successful online. I love that you stand as an example of engaging in a more friendly way – it always feels that you put opportunities to engage there, but try and make it so that I want to take it – rather than sticking it in my face like so many others do.

    Reading about you pruning your email list really solidified this, and I respect that you want to have people that really want to engage with you.

  5. “It’s a lot more fun to be the captain of my own ship, even if I go off course sometimes.” Amen to that! Thank you for the amazing post, your notes are incredible.

Leave a Comment

Usually Hustling, Occasionally Social