Mid-Year Progress Report – 2015

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

Yikes, the year is already half over!

This is the second installment of my quarterly progress reports. If you want to check out the first one from April, you can do so here.

Why “progress”? 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.

As you’ll see, it’s a cumulative, iterative process we can work on week in and week out.

Growth of the Nation

There are 3 main metrics I track: website traffic, podcast downloads, and email subscribers. The latter is the most important.

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.”

Traffic Growth

Side Hustle Nation earned a little over 1300 visits a day during the second quarter of 2015. Traffic was pretty consistent throughout the quarter, but was more than 3x higher than it was during the same time period last year.

q2 2015 traffic growth

The tallest point on the graph was on May 21st, when my episode with Lise Cartwright was released. Some strong Facebook traffic that day combined with clicks from my newsletter to create a record traffic day.

Podcast Growth

The Side Hustle Show continues to be an excellent growth engine, averaging just over 2000 downloads per day in Q2. For comparison, I was only seeing 295 downloads per day this time period last year.

Q2 2015 podcast growth

Unlike the website traffic, the show is seeing a slow and steady upward climb so far this year. The weekly spikes are generally on Thursdays when new episodes are released.

A couple interesting points on this chart are the big wave in the middle. That was due to my early May appearance on Entrepreneur on Fire, a very popular business podcast. The growth in listeners has fallen off since then, but the new episode spikes are still much higher than they were before that show aired.

And then in June I hit nearly 5500 downloads in a single day, but it was on a random Wednesday when no new episode was released. Unfortunately podcast analytics aren’t that great so I really have no idea where those downloads were coming from. Still, I’ll take it!

Subscriber Growth

I added around 40 net new subscribers each day in the first quarter. Unfortunately I can’t get the AWeber data to compare to the prior year, but suffice to say it’s accelerated quite a bit from 2014.

Q2 2015 subscriber growth

What’s the secret sauce? Last year I had two lead magnets. Now I have close to 50.

What I Shipped

I worked on a bunch of different projects the last 3 months. Here they are in no particular order.

19 Podcast Episodes

The most popular ones were:

15 Blog Posts

I’ve found myself doing more batch-processing with my blogging lately. Like knocking out 3 or 4 posts within a few days and scheduling them out over the course of the month. In fact, I’ve got my editorial calendar mapped out several weeks in advance which feels great.

With blogging, there’s a constant pressure to post, but I actually think the process of sticking to a schedule is really helpful for the creative process. And hey, if you really can’t come up with something it’s not the end of the world either.

Here are the most popular articles from Q2 on Side Hustle Nation:

One interesting/important note is that NONE of those articles were in the Top 20 of most highly trafficked pages on SHN during the quarter. That’s the power of writing a ton of content over time and having it indexed in the search engines.

Not everything you write has to be a viral hit, but it can serve you for months or years down the road. For example, the most popular post of the quarter in terms of traffic was actually a brief post from 2011 (2 years pre-SHN) on “What Makes SmartWater Smart?

The 15 blog posts figure does not include posts I wrote for other sites, but I was slacking and actually didn’t have any guest posts for the quarter.

An Updated Edition of Work Smarter

On May 11th, I re-released the Work Smarter book, which has been my bestselling Kindle title to date. The updated edition was beefed up to include more than 500 unique resources named by over 800 entrepreneurs. It’s a beast!

work smarter cover 300

The re-launch generated over 4700 downloads but the residual sales have been disappointing compared to last year.

Still, it’s an important part of self-publishing catalog and may pivot the concept to other book ideas in the future.

A New Volume of The Side Hustle Path

Last quarter I introduced The Side Hustle Path series on Amazon, and I added to it last month with Volume 3.

The Side Hustle Path V3 cover_300

This series serves a few purposes:

  1. It allows me to re-purpose my podcast content to book form and potentially reach new people through Amazon.
  2. It allows me to test out new strategies, such as giving the first book away permafree. (I’ve given away more than 10,000 copies so far; click here to check out my permafree strategy and results.)
  3. It allows me to continue to build out my author portfolio. Each new title adds to my discoverability in Amazon and can turn into a brand-building and passive income asset.

A New Fiverr Gig

Last year I talked about my results as a Fiverr seller, and how I wanted to grow the business, but so far, the opposite has happened.

I’ve had my main gigs paused much of the time to focus on other projects, but may resume them shortly.

The one gig I added was a massive list of blog post ideas. (Purposely not linking it here.) It took a while to research and compile (Fancy Hands helped), and it’s slowly making a few sales and collecting reviews.

I have a few more gig ideas I’d like to test out, because I still feel like there’s a great opportunity on the site. In fact, with their custom quote feature, you can now sell services up to $10,000.

My First Amazon FBA Sales

I’ve spent more time shopping in the past month than I have probably in the last 10 years of my life combined. The reason is I’ve started a new experiment called clearance arbitrage that involves finding cheap items locally (like at Walmart), and reselling them online.

Check out my full post for where I’ve been hunting, what I bought, and what’s sold so far.

11 Ways I Earned Money This Quarter

1. Affiliate Marketing. This is essentially helping other businesses sell their product or service online, and I do this both through Side Hustle Nation and other sites.

2. Online Courses. I’ve been averaging around $500 a month between Udemy and Skillshare lately. Here’s my full breakdown on my Udemy course launch.

3. Self-Publishing. My Amazon books haven’t been setting any bestseller records this year, but this channel still provides a steady stream of semi-passive income.

4. Fiverr. The Fiverr business is down compared with last year (when they put my mug on the homepage), but I’m trying to transition to a portfolio of non-labor-intensive gigs.

5. Freelancing. I got paid this quarter both a freelance writer and as an editor. I’m not talking about huge bucks here but every little bit counts.

6. Peer-to-Peer Lending. I consider my experiment with Prosper more of an investment than a side hustle, but it is automated and spins off cash each month (which I reinvest). Over the 4.5 years I’ve had my account, I’m earning 11.6% and have averaged around $230/mo in cash flow this year.

7. Sponsored Content. Occasionally you might see sponsored posts on Side Hustle Nation. These are typically written and vetted by me, and I have to turn down the VAST majority of requests I get, but I’m not above accepting money for my writing every now and then. If you have a blog, check out my post on how sponsored posts work and how you can get started.

8. Amazon FBA. This is the latest addition to my hustle-repertoire, but I’m excited about where it can go. I’m following along with the process Will Mitchell from StartupBros laid out during our podcast episode and during our free webinar to see if I can experiment with selling some physical products.

One thing to note on this business is while I have received payment for my first batch of Amazon orders, I’m still cash flow negative because of all the other inventory I’ve purchased that hasn’t sold yet.

9. Clarity.fm. Clarity is a pay-by-the-minute consulting platform, where you can connect with experts in whatever field you need help in. It’s actually pretty fun and because both parties know the clock is ticking, the conversations are pretty high-value. I had a similar number of calls this quarter as last quarter, and currently have my rate set to $100/hour.

10. Mastermind Hosting. The Side Hustle Nation Inner Circle Mastermind has expanded to two groups this quarter, and this is one of my favorite parts of the week. One thing that’s exciting now is watching some of the mastermind members turn around and apply the same model as a revenue stream to their businesses!

11. Private Coaching and Consulting. This portion of the business grew at a decent clip in Q2, and I think it will probably continue to follow the overall growth of the site. The “public coaching” episodes of The Side Hustle Show have probably helped as well. They don’t always get as many listeners as the regular episodes, but those who do listen seem to be really engaged and provide great feedback.

What I Read

As I’m glancing back through my Kindle app, I’m realizing I kind of fell off the reading wagon this quarter. It’s entirely filled with books from friends, which is awesome to see, but normally I’d have some other titles in there too.

Two books I did read that are worth mentioning:

  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You.  This was a gift from Paul Middlebrooks of Entrepreneurs in Training. My interpretation of it was rather than pursue a “passion,” if you want to make money, get really really good at a certain skill. And like Nick Reese explained in our podcast last year, passion can come from the journey to mastery.
  • Authority. I’ve had this quick read by Nathan Barry sitting on the shelf for over a year, but it’s all about self-publishing and selling books directly through your own site, NOT through Amazon. Definitely some good takeaways in here, especially about priming our audience for a launch and creating a sales page that converts.

I just visited the library this morning and had a Good Will Hunting moment (skip to 3:15) as I paid my $4 in late fees. While I was there, I picked up 80/20 Sales and Marketing (recommended by Chandler Bolt and Steve Scott) and The 12 Week Year (recommended by Scott Britton and Mark Podolsky).

Haha maybe that will be my new rule — wait until I hear two recommendations for a book before reading it :)

What’s on your reading list? Any recommendations?

By the way, if you want a quick primer on tons of cool books, check out Alex Barker’s 66 Day Experiment podcast. He’s becoming my daily Cliff’s Notes.

Some Fun Biz / Lifestyle Stuff That Happened This Quarter

fincon meetup at nmx

(Photo credit Tom Drake)

  • Mom and Dad came to visit.

mom and dad came to visit

  • We visited friends in Washington, DC. (And hosted a fun SHN dinner meetup!)

dc area shn meetup

Want to get notified of a meetup near you? I’ve got a few more trips coming up this year (Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta?, Seattle?). Be sure to jump on my email list to get updates.

  • I was in a ballet.

that time i was in a ballet

  • I went 48 hours away from email for the first time in probably a decade.
  • I attended the FunnyBizz conference in San Francisco.
  • I walked 20 miles at the local annual Relay for Life.

Goal Tracking

At the beginning of the year I set goals following a 10/100/1000/10,000 pattern:

  • 10,000 active subscribers
  • 1000 “true fans”
  • 100 customers
  • 10 clients

And in the original post I described how I was going to define and measure those.

Subscribers

Earning 40 net new subscribers a day, I’m feeling good about this one. Using the metric I set up (at least one message opened in the last month), I’m slightly ahead of pace to reach 10,000 by the end of the year.

Fans

This one is harder to measure, but I believe experiments like my personal email outreach to people who fill out my welcome survey and the SH Nation Facebook group (now with over 800 members!) are having a positive impact on this.

I need a better system to track the happy emails and tweets I get.

Customers

I said a customer was anyone who spends $50 or more with me, and I’m around 80 unique customers so far this year. These are across a broad ranges of hustles, including freelancing clients, affiliate partners, advertisers, coaching clients, and mastermind members.

So in pretty good shape on this one, and might have to raise it up to a $100 threshold. Though for full-disclosure I’m “rounding up” for several people who booked a $49 strategy session at the moment. :)

Clients

I defined a client as someone spending $1000 or more with me. I’m sitting at 5 so far, so I’m on track. These are primarily affiliate partners, but by the end of the year could include long-term coaching clients and other advertising partners.

What’s Next?

Keep calm and hustle on!

Gonna keep learning more about the Amazon physical product business, plus have another couple book ideas that may turn into reality. There’s another service business idea and an affiliate site kicking around in my head as well …

Stay tuned!

Lots of travel coming up this summer too, including Podcast Movement and FinCon. Will I see you there?

What’s on the top of your agenda for this quarter?

6 thoughts on “Mid-Year Progress Report – 2015”

  1. Thanks for this post, Nick! As I start to move forward with my online work, I will put some of these methods of measuring progress in place. Can you elaborate a bit on how much time you spend on each income stream weekly or monthly? Time management and finding balance in all my different projects is still pretty challenging. Congrats on a very fulfilling quarter, and I’ll see you in person at FinCon!

    • Sounds like an invite to begin another time tracking experiment. I’ve started and stopped a couple trials recently because I switch tasks and projects so often during the day it was hard to measure when one stopped and another began, especially in my one centralized inbox. But I’ll give it a shot and definitely looking forward to hanging out in Charlotte!

  2. Cool report. What great metrics you are using to determine your success. I am really enjoying the income-less reports and more focused on the fact that your earning fans, traffic and leads. Very cool. Two questions for you:

    1. I have noticed that my Google analytics for some of my niche sites is plagued by spam sites hard, almost to the point where the analytics is useless on some days. What tactics do you use to sort REAL customers form the SPAM that can gather from being part of so many search engine links.

    2. Work Harder book. I purchased the original 300 ideas for your work harder so naturally when you came out with 500, I jumped for joy and was ready to see the updated. When I tried to purchase from Amazon they told me I had already purchased it and I needed to update. Followed the instructions and the damn thing is still 300 ideas, it won’t update. Weird thing is the book shows the new cover and all but when I open it up, it goes back to the old 300 cover and the same content form the past. Any ideas as to why that is happening or would you recommend calling Amazon?

    Thanks!
    Patrick

    • Hey Patrick,

      Thanks for the note.

      Reg. spam in Google Analytics, sorry I’m not really sure what you mean. I find that in general GA does a good job of filtering out bogus/non-human and bot traffic. I guess I wouldn’t stress too much about the reports if they’re giving you problems, but instead focus on the truly trackable metrics like dollars in your bank account :)

      Reg. the book, to this point Amazon has been less-than-cooperative toward my requests of pushing out an updated version to all customers who bought last year. I’ve received two seemingly-conflicting bits of info from Amazon on this issue:

      “However, customers can always download the updates from their Manage Your Kindle page at any time, and you’re always welcome to update your book.”

      and

      “Customers can always download the updates from their Manage Your Kindle page at any time.”

      AND:

      “In order to receive the updates made for Kindle books, customers have to contact our Kindle Customer Service directly.”

      Really sorry for the trouble there, and I’m sending you an email with the updated copy right now.

      • Hey Nick,

        Thanks for the email update. I appreciate it.

        On the analytics front. I get a lot of traffic from other countries who are trying to push a product or website. I am not sure if you are aware but there is a number of people who ping a website over and over again so that when you look at your analytics you’ll see there website come up in the results.

        For example go to your analytics: Click Acquisition go to overview and click referrals you’ll s ee a host of websites that send traffic to Side Hustle Nation. A majority of these on most of my niche sites are sample such as:
        Share-buttons.com
        www4.free-social-buttons.com

        etc. The most upsetting part is how much of this traffic accounts for your total website traffic. I am almost sure that Side Hustle Nation gets spammed, it’s almost a given that these bots roam the Internets and then screw up our analytics but pinging your website over and over so that you say…OH blah buttons is writing about me or sending me traffic but they aren’t…it’s a bot pinging your website over and over again.

        But I agree the bank account is a strong metric to follow! :)

        • Weird. I’m sure I get my fair share of spam traffic (and dozens of spam comments every day to prove it), but nothing fishy like that in my top 10 referral sources:

          SHN referral sources

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