Quarterly Progress Report – Q2 2019

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Progress 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 5900 visits a day during Q2. That’s down slightly from Q1, and approximately equal to the same period from 2018.

q2 2019 traffic growth

The biggest spike on the chart coincided with publishing this monster 7000-word post on passive income. It was a ton of fun to write and hopefully can be a pillar piece of content for years.

Even though there’s no “hockey stick” growth to report here, one bright spot is an increase in search traffic in June. Organic traffic was up 13% in June compared with May.

Podcast download growth:

The Side Hustle Show received nearly 10,200 downloads a day in Q2. That’s up about 7% from last quarter, but up over 60% from the Q2 last year.

q2 2019 podcast download growth

The show remains my primary content focus. It’s a fun creative challenge to keep coming up with new episode ideas.

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.

(Removing the Sumo plugin, 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.

q2 2019 email list growth

As with last quarter, the list was actually flat for the entire quarter, right around 68,000 subscribers. I’ve been at or near this plateau for quite a while.

Open rates were typically between 23-30%. I’d love to hit 30% consistently!

Best performing subject line:70 passive income ideas” – 31.6% 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

Updating The Side Hustle Book

Like I mentioned last quarter, updating my permafree book was a big focus of mine.

Why? If someone is searching “side hustle” on Amazon, I think they should know about Side Hustle Nation!

And I want to be able to reach them–and hopefully impress them–with as little friction as possible.

In late April, the new version of the book launched in Kindle and paperback editions.

Before the updates, this book was getting downloaded around 10 times a day:

daily downloads old free book

After the update, it’s averaging 41 downloads per day — a 4x increase!

downloads per day free book on amazon

Then, in late June, the audiobook was finally approved. You can get it free with a trial membership of Audible. Check out this bonus episode of The Side Hustle Show for an extended sample of what’s inside.

Even though this project took a lot longer than I originally anticipated, I’m happy with the results so far and am confident the book can be an important asset to the business for a long time.

For More on This Strategy: Lead Generation on Amazon: How to Reach New Qualified Prospects on Autopilot

As part of this project, I also unpublished the rest of the original Side Hustle Path series on Amazon. This was a series of 4 books, beginning with the permafree title I replaced. All were based on 2014-2015 podcast episodes, but never drove a huge volume of sales.

By taking them down, my theory is I can drive more people to the right titles in the portfolio. It was a little weird to remove digital products for sale, but I’d much prefer people just discover this new edition.

I also tried to create an AMS campaign for the new book (Amazon Marketing Services). Unfortunately my ads keep getting rejected for an “unsubstantiated marketing claim.”

When I pressed the support department for what they were talking about, they suggested changing the subtitle. Apparently they want 3rd party proof of “How to Turn Your Spare Time into $1000 a Month or More.”

I’m trying to explain this claim is based on over 300 interviews with real people, not some random theory. Frustrating.

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.

Here’s my basic plan:

  • June: Outline Content
  • July: Pre-sale and film content
  • August: Beta Testers feedback and updates
  • Late August / September: Broader Launch

The topic I’m tackling for this first course is a Side Hustle Quick Start Challenge — aimed at helping people generate an idea and begin taking action. If you want to be the first to hear about the launch, be sure to join the interest list here.

Hiring an Executive Assistant / Content Manager

Although I’ve hired and worked with lots of virtual team members over the years, I’ve never had a true “right hand person” or executive assistant.

I’m still not sure how exactly to define the role I have in mind, but I did collect 50+ applications and have been doing preliminary interviews with the top candidates.

I think this is an important step in getting out of my own way and continuing to grow the business.

15 Blog Posts

It was a productive quarter in terms of content creation. These were the most popular posts from the quarter:

Common themes? Apparently list posts are still really effective.

Of the 15 posts:

  • 3 and a half were guest posts or ghost written
  • 4 were updates of older content
  • Most important: 11 are ranking on the first page of Google for their primary keywords.

I think that’s one reason for the improved search traffic in June. And it’s super rewarding to put in the work on these posts and have them rank pretty quickly!

16 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:

One fun thing to experiment with this quarter was publishing 3 different “bonus” episodes. For a couple of those, I borrowed content from the new Side Hustle book.

All 3 of those are over 35,000 downloads apiece already!

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

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.

For the sake of comparison, here’s what the first 6 months of The Side Hustle Show looked like:

first 6 months of the side hustle show

New Mastermind Group

One of my mastermind groups disbanded earlier this year, so after a little break, I set out to recruit a new one.

The fun part? It’s entirely made of up Side Hustle Show guests and almost everyone has multiple kids under 5.

We’re only a couple months into it at this point, but hopefully has some staying power.

Moving from IFTTT to Zapier

IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a cool free tool to help connect different online tools and apps. For example, if you publish a new blog post, IFTTT can automatically tweet it out for you, or add it to your Buffer.

I had several “applets” like this set up to automate different aspects of my business, but frustratingly they stopped working consistently this quarter.

And since the service is free, there really isn’t any support for it. Nor can you really complain :)

But troubleshooting this stuff and wondering if an automation had fired or not was becoming a time suck. So I transitioned many of my most important automations over to Zapier. ($20/month, paid annually)

“Zapier makes you happier,” is the tagline. And so far so good — it’s been super reliable and was pretty straightforward to set up.

What can you automate? Many of my recipes involve files related to the podcast and notifying different team members something is ready for their part of the process.

my zapier zaps

Are you a Zapier pro? I’m curious what types of zaps you have set up and what else I could be doing with this tool!

Cool Biz / Lifestyle Stuff that Happened

20th Anniversary

In April, Bryn and I celebrated 20 years together! Having such a long-term supportive partner has been a huge unfair advantage.

Also, she hasn’t aged a day! Me on the other hand… good move locking that down early :)

For our date night, we saw Hamilton in SF for the second time.

Little Hustler #2 turned 1

He’s very curious, active, and becoming a little more opinionated :)

But he’s still a great snuggler and thinks big brother is the coolest. He understands a lot of what we’re saying but doesn’t have many words of his own yet.

My fave? “No!” with an aggressive head shake.

And those Mariners? Man they started off so hot!

Hawaii

At the end of April, we went to Oahu for Bryn’s cousin’s wedding. Both boys LOVED the water!

And it was also awesome to connect with the local chapter of Side Hustle Nation in Honolulu:

Mexico

Both boys were out of daycare at the end of May, and I had some hotel points burning a hole in my pocket, so we booked a quick trip to Cabo.

We reasoned we’d be happier with a change of scenery. The only drama related to this trip was a bout of stomach flu that afflicted everyone but momma the week before. Thankfully we made it and no one barfed en route!

Some good family pool time and maybe even a little practicing my gringo espanol.

Now it’s back to work without a ton of travel this summer. We’ve got just another week off in August and I think that’s it until FinCon in early September.

What I Read

Happier Human – I enjoyed this one, the latest from Steve Scott, as it presented a big list of science-backed ways to improve your day-to-day satisfaction.

Cheaper, Easier, Direct – I picked this one up after meeting author Chad Rubin earlier this year. I liked it enough to invite Chad on the show.

12 Rules for Life – This was Side Hustle Nation’s #1 book recommendation from 2018. I found it interesting but super dense. There was a lot of skimming happening for me, and I’m not sure I made it through all 12 rules.

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work – This is more geared toward larger organizations, but was still an interesting look at how Basecamp approaches projects and employee relationships.

Beyond Satisfaction  This book specifically focuses on creating awesome customer experiences and results from your online course. It was recommended by Jaime Masters when she found out I was finally making a course of my own.

Big Podcast  I haven’t quite finished this one from David Hooper yet, but am enjoying it so far. Worth a read if you’re considering getting into the podcast game, or think your current podcast could be performing better. (And there’s always room for improvement!)

Your Turn

How’d the last quarter shape up for you?

How are you tracking toward your goals?

3 thoughts on “Quarterly Progress Report – Q2 2019”

  1. Hi Nick. Great post. I am also in need of an executive assistant. I’m wondering if you are looking for someone local so you can have face time? Why didn’t the VA thing work for you? I am leaning toward local. I like the idea of in person training.
    Thanks!

  2. Hey Nick,

    I don’t know if it’s too late, but maybe you could change your tagline from “How to Turn Your Spare Time into $1000 a Month or More” to “How 300+ People Turned Their Spare Time into $1000 a Month or More.” Maybe then you could qualify for AMS?

    Anyway, I love these updates, and your kids (and wife) are so dang adorable!

    With gratitude,
    Jules

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