Quarterly Progress Report – Q3 2016

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For the past couple years, I’ve been doing these quarterly progress reports.

Why go through this exercise?

It’s time to evaluate what happened over the last 3 months, to see if you achieved your goals, and to ask if you’re happier or otherwise better off than you were when you started.

So am I?

Last quarter I wrote about getting more acclimated to life as a parent, returning to a routine, and being able to get back to work. That was in pretty sharp contrast to the first quarter of the year, when the arrival of our little hustler had us feeling more stressed, anxious, and tired, and wondering “why did we do this again?”

My main focus this summer was on a new book project, called Buy Buttons, and inspired by this massive post on all the different “sharing economy” platforms I could find. I’ll share more on the book below, but it’s all about how to take advantage of pre-existing audiences of buyers to start your side hustle, earn extra cash, diversify your income, or kick start a business.

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.

As you’ll see, it’s a cumulative, iterative process we can work on week in and week out. In May, this project turned 3 years old, so you’re looking at over 1000 days of effort here.

Growth of the Nation

There are 3 main metrics I track:

  1. Website traffic
  2. Podcast downloads
  3. 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.”

Blog traffic growth:

Side Hustle Nation earned nearly 4200 visits a day during the third quarter of 2016. That’s 1000 more people per day than last quarter, and almost 3x what it was during the same time period last year.

Traffic was pretty consistent throughout the quarter.


I usually see a little peak on Thursdays when I send out my weekly newsletter, but there were a few other interesting spikes (and one noticeable dip) this quarter.

Last quarter’s piece of “epic content,” 200+ Ways to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time, was syndicated to both Business Insider and MSN, but only MSN drew any noticeable referral traffic.

I wish I could tell you how they discovered the piece, but my best guess is they were paying attention to the posts submitted to GoBankingRates’ Money Games, which ran in conjunction with the Olympics in August, and to which I submitted that post as a gold medal “contestant” for their entrepreneurship category.

Another article I was proud of, “The Side Hustle Snowball: How to ‘Erase’ Your Expenses with Extra Income Streams“, did well after a bump from J. Money‘s Rockstar Finance.

And the tallest traffic spike of the quarter came from a seemingly random explosion in organic search traffic to a post I wrote last year about my first Amazon FBA clearance arbitrage shopping trips.


The ranking of the post in Google didn’t shoot up overnight, but search volume for the keyword “amazon arbitrage” did. My best guess is some high-profile mainstream media coverage sparked a flurry of interest in the topic.

The low point on the chart came on the day I broke my site by trying to switch it to SSL. Turns out that’s not a flip-of-the-switch process and a battle I’ll come back to fight another day.

Podcast download growth:

The Side Hustle Show averaged 4000 downloads per day during Q3, up slightly from 3600 per day during Q2.

For the sake of comparison, Q3 2015 was around 1800 per day, and Q3 2014 was around 500 per day.

A year from now you’ll wish you started today.

Onward and upward!


It was a great quarter for The Side Hustle Show, with July, August, and September all over 120,000 downloads.

And perhaps even more exciting, the show has started to directly pay for itself with sponsorships from companies like Teachable, Freshbooks, and DesignCrowd.

Email list growth:

This is probably the most important metric of all, and it’s looking pretty solid. I added 98 net new subscribers per day in Q3.

This is up from 70 a day last quarter, and I attribute most of that gain to the overall increase in daily site traffic. An extra 28 subscribers a day from that extra 1000 visitors a day is a 2.8% conversion rate.

(The actual subscribe rate is a little higher, but of course I lose people to unsubscribes every day as well.)


In August I saw a bunch of sign-ups from the MSN exposure, but truthfully I attribute most of this growth to the compound effect of a growing body of work and consistently creating content upgrades for the podcast.

I have more than 100 lead magnets on the site now (managed by LeadPages). If you want more people to come to your house, one way to do it is to build more roads to your house.

A full-scale email marketing overhaul is on my to-do list for Q3. I’d like to revisit my autoresponder sequence and see what I can do with smarter segmentation to give readers the most helpful and timely content.

Goal Tracking

My big goal for the quarter was to write and launch the Buy Buttons book. Check!

What I Shipped

Buy Buttons

Buy Buttons was my most ambitious book project to-date, clocking in around 45,000 words (compared with 25,000 for Work Smarter).

I’ll do a full recap and case study on the project later, but I remember outlining it and creating a rough timeline on my flight to Chicago for Podcast Movement in early July.

Because the book ended up being quite a bit longer than I had originally anticipated, my marketing timeline was a little crunched at the end. Still, I wanted to get it out the door before the end of September, and ended up launching on September 26th.

The book has done really well so far, earning the coveted Amazon Bestseller badge, hitting #1 in a few Amazon subcategories, and consistently selling copies post-launch.


Did you get a copy yet?

I’ve been thrilled by the feedback as well:


I know the ratings won’t stay that strong forever, but it’s nice to build up a solid base for sure. If you’ve read the book, of course I’d love if you could take a couple minutes to leave an honest review on Amazon.

Stay tuned for more on the book writing and launch process, and to learn how it’s doing in terms of revenue and expenses.

15 Podcast Episodes

The most popular ones were:

9 Blog Posts

The most popular ones were:

Of those 9 posts, a couple were guest spots.

I’ve dialed back my writing in response to my member survey results, and don’t think it’s hurt too badly in terms of traffic. Instead of being stressed to have something to publish every Monday, I’ll wait until I have something really awesome to share.

Some Fun Biz / Lifestyle Stuff That Happened This Quarter

I’m really grateful to have the flexible schedule to spend time with our little hustler. He’s definitely keeping us on our toes!


I visited Chicago for Podcast Movement!


Both sides of our fam came to visit us in California. Well, mostly to see the baby.

We also made a trip to Seattle over Labor Day weekend.

I traveled to San Diego for FinCon, where “Money Nerds Unite” and I spoke on how to get more mileage out of your podcast. I was also able to meet some local members of Side Hustle Nation!


Side Hustle Nation won the Plutus Award for Best Entrepreneurship Blog!


Buy Buttons became an Amazon Best Seller.

I saw my favorite musical, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying :) Thanks mom and dad for babysitting!

The Huskies are ranked 5th in the country!

What’s Next?

This is obviously the highlight reel, and there were some rough moments as well. We’ve decided that parenthood amplifies life; the highs are higher, but the lows are lower. In my meditation challenge wrap-up, I talk a little about some of the stresses that were wearing on me during that month.

Bryn and I spent the first couple weeks of October in Europe for a little vacation, so I’ve got a backlog of work to get to. It’s time to detox from the carbs, gelato, and birra for a while :)

Some of the stuff on my plate includes continuing marketing the book with what didn’t get done before the launch, releasing the audiobook version, refilling the content queue on Side Hustle Nation, and re-thinking the design of the site and the email functionality.

The next few months will definitely be action-packed, and I’m looking forward to diving in and hitting 2017 in full-stride.

Stay tuned!

Your Turn

How was your quarter? What did you get done?

9 thoughts on “Quarterly Progress Report – Q3 2016”

  1. Hey Nick –

    I just found your blog, so this was a great introductory post to a couple of your best stuff in the past few months. I’m reading your snowball post and very jealous your gym membership is only $17 a month.

    I work at a digital marketing agency, so metrics are everything. Congrats on the positive momentum and I look forward to reading more.

  2. Awesome job Nick. Keep up the fantastic work. Interesting note: the car flipping post that we did for your site still attracts around 10-20 visits to my site per day primarily because it sits at #1 in google for that term. Are you finding ways to rank for other keywords, and if so is that contributing to your overall traffic increase?

  3. Seriously impressed with your podcast stats, really good numbers. Congrats on the well received book, hope it can maintain it’s successful sales and expand! Must feel really good to get all that positive feedback on it.

  4. Nick,
    Wait, what? Are you a Dawg fan?! That one sentence made me more excited than your whole progress report. (I mean, your report was awesomely helpful for beginning bloggers like me who are also avid SHN podcast listeners. But seriously, those HUSKIES!)

    Let purple reign,
    UW Class of ’02

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