Quarterly Progress Report – Q3 2017

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Progress report time! I’ve been doing these quarterly progress reports for the last few years.

I find this exercise a helpful time to evaluate what happened over the last 3 months, to see what you got done, and to ask if you’re happier or otherwise better off than you were when you started.

So am I?

I think so!

I don’t really have any big product launches or major projects to share, but it was a quarter of consistent effort, content creation, and watching our little hustler learn more every day.

(His learning has really accelerated lately, and he can now proudly tell you the sounds several different animals make.)

In a way, that consistent effort has started to feel a little tedious, like I’m never getting ahead of it, and I’m trying to come to grips with never really being done. There will always be more I want to work on and new projects I’d love to tackle.

Instead it’s become a game of focus and prioritization, which I know is good for me, but frustrating at the same time for somebody who wants to do all the things.

Prioritization, Elimination, Automation, and Delegation. Lather, rinse, repeat.

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, Side Hustle Nation turned 4 years old, so you’re looking at over 1500 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 over 5100 visits a day during the quarter. That’s up almost 10% per day compared with last quarter, and up about 20% versus Q3 last year.

(The dip you see in the middle of July is when I forgot to install Google Analytics on the new theme.)

Traffic was reasonably consistent throughout the quarter, and the peaks on the chart usually coincide with my Thursday newlsetters.

The exception this quarter was 3 separate features on Rockstar Finance, which each drove more than 1000 visits. My posts on sneaker flipping, alternative investments, and 35 things I learned by age 35 were all featured — thanks for the love J$!

Last quarter I mentioned starting work with a dedicated Pinterest VA, and that social channel is still driving steady traffic — around 9% of the site’s total visit.

Still, the biggest piece of the traffic pie is organic search, and it’s encouraging to see some of the newer content begin to pick up in SEO.

Podcast download growth:

The Side Hustle Show passed 4 million lifetime downloads during Q3, and averaged 6200 downloads a day. 

That’s down slightly compared with Q1 and Q2, and probably my biggest source of frustration. Well, maybe frustration is the wrong word, but I’m trying to figure out how to bust through this year-long plateau. Here’s what it looks like for 2017-to-date:

Flat as a pancake — or even down a bit. But there have been plateaus before and I’m confident I can keep growing.

In raw numbers, the podcast is almost 2x as big as it was in Q3 2016 so the year-over-year growth is still strong.

It’s also exciting to see continued interest from sponsors like FreshbooksSkillshare, Incorporate.comZipRecruiter, and SendPro.

Do you think your company would be a good fit to sponsor the show? Be sure to get in touch.

Email list growth:

This is probably the most important metric of all, and with 10,000 net new subscribers in Q3, I really can’t complain!

It took me a minute to figure out which report I should be looking at in my new Active Campaign dashboard, but it looks like the site is adding a little over 100 new subscribers a day.

And while I’m not 100% in love with Active Campaign (no system is perfect, right?), I am seeing a big spike in the engagement from new subscribers. That was one of the biggest driving factors behind the switch from AWeber; being able to create dedicated welcome sequences for a variety of different entry points.

Interestingly, the conversion rate of the site (as measured by the number of email opt-ins) is up about 14% compared with Q2. I attribute at least part of that to the updated look and feel of the site.

But I also had a massive blogger fail: I found out just a couple weeks ago that my Sumo integration broke when I switched to Active Campaign … and that meant a pretty disappointing experience for several hundred would-have-been-new-subscribers.

It was a quick enough fix, just my bad for not noticing it earlier!

What’s Working

I’m feeling like my focus is to improve on some of the systems I have in place to free up some capacity for new experiments and growth projects.

I need to go back to the drawing board and track my time to see where it all goes!

I have a sense that I’m spending a lot of time on each podcast episode in vetting guests and then in creating the final cut, and looking for opportunities to streamline some of that.

My Fitness Pal and Working with a Trainer

A series of annoying injuries and ailments this year, combined with chasing our son around and turning 35, have all led me to the realization that I’m not getting any younger.

After my chat with Steve Scott on fundamental habits for entrepreneurs, one of the biggest takeaways was tracking everything. And of course I’d experienced the power of tracking before on a ton of different levels, but I decided to take Steve’s advice and start tracking my food for the first time ever.

I signed up for My Fitness Pal and quickly grew addicted to it. I wouldn’t say my eating habits have changed dramatically because of it, but I would say I’ve become far more conscious of what I’m consuming knowing I’m going to have to punch it in.

I also started working with an online trainer. He’s given me some seriously butt-kicking workouts in addition to meal plans and accountability. These training sessions are in contrast to my previous workout routine of walking on my treadmill desk, yoga once a week, and maybe some kettlebell swings if I was feeling ambitious.

I’ve lost a little bit of weight but more importantly I’m feeling stronger and more energetic on a daily basis.

The biggest lifestyle change hasn’t really been the food but the workouts. Before we started working together, exercise was always the first thing to get cut from the schedule when things got busy — and when are things not busy??

Lately I prioritize getting it done usually first thing in the morning, which has meant starting work later.

Global Entry / TSA Precheck

This one really isn’t work-related but Bryn and I finally bit the bullet and signed up for Global Entry. It was $100 for 5 years and comes w/ TSA Precheck. That means you can keep your shoes on and your laptop and liquids in your bag for security at the airport.

I’m including it here because it’s a “luxury” purchase I wish we’d made years ago. I’ve already taken 6 flights with it and each time it makes me so happy. Totally worth it!

Meetups

This quarter I held informal side hustle meetups in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, and Boulder. I’m finding I get a lot of energy from these in-person meetups, so might attempt to do something a little more structured in the future.

What I’ve Been Working On

7 Blog Posts

The writing slowed down a bit this quarter, but there were a couple posts that took a lot of time to research (alternative investments and paid focus groups).

The most popular posts of the quarter were:

I had a blast writing the “things I have learned” birthday post, and it was actually inspired by a more bullet-point list post I’d made on the same topic 5 years ago. It was an excuse to test out the republishing strategy to breathe new life into old content, and it worked — the post ended up getting picked up by Rockstar Finance and Business Insider!

13 Podcast Episodes

Even though the podcast numbers have kind of plateaued this year, I feel like I’m practicing my craft and getting better each week. I don’t know if that shows in the listening experience, but I’ve got a process in place for producing the shows I feel good about.

The most popular episodes of the quarter were:

SHN 3.0

The new version of Side Hustle Nation finally went live in July!

The homepage was long overdue for a refresh and I’m excited by the new flexibility and functionality of the GeneratePress theme in combination with Beaver Builder.

I broke down my redesign process, goals, and budget in this post about switching WordPress themes.

A New Call to Action: Subscribe to the Show

I’m still working through my homework from Podcast Movement (see below) but one thing I’m experimenting with is a call-to-action asking people to subscribe to the show.

Rob from Libsyn presented some evidence that in iTunes at least, it’s subscriptions that seem to drive the rankings inside your category.

So I’m testing a couple things to see if I can move the needle and break through the plateau. The first is asking people to subscribe on air, usually at the end of the show and often when teasing the next episode. I’ll say something like “hit the subscribe button to make sure you never miss an episode,” or “next week’s show is about _______. Subscribe now and it’ll be automatically downloaded to your device.”

The other thing I’m testing is an updated “thank you” page after people download certain PDF highlight reels from the show. The new version of the thank you page invites people to subscribe in iTunes or on Android:

Not subscribed yet? Click here to subscribe to the show in iTunes or Android.

A Trademark Application – Denied!

Probably the biggest bummer of the quarter was the notice that my trademark application was denied. $700 down the drain!

The sad/funny part is the reason trademark office gave: Side Hustle Nation is confusingly similar to my friend Jullien Gordon‘s SideHustla.com, which he began work on just a few months before I started this project in 2013.

Saying No

I’m trying to hard to focus and keep charging ahead, but feel like I’m fighting a constant battle with my inbox and content demands. I’m practicing using the “Hell yes! or no” decision-making framework.

Cool Biz / Lifestyle Stuff that Happened

Visiting the Fam

We spent a week back in Seattle in late July and early August, and it was a welcome bit of vacation. We spent some time on the water, went blueberry picking, and caught a Mariners game. The little guy had a chance to run around the bases:

We also made a couple trips there in September for weddings.

Seattle Area Side Hustle Meetup

Of course I couldn’t spend a week in the great Northwest without hanging out with the local chapter of Side Hustle Nation!

I didn’t get a picture but we enjoyed some pizza, beer, and helpful conversation.

Podcast Movement

In August I attended my 4th Podcast Movement conference. I presented on “Climbing the Listener Pyramid” during John Lee Dumas‘ and Kate Erickson’s pre-conference workshop, and later participated on a podcast monetization panel with Michelle Jackson, Elle Martinez, and Dr. Ryan Gray.

And this time it was in Anaheim and the fam got was able to join me and visit Disneyland!

It was awesome as always to hang out with all my “Internet friends” and geek out about podcasting for a few days. I’ve still got some homework from the event to test out.

Preschool

Our little hustler started a new preschool in August and it’s close enough that we can bike to it! I love being able to drop him off and pick him up … and get a little fresh air and exercise in the process.

We’re loving the new school so far, and he seems to be enjoying himself and learning a lot too!

San Jose Meetup

Jon Schumacher and I joined forces to co-host a dinner get-together in San Jose in September. We had a great turnout!

Colorado

Finally some college friends visited Boulder for the Washington-Colorado football game. It was a little wet but thankfully the good guys won!

The next morning a group of Boulder-Denver side hustlers and entrepreneurs came together to talk shop for a couple hours:

There are 3 Side Hustle Show guests just on the right side of that picture! Can you name them?

What I Read

I’ve been getting back into a nightly reading habit lately, and it feels like a good way to end the day.

Unmistakable: Why Only is Better than Best

This fun little book by Srini Rao uses surfing as a metaphor for business and explains why creation is its own reward. Srini defines unmistakable as work that doesn’t require a signature.

I don’t know if Srini would remember me or this conversation, but we had a brief hallway chat during Podcast Movement 2015 in Fort Worth. We were commenting on the influx of narrative-style shows and really well-produced NPR-style podcasts both at the event and in the podcasting space in general.

His takeaway was that “amateur” hosts had better step up their game because you’re competing with a much higher quality product in people’s earbuds. That had a big impact on me and I’ve paid a lot more attention to the editing and craft behind each episode since then.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

This was a fascinating — though really long — glimpse into the 18th century through the lens of one of its most prominent figures. After getting obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack (so good!) and hearing a few recommendations for this book, I decided to check it out.

It was hard to imagine Philadelphia as a village of 2000 people, or it taking 14 weeks to cross the Atlantic, but it was cool to transport myself to that time period. The pace of communication was probably the most striking part of the book. Even toward the end of his life, it could have taken a month to get a letter across the ocean, and another month to get a response back.

And to think we can video chat with someone on the other side of the globe for free — and we get upset when it lags :)

Ben Franklin was definitely an interesting and influential dude in business, government, science, and philanthropy.

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company

My dad recommended this book after hearing Alan speak at a company meeting. I was surprised how good it was — it’s a real page-turner. High stakes corporate drama involving one of America’s best known brands!

It was especially fun for me having been working for Ford during this time, albeit several layers of management removed from the players in this story.

Check it out; I think you’ll like it.

Your Move: The Underdog’s Guide to Building Your Business

This is the latest from Ramit Sethi. He’s one of the best writers out there and in Your Move, he breaks down how he and his students come up with profitable product ideas and build the systems to sell them.

Sure, there’s some “look how great I am” horn-tooting but it’s done in a self-deprecating way. I especially liked the pricing discussions and the case studies.

Your Turn

How’d the last quarter shape up for you?

The year’s 75% over — how are you tracking toward your goals?

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10 thoughts on “Quarterly Progress Report – Q3 2017

  1. The side hustle is the ideal job nowadays because with all the employment uncertainty in America and the rising unemployment rate and lack of pay increases by some employers, one has to look into making the side hustle business work as a full time job and something they truly enjoy doing.

    Knowing that your employer may secretly plot to have you fired is also a great way to stay motivated to prosper in your business transformation. One thing I always reinforce in my mind is if I’m going to be in business for myself, there has to be a way for me to stay motivated. I discovered through life experience is it takes tremendous adversity to keep me inspired. I have a point to prove to myself that I am “worth it,” and use the negative energies from people in order to get 1 step ahead and stay on the path of prosperity.

    I love the side hustle because it liberates you from your negative employer-cushy job and sets you free financially.

  2. Hey Nick, loving the quarterly reports. I also do them, and behind the scenes look at all the figures as well.

    Watch out that Active Campaign aren’t allowing bot signups to the list. Have a look at that actual emails and if there are ones like “weigehfw38383 at yandex.ru” for example, you’ll know you’re getting a few bots in there. However, with that great Google traffic, you certainly deserve 100 new signups a day. Congrats on that!

    You certainly don’t deserve to have the show downloads to be flatlining. Although you are in a crowded niche, your show is one of the best and longest running out there. I can’t understand that.

    • Thanks Rob, I’ll keep my eye out for those pesky bots! 100 a day seems high relative to where it’s been and the traffic levels, but it’s been a few months since I’ve gone through and bulk-deleted the un-engaged.

  3. Hey Nick, first time reader. I love doing quarterly reports as well. They keep me honest and let me know if I am on track to meet my goals.

    It’s awesome how you share the little details too – such as signing up for Global Entry (do love that it comes with TSA Pre-check) and your little hustler starting pre-school. My little guy is just turning 2 and we plan to send him to daycare in January. My mom currently comes to the house to take care of him while my wife and I work. However, I think he has more energy than my mom can handle plus she lets him play with the iPad way too much. Hoping daycare will help him be more social and be a better sleeper.

  4. Hi Nick,

    My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.

    I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog Side Hustle Nation has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Business Blogs on the web.

    https://blog.feedspot.com/business_blogs/

    I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 100 Business Blogs on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

    Also, you have the honor of displaying the badge on your blog.

    Best,
    Anuj

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Usually Hustling, Occasionally Social