Quarterly Progress Report – Q3 2018

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Progress report time!

(It’s a tradition on the blog.)

This summer saw the return of summer vacation, and it was awesome. I was limited to working maybe an average of an hour a day for 5-6 weeks July and August, as the family and I took off for a month-long adventure.

The trip got off to a rough start with a kidney stone attacking me on the flight to Seattle, but after that things improved quite a bit!

I was extremely grateful to be able to take that kind of time away — and keep the business running while on the road. I came back re-energized to do the creative work and tackle some new projects.

Plus, the limited time gave me a sense of what really drives results.

Now we just need to figure out how to make that kind of summer vacation happen again without another maternity leave :)

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 about 4400 visits a day during the quarter. That’s up about 20% compared with the same time period last year, but pretty much the same as during Q2.

Q3 2018 blog traffic growth

Most of the spikes on the traffic chart coincide with my Thursday email newsletter.

The good news is my organic traffic from Google has been very consistent, and that’s been a primary focus. I’m trying to optimize each new post to get free evergreen traffic and make sure the posts that are already ranking are relevant, sticky, and (if applicable) monetized.

I hired an SEO consultant to help me break through this plateau (more on that below).

Pinterest traffic has stabilized as well, though I still think it could be driving more visits.

Podcast download growth:

The Side Hustle Show averaged 8000 downloads a day in Q3, and passed 6 million lifetime downloads!

Q3 2018 podcast growth

And after a year-long plateau, it’s encouraging and rewarding to see the show growing again. There’s a lot that goes into each episode so hopefully the upward trend continues!

I wish I could tell you where those new listeners were coming from, but one big win was a fun appearance on the Bigger Pockets Money podcast that aired in early July. Several listeners reached out after that one.

It might not look like much on the chart, but new episodes spiking to 20,000 downloads on release day at the end of the quarter is a significant bump from 15,000 at the beginning.

And for the sake of reference, I looked up how long it took me to reach 20,000 downloads in a month. The answer? 20 months.

So glad I kept going, even though based on the numbers alone, maybe I shouldn’t have.

The most popular episode of the quarter was Rene Delgado’s awesome drop shipping case study.

Email list growth:

This is probably the most important metric of all, and I added only 2000 net new subscribers during the quarter, or roughly 21 people a day.

That’s actually down significantly compared with past quarters, and potentially a cause for concern.

I’ve been testing some less aggressive email capture strategies — for example, only 2 of the last 8 podcast episodes have had PDF downloads / content upgrades.

My theory is that could help with SEO and perhaps lead to more engaged subscribers.

Each little dip on the chart is a “mini-purge” I did to remove some inactive subscribers — people who hadn’t opened an email in 6 months.

Still, this is an area I need to take a closer look at to see what’s going on.

What I’ve Been Working On

The quarter started off in vacation mode, but I think that was actually a big contributor to me actually shipping some stuff when I got home. I was proud of how “unplugged” I was, and didn’t feel much anxiety over not getting anything done.

(That anxiety hit as soon as we got back home. I think there’s something about being in your usual workspace and not being able to work — there was still another week and a half before preschool started.)

Credit Card Rewards Course

Bryn and I have become hooked on free (or almost free) travel. In fact, on this recent month-long adventure we paid for zero hotel nights and only a couple flight segments.

Several readers and listeners asked for some more info on this, and while I’m far from the world’s foremost “travel hacker”, I put together a free guide on how you can take strategic advantage of credit card rewards.

It walks through how to earn free money and travel with generous credit card sign-up bonuses — just by spending money you normally would anyway.

Done right, this little side hustle is probably adds $1000 or more to our lifestyle and bottom line every year.

Check out the full free course here.

In terms of production, I outlined and scripted a lot of the course during naptime on the last week of our trip, and was able to film it all in one morning once we got home.

ActiveCampaign Review and Demo Video

The next big project I shipped was my in-depth review and demo of ActiveCampaign. As you might remember, I switched my email service provider from AWeber to ActiveCampaign a little over a year ago.

It’s really powerful software and probably the best bang for your marketing automation buck.

The highlight of this for me was the ActiveCampaign demo video I shot with Screencast-o-matic. It’s kind of silly but I had a blast learning how to use the built-in video editing tools to edit the video.

Pretty happy with how it turned out, even though it hasn’t gotten much love in YouTube, which was one of the goals.

The downside? I know it’s early, but this project has resulted in a grand total of $0 in new affiliate commissions. Womp womp.

Episode 300

I asked the Side Hustle Nation Facebook community what I should do for the milestone episode 300. My favorite suggestion was to feature listeners of the show who’d taken action based on what they’d heard (or read on the blog).

So that’s exactly what I did. It was a bit of a challenge to put together, but I ended up featuring 5 different listeners with very different business models.

Huge thanks to Preston, Flav, PJ, Nate and Ashley, and Amy!

And in the “300” spirit, a listener sent me this:

sparta photoshop

Guess I gotta hit the weight room!

VIP Page

Over the years, several subscribers have grumbled about having to re-enter their email address to download the podcast highlight reels.

And I agree, that’s not an awesome user experience.

So I created a special super secret “VIP” page with ALL the downloads I’ve ever created all in one place.

Not a subscriber? Sign-up here and all will be revealed :)

SEO Audit

As a growing percentage of my traffic comes from organic search, I decided to hire an SEO consultant to see where I could improve.

Claudia Pennington gave me a mountain of homework on the technical SEO side of things, with to-do items including:

  • Fixing broken links and images
  • Improving page speed
  • Adding meta descriptions and alt tags
  • Optimizing page titles
  • and more

I’m still slowly working my way through this stuff, but the idea is to make sure the foundation is sound before building any more on top of it. I’ll be sure to share any results!

The Progress Journal

Journals are hot right now, and this project is my spin on the trend.

It centers on 5 key tenets of productivity I’ve found to be most effective over the years.

progress journal cover 300

Those are:

  1. Sprint goals
  2. Figuring out your top 1-3 priorities each day the night before
  3. Practicing gratitude
  4. Micro habits
  5. Tracking your KPIs

Technically The Progress Journal is already available on Amazon, but it’s a “beta” version pending feedback from some early testers.

7 Blog Posts

It felt like I did more writing than that, but maybe that’s because I’ve been writing longer podcast show notes and several of these posts are 2500+ words.

The most popular content of the quarter:

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:

Is there a particular topic you’d like to hear on an upcoming episode? Let me know in the comments below!

Yoga

After we got back from our trip, I started going to yoga once or twice a week.

It’s more of an injury prevention and flexibility play than a workout, but I like it, and I think the mindfulness aspect is good for me too.

What I Bought

Here are my favorite or most interesting purchases over the last 3 months.

Electric Bike

I’ve been curious / jealous of ebikes for the last couple years, and I finally pulled the trigger and bought one this summer.

I’ve already put over 200 miles on it, and each one of those miles replaces a distance I would have driven in the car. Saving gas, saving emissions, and getting fresh air.

You can choose how much electric assistance you want, and generally can cruise pretty easily at 13-18mph.

I love it! And every time I’m plowing effortlessly into the stiff headwinds common in Livermore, I love it even more.

If I keep up that pace, it’s about a 3-year breakeven window on cost of gas, but that doesn’t account for the joy I get riding it.

The specific model I got is the GenZe 100e. Our Costco actually had these last summer so there was some level of trust in Costco not selling a crappy product. (The newer ones have a stronger motor.)

I ended up finding a demo model on Craigslist from a shop in San Francisco for half off, which I think was a great deal. (It had all of 7 miles on it!)

Little Hustler #1 and I drove into the city to pick it up, and we’ve ridden to school nearly every day since. He says, “Daddy got a new toy! It has battery power!”

Heil PR40

After 5 years of podcasting and 300 episodes, I finally broke down and bought “the” official podcasting mic used by several prominent pros.

Again, I found a great deal for about half off on this site, and thankfully it was compatible with the existing mic boom arm I had set up in my “cloffice” recording studio.

I can’t say if I notice any significant difference in the audio quality, but at least I feel more official now :)

Cool Biz / Lifestyle Stuff that Happened

A Month-Long Adventure

The most exciting part of the quarter was a month-long trip to Seattle and Mexico.

Following the unfortunate kidney stone debacle at the beginning of the trip, we spent lots of time with family and visiting some of our favorite spots.

In Mexico, we visited San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City, and San Jose del Cabo.

I even randomly ran into a member of the Side Hustle Nation Facebook group on the streets of San Miguel! Super small world. Patrick walked past me, did a double take, and then asked Bryn, who was following behind on the narrow sidewalks, “Is that Nick Loper?”

We had a great time exploring this cute little colonial town and eating all the tacos.

On the trip I realized a couple things:

  1. Even living in California, I’ve only just scratched the surface of amazing Mexican food. For example, tortas. Who knew?
  2. I really like using the Spanish-speaking side of my brain.

My gringo español isn’t great, but I can get by, and that was pretty helpful.

I was also impressed with how far your dollar went. Coming from San Francisco and Seattle, that was a welcome change.

Family shot at the pyramids outside of Mexico City:

I even got hold another international meetup:

(This follows Vietnam, Japan, and the Czech Republic. Side Hustle Nation is worldwide!)

Also, this kid doesn’t know how good he has it!

Both boys were pretty good travelers and now we’ve just got to plot our next trip!

Back to “Normal”

Within a couple weeks of getting back home, Bryn was back at work full-time. We’d debated a few different options, including her going part-time, but she ended up interviewing for, and winning, a managerial role.

Not quite ready to dial back that career!

At the same time, preschool started back up and Little Hustler #2 began day care, so I had the house to myself again.

I had lots of pent-up ideas and projects, so this ended up being a really productive time for me.

10 Year Anniversary of Being Self-Employed

In July, I realized it had been 10 years since I quit my job!

There were a few rough years in the middle there — “the dip” some might call it — but I’m happy with where things are headed these days.

A 2-Year Old’s First Day without Tears

Maybe this had happened before, but at some point I noticed we had our first day without tantrums, time-outs, or tears. It was great.

And only another 2 years before it might happen with the baby :)

Salt Lake City Boy’s Trip

Some fellow Huskies visited SLC in September to cheer the Dawgs to victory over the Utes. It was fun to hang out, explore the city, and check out another Pac-12 venue.

And to host another SHN meetup.

FinCon and Success Incubator

In September, I attended my 4th FinCon, and it remains my favorite and most impactful event of the year.

I always walk away with tons of new ideas and homework to go back and implement. In fact, I still need to do my full digest of the notes I took this time around.

Great to see friends new and old and hear what everyone is up to business-wise.

Plutus Award

During the awards ceremony at FinCon, Side Hustle Nation took home the prize for “Best Entrepreneurship / Side Hustle Blog or Podcast.”

I don’t normally win stuff, so it’s always thrilling to get recognized for my work.

What Sucked?

Not a lot. The baby could learn how to sleep better.

There could be more hours in the day; that would help.

I battled a little bit of stress and anxiety, but I think it really just stems from having a lot of cool stuff to work on and having limited hours to do it. That’s something we all deal with!

What I Read

High Performance Habits

Brendon Burchard found 6 common characteristics of high performers:

  1. Seek Clarity
  2. Generate Energy
  3. Raise Necessity
  4. Increase Productivity
  5. Develop Influence
  6. Demonstrate Courage

Among my Kindle highlights:

  • “Did I live fully today? Did I matter?”
  • “If you leave your growth to randomness, you’ll always live in the land of mediocrity.”
  • Passion + Growth + Contribution = Personal Satisfaction
  • “Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds to be.” –Abraham Lincoln
  • “Stress is self-created, so I decided to stop manufacturing it.”
  • If you can’t discern from your weekly or monthly calendar what major moves you’re working toward, you’re not optimizing your time.
  • “The competency that matters is the ability to become competent.” (The most important skill is the skill of learning new skills.)

Thanks to Brandon Turner and Erin Chase for the recommendation.

Everybody Lies

If you liked Freakonomics you’ll love this. Thanks to Noah Kagan for the recommendation.

The Baseball Codes – Interesting stories but spent way too much time dissecting the beanball. I guess I was hoping for some more “secret” unwritten rules of the game.

Smartcuts – The biggest takeaway for me was the power of mentorship.

The Upside of Irrationality, Die Empty, and The 10x Rule – Meh.

Your Turn

How’d the last quarter shape up for you?

How are you tracking toward your goals?

11 thoughts on “Quarterly Progress Report – Q3 2018”

  1. Sounds like things are going well! Congrats on all the accomplishments this quarter! The only thing I’m really tracking right now is my net worth and that is slowly going up each month so I can’t complain about that. My website traffic has gone down but I think that’s due to me not being as active with the blog and putting too much on my plate. I really need to cut some things out of my schedule and hone in on the things I want to improve on. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Nick, this is wonderful (and that podcast success is no joke!)
    Anyway, i just discovered you and this is my way of saying Hello, or hola (you understand Spanglish, right?) :p

    Nice to meet ya bud, keep up the amazing work.

    Elvis

  3. Hey Nick,

    Great update. I could definitely beef up my updates to make them more interesting like yours.

    I too bought an ebike and it’s amazing. Ebikes could be a revolutionary transportation innovation for commuting and recreational cycling. I see more and more them in my neck of the woods. Before, I only cycled with my kids around the neighborhood. Now I cycle 30 to 60 miles per week – often to and from places I would have driven.

  4. Very cool Nick. Loved your comment about the Livermore wind. I grew up down the road in Dublin, where our mascot was the Gael. Everyone thought it was because of the wind. I’ve ridden and raced bicycles in the area so know you made the right call getting the electric bike.

    As I lived in Seattle area for 17 years I can appreciate the Huskies fan trip to Utah.

    For me the side hustle had been good and on track for my target of doubling my side hustle income this year.

    Great to see you enjoying family time and still rocking Side Hustle Nation.

  5. Hi Nick:

    I have been following for longer than I can remember and I make time to read your emails as often as I can. (You have your own folder!) There is always there to set me back on track, and you haven’t failed me there yet. This progress report really out some things in perspective for me. I have been in a partnership for seven years, and I just finally had enough. I am setting up on my own, and I had forgotten how hard it is to start over. I am trying to do so much, keep up with my ideas, trying to have balance so it doesn’t all just tip over, and have time to do it all (work, life, health). This report really helped me hash out what I want to focus on right now and what have lower priority.

    Thanks so much. Always great to find you in my inbox!
    Christina

  6. Awesome work, Nick! Love all the photos.

    Thanks for the book recommendations… I need to get back into reading and catching up on podcasts. I’ve fallen a little bit behind on personal development lately.

  7. I AM SO STINKIN JEALOUS of the electric bike! I want one something awful :)

    and congrats on the anniversary! This sounds like an awesome quarter Nick. Great seeing you at FinCon, and next time we have pizza I’m going to convince you on why you should probably switch to Drip :)

    (To be fair–AC is still really great.)

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