Ready to dive into some side hustle statistics?
One of the best ways to figure out how to better serve your customers or your audience is to, well, ask them.
I skipped my (previously annual) member survey of Side Hustle Nation email subscribers last year, so I wanted to renew the tradition in 2019.
My goals were to get some insights into:
- where readers and listeners are at in your side hustle journey
- the types of businesses you’re working on
- what your biggest challenges are
I also wanted to find out about how you first discovered Side Hustle Nation, your #1 goal for the year, and what you’d like to see me cover here in the future.
I always take these responses seriously and they guide my direction in a lot of ways. In the past, the answers to these questions have led me to redesign the site, add a special VIP page, create a Facebook group, hire a podcast editing service and a podcast coach, do public side hustle coaching, get rid of my voice over guy, focus on certain side hustles more than others, and lots more.
General Side Hustle Statistics
According to a 2017 Bankrate study, 44 million Americans have a side hustle.
The median income for millennials with a side hustle was $200 a month.
Meanwhile, The Hustle found that the average side-hustler spends 11 hours per week on their secondary work, and earns $12,609 per year — an average of about $25 per hour.
The same study reported that while only half of respondents “loved” their primary job, 76% loved their side hustle.
My Survey Requirements:
- Short – I wanted to be respectful of subscribers’ time, and also knew this would improve response rate.
- Mobile-friendly – Since I was only sending the survey invite via email, it had to be mobile-responsive.
- Actionable – I wanted to be able to DO something with the results! Not much point in going through this exercise if it doesn’t result in any new action.
The Survey Set Up
Instead of dedicated survey software like Survey Monkey, I went with my tried-and-true Google Forms.
It’s easy to set up and edit, and all the responses get dumped into a handy spreadsheet for you.
I like it because it’s simple and you can choose between multiple choice, free-response, optional questions, and you have decision logic on pagination of where to send people based on what answer they select.
The design may not be the prettiest in the world, but it is mobile responsive.
Oh, and it’s free. :)
My survey this year had 7 questions, mostly multiple-choice, split over 4 pages. I broke up the questions on different pages because I reasoned having all 7 questions on one page might seem intimidating and hurt the completion rate.
Plus Google Forms will show a little progress bar that completionists like me really want to see hit 100% once I start.
Marketing the Survey
I sent out one dedicated email asking subscribers to complete the survey, and sent a reminder a few days later
To give people an incentive to complete it, I gave away two free 30-minute consultations. Here’s the message I sent:
Got a minute?
I have a few quick questions that will help guide the direction of Side Hustle Nation.
Your responses help me better understand and serve you and the rest of this incredible “Nation,” plus you’ll have the option to be entered to win one of two free Side Hustle Strategy Sessions with yours truly, just for filling out the survey.
(Regularly not even for sale!)
It should only take a couple minutes and you can even do it from your phone.
Responses are totally anonymous — unless of course you want to enter the drawing for the free Strategy Session.
Thank you so much for your input!
The survey invitation went out to more than 65,000 subscribers and in total, I gathered more than 1600 responses!
Congrats to Jeff and Jonathan for winning the random drawing for the strategy session!
(I used this Random Number Generator from Google to pick the winners.)
If you don’t have the email list to send to, you can do one-on-one outreach, or post in relevant FB groups you’re active in.
Question 1: The Baseline
Goal: Figure out where your audience is today so you can create content to best serve them.
My phrasing: “Where are you at with your side hustle today?”
I used this this multiple-choice question to kick off the survey because it would be very quick to answer and hopefully build momentum into the rest of the questions. This was the only question on Page 1 of the survey.
The options were:
- I haven’t started yet.
- I’ve started, but I’m making less than $500 a month from my side hustle.
- I’m earning $500+ per month outside a traditional job.
In previous surveys, I had a couple more granular options, but choose to simplify to just these three buckets this time around.
On the one hand, it’s a little discouraging to see that half the audience hasn’t decided the best course of action yet. Just pick something, I want to yell. It doesn’t matter!
Looking at it with “glass half full” eyes, it’s exciting to see that half the people have gotten off the sidelines. Of those, a majority aren’t yet earning $500 a month though.
And at the top of the scale, about 14% of the audience (a little less than 1 in 6 members) is earning $500 a month or more from their business. Awesome!
The challenge for me is to move people clockwise along this pie; to equip you with the idea, empower you to take action, and show you how to get results and grow your business.
Question 2: The Hustle
Goal: Find out the most common or popular type(s) of businesses side hustlers are working on.
My phrasing: “What type of business / side hustle are you running or are you most interested in? Please check all that apply.”
At the top of Page 2, I used another quick-response multiple choice question designed to build momentum and help me understand the types of content that would be most helpful to focus on.
The options were:
- Amazon FBA / Ecommerce (incl. physical products, private label, arbitrage)
- Freelancing / Service Businesses (including coaching and consulting)
- Blogging and Online Businesses (including affiliate marketing, niche sites, online courses, and content marketing)
- Software / Apps
- Investing (like real estate, alternative investments, buying websites, dividends, etc.)
- The Sharing Economy (like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, etc.)
This distribution is interesting to see, but also something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The “hustles” to the left already have a lot of content created, which is probably how people discovered the site/podcast in the first place.
The hustles to the right, I haven’t created as much content for.
Still, it’s good for me to see the types of businesses people are most interested in and spend the majority of my effort on those.
The top 3 most popular side hustles in this year’s survey were:
- Blogging and Online Business, which included podcasting and YouTube.
- Freelancing and Service Businesses, which included options like becoming a loan signing agent.
- Amazon FBA / Ecommerce, which including other types of reselling as well.
These 3 are unchanged from last year, and because of their popularity, I’ve included them in the subnavigation menu on the site. This lets people access the relevant content in these categories more easily.
In the “Other” column, people named side hustles like:
- Arts and Crafts-related businesses
- Teaching classes or workshops locally
- Selling print on demand products
- Network marketing (not one I’d necessarily recommend)
- Product licensing
- Paid research studies
Question 3: The Pain
Goal: Find out what side hustlers are currently struggling with.
My phrasing: “When it comes to your business or side hustle, what’s the single biggest challenge you’re facing right now? (be detailed)”
This was the second question on Page 2 of the survey, and was a free-response question. The theory is, once you know what your audience is struggling with, you can craft a plan to help them.
Even though this was a free-response question, I saw several common themes, and the top 3 responses were unchanged from previous years:
The good news is I love learning and writing/talking about pretty much all of these. And compared with the results from 2017 below, it’s encouraging to see a shift from the “idea” column to the “growth” column.
And here’s the truth: time is a universal struggle, even for full-time entrepreneurs. There will always be more things you want to do than there are hours in the day, so it becomes a battle of prioritization.
Other responses included:
In chatting with several Side Hustle Nation members last year, I was surprised how often “mindset” came up. These were issues like fear of failure, fear of success, impostor syndrome, and other self doubts.
Failure is at once inevitable and impossible. You’re certain to experience failures and setbacks, but as long as you live to learn from it, it wasn’t a true failure.
According to the book Ask, this is the most important question of all, and allows you to create different “buckets” of your audience. For example, based on these answers I can see buckets related to:
- Finding your side hustle idea
- Making the most of your limited hours
- Growing your business to the next level
For a while I actually had 3 buttons on the homepage leading to “pillar” content for each of those, but made a little shift. (Those links are now a little lower on the page under “How it Works”.)
Question 4: The Discovery
Goal: Discover how people found Side Hustle Nation or The Side Hustle Show, to know which of my marketing efforts are the most effective.
My phrasing: Do you remember how you first discovered Side Hustle Nation or The Side Hustle Show?
The options were:
- Word of mouth
- Google search
- iTunes / other podcast directory
- I heard Nick on another podcast
- Amazon / books
- Other social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter…)
The purpose of this question was to see what the common points of entry were for new readers and listeners. Yes, it’s a little more selfish than some of the other questions.
Google was far and away the biggest driver here, and I’ve been paying a lot more attention to SEO lately.
The answers to this question also illustrate the value of guesting on other podcasts and building relationships with other bloggers.
It also showcases how word of mouth is an important but often overlooked channel in online marketing, outpacing the discovery from YouTube, Pinterest, and Amazon.
Question 5: The Goal
With this question, I wanted to find out — in their own words — the audience’s #1 goal for the year.
My phrasing: What’s your #1 side hustle or business goal for this year?
Because this was a free-response question, the results were predictably all over the map. Nearly 25% of people listed a specific montary goal:
- “Make a profit, even if it’s only $1.”
- “Make my first $100.”
- “Make an extra $1,000 per month.”
- “Hit $10k/month in revenue consistently.”
- “To make $50k after taxes.”
The revenue goals varied based on people’s responses to Question 1 (where they’re at currently), but for people starting out, earning an extra $500-1000 a month was a really common goal.
The second most common goal was simply to get started. Just over 20% of respondents named this as their #1 side hustle goal, and several used similar language: “Just start the damn thing!”
Other top responses were:
- Replace my income
- Quit my job
- Grow my existing business
These answers are helpful to me in crafting content that appeals to people for where they’re at in their entrepreneurial adventure.
Questions 6-7: How Can I Improve?
For the last couple questions of the survey, I wanted to give people a voice in improving Side Hustle Nation.
How can I make it a more valuable resource? What would you like to learn more about?
Question 6 phrasing:
One thing I wish you’d cover more thoroughly is _________.
This question was also free-response, but there were some patterns that emerged. Among the most commonly-requested content were:
- Affiliate marketing (As this has been my main source of income for over 10 years, I think I take a lot of the basics for granted. To be sure, I could do a much better job covering how it works and how to get started.)
- Taxes, accounting, and legal stuff.
- Amazon FBA
- How to get started
- Blogging (My free course on how to start a blog)
- Idea generation
- Drop shipping
- Offline side hustles
- Step-by-step guides
- Time management
The final question was the one I was most anxious about, but knew it would be important to ask.
Question 7 phrasing:
… and if I’m being totally honest, one specific critique I have is _________.
So one afternoon, I swallowed my pride and dove into a pile of constructive criticism. And people didn’t hold back!
- “Your website is ugly.”
- “You need a vocal coach. Stop swallowing your syllables.”
- “you seem low energy on the podcast.”
- “too technical.”
- “Emails are a little clickbaity.”
- “It seems a bit unrealistic on the amounts you say can be made for a side hustle.”
Now as to be expected, there was a fair amount of conflicting critiques:
- “Podcasts are a bit lengthy.”
- “Shows are too short.” (More people were actually in this column, asking for more in-depth content and even more frequent episodes).
- “I love that there’s no fluff and hype”
- “Way too much fluff. Get to the point.”
Some of the frustrating ones:
- “I wish there was a FB group.” (There is one!)
- “It’s annoying to keep having to enter my email to download the PDF highlight reels.” (Agreed! Check your email for a message from with the subject line “[Save this email] Your VIP access link is inside”.
And my favorite:
- “Don’t use google forms for surveys. It’s hacky and you can’t consume the responses in a very good way.”
But after sorting through hundreds of responses, a few votes started to pile up in favor of:
- Talking slower. Breathe, Nick, breathe.
- More frequent episodes. I’ll see what I can do.
- More coaching episodes or featuring people who aren’t “super successful” yet.
- Making stuff on the website easier to find. Not sure the best way to do this.
- Pressing for specific details, asking people what they’d do differently, and not glossing over the negatives.
- Greater diversity among guests in age, race, and gender.
- Creating my own course.
While some of these answers stung a little to read, they were actually super helpful. I’ve got some concrete actions I can take to improve, and will be working on those this quarter.
I owe a big thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey!
Think you can borrow some of my questions/formats and learn from my mistakes?
Have you run a survey to your audience recently? Did you take action based on the results?
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Stock photos by Black Salmon and Syda Productions via Shutterstock