The following is the full transcript of Remarkable Episode 15: Nick Loper on How to Grow Your Podcast Audience and Boost Engagement
Download Nick’s Top Tips Get the Audio Download the PDF
In this episode of Remarkable, I have a conversation with a podcaster and blogger who left his full-time job at a large corporation to focus on his side hustle in 2008, and hasn’t looked back since.
He’s built websites, written books, traveled the world, coached entrepreneurs, and interviewed over 175 entrepreneurs and creatives for his podcast. His goal is to help others build something they care about, while generating income outside of the 9 to 5 and moving closer to financial freedom and security.
We cover a lot of ground in this interview and my guest shares some detailed and actionable tips on promoting your podcast, building your audience, and engaging with listeners.
He shares a sure-fire way to turn listeners into email subscribers, how to use giveaways to increase engagement, and the number one social media platform that’s generating thousands of website hits each month.
We also discuss some common beliefs about podcasting that are wrong, the one thing your podcast must do if you want to succeed, and a great way to earn money from podcasting when you don’t have a sponsor.
My guest has been to 24 countries on 6 continents, developed 8 income streams while working from home, and amassed a large, dedicated following of entrepreneurs. He’s the founder of SideHustleNation.com and the host of The Side Hustle Show, here’s Nick Loper.
Dave: Nick, welcome to the Remarkable podcast.
Nick: Dave, what’s up? Thanks for having me.
Dave: Thank you for your time today. I’m looking forward to talking to you. Just to give our listeners a little bit of a background story here. I think I first connected with you, or heard you talk at the Podcast Movement Conference in 2015 in Fort Worth where you did a TEDx-style talk.
You offered a lot of good tips, so I downloaded your podcast and listened a little bit. Then we reconnected at FinCon, or just outside of FinCon at a meet up last fall I think. So, I’ve been looking forward to speaking to you, so thanks for coming on.
Nick: Absolutely! Looks like you’ve got some fun stuff going on over here at SuperSimpl.
Dave: Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I’m really enjoying it.
Let me start by asking you to give us a little bit of information about your podcast. Tell us what is your show and maybe what you’re doing over there.
Nick: The Side Hustle Show is about three years deep and it’s really aimed at part-time and aspiring entrepreneurs on different business ideas, how to make money outside of your day job, and focusing on the tactics from people who’ve been there, done that.
Like, how did you get this done? And it’s selfish in a way because I try and pull out, well maybe I want to try that. Maybe I could figure out what these people are doing.
And selfless in a way that even if I have no desire to run whatever business that this person is running, there’s still something we can learn from this or we can take away from this.
It’s been an absolute blast to run the show. It’s turned into, from one of these – not really an afterthought – but one of these experiments I didn’t really know where it was going to go – to it’s really turned into kind of the highlight of my week and it’s taken on a life all of its own.
Dave: So, it’s the Side Hustle Show and you also have sidehustlenation.com, is that right?
Nick: Yeah, so I started out, I kind of considered myself a writer. I’ve been blogging on a personal blog for four years, up to that point when I started the Side Hustle Nation project.
Just earlier this year, I ran a survey to my members, and it was like, ‘The Side Hustle Nation blog: I read it all the time,’ ‘I read it every now and again,’ and ‘Dude, you have a blog?’ ‘Dude, you have a blog?’ got an embarrassingly high number of responses.
Nick: These are the people who I email every week with a blog post. It was kind of eye-opening to me. It was like the show was really the number one avenue of discovery, avenue of growth.
And the writing which I’m investing a ton of time into creating these killer posts, and they’re not quite getting the same reach as the audio medium.
Nick: I think that’s one of the powerful takeaways of iTunes. It was like you’re swimming in a smaller ocean, versus on my blog I’m going out against the entire internet – like all of Google for discoverability versus iTunes and some of these other podcast directories, podcast marketplaces.
It’s a smaller pool to swim in. I think John Lee Dumas said this at one of the talks I heard him give. He said, ‘If you Google entrepreneur or entrepreneurship, I’m on page 17. But if you search that same keyword in iTunes, I’m like #2.’
It’s just a completely different ball game and on top of that, I think it’s a much more valuable listener experience or user experience, right?
Somebody can spend like five minutes reading your blog post, take it or leave it, but if they’re going to spend like 30-45 minutes with you in their earbuds, that’s a deeper relationship and I think that’s pretty cool.
Dave: Which came first – the website and blogging, or the podcast?
Nick: They started around the same time under the Side Hustle Nation brand, but like I said, I’ve been writing since 2009. Just on a personal blog, personal domain, a bunch of random stuff.
Nick: Sometimes it was marketing and entrepreneurship stuff because that’s what was going on. I was building Side Hustle during those years, but there was no coherent message or reason for anyone to stick around and subscribe because it was like – there was some business stuff – but it was also personal.
Here’s some pictures from our vacation, and here’s some update from our dog, a rant about current events. There was no overarching theme.
Dave: It was a typical blog for that period of time, right?
Nick: Despite everyone’s advice: niche down, niche down, focus. Who are you actually talking to? Crazy as it is, once I started to do that, the readership started to grow and the numbers started to grow, so there’s maybe something to that.
Dave: So, you actually heard that advice and then you had an intention to niche down with your blogging and show. Is that right?
Nick: Yeah, I heard that advice for years and ignored it because I was like, well that’s not what I want to do. What’s the saying – when the student is ready then the teacher will appear?
Nick: I guess I probably wasn’t ready to make that transition at that time.
Nick: Still, the practice of writing daily, weekly, learning how to work WordPress – there was some really valuable skills that were learned during that kind of hobby blog phase or time period.
Dave: I checked out your LinkedIn profile and you went to college and you went to business school, looks like you studied business. Then I assume you came out and had some sort of a corporate job.
Was there a moment, or when did you realize that you wanted to do a side hustle for yourself and how to make that transition?
Nick: Probably before I was even graduating or starting corporate. In my first couple years of college, I did this internship. It was a house painting company.
So they assign you a territory, they assign you a zip code basically and they say it’s your job to go out and paint as many houses as you can over the course of the summer.
They teach you how to estimate a job and they show you how to hire people and they do all the sales training. Almost as an afterthought, they show you how to paint.
It’s kind of like everything that can go wrong will go wrong. A bunch of 19-year olds with paint sprayers, like oh this is a great idea!
Nick: So that was really, really stressful. I worked harder than I ever had in my life. But it was also really rewarding at the end of the week to sit back on the curb and say, ‘look at what we did.’ You know, the before and after.
Then at the end of the summer to look back and say we did 30-something jobs and we did 70 grand worth of revenue as a 19-year old – that was pretty cool. It kind of gave me my first taste of working for profits and not wages.
I had the bad habit of really underbidding jobs because I was afraid of getting work. But it was like trying to mind your margins and it was really, really priceless business education at that age.
It gave me something to apply. In school it was theory. Like here’s Marketing 101 and stuff. But having an actual business and stuff to apply it to really, really helped in the classroom.
Dave: So, you kind of kept that in the back of your mind even when you took a job. So I guess the whole time you were working, you were trying to find a way to be your own boss?
Nick: I kept thinking, ‘how am I going to get out of here?’ I was just going down this path with one foot, and with the other foot I always kind of knew in the back of my mind I wasn’t going to be there for life.
Or at least I hoped I wasn’t going to be there for life. So I was trying to figure out how to build my own corporate ladder since I definitely didn’t see myself climbing the one that I was on.
The original site I saw was the footwear comparison shopping site. Comparison shopping is not as big as it once was because nowadays you just go to Amazon and search. Back in the day, it was very into where can I get the best deal?
Specifically for footwear is kind of a high margin product with a lot of retail margin built in and pretty high commissions.
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Nick: I started out google ad words with direct link text ads with my affiliate tracking link for specific products. So it would be like I’m looking for the New Balance model. New Balance was great for this because they have numbered model names.
Dave: Oh, right.
Nick: I’m looking for the New Balance 876 or whatever. And you can direct link to that page and whoever had the best deal. So I started out with a budget of just $1 a day because I was still in school and I wanted to see if this would work.
Once I kind of had some validation there and then graduation and then trying to figure out ‘how can I scale this?’
The answer I came up with was to build an actual website. That was a scary investment to make at that time. But I had that initial validation that it might work.
So several months later of outsourced development work and several thousand dollars in contract costs, the website was up, and it did work.
Dave: So, is that what allowed you to leave your corporate job? That shoe site?
Nick: It was. It was kind of a long road.
Nick: It was three years of nights and weekends on the side trying to build this thing up. I probably stuck around longer than I needed to do. Just kind of being more risk-averse and not wanting to take that leap into the unknown.
But that was the vehicle, that was the side hustle that ultimately allowed me to quit my job.
Dave: So you did that for awhile, right? The shoe site?
Nick: Yeah, so that actually ran in that infant stage from 2004 all the way up to the summer of 2014. I had a pretty good run as far as businesses go. But of course, I was like the naive person that said, ‘well this could be my thing. I could do this forever.’
Throughout its life, it had a number of ups and downs and rollercoasters.
On my first day of self-employment, Google completely shut down my advertising account. I was like, ‘are you kidding? I just turned in the keys to my company car.’
Dave: Oh, man!
Nick: This is like the summer of 2008 and the economy is just going to complete hell. I’m like, ‘what did I do? This is horrible!’ You’ve met me. I don’t have any hair. I used to have hair at that point.
It was like a really, really stressful summer trying to get back in their good graces.
I started making all of these changes to the website and ultimately they come back like 3 months later and another 15 grand worth of development and investment, and they’re like, ‘it looks like we made an error here. You’re good to go.’
Dave: Oh, my gosh!
Nick: I’m like, ‘oh, my god, are you kidding me?’ So, it went on for several more years after that, but some scary stuff.
One of the themes on Side Hustle Nation is if you’re relying on one source of income for your livelihood, and for most people that’s their day job, that’s an inherently risky position to be in.
But I found, on my first day as an entrepreneur, I was in the exact same position, and even worse, relying on one source of income, which overwhelmingly relied on one source of traffic.
So it was kind of 80 percent of traffic and it was gone in an instant because I didn’t really have that much control over it. They could shut me down at any time in kind of an arbitrary way.
Dave: What did you learn about, any lessons as far as marketing for the shoe comparison site?
Dave: So, did you go out to put ads in other places, or what did you do to drive traffic to that site?
Nick: Yeah, that site really never got a lot of organic love.
So we went on Bing, we went on Yahoo trying to get some of these other sources and really, really trying to dial in the Google stuff while the gettin’ was good to make sure this is a high-quality page, this is a great user experience.
It was always this fine line because they really didn’t like people doing paid ads to affiliate landing pages because your reason to exist is to drive traffic to other pages, and we don’t like that.
It was like, ‘come on Google. Take a look in the mirror. The sole purpose of your search engine is to drive traffic to other pages.’
Nick: They went out and bought some comparison shopping technology for 42 million dollars. It’s like, ‘you know there’s value in this. You know your users like this. You just want to be the middle man, not me.’
So there was some drama there. It was a love-hate relationship with Google of course.
Dave: Yeah, I’m the same way.
Nick: It took several years to build up some other income streams, but that really was kind of a scary time to say, ‘well, maybe we ought to try and diversify a little bit.
Focus on one thing at a time, but once that is up and spinning, now it’s time to try another project and see if we can kind of spread the risk around a little bit.’
Dave: So is that what enabled you to move to the Side Hustle Nation full-time?
Nick: It’s been a great excuse to kind of publicize some of the other experiments, right? So there’s Kindle publishing business, there’s online course business, there’s a freelancing business, there’s experiments with fiber.
All sorts of random different things like peer-to-peer lending, and all this stuff kind of falls under that Side Hustle umbrella that now, thankfully for several years, I haven’t had to go dust off the old resume and get a real job.
I still do, even though the shoe site is dead, I still do some affiliate marketing on a handful of other sites as well.
Dave: What’s worked best for you as far as the different Side Hustles that you’re working on? Where do you primarily get your revenue to keep doing what you’re doing?
Nick: The projects that have worked out best for me are the ones that I can put my personal brand or my personal stamp on. I’ve probably had more failures than successes.
The ones that don’t take off are the ones that are kind of purely money grabs, if that makes sense. I think there might be an opportunity here, let me try.
So, we live in kind of like wine country in California and I’ll say, ‘I should start a wine site.’
And I was like, ‘I have no business writing a wine site. I know nothing about wine other than I occasionally like to drink it.’ So all of the content was just kind of like “me too” articles and repurposing what other people had written.
It was like, this is crap. There is no reason for people to visit this site, and no one did. And it was like, why was I surprised at that?
After the shoe site had some success, all of the advertisers were like, ‘Hey, we also sell handbags. Why don’t you go into that?’ I was like, ‘Okay, well that seems logical.’
So I tried to build that. That was like another $5,000 dollar development investment. The margins were lower in a lot of ways and there were a ton more advertisers.
Really, had I done more homework in advance and really tried to learn about that market a little more, I could have saved that project.
But the book projects, where I’ve really been able to put my own stamp on it… I tried to outsource a book which was a horrible idea.
Dave: I’ve thought about it. It’s good to know that’s a bad idea. I’ve thought about it.
Nick: So I was like, I have this whole super detailed outline. I wrote like a 1,200 word outline. I was like, look, just expand on these points.
Come on. You said you’re a native English speaker and you’re clearly not, when I got the work back. It was just bad news. It was totally my bad.
I should have asked for a thousand word sample instead of just paying up front for like a 12,000 word book or 15,000 word book. So I had to scrap the whole thing and re-write it. It was just a mistake.
Dave: Yeah, I get it.
Nick: So I’m learning from them. If you actually cared about it and really put yourself into it, that’s where I’ve started seeing the projects take off.
Dave: So how would you bring that into podcasting if you were talking to somebody that’s either a fairly new podcaster or somebody that hasn’t started their show and they’re trying to figure out what their topic should be about and whether they should niche down more, or focus?
What have you learned that you might be able to share with somebody like that?
Nick: Well, the great thing about running an interview show is that you don’t have to do much talking. You can let the guest do the talking. So that was good for me especially at the start.
Trying to figure out what’s your unique angle… does the world need another entrepreneurial interview show? You know, probably not.
But what’s your unique angle? What’s it going to be? And you say, well, we’re going to focus on really diving into the tactics, and specifically for people doing this part-time. And maybe that’s even still too broad.
And you see this, like people launching whatever it is, on fire. And then they’re like, ‘Well now we’re going to go into the lightning round.’ And it’s like, ‘Just stop.’
Nick: You can try and do something a little bit different. I’m very high on podcasting. I think it’s a great method for discoverability and the whole New and Noteworthy thing kind of gives you a leg up.
Can you imagine if Google had New and Noteworthy, right? Like, ‘Hey, here’s a brand new site we’re going to put on the front of our homepage.’
Dave: So true.
Nick: It just doesn’t happen. So it’s a really cool opportunity. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but I think that’s really cool for discoverability.
The thing with the show and with audio is that several years ago people were like, ‘Video is the future. You’ve got to do video. YouTube is going to be awesome.’ It’s like, ‘I really don’t want to do video. Like that sounds horrible to me.’
Nick: So a couple years ago, people were saying the same thing about podcasting. ‘It’s the year of the podcast. You’ve got to do audio. iTunes is the future.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, I’m not going to miss the boat again.’
I ordered the mic and I studied all of this stuff. It was still like a month or something before I got up the nerve to be like, ‘Would you be a guest on my show? I’m thinking about doing this show.’ the first few episodes are horrible and you’ve got to get used to hearing your own recorded voice which is super weird.
And you kind of commit to doing this, but like I said, it takes on a life of its own and it’s an absolute blast. So if you can find yourself starting it as an experiment and seeing what happens.
Like I said, I didn’t realize you had to have your own media post. I was like, ‘You just send it to iTunes and they post it, right?’ It was like, ‘No, it’s all of these podcasts. These are just feed readers.’ The hosting was $15 a month.
Had it been $25 or $30, the show might never had existed because I was like, ‘Did I just commit myself for $30 bucks a month for the rest of my life? That sounds crazy!’ But it’s like $15?
Alright, I’ll swing it, I can see what happens. You just kind of commit to that consistency of putting it out and it goes, and it goes, and it goes.
Dave: So, a minute ago, you mentioned that your audience is more familiar with your podcast than your blog post and things like that. How have you gone about building your audience?
Have you done anything intentionally or have you just produced a show regularly for enough time that it’s grown?
Nick: Yeah, I wish I could tell you what the secrets are. I think the consistency definitely plays a role.
Late last year, I read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and I really liked that book. The slight edge habit is something you do every day, or week in and week out.
At the beginning, you can’t really see any results from it. I’ll give you an example: like going to the gym. You go to the gym today, you don’t go to the gym today.
You’re not going to get a 6-pack, and you’re probably not going to die of a heart attack. You can take it or leave it. But like if you consistently develop this habit, you’re going to start to see some results from that.
Looking back, I say, ‘Well, the consistency of publishing this, and having a consistent format, and consistently great guests week in and week out – that has a compound effect over time.’
If you zoom out on the chart, it starts to look like a stock chart. There’s ups and downs, but the general trend is up and to the right.
What took me a long time to figure out with the show was like I started out without really a picture in mind other than: I want to have a podcast because that’s what people are saying I should do.
Nick: It took a long time to figure out that the show is unlikely to be a business all on its own unless it’s just gigantic.
So you look at Entrepreneur on Fire and you see we’re making $50,000 grand a month in sponsorship money, and that would be outstanding. I would take $50,000 grand a month to host a show.
Nick: But it’s amplitude and frequency, right? He’s putting out a show thirty days a month and has a massive audience, right? So he can sell several ad slots per day and put that out every single day.
So if you’re doing a weekly show, the numbers probably don’t look like that. So that was kind of depressing to realize. But I was like, ‘I still think this is a worthwhile endeavor, so how can I make this work for my business?’
It was like, ‘Okay, this is just like writing a book.’
It’s not a business all on its own unless you’re having massive, massive traffic and you’ve got a bunch of ads, so it has to be content marketing for something else like for the business behind the business.
I am still working on what that business exactly is, but I figured whatever it’s going to be, I have to have emails.
So trying to figure out how do I turn listeners into subscribers was a huge turning point for me.
What that looked like in practice – and I hope you’re doing this for your show – was creating episode-specific or content-specific opt-in offers or content upgrades.
We just did this whole episode on how to sell and market courses on You to Me and develop paths of income from these video courses that you record. It was like Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, really juicy, tactical stuff on how to get this done.
So instead of my usual, generic call to action like, ‘join the Side Hustle Nation Facebook group,’ or something totally random like, ‘leave me a review on iTunes.’ It was like, ‘No. If you want to download all of Scott’s Top Udemy tips, go to this URL and I’ll send you a free pdf.
Those convert like crazy. So I’ve been doing this now for the past over 100 episodes and it’s just exploded.
The email lists gross have gone from around 1,000 subscribers at a time, which was like summer of 2014, to 26,000 – fast forward a year and a half, two years later.
Nick: It took a long time to figure out, but I finally hit on something that works and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Keep that wheel spinning, if that makes sense.
Dave: Yeah, so the nuts and bolts of that are so every episode, you create a pdf and you let your audience know in that episode where they can go to get the pdf of those highlights and tips?
Nick: Yeah, so I’m using Lead Pages to get this done for final delivery. You can actually use them, like they have a text-in option.
So you could say, ‘Hey, text You to Me to whatever their text-in number is.’ So that’s a cool way to do it. Or you can just use kind of like your landing page to direct traffic back to your site.
It’s been really, really effective for me. So I’ve seen people do this with transcripts, I saw it get used in a highlight reel document, I’ve seen people do extended mp3 interviews like Grant Baldwin did this for the “How Did You Get Into That?” show.
It’s like, man, if I’m thirty minutes deep and I’m really digging this interview, ‘Hey, if you want the extended audio, give me your email.’
‘Well, yeah, I want to know what you guys talk about after you hung up. That sounds kind of cool.’ Are there cheat sheets, action guides, checklists – all of that stuff works really, really well.
That’s my beef with podcasting is you don’t know who’s out there. It’s a very anonymous medium and you don’t have really good analytics and you have no way to communicate with people outside of the show.
So here’s a way to get another touch point with your audience.
Dave: Do you get more people to sign up through the text system or by going somewhere to put in their email address?
Nick: By far, the email address one, and I have run very limited tests on the texting system, to be honest. I’ve heard it on other shows, but I’ve only done it once or twice.
Dave: Sure. So, I don’t know what you’re comfortable sharing, but for any given episode, about how many downloads do you estimate you’re getting, and about how many people sign up for your emails through that download?
Nick: So it really, really varies. The top performing episodes have had thousands of opt-ins.
Nick: Typically, new shows will get 10-12,000 listeners at this point and we’ll see anywhere from 100 to 500 opt-ins or for those content upgrades.
Dave: Wow, that’s great! That’s a lot. So you’ve gotten up to about 26,000 – is that what you said?
Dave: Wow, fantastic!
Nick: Yes. And the vast majority of those are not from like the site-wide lead magnet which is something like, ‘Here’s the five fastest ways to make money outside of your day job.’
The vast majority of subscribers have come in through one of those back doors, one of those other secret content upgrades from the show.
Dave: Wow, that’s a great tip. Any other tips like that about engaging or connecting with your audience?
Nick: Every now and again, try and do some sort of contest or call to action to drive people back to the site. So we had recently, Stephen Key on talking about product licensing which was kind of a really fascinating conversation.
He was like, ‘Play the what if game. What if this was made out of a different material?’ Like looking at physical products.
‘What if this had this extra feature?’ And then like calling or sending a note to big, big companies and saying, ‘Hey, I’m a product developer. How would you like to license this idea from me?’ It was like crazy stuff.
So, it’s like, ‘What was your biggest takeaway from this conversation with Stephen? Leave a comment in the show notes and have a chance to win a copy of Stephen’s book that’s all about product licensing.’
So that episode had 25 or 30 comments on it.
Doing contests like that seems to work pretty well. Other good ways to engage listeners? Just asking for feedback basically every now and again.
Are you doing anything to promote your podcast outside of iTunes? Do you utilize social media or search optimization or Facebook, Twitter, anything like that?
Nick: So a couple of things on that front. One thing that I’ve done is syndicate all the episodes to YouTube.
This is the most rudimentary way possible – just kind of a placeholder image, then roll the tape. It’s the worst video in the world. It’s just a static image and then the audio of the podcast.
But some of these, the most popular one has over 40,000 views on YouTube. Most of them have 100-200. But for some reason, it’s a completely new search engine, another avenue for discoverability.
Those people are listening to that episode; they’re hearing your plug for your website, your content upgrades – it’s just another avenue.
It takes another service called tunestotube.com which is I think free, or they have like a $10 dollar donation or something, if you file is over 50 mb.
It takes almost no time to do, but it’s like, ‘Well that’s 40,000 people that I never would have reached otherwise.’ So, some pretty cool stuff there.
And the other thing that’s been working really well lately is creating Pinterest images – like I’m totally new to Pinterest, but it’s actually blowing up for me.
Nick: Creating nice-looking, vertical images for your episode, like how this guy made $30,000 dollars last year at the flea market, or something totally random.
It’s kind of a closed system where you have to ask for an invite, but it’s not super hard to do. Then you have permission to pin this stuff to these group boards.
Even if you have no followers on Pinterest – I started when I had less than a hundred followers – but these group boards might have thousands and thousands of followers, so it’s a way to get your content in front of this bigger audience.
My go to expert on this was Rosemarie Groen – I met her at FinCon actually – from busybudgeter.com. We did an episode on the Side Hustle show where she breaks this down step by step by step.
Last month, it had like twenty something thousand visits from Pinterest and like 500 email opt-ins from Pinterest. It was some kind of really incremental traffic jam for me.
Dave: Yeah, that’s fascinating. I use Pinterest and I post stuff, but I’ve not really joined any groups like that. I’m a part of some Facebook groups. The issue that I think a lot of people run into with Facebook groups is a lot of the group moderators don’t want you promoting or posting your own content.
So is that a little bit different on Pinterest where it’s not frowned upon for you to post every podcast episode with an image to that group?
Nick: Yeah, that’s kind of the weird distinction between Pinterest. And Rosemarie kind of pointed out Facebook is – I’m there to see my friends, or interact with my friends, but Pinterest is kind of a content search engine.
So people are on there like actively looking for stuff. So they kind of welcome it and they encourage it.
Dave: I knew that Pinterest was – people are using it with more of an intent to buy.
An example is my wife, when she gets ready for birthday parties, she starts a board for the birthday party – for the theme, and the cupcakes, and the things that she wants to buy for that.
So I knew it was an intent to buy – I just haven’t seen anybody doing it with a podcast.
I’m going to have to go back and listen to that episode. I’ll add a link to it in the notes.
Nick: One of the first comments on one of the first pins I posted was like, ‘This is BS, it’s not a post, it’s all audio’ or something. It’s like, ‘Alright, well.’ But that’s only happened like once out of thousands of pins, so it’s not too bad.
Dave: So you’re posting it with a link back to the episode page on your website?
Nick: Yeah, so go to the show notes page and people can either listen on the page or they can download the highlight reel which is a content upgrade. Or they can – then there’s a link to iTunes and Stitcher from there as well.
Dave: Any other social media activity that you do, other than Pinterest, that’s working?
Nick: That’s been kind of the most effective source of traffic for me in terms of like audience engagement. The Facebook group has been really, really helpful, kind of in, almost a surprising way.
I was really hesitant to start a Facebook group because there’s already a handful of other side hustle entrepreneurship Facebook groups out there and I don’t want to add more workload in moderating this thing.
It’s actually been really, really cool. People are chiming in with their own questions and answers and forming a community and connections within that group, like without any of my involvement.
I have to delete maybe one post a week. The spam problem has not really been an issue too much.
Nick: Now people are posting pictures. They’re like, ‘Oh, I met Dave in Portland.’ Or, ‘I was driving through and I had a beer with this guy.’ And it’s like, ‘Dude, that’s awesome!’
Dave: That’s great!
Nick: Yeah, so that’s kind of a fun way to do – where it’s a community. I always say, ‘Hey, this is a community for part-time entrepreneurs.’
So that was the language I said, but that was not the action that I took for the first year and a half. So actually setting up the community or the place for people to interact and talk to each other I think has been a ton of fun.
Dave: Is there anything that you think is common advice that kind of goes around as far as promoting a podcast or building an audience that you think is wrong?
Nick: Well, the common advice is interview famous people and they’re going to share it with their audience, and that’s how you’re going to grow. First of all, it’s not their job to share the episode, or the interview that they did with you. Do you know Paul Blais from – it’s Doubt the Doubts or something?
Dave: No, I don’t know that.
Nick: A really good guy. Paul had this whole presentation on like, ‘Chris Brogan sucks at marketing… my podcast.’ Because it’s like, ‘Hey, you know what? That’s not his job.’
Plus, his audience already knows his story. That’s not what they’re – they don’t care that much. So I think that’s kind of advice that may not be the most relevant anymore.
Dave: So don’t go looking for guests who you think are going to be the best at sharing or getting you more exposure.
Nick: Yeah. I don’t know how effective that is.
Nick: And you know, when I’m on shows – yeah, I’ll share it, I’ll tweet it out and stuff. But it’s like – I don’t know, people already kind of know this stuff. Or you assume that your audience already knows the story. I don’t know.
Dave: Yeah, I think a lot of people have some hesitation about self-promoting anyway. It’s like, ‘Go listen to me talk on this other podcast.’
Nick: Yeah, it’s like going out there – it’s one of those things. So I was kind of in that boat, like I should go after these big name guests. But some of the top performing shows are people that I’ve never heard of or nobody’s ever heard of.
And that’s what makes it awesome. It’s like sometimes the best advice comes from the unlikely source because they’re neck deep in it.
Then it’s more relatable, like this is a side hustle. They’re making it happen – just like me.
And sometimes those are the more fun. I love being the person to scoop a new guest before they have kind of like made the rounds on a bunch of different shows.
Dave: How are you going about finding those people and getting them on your show?
Nick: So it started with a personal network and then kind of word of mouth. Like who else should I talk to? Who else do you know that would be a good fit for that?
Now, a lot of pitches come in my way, and I’m sure you get them too. The great pitches are easy because you’re like, ‘Yes, let’s make it happen.’ The horrible pitches are great because they’re easy – you’re like, ‘No way.’
Where it becomes time consuming is the medium where you’re like, ‘There might be something here. There might be something we can work with. How can we create a story arc or an outline for this?’
So that’s kind of where some of the time consuming stuff comes in.
But a lot of times, people will send recommendations and now it’s like, ‘Can I hear you on another show? Can I check you out on – or what are your proposed…?’
You can look through the archives and kind of see what the angle is. You have an understanding of the audience and you say, ‘What takeaways do we want people to get out of this? Here’s specifically what I can share.’
Somebody sent me – it’s like, ‘Hey. I’m up to like $50,000 dollars a month in using email marketing. I want to share some email marketing tactics.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ If you have a compelling hook or a compelling story, let’s make it happen.
Dave: Are you pretty protective of your brand? Have you recorded a show that you haven’t released or had to go through that issue?
Nick: There’s probably been three or four that I’ve recorded and had to have the awkward conversation of like, ‘This just didn’t go the direction I wanted it to go,’ or, ‘This just didn’t have what I was looking for.’ And it sucks.
Because it’s like this person invested some time in this conversation so I’ll try and throw them a bone – like a link or a mention in something else that I do.
But I think it’s more important to suck it up and make it awkward for you and one other person than for like your entire audience.
Nick: You don’t want them to suffer through that. It happens, it happens.
Dave: So, you produce one show a week, is that right?
Dave: Do you have – I know you have some experience with virtual assistance and things like that. Are you utilizing a small team or outsourcing some of the work to help you get your podcast done every week?
Nick: Yeah, so earlier this year with our baby on the way, it was like, ‘Man, I’m spending way too much time editing.’ So I’m trying to up my editing game.
Actually, after talking to Srini Rau at podcast movement, it was very heavily skewed toward like the NPR style, the storytelling style, the narrative podcast.
It’s like, ‘This is a very highly produced show. It’s a really great listener experience. This is the competition. This is what is in your listener’s earbuds when they’re not listening to your show.’ So it was like, ‘I’ve got to step up my game.’
Nick: So I was trying to edit the shows a little bit tighter and I was just spending a lot of time doing that. I actually hired an editing service earlier this year. It’s Carey Green’s podcast Fast Track.
It was a really tough thing to let go of because it was like, ‘This is my baby. This is my art. This is my weekly creative practice.’ So, it’s taken some back and forth to kind of dial that in and get it right.
That’s saved some time. Actually, with the content upgrades, I wrote those all myself for the first year probably.
Then I had an assistant that’s been helping me out and I actually now have a new writer that’s been helping me out this year on creating those each week.
Dave: Yeah, so two questions about that. One for the writer – they listen to the episode and pull out the tidbits and create that document for you?
Dave: And then as far as the editing, are they – I know a lot of editing services edit out the ‘um’s’ the ‘ah’s’ the awkward pauses, or coughs and things like that.
Are they also editing out maybe questions that don’t go over well? Are you giving them that liberty or are you controlling the content? Are they controlling the actual content?
Nick: Yes and no. So a lot of times – this is kind of like the Pandora, the thumbs up thumbs down feedback. So the first few episodes, I was like, ‘Hey – that question kind of landed with a thud. That one would be okay to cut.’
Nick: Or like a story that doesn’t go anywhere. So trying to leave in some concrete examples, like the tactical stuff, or like this tangent wasn’t very funny or wasn’t very relevant.
Nick: So it’s like, ‘That’s okay to cut.’ Because it’s like if we can cut a 35 minute recording even down to 30, that might take an hour to listen through and do that.
But it’s like, ‘Okay, was it worth it for five minutes?’ It’s like that’s five minutes times 1,000 people or times 10,000 people.
Like that’s a lot of collective time. And I think if you’re respectful of people’s time in that way and can keep it tight, they’re more likely to listen to the next episode.
One show I think is doing a really good job of this is the Tropical MBA podcast. I’ve been listening to them for years and years and years. You can tell how like their editing has improved where it’s just very, very succinct, very tight.
I think they do a really nice job with it. As I’ve listened to more shows, my standards have gone up and so I’m trying to reflect that in the show itself.
Dave: Yeah, I’ll have to check out the Tropical MBA. I’ve not listened to that one.
I did an interview with Bryan Orr who has taken over the podcast movement sessions and he’s doing a great job scaling those down and doing kind of a narrative – similar to an NPR style show.
After interviewing him, I have the desire to tighten them up more.
It’s a little bit of a balance. I’m also a big fan of Tim Ferriss and his podcast. One of the things that he’s said repeatedly is that if he had to go through and edit, and scale them back, and cut them in half, he just wouldn’t have a podcast, you know?
It’s either that you’re going to get some of the raw or you’re not going to get it at all.
So, it’s a really fine balance. I would love to edit more of it on my end with the amount of time. It’s hard to justify that editing.
Nick: It is. It’s one of those 80-20 where it’s like, ‘This is going to take me an hour or three hours. Is it worth it?’ It can be frustrating at times, especially when the show is pre-revenue.
Dave: Yeah. So, for me, the decision is if it’s going to keep me from producing a show on a regular, weekly consistent basis, then I’m probably going to shy away from it right now and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to continue to improve.
Are you making direct revenue from the show through ads or anything like that?
Nick: Finally, yes! After episode 150 or so, I had, just this winter, the first official podcast sponsors. So I have for a couple years done affiliate offers of different products and services that I like at the end of the show.
But this year I started some official flat fees and sponsorships. I’ve worked with FreshBooks, I’ve worked with Teachable, I’m working with Design Crowd right now to get that stuff done.
Dave: I was just going to ask: did you go after them or did they come to you?
Nick: They came to me.
Nick: Yeah, so that was kind of fun. And I was like, ‘I don’t know how much to charge.’ I talked to – I wish I’d talked to Jason Zook – he’s the I Wear Your Shirt guy.
Nick: We did a whole episode on how to get sponsors. He was like, ‘Hey, you know, I don’t know how much this stuff should cost either. Aim high.’ And they say, ‘Well, maybe that’s too much.’
So they come back and even if they cut your answer in half, you’re like, ‘Well, it’s better than it was before.’ It’s been kind of interesting.
So right now, I’m charging $400 an episode and my production costs are around $100 an episode.
Dave: That’s great!
Nick: It’s been pretty fun, but it’s like, it took two years or a little more to get to that point.
Dave: Sure, sure.
Did you have any success with the affiliate marketing? Did you do an ad or just tell people to just go check out this product or service as you were using it? And did that work for you?
Nick: Yeah, it’s worked reasonably well. Part of the podcast advertising is repetition because it’s like I’m not always going to be in a place to take action on it, but if I hear it enough times, okay – this is a service that’s been recommended to me.
I know podcast advertising works because I check out products and services that I hear on other podcasts.
Dave: Sure, sure.
Nick: One of them is like the Ting wireless service. I actually heard that first on Entrepreneur on Fire, and it was like, ‘Hey, shoot, we cut our cell phone bill in half?’ I’m an advocate, I’m a fan.
So, I’ve advertised Ting on a handful of shows. They actually pay in referral credits so we get some money off our cell phone bill on those ads.
I’ve done Airbnb, I’ve done Website Magazine, I’ve done kind of a handful of other referral sponsorships. I’ve even done Audible a couple times.
Dave: Do you make it sound like an ad or do you just – are you trying to blur the lines between it sounding like a sponsorship, or are you just saying this is something people should go check out?
Nick: I’ll make it sound like a sponsorship. ‘Hey, this episode is brought to you by Ting. Go to sidehustlenation.com / ting to get $25 off your first month’s service’ or whatever.
Dave: Is there anything that you think that you’ve been doing that other people haven’t been doing to build your audience or promote your show that you think would be worth mentioning?
Nick: I have been in the habit of sending a weekly newsletter for new episodes. So, every Thursday, I’ve been sending out a weekly, ‘Here’s what’s going on in Side Hustle Nation land’ this week.
Which, if I’m already subscribed to the show on my phone, like I don’t know if that’s super relevant.
Or if I’m already subscribed to the blog and feed, I don’t know if that’s super relevant. But I always try and include something from my personal life or observations from that week to make it somewhat unique.
So I’m trying to create that touch point, even if you don’t have the time or the capacity to listen right now or this week. That’s fine, but it’s just to try and keep in constant contact with the audience.
I don’t know if that’s helped or hurt because you do get dozens of unsubscribes every time you send a message.
Dave: What are your plans for your podcast going forward?
Nick: I’m just trying to keep it going. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t really know if I have any plans to change the format of it or the type of guests that come on.
We’re closing in on 200 episodes and it’s just kind of a learning, or a practice where it’s like I didn’t know what I was doing when I started. I still feel like it’s in the very early days of it. So I’m kind of excited to see where it goes.
Dave: Do you have any kind of fear of running out of guests?
Nick: I totally did at the beginning, like, ‘Dude, I just committed myself to a weekly show. What’s going to happen if you run dry?’ Actually, this week, I didn’t have anything in the queue which is really rare. So I’m trying to batch a whole bunch of different recordings this month. So it was perfect timing.
I’ve done a handful of meta-roundup shows where at the end of the show I ask, ‘What’s your number one tip for Side Hustle Nation?’ And then every 50 episodes, I can say here are my top takeaways – here’s what I’ve applied basically from these number one tips.
So it was good timing for that. So that’s what’s going on this Thursday. Then we’ll have a handful of recordings this week to rebuild the queue.
I was really worried about that at the start like running out of guests, but now there’s more pitches coming in than I can realistically handle. So no problem there.
And then you look at John publishes 30 episodes a week and he’s not running out of guests. So there’s never going to be any shortage of people doing cool things outside of their job to make money.
Dave: Last question about your podcast specifically. How do you keep from following every guests side hustle? How do you decide what to do and what not to do and keep from being so scattered and trying every idea that comes your way?
Nick: That’s probably the biggest challenge, like I know it’s a good episode when I get off the call and I’m like, ‘Dude, I should totally do that.’
Nick: I had a guy recently who was flipping raw land. This is just fascinating to me. It’s like no physical product – basically he’s trying to buy these parcels very cheap like bargaining out of state owners that owe back taxes.
He got really specific on how to do this. And then turning them around and flipping them on an owner carry contract.
So it was like $99 down, $99 a month for the next six years, and he’s like, ‘If I get 10 of these, that’s like $1,000 a month. If I get 100 of these, that’s $10,000 a month.’
That’s straight passive income until the contract expires and you do it again.
I was like, ‘Dude, this sounds super easy.’ You get all jazzed up and then you’re like, ‘Okay. Focus, focus, focus.’
Dave: Do you have to run things by your wife to get permission if you’re going to do anything else like that?
Nick: If it was going to require a big investment, I would definitely talk to her about it. One of the failed side hustle experiments was I was actually buying a website.
So it’s like if you have the cash to invest – one of the fastest ways to generate cash flow is buy an asset that’s already making money.
Dave: Producing cash, right.
Nick: Yeah, so I did that through Empire Flippers, kind of a website sales marketplace.
Everything was great for 6 months and then a Google update came and wiped the site off the face of the earth. So it was like, ‘Alright, lesson learned.’
Dave: We’ve come full circle back to Google.
Nick: I know. They’re always out to get you. There’s good things and there’s bad things and she’s always very supportive of these different things. She’s actually been on the show as a featured side hustler herself and with her photography business.
It can be very distracting, very tough to say, ‘Well, no, I’m not going to do that.’ But it’s trying to figure out how to apply these different tactics and habits to what you are working on.
I talk to people about Fiver and I’ve created a new side hustle from that. I’ve talked to people about YouTube and created a side hustle from that.
I’ve talked to lots of people about Kindle Publishing and I apply all of this stuff to what I am working on without going full board into it.
I’ve talked to people about the Amazon FBA business and e-commerce stuff. It’s like I can dabble in all of this while still maintaining my sanity and my brand.
I’m sure if I focused on one thing, I could really see some bigger results from it, but that’s not my mo right now.
Dave: What do you think makes a podcast remarkable? As you’ve mentioned there’s a sea of podcasts out there. What do you think makes one stand out?
Nick: It’s like, what action can I take from listening to this. Like it’s all great and I love listening to the serials of the world, but it’s entertainment, right? So people are listening.
A wise man once told me people are using the internet for two things, and two things only. Number one: to be entertained. Number two: to solve a problem.
If your podcast isn’t doing one or both of those things, what’s its reason to exist?
Hopefully if you listen to the side hustle, I’ll show you each week you can walk away and actually implement or apply, versus like, ‘Oh, that was nice and I feel inspired today,’ or, ‘Now my mindset is better,’ that sort of thing.
Nick: So hopefully I’ve dropped some useful things on content upgrades, Pinterest, and other stuff you can apply.
Dave: Oh, absolutely you have! I look forward to creating the notes for this. I will probably do my best to take your advice and create an actionable download from your tips.
Nick: Yes, yes! Download it, download it! Opt into Dave’s thing.
Dave: What is the most remarkable podcast you’ve listened to? If you could only listen to one?
Nick: One show?
Dave: I’ll let you – one, two, three. What’s really your favorite shows?
Nick: The two that have been really at the top of my subscriptions for the last probably five years have been The Tropical MBA show and Smart Passive Income.
Dave: Awesome, awesome. Well, Nick, do you have anything that you want to share with us – the audience? Anything you’ve got going on we can check out?
I’ll definitely send people over to your website and also a link to your podcast which I listen to and I really enjoy. Anything else you want us to know about?
Nick: It’s all about the podcast. I’d love to have you tune in over there. Let me know what you think. You can send me an email.
It’s just nick [at] sidehustlenation.com. And for a constantly updated laundry list of part-time business ideas that you can start today, hit up sidehustlenation.com/ideas.
Dave: Perfect, we’ll stop there. Nick, thank you so much for your time. I greatly appreciate it.
Nick: You bet man! This was fun.
Dave: Take care.
Nick: Alright, see you man.