written by
David Hooper

The Story Behind 10,000,000 Podcast Downloads

Podcast Marketing Podcaster Spotlight 6 min read

Nick Loper used to work full-time for a giant corporation. He used his nights and weekends to build a business. Today, via his podcast, The Side Hustle Show, he helps others to do the same thing.

The Side Hustle Show - Quick Facts

  • Year founded: 2013
  • Frequency of release: Weekly (every Thursday)
  • Format: Mostly interview-based, but I do think it's important to switch it up every now and then with different formats (solo shows, Q&A shows, panels, coaching episodes, etc.)

My wife was one of Nick's first guests, so I've known about his podcast from its beginning. It's been great to see him continue to grow his audience and get results like this:

I asked Nick about the success he's had with The Side Hustle Show and his advice for fellow podcasters...

The story behind the "side hustle" idea...

I'd been blogging on a personal domain since 2009, but because there was no coherent theme or message to the site, it didn't gain much readership, and didn't make any money. My original "side hustle" turned full-time business was paying the bills and the blog was a fun, creative outlet. And if nothing else, it was great writing practice and learning how WordPress worked. 

In 2013, I wanted to start a more personally-branded project. I asked myself questions like:

  • When someone googles you, what do you want them to find?
  • What do you never get tired of talking about?

The idea of the "side hustle" stood out in my mind. It's a powerful way to pursue a business you care about, but do it in a low-risk way.

Even though no one was reading my blog at the time, I loved writing posts analyzing different creative business models and figuring out where the money came from. And it was an area in which I had first-hand experience: I'd started a business on the side, and after three years of nights and weekends, said goodbye to my corporate career to run it full-time.

Could I become "an expert" in this space and help spread the gospel of this exciting new brand of entrepreneurship? (Fun fact: there's nothing new about side hustles other than perhaps an increased interest in them. People have been looking for ways to make extra money forever.)

I bought the domain SideHustleNation.com for $100 from the previous owner and began redirecting the old personal blog to that domain. I definitely thought of myself as a writer first, and was really surprised when The Side Hustle Show podcast began to get more traction than the blog.

The reason there's even a podcast at all is basically peer pressure. The people I was following online at that time were all singing the praises of this exciting new medium: "You gotta have a podcast!" 

So reluctantly, I ordered the microphone and watched Pat Flynn's tutorial video series on how to get it all set up. One surprising thing I learned in that series was that I'd need a separate media host for the audio files. I had no idea.

I went with Libsyn on Pat's recommendation, which was $15 a month. Had it been $25 or $30, the show probably wouldn't exist. I was that frugal and that hesitant to sign myself up for something so unproven.

What podcasting mistakes did you make that you didn't know you were making?

Here are three:

1. Exporting the first seven episodes in stereo and not mono. I got notes from a few people listening with one earbud in the car that they could only hear one side of the conversation!

2. Crappy calls to action: I remember asking people to go like Side Hustle Nation on Facebook. Worthless CTA. Far better would have been to tell a friend or subscribe to the show.

3. Not spending half an hour learning how to edit in Audacity. For years, I would just amplify tracks instead of using dynamic compression.

What makes you cringe when you go back and listen to the very first episodes?

I just went back and listened to the first few minutes of Episode 1, which is the first time I've done that since I recorded it. And yes, there are definitely some cringe-worthy elements!

The audio isn't great, my confidence isn't great, it takes a long time to get the point, all that stuff. But I did make an attempt in that intro to explain what the show is about and who it's for, and actually that part wasn't horrible: how to use entrepreneurship to build more personal freedom and happiness in your life. That's something I still believe strongly in, even if the delivery could have been stronger!

What would you tell a new podcaster recording Episode #1?

You can't expect to get better without practice. Every podcaster will tell you their first episodes are awful. But you have to get through them to get to the next ones. Joe Saul-Sehy (Stacking Benjamins) put it this way: "I'm embarrassed by the work I did a year ago, and a year from now I hope to be embarrassed by the work I'm doing today."

Thoughts on the "solo" episode format...

I did my first solo episode a year into the show. It was a round-up of my favorite "#1 tips" from the last year of guests (a recurring question I ask at the end of every interview). That style of episode has actually become an annual tradition: "What I've Learned and Applied from 49 Awesome Entrepreneurs."

But I think being an introvert, hosting an interview show is a fantastic way to spread your message and build your authority ... by letting other people do most of the talking.

Still, it's important to come out from question-asking mode every now and then. The solo episodes take longer to produce, and even today, I probably end up scripting at least 90% of what I'm going to say. And that's probably the biggest reason there aren't more solo episodes — it's tough to come up with something to monologue about!

How has your business changed because of this podcast?

The business has made a complete shift from the time I started until today. The podcast started as a little side project to the comparison shoe shopping site I was running at the time, but within a year and a half was my main focus — even if revenue probably didn't justify it yet.

The biggest shift for me was in starting to treat the podcast as content marketing, using it to generate email subscribers. At episode 64, a little over a year into the show, I started creating episode-specific lead magnets (basically PDF summaries of the call). It had taken a year to gain 1000 email subscribers, but once I started doing this, within 3 months it was 3000, and within 6 months it was 6000. It was a major turning point.

Today the podcast remains my primary content channel and means of "discovery." It earns money through sponsorships, by promoting my own stuff (mainly books at the moment), and through the occasional affiliate offer.

What's perhaps most exciting about podcasting is the huge audience out there who still doesn't know what a podcast is or how to listen to one. As more and more of them inevitably get hooked into this world of on-demand audio, a rising tide lifts all boats. Sure, there's more competition for attention than ever, but I believe you can still stand out and be found with compelling and helpful content.

Listen And Subscribe

You can subscribe to The Side Hustle Show via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS.

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