Minnie: Hi, everyone. This is Minnie with an exciting episode of our podcast, uSpeak. My guest today is Nick Loper, who is the founder of SideHustleNation.com. Nick is a successful entrepreneur, writer, blogger, and podcaster. He has written several books and blogs, built websites, and started a series of successful podcasts. The award-winning Side Hustle Show is a top-ten entrepreneurship podcast with over 1,000 five-star ratings. Nick has coached a few entrepreneurs and also has been featured in New York Times, NBC, Entrepreneur, and Fortune Magazine, to name a few. Let me welcome Nick to our show. Hi, Nick. A very warm welcome. How are you?
Nick: I’m doing well, Minnie. Thanks for having me.
Minnie: Well, very good. I hope you are ready for your interview. And don’t worry I will not be too hard on you.
Nick: That’s good.
Okay. So, tell me something about you so that my audience can relate to this discussion. Take us through the journey that brought you to the current situation.
Nick: Who am I? Well, today, I am a husband and father. Our two boys are six and four, so they keep us pretty busy. But I’m so grateful to be able to carve out some time to do The Side Hustle Show and continue to source these very interesting stories of people who’ve been there, done that, got it done somehow with limited time and resources, and made their own income streams. I still find that super, super inspiring, now 500 episodes and 9 years deep into it.
Minnie: Okay. So, your website says that you used to work. Can you share what kind of work you did before starting your business?
Nick: Yeah. My one and only corporate job out of college was a manufacturer’s rep for Ford Motor Company, where my primary role was to interface with their dealers on the service and parts side of their business. And Ford makes money in really three ways, right? They sell cars. They sell parts. And, then, they sell financing and insurance products on top of that stuff. So, I was kind of on the insurance and the parts side with the goal being sell more Ford parts through this dealer channel. It was – I mean, the car business is a fascinating business. Some of these dealers had been in business for generations. It was really cool to kinda come in and see how they operated. But, at the same time, I knew from probably even before I started I had very little desire to climb the corporate ladder and have that be my path. So, I was looking for something on the side. And what that turned out to be – my original side hustle was a comparison shopping site for footwear, where you could find the best price of your next pair of shoes, and it would earn affiliate commissions when somebody would come through and buy through the site.
Minnie: So, how long you worked before you started a business? So, how long are you worked in the corporate world?
Nick: So, it was three years there. And pretty much that entire time I was trying to get the shoe business up and running on the side. And it took a long time. It took a lot of nights and weekends to finally feel comfortable handing in my notice to my boss, and turning in the keys to the company car, and saying, “All right. I’m gonna go – I’m gonna make a run that this.” It was probably not replacing my full salary at that time. I was making around $50,000 a year, which was kinda low for California where we were at.
I talked to a lot of people who are really high-income earners, and it becomes almost the golden handcuffs, where the lifestyle has crept up to meet that high level of income and it’s really difficult or more difficult to build a side hustle to that level. And so, I was at a pretty low salary relatively speaking and had low expenses. And so, even though the business income, the side hustle income, wasn’t quite to that level, I was confident with an extra 40-50 hours a week to dedicate to it that I could get it to that level and beyond.
Minnie: So, do you think that your corporate job prepared you for your venture?
Nick: They’re almost completely unrelated. It’s kinda weird. I guess there was some – maybe some carryover in having sales conversations and being in front of people face to face that maybe benefited me down the road. But one was very old school, like this 100-year-old company, and the other was this online business that was almost entirely virtual. So, it was kinda – not a lot of overlap.
I would say that the side hustle stuff, I think, made me a better employee, which maybe not a lot of employers would have that same perspective. But I saw that, by being – all of the sudden, by being the CEO of my own little enterprise by nights and weekends, I was able to see the big picture at work at the day job like the profit and loss, the strategy, and how does this fit into the big picture vision for this operation. And all that was probably more helpful than the day job helped me with the side business.
Minnie: So, when did you actually start your business – I would say when did you start Side Hustle Nation? When was that? Which year?
Nick: Yeah. So, Side Hustle Nation started in the spring of 2013. I had already been a full-time entrepreneur for almost five years at that point. And it started a bunch of different projects, which for the sake of full disclosure most of which failed, most of which didn’t go anywhere. They kinda died a slow and painful death in some dark corner of the internet. A couple of them stuck around. One of them was a virtual assistant directory that I sold in late 2020, and the other was the Side Hustle Nation stuff. That was just so much fun to work on. It was absolutely a side project from the shoe business at that time, but within a year and a half kinda became the main focus for me.
Minnie: So, that shoe business was also totally online –
Minnie: – or it was – okay. All right. Okay. So, according to you, when it comes to your side hustle work, keep the three C’s in mind. So, would you like to tell my audience what those three C’s are?
Nick: Those are creation, connection, and contribution. And it starts with this creation piece of coming up with an idea. What are you going to put out into the world that has your own unique stamp on it? It doesn’t have to be something never before seen because somebody gave me the example of, “How many dry cleaners are in your town? How many sushi restaurants are in your town?” They all have basically the same business model but maybe they serve a slightly different audience so they have a unique twist on it. That’s kinda the creation piece.
The connection piece is where I have a lot of fun. It’s this marketing piece. It’s the “How are you gonna get this in front of people? How are you going to talk to the right decision-makers? How are people gonna know that you exist?” I love talking about all things marketing and discovery. And the contribution piece is “What’s the value add? What are people getting out of this? What are your customers – how are they better off at the end of the day after having done business with you?” A friend kinda put it this way: “What’s the transformation of your product or service? How are people different or better or happier as a result of having done business with you?” And so, I like to think of that contribution piece as really kind of a critical piece of the business equation as I think a lot of people, myself included, in the early days got into business and side hustles for the very noble enterprise of “How do I make money?” And it’s like, well…now, 10, 15, 20 years later it’s like, “Well, money really only follows value.” And the value is that contribution piece.
Minnie: Yes, well said. So, how long it took you to put those three C’s together, that this is like the core thing for any business, right? How long it took you for you?
Nick: Oh, my gosh. So, this was about a year and a half into the Side Hustle Nation project. There was a local TEDx event happening, and I had volunteered the year before because I was always into watching TED Talks. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. There’s one happening just down the street from us in our town. That’s so cool. So, I’ll sign up and I’ll volunteer.” And the next year I was like, okay – you know, dust off my pride and my ego and, like, maybe I could submit a speaking pitch, not really understanding how this works.
I didn’t hear anything back for months and months and months. And they were like, “Well, you submitted this pitch based on education. Well, that was our theme for last year.” I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know the theme changes every year.” “But this year’s theme is creativity. What have you got for us on creativity?” I was, “Well, as luck would have it, I think that’s a really important entrepreneurial skill.” And so, we kinda went back and forth and was able to get that done.
And it was very much deer in the headlights because they did it up with the red circle carpet and, you know, in this dark black-box theater. And, all of the sudden, you’re like, “Man, I hoped I rehearsed this thing enough because now it’s like single take, no notes, no do-overs.” And it was something I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to do but not necessarily what I’d be seeking out again just from the nerves standpoint.
Minnie: Then once on the mic, you’re all intimidation went away, right?
Nick: I wish I could say it. My throat went bone dry like 30 seconds into this talk. And I was talking to my brother afterwards and he was like, “Oh, that’s a physiological stress response to like conserve liquids or something.” I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” I struggled through it and made it happen.
Minnie: Okay. Good. Good for you. All right. So, approximately how many people do you think – have you helped? Do you keep a tab of how successful they are? I’m asking because we offer a training program and are always trying to stay in touch with people who have completed our course which seems to be a constant struggle.
Nick: Yeah. It is, especially in the world of podcasting, where it’s such an anonymous medium. You don’t really get a good sense of who’s tuning in. You see the blips on the download chart, which for The Side Hustle Show could be 30, 40, 50,000 downloads per episode over the course of a year or two. And it’s like, “That’s a stadium full of people.” But you might only get emails back or comments back from a dozen or even less than that in some cases. And you’re like, “I know people are out there listening.” But it’s really frustrating in that sense.
What is awesome is the emails that you do get or the emails that you get, the testimonials, the “I heard about this,” or “I’ve been listening to you since 2016. And I took action on idea XYZ, and now that’s my full-time business,” or you meet people at conferences like, “Oh, I listened to your episode on demand, you know, t-shirt designs or something. Last month I made an extra thousand bucks.” Those types of little victories are so cool.
I think there’s a ripple effect of that and it’s really hard to quantify in a lot of ways, but I do have one way that I try and do it to just keep tabs is I have a “testimonials” tab in Gmail, a label in Gmail. So, whenever somebody does send me a nice message, I’ll just flag it as a testimonial. And so, if I’m ever feeling down, I can go scroll through those for a little bit, like the thank you notes for putting out this content.
Minnie: Mm-hmm. Yes. I understand. And how do you select the businesses and companies you have listed on your blogs? Do you charge the companies listed on your site?
Nick: Most of the time, no, especially for the podcasts. Those are – I’m just trying to find interesting stories and start with the hook or the angle or what would be a creative idea, and then go find somebody in the community, most often, to tell that story. “Okay. Did you build a business around selling digital files on Etsy?” Okay. That sounds interesting to me. Let’s go find somebody who’s talked about that. On the blog, it is affiliate driven in a lot of the content to say, “Well, if you go sign up for DoorDash, for example, there is an affiliate commission or a referral commission from DoorDash for referring that new driver to their system.” And so, a combination of both, like from personal experience, showcasing interesting stories from the podcast, and then those types of affiliate relationships dictate a lot of the blog content.
Minnie: Okay. And so, before I move onto my next question, I wanted to tell you what we do here at TCI. We offer an online training program in general transcription, and we have a job board that matches transcriptionists and translators with transcription companies with their unique requirements. We also have accuracy assessment tools for someone to test their transcriptionist skills. Our audience comprises men and women involved in transcription and translation who work from home by choice. So, that was the background of our business. So, actually, I wanted to ask you what is the process for businesses to get listed for your clients. So, I think you just said that it’s through affiliate program? Is that what it is?
Nick: Right. And so, as one example, there was – we did it like a podcast interview or a video interview rather on somebody who started doing transcription from home. And so, it was like, “Well, okay. How did that work? How’d you get your first clients? What kind of equipment do you need?” Kind of all these basic questions, and I think she referenced a training course that she took. And so, one angle would be to showcase student success stories.
And same thing, like on the podcast itself my friend, she teaches an e-commerce course, like how to set up your own online store. He’s like, “Whenever I feature my student success stories, there doesn’t even have to be a sales pitch.” It just naturally kind of results in sales because now all of the sudden instead of him pitching it, it’s this student kinda pitching their own success as a testimonial for the course.
Minnie: Yeah. I see under transcription, under one of your blogs, I see transcription as one of the side hustles and you have our competitor listed there. So, I’m like, “How do, you know, TCI get listed.” I mean added to your list.
Nick: Yeah, sorry about that.
Minnie: Anyway. And do you help match your client’s skill with the right side hustle?
Nick: This is something that I’ve been kicking around for years, to be honest, trying to come up with some sort of self-selecting quiz to narrow down this world of side hustle options out there. If you could tell me, and I don’t know if I can even – if it would even be feasible to ask 5 or 10 questions and make any sort of meaningful recommendations by.
How many hours do you have to dedicate to this? What kind of skills and experience do you have? What would be an income goal for you 6 to 12 months down the line, kind of answering these types of questions. Do you wanna work from home? Are you open to going out into the world? And then making some recommendations versus just throwing lists of 100 ideas and 500 episodes at people.
Minnie: Mm-hmm. Okay. So, you can do that in the future. You can just make a questionnaire and then see how it goes.
Nick: I would love to. That’s definitely something that’s on my project list.
Minnie: Yeah. Good. All right. Okay. So, the most important question. So, what are the most popular side hustles according to you? I know there are tons of those, but most popular ones.
Nick: Yeah. The most popular, where I tend to focus on are freelancing and consulting or service-based businesses, more broadly speaking. Have a scale, solve a problem, and go out and sell that in the marketplace, whether that’s online or whether that’s in your local community. We see people doing pressure washing and house cleaning services and graphic design and transcription and editing and freelance writing. All that stuff would fall under that service-based business bucket.
Actually, coming up we’ve got like a wedding officiant. She’s like, “I’ve officiated over 4,000 weddings.” I was like, “Okay. That’s interesting. I wanna learn more about that stuff.” Bucket No. 2 would be the e-commerce bucket. This would be selling stuff on Amazon, eBay, OfferUp, doing – starting at the very basic, you know, going to yard sales, going to garage sales, and trying to find profitable inventory, all the way up to designing a product, having it imported, selling it on Amazon at the higher end. And, then, the third bucket is kind of where I have played most of my career is this online business bucket, this audience-building bucket, where you’re creating content for – written content in the blog form, audio content on the podcast, video content for the podcast. We see people doing amazing things on TikTok, Instagram, whatever your audience-building platform of choice is. Once you have people paying attention to you, you’ve got some flexibility.
You could sell advertising against that audience. You can monetize with affiliates. You can sell your own products, your own services. That’s kind of where I have spent the most of my time, and I like that business – all of these businesses can scale, but this one has some unique scale and really high margins because it doesn’t cost you – it costs you the same amount to produce an episode that 10 people listen to as if 10,000 people listen to it. And same thing with email marketing and blogging. If you can kinda tap into that evergreen source of Google traffic, you’ve got an asset that can pay you pretty predictably for months and months.
Minnie: Okay. And do you help your clients start the side hustles they like because I read on your website that you just don’t share ideas, concept, and theories, but the nuts and bolts and the step-by-step tactics of how to actually get paid?
Nick: Yeah. That’s the big disconnect for a lot of people. Well, I guess I do it with a couple people. The first group is the I don’t have the right idea, and I’m kind of in that idea searching mode. And that’s totally fine. And, then, on the other side – because I’ve been there, too – and on the other side is the person who’s like, “I got too many ideas. I gotta figure out what to do next, or how do I narrow this down?” But taking that firm idea to execution and that path from idea to first revenue is – a lot of times people like to glass over that.
And it’s like, “No, no, no, wait. Let’s pause there. How did you – so, what kinda content did you create, or how did you do outreach to get this first client? What was in that – what did that email say? What got their attention?” I love all of that stuff. That zero to one kinda story. And, it’s oftentimes – people pivot down the road and maybe it’s not relevant six years from now or some tactic that they used, but I always think that’s really interesting. For me, it was house painting in college, and it was just knocking on doors, “Hey, can I come back this week and give you a free estimate?” And, if you do enough of those, some people sign up and say, “Yeah, come paint our house, come June once school’s out.” And so, all of those stories about getting your first customers I think are fascinating.
Minnie: Yeah. I was reading that you painted house and you sold candies also, right, when you were little?
Nick: Yes, true. Trying to get this stepped up.
Minnie: Good, good, good. Okay. And, also, you won a Plutus? Is that how you say it, Plutus Award Winner?
Minnie: So, tell me what it – what is it because I’ve never heard of that. Okay. Tell me.
Nick: Yeah. The Plutus Foundation, I think, is named after the Greek god of wealth or something. I’m not entirely sure. All right. The Plutus Foundation has this mission to spread financial education to the masses, and it kinda is a spinoff of from FinCon, which is Financial Media Conference. And so, every year they do a really good job of recognizing creators in that space.
And they have a bunch of different categories from financial independence to investing to saving and budgeting and retiring early and all of this stuff. So, they do a really good job of recognizing content creators in that space. So, I’m really grateful to have been a reward participant for that – for the Plutus Awards a couple times now. And, I think, this year I’m actually sponsoring one of their awards because it was a way to give back to this community and organization.
Minnie: Okay. And I just wanted to tell my audience that Nick’s audience is around 30,000 to 40,000 audience or listeners per week, and please correct me if my figure is wrong or has it gone up. I don’t know. But you have had tremendous success with your podcast, so many congratulations on that.
Nick: Oh, thank you.
Minnie: And how long it took you to become that successful?
Nick: Oh, it’s always digging into this because a couple weeks ago we crashed 20 million lifetime downloads. But, like we said, I started in 2013. And, in that first year, 40,000 total downloads in 12 months. So, it was like this really slow ramp-up period, where I had just enough traction. I was having a lot of fun connecting with and interviewing people. But, as a business, definitely didn’t justify continuing. And it was just kind of by persistence and repetition and getting better at the craft through practice that, I think, has made the show into the relative success that it is. Obviously, there’s shows that get a lot more traction, but it’s definitely become a full-time business and a calling and a part of my identity now, whereas, you know, “I have this podcast.” And I’ve started to call myself a podcaster several years deep into it, and it’s become my baby in a lot of ways.
Minnie: Mm-hmm. Okay. And how often you do it? You do it every week, every month?
Nick: Historically, every week. This quarter I’m experimenting with two episodes a week as a way to try and break through to the next plateau in terms of audience size. So, my theory, and this just came from paying attention to other top business shows, a lot of them are publishing two, three, four, five times a week. And it’s like, “Ah. You know, if I’m only out there once a week, they’re getting a lot more potential mindshare, market share attention just by publishing more content.” And so, I’m testing that out this month.
In the first month that I have results for this experiment seem to be positive. The overall audience size was up about 20%, which was cool. The downside, and this was not unexpected, is that the downloads per episode have shrunk a little bit. And so, there’s kind of this dance of saying – which makes sense. If you’re putting out more, people are gonna be more picky choosy on which ones they listen to, but hopefully giving people more compelling content to go check out and see what might be a good side hustle for them.
Minnie: Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. And where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Nick: That’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Are there another 500 episodes in me? I don’t know. As long as it’s still fun and exciting, I plan on continuing it for sure.
Minnie: When did you complete your 500 episode? When was that?
Nick: That just aired last Thursday.
Minnie: Oh, wow. Okay. I better follow you and listen to your podcasts. I have not done it, frankly. But I will definitely listen to your podcast. I’m sure they are fun and informative. Okay. So, I think I still have a few minutes left.
Minnie: And I can’t let you go without talking about your cold showers, taking cold showers. A fun fact about Nick is that he has been taking cold showers for what, years now? Would you like to tell me more about that?
Nick: I’ve been off – as you know, for full disclosure, I’ve been off the cold shower kick for a while. But, at one point, did it for 500 days in a row. Started as a challenge from a guest on the show. He challenged me on air. “Give this a shot and see what happens – give it a shot for 30 days and see what happens.” Okay. You know, never mind – it was a pod – I coulda edited it out. But, no, I left it in there, and was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do this.” And it was – it coulda totally been placebo, but after I started doing it, some good things started happening. I started getting more clients, started to see a little more traction, started to feel better.
And his – this was Nick Reese, and his theory behind it – I guess he started it originally as a fat loss thing. And I don’t know the science behind it, but you’re burning extra calories trying to warm up your body after the fact was my guess. But he was like, “If this is the most challenging thing you have to do today, it kind of just energizes you up to tackle everything else. If I can take this, I can take whatever else the world is gonna throw at me.” That’s kinda the mentality behind it.
And I’ve been trying to kind of start cold, end cold lately versus going full cold all the time. [Inaudible] [00:25:49] to kick things loose because that is, especially now we’re in Seattle instead of California, it’s just a little bit colder in the winters and trying to get that done. But it definitely will wake you up. It definitely will give you some focus and energy that – if you’re trying to kick things loose, if you’re trying to just make a positive change, I think it’s worth a shot. Give it a try for 30 days, see if you don’t feel better.
Minnie: Yeah. I asked you because my husband, I guess, almost three-four years back, one day he’s like, “You know, I’m going to take cold shower.” I’m like, “What? Are you okay?” And he like, no – I think he read somewhere that Anthony Robbins, that’s what he does but like dipping in ice-cold water and then going in the warm water and then he just wanted to try that like in the end after taking a warm shower, just make it – used to make it cold. So, he started doing that also. So, we have been doing that. And, then, lately, I have been – you know, like Jack Dorsey and then Madonna, Nicole Kidman, many celebrities and many people have been doing it. And they say that it’s really good for you for the longevity and many things like your inflammation. So, well, I keep doing it actually, and I enjoy it.
Nick: All right. Well, good for you. Yeah.
Minnie: Yeah, yeah. Okay. All right. It was so much fun talking to you. And I wish we had more time, but we are almost out of time. So, thank you so much Nick for doing our podcast. And, oh, my God. We learned all kinds of side hustling available and how to be an entrepreneur and many other productive tips. Before I let you go, please tell my audience where and how they can find you.
Nick: Of course. I would love to have you tune into The Side Hustle Show. And, Minnie, thanks for having me. Thanks for the opportunity here. But The Side Hustle Show is available in any podcast app. SideHustleNation.com is the home base. SideHustleNation.com/ideas is a good place to start. No opt-in required for just kind of that laundry list of different side hustle opportunities, ideas that are out there. Get the creative juices flowing that Minnie and I referenced in this call.
Minnie: All right. Thank you. And you’re most welcome, and I wish you continued success with all your endeavors in the future. All right everyone. I look forward to our next installment of uSpeak. Take care and share this with anyone who may find it interesting. Please check out our website at www.transcriptioncertificationinstitute.com and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Bye, and have a great day.
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