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Writing books can be a way of life as well as a full-time living, but it can also be a side-hustle, something you do on the side to make some extra income.
Today's guest, Nick Loper, juggles a number of side hustle jobs stitched together to make a full-time entrepreneurial career, only one of which is writing non-fiction.
In the intro I mention the escalation of the Hachette/Amazon dispute with the launch of ReadersUnited and my own reaction to it, an update on the business book for authors, and if you'd like to support the show by funding my time, you can now do so on Patreon.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors. Kobo's financial support pays for the hosting and transcription.
Nick Loper is an entrepreneur, non-fiction author and podcaster at SideHustleNation.com. His non-fiction books include Work Smarter: 350+ online resources today's top entrepreneurs use to increase productivity and achieve their goals, as well as books on using virtual assistants and working on treadmill desks.
You can watch the interview on YouTube here, listen above or on the podcast feed on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcription below. We discuss:
- What a side hustle is and how Nick juggles 8 different ones to make up his full-time income
- The empowerment of earning money outside the day job, spreading the risk and diversification
- The hurdles and learning on the route to full-time entrepreneurship
- How Nick came up with the topics for his non-fiction books
- Process of writing – from idea to using outsourced resources to editing, cover design and publishing
- Nick's brilliant personalized marketing play that led to the success of Work Smarter. Check out his post all about his launch on Steve Scott's site.
- On standing desks and other health things for authors
- Evaluating non-fiction writing as a side hustle
- Various marketing strategies
You can find Nick at SideHustleNation.com and on twitter @nloper as well as his books on Amazon.
Transcription of interview with Nick Loper
Joanna: Hi, everyone, I’m Joanna Penn from Thecreativepenn.com and today I’m here with Nick Loper. Hi, Nick!
Nick: Hi, Joanna, thanks for having me.
Joanna: No worries. So, just as a little introduction, Nick is an entrepreneur, a non-fiction author and a podcaster at sidehustlenation.com, and a sort of serial entrepreneur, multiple entrepreneur, and we’ll be talking about that as we go through.
So, Nick, start off by telling us a bit about Side Hustle Nation: what’s the ethos and your own background?
Nick: Well, it stems from my background as a part-time entrepreneur, as a side hustle entrepreneur, trying to build a business up on the side, as maybe an escape route from a corporate job, or as a more productive way to spend your free time. And so it’s kind of a lower-risk brand of entrepreneurship. I was just reading an article this morning about hobbies that cost you money versus hobbies that make you money, and book writing obviously is an example of a great hobby that has the potential to make you money.
Joanna: That’s a good point. And, and the phrase ‘side hustle,’ because people listen from all over the world to this show and may not have heard it, just go into that a bit more.
Nick: This is something you’re doing to earn money outside of your day job; this is moonlighting, in previous generations, part-time entrepreneurship, part-time business, basically something you’re doing outside of work to try and pad your income a little bit.
Joanna: Tell us a bit about what you do, are you just side hustling now.
Are you are actually full-time side hustling, or do you still have a day job?
Nick: I’ve been fortunate enough to be a full-time side hustler since 2008, I think, so it’s been a few years and it’s been a lot of fun. My first side hustle was being in affiliate marketing, and that’s kind of been my, I guess, bread and butter for a lot of years, and although that’s kind of diversifying out into the Kindle publishing game, into the blog and the podcast, which I try and translated into some mastermind hosting and private coaching on the side hustle entrepreneurs.
And that’s been the really fun part about starting the blogs, trying to develop these new income streams, and we’ll get into some of them a little bit later, but experimenting with different stuff and seeing what happens, and sort of sharing the results of that, good, bad or ugly—we’ve had some good case studies that have come out of it, and some not so good ones, as well.
Joanna: What did you do before?
Nick: I was working in corporate for Ford, the car company.
Joanna: There you go. I always find it interesting, I think a lot of us who do this came out of big corporates, and really just wanted to do something a bit different. I like the fact that you said that the side hustle was kind of a lower-risk model, because what we’re not saying here is ditch everything and start on Day One: how long did it take you working on the side before you could give up the day job?
Nick: For me, it was three years, nights and weekends. And so this is not the kind of business that’s probably going to go out and attract venture capital or be ringing the Opening Bell on the NASDAQ or something, but hopefully, you’ll be able to scale it up incrementally over time.
Joanna: It took me about three years as well, of doing this particular business, although I’d started a number of other businesses before. I think it’s a really good message for people, authors as well can’t expect to just release one book and make enough money to give up their day job: it just doesn’t work like that.
I read that you had a post reasonably recently, which is “My Eight Revenue Streams,” you mentioned affiliate stuff there, you mentioned your Kindle publishing, you mentioned podcast sponsorship and mastermind things.
What were some of the other ones on your revenue stream list?
Nick: There’s a bunch of different stuff. Another thing I’ve been experimenting with is peer-to-peer lending, which is more of an, I guess, investment strategy kind of similar to investment returns maybe 10, 15 percent returns, where you can borrow money or loan money out to your peers who need it, instead of going through a bank, so that’s kind of cool. It’s not huge but it’s kind of growing as the cash flow kind of comes back from that stuff.
I’ve been experimenting a bit on Fiverr in the past 12 months, and that’s been kind of a fun one, because it’s, “What could I sell for five,” or four dollars, actually, because they take a dollar cut out of each one, so that’s been kind of fun. And I’ve been trying to sell some courses on Udemy, , an online educator, and haven’t really cracked the code on that, but it’s another big platform, they’ve got a couple million users, couple of million students, and I see some opportunity there, some potential there, as well.
Joanna: What I like about this is, with books, you need a number of books, multiple revenue streams, on multiple platforms, so not just Amazon, you need iTunes, you need Kobo, you need all the ebooks, you need print books, you need audio books, and I see what you’re doing, I see myself now as having these multiple streams. They’re a bit more focused than your different streams!
And I have public speaking, and that type of thing as well. And I think I want the message of this podcast to be about multiple streams of income, right. So it doesn’t really matter if you’re-
Nick: You’re right, it’s a diversity play, diversification play. You know, inherently there’s going to be some risk when you, rely on one source of income, and I learned this the hard way, even as an entrepreneur. Literally, the day after I quit my job, I turned in the keys to my company car, and that’s the day that Google decided to essentially shut down my advertising account, and I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me: the last two years you haven’t made a single problem with this, it’s been fine, thousands of happy customers,” and all of a sudden, they say, “Well, you know, this is not really what we’re looking for anymore,” and so that was a big siren that went off to say, “Look, you need to diversify not only your traffic streams but your overall portfolio of income.” If people will reach out to me, and say “Starting a business is risky,” you can kind of respond back, “Well, don’t you think relying on only one source of income, your job, is a little bit risky, too? You know, what happens if that goes sour?”
Joanna: Yes, exactly, and it’s funny.
Nick: Look at what Steve Scott has done, just very disciplined, cranking out those 2,000 words a day, and publishing a book, almost every month he comes out with a new title, and it wasn’t until earlier this year, he already had probably 35 titles out, that he really had a couple big, big hits that got to the top of Amazon. So it definitely goes to show the power of that portfolio strategy, and cross-selling and obviously he’s a very, very sharp author, and I wish him nothing but success, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Joanna: Exactly, and we are going to have Steve on the show later on this autumn, so that will be fun. I also wanted to stress that you’re not all about the money, are you? I mean, this is more of a personality, this is a lifestyle thing as well.
What is the driver behind your Side Hustle business?
Nick: Well, that’s a good point, because it does focus on money, and what money can afford you, it’s like that financial freedom, that ability, or just that option, the alternative to quit your job, if you want to, that financial freedom, that independence.
And I think it’s a really empowering moment when somebody earns that first dollar outside of their day job. And it’s even more empowering when that side hustle income starts to grow and even begins to eclipse it. And if I can encourage that kind of creation: the creation, the connection and the contribution that fuels this brand of entrepreneurship, I feel like that leads to happier people, healthier people, happier families, communities, countries, and so there’s a big picture, you might say, a micro-economic and a macro-economic view of it.
Joanna: I feel the same way. To me, an entrepreneur creates value out of their head, and that’s, what you’re doing, coming up with ideas, that’s what authors do, whether they write fiction or non-fiction: we’re creating something out of our brains that didn’t exist in the world before. Which is so fulfilling. And certainly still, after near three years full time, I’m probably only making about a third of what I made in my day job, but I’m exponentially happier than I used to be, so there’s a trade-off, isn’t there. If you want to earn loads of money, probably working back at Ford, or as a consultant or whatever, you can make better money straight off, but are you as happy, I guess.
Nick: And what’s the upside potential of it as well: you can go and probably get your MBA and be working corporate, and maybe you’re working, 60, 70 hours a week, or you can do something else, maybe not making that same money, but hopefully you’re doing something that you genuinely care about, and can make a living doing that one.
Joanna: And what have you learned, how did you go from being a corporate guy to being an entrepreneur?
Were there hurdles you had to get over to get into all this stuff?
Nick: That’s a good question, and one of the biggest hurdles is having a cush corporate job, the more you’re in, the harder it is to walk away, and I think that’s a challenge for a lot of people: I don’t want to give this up. And so that kind of breeds a culture of comfort, of complacency, so you look at what that plays into a little bit. I don't know, just the challenges to overcome.
I try and look at things as an experiment, and this is actually in a book called “The Top Ten Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class,” what the author talks about is related to your attitude towards risk. He says, “When you’re evaluating an opportunity, you can say, what’s the best-case scenario, if everything goes right, what’s the best thing can happen; what’s the worst thing that can happen, and what’s the most likely thing to happen?” He says if you can live with the worst thing, and the most likely thing is positive, then maybe that’s a bet worth taking, a risk worth taking.
Joanna: I think, for authors, it’s funny, because I wonder these days whether the worst thing for authors is whether you get really bad reviews or it just doesn’t sell anything at all! Those two things: which one would be the worst for your book?
But did you have to learn about marketing?
Because this was my biggest learning curve, I didn’t know anything about marketing before I wrote my first book, and then rapidly realized that nobody cares what you do online, and you have to get noticed somehow. So, did you have to learn Internet marketing, and how did you go about doing that?
Nick: Well, it’s been an on-going learning process really since I very first started, probably in 2005, 2006, and I’ve been blessed with really some experiences.
I started out on Google AdWords with a budget of a dollar a day, just very like, “I don't know what’s going to happen,” and then five dollars a day, and on up from there. The same thing with writing the books, you can put it out on Amazon and that’s awesome, it’s a, a giant search engine with 100 million verified credit card accounts or whatever the figure is, but there’s a certain push.
There’s keywords you can target, and kind of do the best you can to optimize your cover and your description and your title, and all that stuff, but ultimately, you’ve got to do something to drum up the interest in it, and, I’m sorry, I’m not an expert in the fiction world, of how to market those books, to gather reviews for that, but I imagine it’s a completely different ballgame than the the non-fiction world.
Joanna: It is, but, like you said, I think your attitude of playing and giving it a go, and trying it out, that’s the attitude, I think, because none of us know. And you’ve experienced, things change all the time, and what worked last month doesn’t necessarily work this month, so unless you’re constantly playing and trying new things, you just don’t move on, right.
Nick: Well, one of the funny things, I originally wrote my first book, it was on how to hire a virtual assistant, and I wrote that book as an authority builder for a website I had on the topic. I didn’t expect to sell any copies, but I was, “Hey, I’ll put it up on Amazon, people will come on my site, will say ‘Hey, he wrote the book on the subject, obviously he’s somebody who should be trustworthy, I’ll take what he says for what it’s worth’.” But the surprising thing is, almost all of the sales come through Amazon’s own ecosystem. Almost nobody buys it through the website, which was really surprising for me. So I think that kind of plays into the power of having something for sale on Amazon.
So, just tell us broadly, what are your non-fiction books that you’ve got available right now?
Nick: The virtual assistant one was the first one, then I added one on the topic of treadmill desks: I think I have the honor of being the world’s bestselling author on the topic of treadmill desks, which is not a very good distinction, because it does not sell very many copies, but a very niche market that I apparently stake my claim to. I wrote a book on the small business website checklist, which is, I think, fifty or so elements that a small business website should have, or consider having. And that one stemmed out of my interest, actually, on Fiverr, I was experimenting with doing video site reviews for people, and saying, “Hey, I’ll turn on the screen recorder and just talk over your website for five minutes and give my observations,” and there started to become a pattern, after doing 100, 200 of these things, that, OK, I should probably put the common findings or the common suggestions into book form, and go from there. And so that one hasn’t been a very good seller either, but it’s another authority builder and another thing to have for sale up on Amazon.
And then finally, just this summer, was by far my best performing book, it’s called “Work Smarter.” It’s a collection of online resources that entrepreneurs are using to be more productive and get more stuff done during the course of their day.
Joanna: Which is the one that we connected over.
Tell me first up, how do you come up with the book titles and the topics that you’re going to write on? How did you decide on those particular topics?
Nick: Well, this topic, the “Work Smarter” book, in particular, I was listening to Entrepreneur On Fire, and at the end of every show, he asks, “What’s your favorite Internet resource?” and I was like, “Oh, this will make like a really viral blog post, this is, this is going to be awesome,” like I’d sit down to compile all these answers, actually had a virtual assistant service go through and kind of create this spreadsheet going through all of the show notes archives.
And as this passed 5,000 words, 10,000 words, I said, “OK, this is becoming more than just a blog post: let’s see if we could turn this into a book form,” and that’s when I reached out to John, and said OK, just to make sure they were OK with that, and they loved the idea, and they did their part to promote it as well. And that book really lent itself to a kind of grassroots campaign, because there were more than 500 contributors, yourself included, and, and more than 350 resources named, so I could reach out to all of those companies as well, I probably sent out 800 emails over the course of our first week, to say, “Hey, you were cited in this book, it’s free this week on Amazon, do you want to check it out? And, by the way, if you think this is a cool project, here’s the link to share it.”
Joanna: And that’s why you’re on my show, because I got the email, and I get quite a lot of emails with people saying they’ve cited me, but your book was actually really interesting as well, so, I reckon people should check it out, “Work Smarter” by Nick Loper on Amazon. And it really does have hundreds of tips and tools in. What’s funny is, I was going through it, because I like the productivity stuff, too, and I was going through it, and then I was, “Do you know what? There are so many in here that I now have about 25 new things that I want to check out.”
So, I wanted to ask you first, out of that whole book, did you come away personally with any things that you went, “Yup, that’s my stand-out couple of things”?
Nick: Well, tons of new stuff. I guarantee you’ll find something you’ve never heard of before. And I found dozens of them: on the writing side, Scrivener was a really popular one, that’s something I had never really used before, Ommwriter was another one, a bunch of tools for writers and content creator stuff. People were really high on some of the graphic editing ones, like Picmonkey and Canva were popular choices for creating these shareable images for Pinterest, for your blog, I think, those were pretty powerful. A couple of the ones that are used to create the book or, Fancyhands is the name of the virtual assistant service that I use, I probably used 20 hours of their service to go through and compile all these resources, categorize them, write the descriptions, find out about pricing, translate this massive, 500-row spreadsheet into paragraph and sentence form, they were really, really integral in writing this book, and if any of them is listening, this is not, the world’s best piece of literature or the great American Novel or something, it’s essentially a list, with descriptions and stuff, but, I guarantee you’ll find something new that you can use in there.
Joanna: Well, that’s the thing: it’s useful, and it taps into that productivity kind of hacking idea, which is why it’s so effective, and obviously I’ll talk more with Steve Scott because he does the same type of thing.
What was your process for writing?
Your idea was to get Fancyhands to get the stuff off Entrepreneur On Fire, create a spreadsheet, and then you also got them to turn that into a list on Word, and did the cover as well?
Nick: Yes, sure, for the cover of the book, I was going to go out to Fiverr and have some covers made, I’ve had some success there in the past, so I made a mock-up in PowerPoint, and I was about to send this off and have some kind of next draft concepts made, when my wife was like, “Let me take a crack at this,” and she’s a PowerPoint whizz, and so she made the cover for it, and I made a couple of extra tweaks at the end, and I said, “This looks, this looks good to me, let’s run with it.” I guess I probably should have some data on split-testing or something like that, but it seemed to sell OK, with the cover that it had.
Joanna: Yes, so how many copies are we talking about?
Nick: So, we moved 20,000 free units during our first promo week, and it’s probably sold 1,500 or 2,000 since then.
Joanna: In how many weeks as we’re recording?
Nick: It’s been two months since going live.
Joanna: Good, so that’s a pretty decent thing for something that you did, I’m just trying to work out, did you actually write anything yourself in it, apart from the introduction, or was it mainly constructed from the virtual assistants?
Nick: Well, they built the foundation of it, and I would love to be able to say, “Oh, they wrote the whole thing,” but unfortunately that was not the case. I did spend probably a couple of weeks going through editing all that they wrote, and then expanding on that to add my personal stamp to it.
Joanna: I got that impression, I was just checking. Because I think it’s a very well put together book. And the reason it’s popular is because it answers questions and, and it’s very targeted, so I think that’s great.
What I want people to get from this is is that with non-fiction, you can just come up with this idea, and you didn’t know all of that stuff beforehand.
Nick: Right, I had no special qualifications to write this book. I was just the curator or the compiler, essentially, and so anybody probably could have had similar or better success than me. It makes me curious what other similar ideas of giant list books could be created along some day?
Joanna: I’ve got right here, I’ll wave it, this: I just printed it. This is the manuscript for my book on business for authors, and I’ve been writing this for a year, on and off. Like, seriously, a year, and it’s just really been really intense, and I’m like, “Goodness, I need to get a bit more in flow around ideas.” What I get from you is, you come up with a lot of ideas, and you’re not afraid to just try them and fail miserably or do alright, or do quite well, I imagine, on some of your ideas.
Nick: Some, you know, this one was obviously a hit, lots of others, like the small business checklist book has not moved very many copies at all, so there’s ups and downs. I mean, lessons learned along the way, as well.
Joanna: But you’re not afraid of that: that seems to be the key.
Nick: Right, and for that title, I actually tried to outsource the writing of it, which was another, miserable experiment altogether. I got all these bids back on Elancer and stuff, and this lady sounded like she was going to be fine, and it wasn’t the lowest bid, somewhere in the middle, but came back with OK, you’re clearly not a native English speaker, this has no voice, we had to scrap the whole thing, and my version ended up being twice as long, and so I probably still haven’t broken even on the investment on that, but it was a lesson learned.
Joanna: It’s good to hear as well, because I think this is the, the reality with books. I have one that’s called “Career Change,” that originally had another title, “How to Enjoy Your Job,” which I’ve had out now for, gosh, four years, I think, and it’s sold miserably. It sells every January, when people type in “Career Change.” And it’s like, that was the book I just really needed to write for my own life.
Let’s talk about that standing desk book, because another aspect of this, presumably you’ve written this book because you have a standing desk, right?
Nick: Yes, we saw, I think it was on IKEA Hackers or something, the idea of a treadmill desk, and so I was working from home, and just sitting, you know, and you read all the data that says, “Sitting is killing you,” and on and on and on, it’s more deadly than smoking, whatever, all of the data to suggest that it’s like really bad. So, OK, let’s build this treadmill desk.
I went out on Craigslist, found a used treadmill; went out on Craigslist, found a taller desk; went over to my buddy’s house who had a little jigsaw, so we were able to cut out a hole for the instrument panel and stuff, so the whole thing was 250 bucks, I think: it was really, really affordable. You can go out and buy like top of the line ones for $4,000, they’re meant for them, if mine was in a professional corporate office, it would not fly.
So there’s some that actually are made for real office environments, really quiet running motors and all that stuff. But I’ve been on it for two and a half years, and absolutely love it, should have built it years ago. It’s my first thing, routine in the morning, going out for three or four miles before breakfast, and I find it’s a little bit of a productivity hack, because there’s some inertia, like physical and maybe mental inertia, I’m moving forward, it’s a conscious effort to make it stop and get off the thing, versus if I’m just sitting here, it’s a little bit easier to get distracted.
Joanna: Wow, I think that’s very cool.
And you wrote a book on something that you are an expert in, because you do that yourself.
And I actually think this is going to grow, I think that area is growing, because I’ve heard a lot about standing desks and walking desks and everything recently. I think it’s becoming more popular.
Nick: Well, maybe that’ll translate into some more book sales! And what was fun about that one was the success stories. So, I reached out, and I reached out on Help A Reporter and a couple others to try and find some case studies of people who had lost huge amounts of weight, just by adding this into their daily routine, just by walking an hour or two hours, three hours a day, and it was really, really inspiring, some very life-changing stories that came out of it.
Joanna: Wow, and it’s one of those things that I really want to do, but I am one of those people who doesn’t own any furniture at all; I rent everything, and we live in this tiny flat! And there’s no way I can fit that in here!
Nick: But you could do the standing desk, probably: that would take up less space.
Joanna: I have a Swiss Ball, I roll around and do back stretches and stuff on my Swiss Ball that I can do a back bend off. I’m bouncing on it right now, you know. Jst switching to the Swiss Ball, which is $8, to get a Swiss Ball, completely got rid of my back pain!
Nick: Oh, wow, that’s awesome.
Joanna: Yes, so there’s another little health hack, and ’ve got a load of people on them now, and it’s just brilliant. So, all good.
So, are you going to write more non-fiction, given that you evaluate all of your different side hustles. Do you think that non-fiction on Kindle is a good business?
Nick: Well, it’s definitely been a learning curve, I started out just with the intent as an authority builder, but it’s turned into a nice little side hustle ncome over the past couple years, really nothing amazing, until ust this summer, as the “Work Smarter” book has kind of taken off a little bit. I’m trying to think out what the next title would be, I’ve a couple that are aybe a third written or half written, but I don't feel like they’re ready for prime time yet, I need to add some more neater case studies to them or something like that, beef them up a little bit before they’re ready to go.
Joanna: It’s interesting you mentioned Help A Reporter, is it dot org?
Nick: I don’t know, Google, Google Help a Reporter!
Joanna: I used to subscribe to that, you can subscribe as asking or receiving, and there were just so many emails, I stopped subscribing. But tell us a bit more about how you researched your books. That’s one of them, you’ve used that to find people. What else have you been doing for research?
Nick: That’s been the prime, like if you need a specific quote or story, or somebody to highlight, that’s probably been the most effective, I mean, you can go out and try and Google for people, I found a couple of companies that had implemented treadmill desks in their office, just through press releases and news reports and stuff, because it was a newsworthy thing, “Oh, we have an ergonomic work environment for our people, we have a bank of four treadmill desks and you can punch in and punch out,” and stuff like that.
Fancyhands I guess was really integral in research for this last project. It’s just kind of through networking, like if you have an interesting story to tell, or you can connect to somebody else, that that may trigger something else, and that’s actually probably what I used Help A Reporter more for, on a day-to-day basis: even if there’s something I can’t reply to, I’ll find something that sparks somebody I know, and so I’ll forward it off to them, and they’re always grateful for say a press opportunity for such and such a company, you know, this sounds like a good fit, why don’t you respond to this? And so that’s been a networking hack lately.
Joanna: I think that for me, that networking side is so important, and that’s why I like my podcasts, as well, you have a podcast, too.
Is your podcast part of your networking hack as well?
Nick: That’s probably the best side benefit of having the show, having the excuse to talk to awesome and inspiring people on a weekly basis. And it takes the same amount of time and money to produce a podcast, if 10 people are listening or if 10,000 people are listening, so, some very, very powerful opportunities to scale up on that side of things.
Joanna: Just on marketing, obviously with “Work Smarter,” you did a lot of personal emails, which was hard-core and very effective, which I’m totally impressed with and, as I’ve said, that’s why you're on the show, because I was like, “I need to do that, that’s exactly what I need to do!” That was good. What else are you doing around marketing for your books and your business?
Nick: For the book marketing, there’s the email outreach that was the primary campaign.
It was to encourage downloads, encourage social sharing. I tried a bunch of different stuff, all of the check the box kind of marketing tactics: submit to the free author sites, the free Kindle promo sites, submit to the free Kindle Facebook groups. I went out for this one, trying to find on LinkedIn some groups that were related to productivity and online entrepreneurship, and kind of share the book in there with them. I don’t know if that related, I don’t know if that translated into any sales, but that was an effort, anyways.
Similarly, I reached out on Quora, or had somebody look on Quora for me, to see if anybody was asking questions related to what are your favorite Internet resources, what are your favorite, apps or productivity tools, and I answered a few questions there, and just tried to name a few of my favorites and then just say, “Hey, by the way, this book is free on Amazon this week if you want,” all an effort to kind of drive up the download numbers, to get exposure and reviews.
Joanna: Which is brilliant. And then what about your business, specifically, the Side Hustle website. You’ve got the podcast, for example, which is a traffic mechanism, I suppose. What else? Like blogging—do you find blogging to be effective for everything you do?
Nick: Every now and again, you have a post that seems to resonate and do well. The rest of the time, it can be kind of frustrating. Like “I spent six hours writing this and it got three Tweets or something,” what’s the point of this? But the podcast’s actually growing probably three times faster than the blog, so that’s probably my number one source of discovery for new side hustlers, new members of the tribe.
Joanna: podcasting is so hot right now, isn’t it! It’s just going off!
Nick: It’s been pretty good. guest posting has kind of been repeated over and over again. I mean, it’s tried and true, so I guess I don’t have much to add to that. I had a post on Steve Scott’s site, this was last week.
Joanna: I know, it was great.
Nick: Which was good, and he’s got a pretty rabid following.
Joanna: and that post breaks down what you did to get the 20,000 downloads, didn’t it, basically.
Nick: Yes, the post could be a book on itself, somebody told me, it’s 5,000 words, everything step by step, what I did to launch the book.
Joanna: I’ll link to that in the show notes, it’s great. And you didn't use Bookbub for that, did you?
Nick: No, I don't even know what Bookbub is.
Joanna: Oh, look, I’ve taught you something! Bookbub is the number one book advertising email list so you should definitely, and you can advertise, and when you use Bookbub, you can pay for, if you have a book on free or cheap, the last time I did it, I got 50,000 downloads from one email. Which cost me about 250 US.
Nick: Oh, my god. So, could you do it for a countdown deal, like you put it at 99 cents?
Joanna: I imagine so, I’m not exclusive on Amazon, so I don’t do the countdowns, but, yes, Bookbub is basically the sort of number one thing we recommend spending money on, in terms of book advertising. Oh, I’m surprised you didn’t know about that!
Nick: I’m taking notes. You know, that’s pretty cheap advertising, all things considered.
Joanna: Well, the price depends on which list—so the non-fiction list is cheaper, and also whether the book is free or whether it’s paid. So, for example, you can be paying 800 US for some of their lists, if your book is just reduced, but you make some money back if your book isn’t free. But anyway, bookbub.com, definitely subscribe to it as a reader, and see what they do. They’re very, very picky, but given thatyou’ve got a nice cover, you’ve got reviews, you just have to submit and, they reject a lot of people, but eventually, you can usually get on.
Nick: Cool, I’ll check it out.
Joanna: There you go, I’ve given you a tip! So, two more things I wanted to ask you. First up, the the Fiverr experiment that sold more books than KDP or something: tell me about that.
Nick: So, initially, my early days on Fiverr, I talked to a guy for the podcast last year, who had earned enough money on Fiverr in a twelve-month period to buy a house with his Fiverr earnings, so I was, “OK, I’ve got to check this out, I’ve got to try this out.” But I was hesitant to put anything that was going to require my time investment, then I got brave and did the video thing.
So, I started out with a couple books for sale, and the Virtual Assistant book was the first one that I put up there, let the KDP Select expire, and put it up there, and in that first month, in that first 60 days, the book was outselling Amazon. I don’t know how or why, it’s a sad figure, because it wasn’t setting any bestseller records on Amazon, I should clarify. But here was another outlet, here was another avenue for authors. I’d never really considered it before, but it turned out to be a pretty good one.
And now, I’m selling the website checklist book on there as well, and doing the video reviews as an upsell, or a gig extra, on that one.
Joanna: Fiverr, if anyone doesn’t know, I’ve been on there, and basically the idea is to have an upsell. So, if you just have a book, do you think it’s worth doing, if you just have a book?
Nick: Well, I think so. It doesn’t take but two minutes to log in and deliver it, and that’s the thing, it’s not all automated like Amazon.
A couple of advantages: you know it’s a higher royalty, but I guess the disadvantage is you’re set at $5, so you’re always going to get 80% of that $5 order, versus 70%. You don't get an email address, but you get their Fiverr username, and so you can message people on the Fiverr platform, so that’s a little bit of an opportunity if you have complementary products or services that might make sense to reach out to people, after the fact. And I think it’s just a more personal connection, because you’re doing that personal email to each customer that orders.
You can go on to record a video, and you hold up the book and say, “Hey, I’m Nick, I’m author of this, this is going to help you do x, y and z, buy it now,” and you can point to the button and stuff.
Joanna: That’s cool. I actually might have a go at that. When I was reading your post on it, the impression of Fiverr is , “Oh, what can you get for a fiver?”, but actually, most of our books are under a fiver!
Nick: Right. And a lot of these titles, they’re $2.99 at Amazon, but they’re five bucks on Fiverr, so far nobody’s complained.
Joanna: No, exactly, because it’s a different audience. And once you use Fiverr or PeoplePerHour or whatever, you end up going on there to look to see what’s there; you almost shop there, don’t you, going, “Ooh, that looks like something I could use.”
Nick: It’s my first stop for any sort of outsourcing idea. Because it’s so cheap, so low-risk, even for WordPress kind of site tweaks and stuff lately, there’s a guy on there who’d got thousands and thousands of reviews and it’s a little bit to give him your WordPress login information, but it’s like, “Look, I want this button to be over here and I can’t figure out how to mess with with the coding for it,” and he’s superfast and hey, it’s done for you.
Joanna: Wow. That’s the thing, people listening, look at Fiverr, look at PeoplePerHour for all of these things, it’s better to outsource stuff that will take you forever than trying to do it yourself!
Nick: Yes, in the Fancyhands example, again, I could have spent hours, I would have done it on my treadmill desk, I would at least have been getting some exercise, but the very tedious task of going through 500 plus episodes and making the spreadsheet and all that work.
Joanna: That is a really good point. I’ve thought, because I’m coming up to 191, I think, podcast episodes for me, and I keep thinking, “Oh, for number 200, I should give the top tips I’ve learned over 200 podcasts,” and then I’m, “Oh, but then I’ll have to go back through 200 podcasts and try and work out what I learned!” So I might not do that.
Nick: I did it for Episode 50, that was a little bit easier!
Joanna: Yes, I should have done it at 50, 100, 150: so there’s a tip for you—keep doing it on the 50!
Joanna: The other thing I finally wanted to ask you before we finish, one of the things that we talk about as authors is the author brand, and about focus, and one of the things that strikes me about your many, many income streams is it’s not very focused, so in a way, you’ve got diversity, but you’re not really focused. So, how do you feel about that, and is that a strategy, or is that just you as a person?
Nick: That’s a very good question, and I would say the focus is on the larger picture, the focus is on building non-job income streams, and the tactical boots on the ground how that happens is going in ten different directions. So I don’t know: I don't know what’s next. I’m kind of in between projects right now, trying to figure out what the next experiment may be, whether that’s a book or whether that’s doubling down on the Udemy stuff, or trying to build a course or something for, for the Side Hustle Nation audience, or something like that.
Joanna: But you’re having fun.
Nick: It’s all been a blast! You know, we’ll leave it at that. It’s been a ton of fun.
Joanna: I really like your attitude around all of this, and just trying stuff. I think a lot of authors have almost an imposter syndrome, “Oh, I can’t possibly do this, I’m not worthy, I can’t even try this, because I don't have eight degrees in this topic,” and I like what you do, because you’re just giving it a go, and some of it works, and that’s brilliant. It’s a great attitude.
Nick: Yes, you never know until you try, and, like you saidif you’re the author that’s second-guessing your authority to write this book, that’s going to come out in your work. So by publishing, you become the authority, and so you have to keep that in mind as you go through the writing process.
Joanna: Fantastic. Right, so where can people find you and your books, and your products and your podcasts, and everything?
Nick: The best way to find me is at sidehustlenation.com, there’ll be a link to the podcasts over there. The books are on Amazon, if you just look up Nick Loper, you should be able to find them there.
Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Nick, that was great!
Nick: Thanks for having me.
Gary Swaby says
I loved this interview. If you’re going self employed then having multiple sources of income is definitely necessary until one thing takes off full force. The Fiverr stuff was interesting because I always wanted to know how successful an entrepreneur could be on there. I always thought about offering some type of service on there and this has encouraged me to think of something.
Nick Loper says
Thanks Gary! Did it get your gears turning on what you could sell on Fiverr?
Natalie K. says
Excellent interview! I learned a lot. I’m currently in a corporate job, but I don’t know if I want to work for large financial institutions for the rest of my working life, so I really enjoyed this.
Also, I loved how you talked about peer-to-peer lending. We just had a huge discussion about that at work a couple of weeks ago. A word to the wise, though: it may have high returns, but it’s also quite risky, so to readers who are considering investing in that sort of thing, just be careful. 🙂
Nick Loper says
Good point Natalie — definitely risky because these are “unsecured loans,” meaning if and when someone defaults, you don’t have much recourse. The way I hedge the risk is to look at historical performance of loans meeting certain criteria with a tool like NickelSteamroller and typically only invest $25-$50 per loan to make sure I’m building a diverse portfolio.
That way, if any one note defaults, it’s not a huge loss compared with if you invested $5k into one loan and it goes under.
Antara Man says
I listened to this podcast on Friday, the day when I told my manager, I’ll quit to be able to write more fictional stories. I am already serving my note. It’s amazing how you guys managed to work 3 years before quitting your daily jobs. I tried the same but things are a bit complicated for me, because I am a non native English speaker. However, I still think, the obstacle is the way.
Steve Scott is remarkable and I anticipate the podcast with him. I’m gonna buy one of his books, maybe even more. Thank you Joanna.
Antara Man says
I forgot to mention, I first learned about BookBub on ALLI where someone wrote, once you have a title listed in their email list it’s impossible to sell under 1000 copies per month. I wonder, is BookBub working for writers who have only one title listed there, I mean no series?
Steven Davids says
I got into the writing thing for a while for Fiverr, but it just wasn’t worth my time. There were a lot of people trying to scam me too, so I just stick to my blog now. I’ll have to give this a try though, thanks for the article!
Linda R says
Excellent talk — I learned a lot. Joanna, thank you for sharing these excellent interviews with such a diverse group of experts!