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Starting A Side Hustle, The Frustrations, Trials And Tribulations (Part 5)

All these “gurus” online that state: “If you’re not making $10K a month from a side hustle, then you’re a moron”. Well, they need a good slap.

It’s not that easy.

And there aren’t any “overnight” successes. If there is, they are the 0.0001% that got very lucky.

This article is part 5 in a series, with me documenting my journey working on a side hustle.

But, I haven’t written one since January 2022. So how have the past 18 months panned out?

Oh, if you want to read part 4 of the series? You can here: Starting A Side Hustle, The Frustrations, Trials And Tribulations – Part 4

Focus On A Single Project

I said this was my goal in the last post in this series about a side hustle.

But, I can’t do it.

I can’t seem to focus on a single side hustle.

And that’s OK.

The way I’m wired I can’t seem to do it. Call it distraction, curiosity, whatever. It’s not in me.

I’m wondering if something “takes off”. If an idea starts getting traction then I’ll go all in on it. Focus on a single project.

But who knows? I’m not there yet.

Build A Personal Brand

One thing I am focusing on though is to build a personal brand.

I don’t like the term.

But, it’s a wise thing to do.

Projects will come and go, but you and your website. Like this blog. Won’t.

No matter what you’ve got going on. Or what you’re working on. It’s always something you’ll be able to contribute to and grow.

So, it’s something I focus on first thing every morning.

I’m committing to writing and publishing an article on my blog each week. And send it out as a newsletter too.

Then, be able to slice these articles up. Into different posts for social media to promote me, my newsletter and the blog.

Oh, you may want to grab a copy of the habit tracker I’m using to make sure I stick to things. You can download a copy here.

It seems we’re getting to a point online where people follow people first. Then become customers second.

That could be a product sold under your name. Or one of the projects you’re involved with. Even something from a business you own.

Grow An Audience

Now, I’m finding this a tough nut to crack.

That could be because I’m not as focused as I should be.

I’m trying to grow on Twitter/X, as well as LinkedIn. I’d love to have a large YouTube following too.

At the time of writing this post. I’ve over 3K followers on LinkedIn. But that platform is going to shit. Too many people are “gaming” the system.

I’ve tried “playing the game”. But I don’t like doing it. So, I’ve decided to stop playing.

Currently, I’ve under 1K followers on X. But I seem to have found a lot of people who are trying to do the same as me. To be able to work for themselves. And they are on the platform trying to get their projects out to the world.

Even though people say X is toxic.

I’m finding that if I’m careful. I get a lot of support from the people that I interact with.

Also, a lot of the big creators I follow put their initial success on the fact they grew a Twitter following.

So, “Mirror” what is working.

My goal is to grow a large following on X and see if that helps me grow one or more of my other projects.

Grow My Email List

The goal of all this is to grow my email list.

It’s the only “digital asset” you own.

I read a book a few years ago called Traffic Secrets. The author of the book bangs on about having an email list. To get people on social media to give you their email address.

I’m writing this article in June 2024. And it seems that having a newsletter is the “in thing”, at the moment.

Have we gone back to 2009?

Or are there some things now, in the digital world that won’t go away?

Like having a blog.

To grow an email list.

Being able to contact a lot of people who want to hear from you with ease?

So many people are doing this.

If it’s good enough for them. It’s good enough for me.

Throw Stuff At A Wall. See What Sticks

When I come up with an idea for a side hustle.

I spend some time validating it.

Then, depending on the results. I’ll go all in on building it. Finally, focusing on getting it out to the world.

Back in 2022, I joined a community called “Small Bets”.

It has a lot of people in there, who I’ve met on X.

The main idea is to support each other in testing out ideas. To build something as fast as possible. And get it out to the world. To see if you can get some initial traction.

If you can, great, try and grow it.

If not, move on and try something else.

Don’t Put Your Eggs In One Basket

Also. The thought process behind this is to have a “diversified portfolio”.

When it comes to investing. The advice is to “not put all your eggs in one basket”. Let’s say you invest all your money into a single business. Then they go bust. You’ve lost everything.

The small bets community is applying the same idea to their projects.

Have a portfolio of projects and try to get some, if not all to make money.

It’s easier said than done. But it helps with me not being able to work on a single side hustle.

Can I focus on a project for a short period and move the needle?

Again, this goes against the advice from a lot of thought leaders online. But people are finding it works for them. I guess there’s no right or wrong answer.

It’s about finding what works for you.

That said, what new projects, and side hustles, have come about since my last article?

SuperSub

As I’ve said.

I’m trying to grow my email list.

I had a lightbulb moment after listing Elementary Analtyics on a marketplace. I’m going to talk in-depth about that later.

The marketplace had this cool little popup on a sales page that said “Press B To Buy Now”.

If you pressed B, it would add the product to the shopping cart and redirect you to the checkout.

DING!

Wait a minute!

Can I do something similar on my blog?

“Press S to subscribe”?

Or on mobile “Tap to subscribe”?

That’s when I started building what I’ve called SuperSub.

I use WordPress to host my blog and personal website. So I decided to build SuperSub as a WordPress plugin. To be able to package it up and sell it.

Also. I decided to try something different and offer it as a one-off lifetime deal.

I’ve not got too far with SuperSub. But the initial feedback has been great.

And it’s helping me grow my email list too.

As with all my other projects. I need to figure out the best way to get it out there and in front of the right people.

HeroCart

For BAITCAMP, another side hustle. I’ve set up a Shopify store to try and sell some fishing-based merch.

And I’ve always wanted to build a Shopify app.

Why?

Well, a lot of reasons.

Because there is a high-traffic, ready-made marketplace of people. Who are willing and able to pay monthly for a software product.

Going back to the marketplace listing for Elementary Analytics.

And the “Press B To Buy Now”.

Could I build a Shopify app that does the same?

That adds the selected product to the basket and redirects the user to the checkout to buy the product.

As I’m writing this, I’m going through the review process with Shopify. There’s still a fair bit of work that I need to do on the app to get it listed on the Shopify marketplace.

I haven’t been completely rejected so we will see what happens.

If you’re interested in using the Shopify app. Check out the website for HeroCart here.

Listing Elementary Analytics On AppSumo

My main focus for the last few years has been my SaaS project, Elementary Analytics.

I’ve got a love-hate relationship with the product.

I started working on it in 2018 to try and solve my own headache.

Since then, I’ve had little glimmers of hope for it.

A few customers subscribe to a monthly plan here and there. Great feedback. And some decent attempts at getting it in front of people.

But nothing of enough substance to scale the project.

If I can figure something out. The amount of monthly subscribers I would need to be able to go “all in” on it isn’t that big of a number.

That’s why it’s a love-hate.

At the start of 2024, I decided to give it a big push in the right direction.

Enter AppSumo

If you haven’t heard of AppSumo before. It’s a marketplace that lists software products to buy but at a discounted rate. And offering that discount as a lifetime deal. A one-off payment,

I’ve used AppSumo for years. I first bought from them back in 2014.

I’ve also followed the founder for years.

Back in 2020, I had an initial discussion with them. About listing Elementary Analytics on their marketplace.

But it wasn’t the right time.

I was still doing some work on the product. And they wanted something a little more established.

But midway through 2023, I took on a business partner to help me with Elementary Analytics.

He is also a big AppSumo user and fan.

At the start of 2024, we decided we were going to get Elementary Analtyics listed on AppSumo.

Getting Eyeballs On My SaaS

AppSumo has thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Of visitors to its marketplace every month.

I’m not 100% sure on the numbers. But they have got a million people on their email list.

A lot of them are business owners and entrepreneurs.

Elementary Analytics is B2B software.

We thought we’d be a perfect fit to list on there.

They changed the approval process to get listed on AppSumo since my chat with them in 2020. Also, they’ve changed the way the payments work too.

But now you can apply online for your software to get listed.

I decided to get this completed in January 2024.

I had my fingers crossed that we would get approved.

Industry Insights

After waiting 10 days or so we got a reply.

Yes, they wanted us on the marketplace.

But they wanted us to tweak our offering.

We wanted to offer an annual deal to Elementary Analytics. A flat rate for our highest-price plan. That’s because I coded it to be able to give this for free, without too much effort.

The great thing about working with someone like AppSumo is they have so much data.

We jumped on a call with one of their onboarding team.

She was great.

Explaining that annual deals don’t convert well for them.

And that if we could offer a lifetime deal for each price plan. That would give us a better chance of doing well in the marketplace.

But the best thing for me was the feedback on our price plans.

In short. They said, to ditch the lowest tier. Move the middle to become the lowest. And create a new middle tier.

It made perfect sense.

Having that knowledge and insight was amazing.

I’d struggled to nail the pricing structure for Elementary Analytics for years.

But now, it seemed like we have made a huge stride towards getting it right.

Instant Results

It took me a week or so to put in place the new price plan for the product.

I put the changes live and updated the pricing page on our marketing site.

Then let the guys at AppSumo know, so we can carry on the process of getting listed.

The next morning. I woke up to a Stripe notification.

Overnight. Someone had visited our site. Gone to the pricing page. They saw our new middle-tier offering. And decided to start a 14-day free trial on the new plan.

BOOM!

What a result.

Are You Ready?

After that things happened, fast.

We had a “go live” date for the middle of February 2024.

And put things in place to promote that Elementary Analytics was now listed on AppSumo.

Hats off to my business partner Logan.

He managed to get our first sale over the line. For the highest price plan no less.

I want to say something about AppSumo’s commission structure. To be transparent.

I thought it would be a 70-30 split in our favour. But if someone has already bought from AppSumo. And they buy your deal, it’s a 50-50 split.

But, if you manage to get someone to buy your deal. And they haven’t bought from AppSumo before, it’s a 90-10 split in your favour.

So the first sale we got over the line.

They’d never used AppSumo before so we got the majority of the sale.

Wahoo!

After 7 days. We’d managed to make 7 sales. With 4 of them being for the highest price plan.

Things were going well.

Too well.

AppSumo After Sales Service Wasn’t Great

One thing I thought would happen. Was that AppSumo would push Elementary Analytics more?

They expect you to do a lot of the marketing to get sales over the line.

And I get it.

They want to see which deals are doing well before they get their marketing team to push it even further.

But the whole point for me was to list on AppSumo to get the product out there. As well as carrying on with marketing the product as normal.

Not to focus all our efforts on getting traffic to their listing.

I assumed it was the other way around.

Anyway, that’s on me.

My expectations were wrong.

The main thing for me is the lack of after-sales support if things aren’t going too well.

We were making sales. Not every day, which AppSumo wanted. But if you look at the numbers, it was one “redeem code” per day. With a spike in sales on the odd occasion.

But, we were getting a lot of refunds too.

With AppSumo, it’s a 60-day refund policy.

I’ve used this before with AppSumo.

Try a product out for a day or two. If it’s not for me, then I ask for a refund.

I thought this was par for the course.

All Done Via Email

After being listed on the marketplace for 5/6 weeks.

We got an email from AppSumo saying we may be “delisted” if sales don’t improve.

That was it.

No “book a call”. No “we can help”.

Sales and refunds kept coming in. And we ended up with a 50% refund rate.

Then at the start of April, we got another email.

They weren’t happy with these sales and refund numbers. Telling us that they will delist us in 10 days. Giving us a final date that we will be visible on the platform.

That was it.

I wasn’t happy at all.

Funds To Scale

As I said.

It’s a 60-day refund policy with AppSumo.

And they take and control the payments and money from the sales you make.

We didn’t receive our first payment from AppSumo until the start of May 2024. After the delisting date had already passed.

I’m disappointed with how the AppSumo “launch” went.

Both from how people perceived the product. And from the support we got.

But. We got a lot of useful feedback from people who bought the deal. Even if they ended up asking for a refund.

It’s also helped us develop our product roadmap.

Which was something I didn’t think would happen. But has been a massive win for us.

Also, we got about £2K now towards the running costs for Elementary Analytics.

As well as funding to try and scale the product using ad campaigns and sales funnels.

It’s been a good thing to do.

I expected too much from listing on AppSumo,

And that’s on me.

Unchartered Territory

For me.

Building shit. And starting an online business. Has meant I’ve a massive long to-do list of things that needed to get done.

I’d say over the last 12 months. That’s changed.

My current to-do list and backlog have 18 items on them.

5 of those don’t need looking at any time soon. Another 5 will get done over the next few days. Another one is ongoing improvements to the performance and usability of Elementary Analytics.

So, what I’m saying is. I do not have a lot of things to do.

I’m in unchartered territory.

It’s about showing up each day and seeing what I can do to try and move my projects forward.

Doing What I’ve Avoided

All these “things” may have been needed to move a project forward.

But are they tasks I’ve put in to avoid doing the important work?

I’ve no excuses now.

I’ve got “mature” products. Or I’ve done the majority of the grunt work. I’ve got my portfolio of small bets. All that’s left is to see what I can do to get them out to the world.

That’s always been the hard part for me.

Do What You Said You’d Do

What I’ve always said.

For my blog, projects and a side hustle.

Is to use written content. Blogs, articles, guides. To promote a project and get it to start ranking on Google Search. A way to get eyeballs on projects on autopilot.

But have I stuck to that?

Nope!

Again. I’ve seen a lot of content from the big creators.

They have a routine where most of their focus is. The deep work. Is writing.

I’ve been using a habit tracker for years.

You can grab a copy of it for free using this link.

But have I been focusing on the right things? Have I spent too much time on things that aren’t going to move the needle that much?

There’s only one way to find out.

Discipline & Consistency

Motivation and inspiration are lies.

You think they are an unlimited resource.

But they aren’t. They are in short supply most of the time.

So what can you do then? What can you rely on?

Again, I looked at what other content creators were saying. Commit to doing the work, and do ti over and over again.

So I’ve started focusing on discipline and consistency.

Discipline myself into getting up early. Cold plunge, then exercise. Then get to work. Not on stuff like “interacting on X”. But writing, and creating content to publish online.

The next step.

Do it again and again.

Yes, there are no guarantees that things will work.

But it’s better than saying “Oh, I’m not motivated today”. And you end up not doing anything. Apart from scrolling and commenting on social media.

Have Zero Expectations Of Your Side Hustle

I dedicated an entire blog post about having zero expectations.

But I won’t go into huge detail.

For me, I’d always wake up on a Monday morning. Feeling like I’d not make any progress. Feeling like shit for a few hours and start the grind again.

Had I put in enough work and effort though?

So now. I’m trying to focus on things I can control. Which is doing the work.

And “try” to have zero expectations about how things will turn out.

Don’t be negative, ask “What if this works”, instead of “This ain’t going to work”.

But be realistic, so when things crash and burn. Which they will. Know that you’ve done the work.

Conclusion: Working On A Side Hustle

Working on my side hustle for the last 18 months. Has been like the previous articles in the series. A lot going on, but not the results that I’d want.

And that’s the biggest takeaway for me.

I’ve learned to focus on personal development and output over everything else.

Focus on doing the work that I want to do, and how I want to grow my businesses. But develop discipline and consistency and do the things you say you want to do.

That’s led me to try different things.

Launching existing side hustle on marketplaces.

Even trying to get a new side hustle out to the world in a week or so and see what happens.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is to do the work.

Commit to improving the standard of your work. Dream big that it will “take off”. But have zero expectations for the results.

You can’t control the outcomes, you can only control your output.

So focus on what’s in your control. Discipline yourself to commit to what you can control.

And do it again and again.

Wait, want more tips & tricks? Yes, please!

Who Is Phil Hughes

I am a coder, content creator & software consultant for start-ups and FTSE 100 companies. I am obsessed with productivity, self-improvement, and building a lifestyle business.
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