Applying Project Management Tactics To Scale Your Affiliate Site

Hey HPD family!

I'm glad to re-introduce our friend Doug Cunnington of NicheSiteProject.com

As many of you know, Doug's a former project manager and of course he still applies those best practices to his own business today.

In today's post, Doug's going to share with us how he takes the knowledge of his past career and injects it into the growth of his affiliate sites and Youtube channel.

There's plenty to take away here so let's get right to it. 

Take it away Doug!

Scaling is a sexy topic since it means you’re expanding and growing.

Usually, it means you’re making more money too.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  1. The 7 steps you can start using today to scale your content production.
  2. When to scale, and more importantly, when NOT to scale.
  3. How project management can help you scale without getting stressed out.
  4. Why the tools don’t really matter (and simpler is always better).

Before we get to the 7 steps, I need to show you that I’m credible.

I’ve been a Project Management Professional (PMP) since 2008, back when I had lots of hair and had a corporate job.

I like the scientific method — coming up with an idea, testing it, and making sure it’s repeatable. If it’s not repeatable, then it could be a fluke. While flukes can be interesting, it’s hard to make conclusions, develop a plan, and repeat it.

So here are some results.

Results

I used the exact same ideas to scale up content production on YouTube and my affiliate site.

For YouTube, I published 60 videos in 30 days.

For my niche site, I published 200 posts in 5 months.

Results from YouTube

The results were great for my YouTube channel —  growing my Watch Time by +60% and Subscribers by 37% base over the previous month.

Results from Affiliate Site

Revenue grew by a huge amount — from $100 per month to $14,852 in 12 months.

Of course, traffic followed the same trajectory.

Why Project Management

The structure and planning of project management help you start and complete great projects without getting overwhelmed. Some people like to have flexibility and don’t want to plan too much, but project management allows and encourages you to adapt, not be rigid.

When Is It Time To Scale?

You shouldn’t scale a process that’s not well optimized. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it shouldn’t be inefficient. Bill Gates says this about automation:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

If you have executed the process at least on a small scale to test things, you shouldn’t try to scale yet. Test first so you can observe the results and adjust as needed.

How to Scale Content Production

You can use these 7 steps to roll out any process which you intend to scale.

I scaled content for two very different mediums (YouTube and affiliate blog content) so you can see the versatility of understanding the principles behind the process.

Specify your goal - The project charter

What’s your goal at the end of the project? It should be clear and measurable, and it’s a good idea to specify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) so you know what you’re looking for.

It’s just fine to make some assumptions about the KPIs, i.e. guess as well as you can.

After all, it’s really hard, maybe impossible, to predict complex systems. The important part is to understand what to measure and the trending direction you want to see. So make a guess and as you get more data you can refine your predictions.

Example

  • YouTube: Increase view time, increase subscribers
  • Affiliate Content: Increase in revenue, increase traffic, increase rankings

Define the project

I wanted to publish more content in a short time in both cases. It was rather arbitrary, but I wanted to stretch myself and do more than I thought I could do.

A good rule of thumb to help you take massive action is to 10X your initial goal. Grant Cardone wrote a book about it — the main idea is that we usually underestimate the effort needed to reach our goals.

I knew I would need help from freelancers in both cases so I’d need to create a team. More on that later.

Example

  • Affiliate Content: Publish 200 posts as quickly as I could manage
  • YouTube: Publish 2 videos a day for a month

Outline the Process

You need to plan out how the work will flow. This is even more important when you have a team working with you. The last thing you want is extra stress because people are waiting for work to be done upstream because you didn’t plan things out well.

I like to put pen to paper and sketch out the process by hand. I’ll sleep on it and give my brain some time to think about it in the background. If possible, ask a team member, mentor, or peer for feedback.

Example

  • Affiliate Content: I wrote out the process, but didn’t ask for any feedback since it was a simpler process.
  • YouTube: I wrote out the process, then asked my virtual assistant for suggestions. Here is my actual draft:

Create the Team

If you tested the process ahead of time, then you can hire the freelancers to do more work for you and maybe hire more people if needed. If you have your own team, then you can reassign or shuffle responsibilities.

In my scenarios, I asked my current freelancers to do more work and they agreed. I also hired more writers for the affiliate site content since it was literally more work.

I highly recommend growing the team slowly. So even if you have the budget to hire 10 people on day 1, you shouldn’t do it. Instead, start with 1-2 team members, train them well, then hire more people.

Example

  • Affiliate Content: I hired over 10 writers and 3 content managers over the course of 5 months.
  • YouTube: I hired a VA that had her own YouTube channel and skills on the admin side of YouTube. I also hired an editor that was better than me at editing video and faster. The team was:
    • PM: Doug
    • Content: Doug
    • Video Editor: Anastasia
    • YouTube Assistant: Mackenzie

Execute the work

The main part is doing the work, and it gets messy sometimes. I recommend starting slowly and speeding up as people get better at their jobs.

Additionally, the next step helps you go faster over time.

Example

  • Affiliate Content: It’s the same here — doing the work!
  • YouTube: Everyone does the work as outlined in the workflow.

Refine the process

In project management, this is the “Monitor” phase. For individuals and entrepreneurs, monitoring is skipped often and it’s the most important part. Your plans rarely go exactly as expected and monitoring is really looking for mistakes, issues, and opportunities to improve.

People don’t normally like looking for mistakes and being self-critical — even though it’s constructive.

Here’s why you should do it even if it’s uncomfortable:

  • You can adjust your process.
  • You can improve your results.
  • You’ll learn what to do (or not do) next time.

Example

  • Affiliate Content: I actively asked the team for feedback on the process and if anything could be improved. I monitored the writers and content manager whenever work was finished.
  • YouTube: Each week we’d meet via FaceTime and talked about:
    • What is going well
    • What wasn’t going well
    • What could be improved

Post Project Meeting

This is another classic project management strategy.

You get to:

  1. Celebrate the accomplishment.
  2. Talk about what went well.
  3. Talk about what could be improved.

While we had the ongoing dialogue, you gain insights after you finish working. Sometimes you’re too close to the work when you’re doing it, so a short break of a few days is good to allow you to process some thoughts in the background.

Example

  • Affiliate Content: The team wasn’t as tight, but I looked at the finished project to see how the results lined up with my assumptions and if things could be improved in the future.
  • YouTube: Mackenzie and I met up afterward and talked about the project.

The Tools and Apps

They don’t matter that much. Even though it’s exciting to use some new, fancy app to automate or streamline the process, usually it’s going to be harder to implement than you expect.

For example, I tried to use Google Sheets, Google Calendar, and Zapier in the beginning to have a great calendar view and spreadsheet that were integrated. Zapier is a great app that helps you integrate other apps — super powerful but can be a bit confusing.

I burned about 3 days setting it up, which was actually really fun.

But after I tested it more, I saw some issues with the interfaces and it was a mess! So I decided to just scrap that idea. Simple is better.

The simplest solution was a spreadsheet — totally boring.

Use the simplest solution that you can find. If you want to add some automation in the future, then have a look after you have more experience.

Mackenzie, Anastasia, and I move over to Trello after using Google sheets for the YouTube content sprint in February.

You can get all my templates and the Trello board here.

Do Your Project!

This was my approach but feel free to mix, match, and test to make this your own.

  • Define the project
  • Outline the process
  • Create the Team
  • Execute the work
  • Refine the process
  • Post Project Meeting

This process is not a pure project management implementation that you’d see at the corporate level or with a strict PMI-type project.

It is, however, a model that works well for an individual or small team. It’s exactly what I’ve done over and over again with my niche sites (publishing lots of content or selling a site).

5 Comments

  1. Stella guide to project management Doug. Do you have any tips on how to hold a “post project meeting” if it’s just you alone? I can see the value in reviewing the process but feel I might miss something if I’m reviewing it alone.

    • Wills, thanks!
      I’d say do your best to think about it externally. Journal about the project and write freely, then organize the thoughts later.

      Or if you have a mastermind group, you could present to them. Just prepping a presentation might be a great way to force you to look critically at the project.

  2. Hey Doug,
    nice article !
    What’s your process to get 10 good writers ? (at your rate). How do you keep them motivated to write lots of content without a decrease in quality ?

  3. Hey HPD Crew – Thanks for having on the blog! If anyone has questions, just let me know.

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