My Side Hustle Plans for 2021 (The State of BirchTree)

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

We’re almost to the new year, and I wanted to do a quick overview of how my numerous side projects are going, and what I plan to do in the new year. Think of it as a state of the union for BirchTree and all its related things.


This site hit it’s 10th anniversary back in October, and that’s just wild to me. I deeply appreciate everyone who has followed along, whether you subscribed today or years ago. I’d be really curious to figure out who has subscribed the longest, but I have no way of finding this out, so it will remain a mystery. What I will say is that for the first few years of the site, the daily traffic was sometimes measured in single digits, so the odds of anyone being from the fist few years is very, very low.

For the first 8 years, the site grew every year, sometimes by massive amounts. 2019 was the first year that traffic leveled off, and that trend continued in 2020, as I will actually have slightly less traffic this year than last year. The numbers are still good in the grand scheme of things, and I have several measures in place to make sure things keep running when things get crazy, but I don’t really see this blog as a growth product anymore.

So what does that mean for the site?

None of this is structured or anything, but I think I’m going to do fewer link posts (those will move to the newsletter, see more below), and focus more on longer form posts. If I’m not optimizing for SEO or page views in general, since focusing on that has stopped generating progress), I can instead focus on writing things that I hope are better overall. I have about 500 posts this year, so expect that to drop quite a bit in 2021, but I hope you’ll enjoy the things I write even more.

The BirchTree Podcast

I loved making this show, and I made 235 episodes over the 2 years it ran. I got better as I went along, and I enjoyed experimenting with some interesting recording setups, even doing one entirely from my Apple Watch.

But as 2020 rolled on, I lost momentum on this, and more importantly I lost inspiration. Then in October I retired the show, although the show is archived on Anchor if you wanted to check out old episodes.

I’ll miss the show, and there is a good chance I’ll be back to the podcast space in the future, but for now just keep an eye out for me on numerous other tech shows!

And if you would have me on your show, hit my up at [email protected]

A Better Computer

Now we get to the good stuff! I’ve been making screencast tutorials professionally for years, but this year I figured I could do that on YouTube in a way that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, so on June 1 I started, and since then have:

  • Created 75 videos
  • Hit 2,000 subscribers
  • Had one video eclipse 100,000 views

That’s not a bad start for something that I just started, and I’m excited to see what I can do next year with this. This is going to be my main side-project in 2021, and honestly, it’s been my main project for the past 3 months. It’s simply what I enjoy making the most, it’s what I get the most feedback from you all about, and it makes the most money. Combine all of those together and it should be no surprise that I consider this my main gig right now.

The Birch Bark Newsletter

Speaking of new projects, I started Birch Bark on February 19 this year, and have published a new issue every Friday since then. That’s 46 issues, plus 4 bonus end-of-year emails each day this week. Tomorrow is issue 47, and I see no reason why I won’t continue this through all of 2021 as well.

For those who don’t know, Birch Bark is a collection of links, videos, art, photography, and music that I’m enjoying each week. It goes out every Friday morning, hopefully giving you things to enjoy in the email, as well as filling up your Instapaper/Pocket/YouTube queues for the weekend.

While this has not been quite as successful as A Better Computer, it has hundreds of subscribers and is growing at a steady pace. It certainly has enough engagement for me to commit to doing this really well going forward.

I recently moved the newsletter to Substack, which I am supremely happy with right now. I like that it feels like a better blend of email and web, while other email services feel too disconnected from the web for my taste. Check out the Birch Bark Substack page here, and either subscribe via email or RSS, your pick!


My big takeaway is that in 2020 I finally acknowledged that blogging is not what it once was, and I should try to embrace newer trends if I want to keep growing. The blog will always be important to me, and I expect to remain one of the most prolific solo bloggers you follow, but the newsletter has given me an outlet for sharing my favorite stuff that feels more natural, and YouTube has ignited something special in me that I haven’t felt in a long time from blogging.

2021 is going to be fun!