A little time off 


My family and I are getting some much-needed time away starting tomorrow. For about a week, we’ll be in a different part of the country, and I’ll be offline and not working for the first time in three years. It feels weird and vaguely irresponsible to take time off as a self-employed person, but it’ll be good for all of us.

See you on the other side, Internet.

RelayCon: WWDC 2016 tickets now for sale →

I’m really excited to announce that we’ll be doing a live Connected (along with Jason Snell and Serenity Caldwell) at WWDC this year:

On June 13 at 6 PM we will be hosting an event at 111 Minna Street in San Francisco. Come grab a drink at the bar and hang out before a live panel starts covering that morning’s news. Hosts from Connected will be joined by Serenity Caldwell and Jason Snell.

Relay FM WWDC 2016

Tickets are available now. Get them while they last!

Telling the story of those who are voiceless →

I’ve written about my brother’s non-profit before. Operation Broken Silence is hard at work to end the genocide happening in Sudan. I believe in their work, and was honored to narrate their last documentary.

I’m helping them raise money to shoot their next film. These films allow Operation Broken Silence to tell the story of the people caught in this terrible situation. OBS provides food, medicine and education to the refugees who have fled the conflict.

OBS just launched a $3,000 matching campaign thanks to a generous sponsor, so your money can go twice as far. I’d love for you to go check it out.

Six months of indie life 

I’ve been independent for just about six months now,[1] and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how things are going.

The Work

As most nerds, I can’t really just work on one thing, so I divide my working time into three big categories.

Relay FM

Relay FM is the majority of my income and is what I spend the most time on. Being able to dedicate much more of my time and effort to the network has been huge. For example, our membership program had been on the to-do list for months before I had time to get it built out. It’s been a big success, and it’s really great to see our hosts be able to make more from their shows. Putting together the newsletter for our members is a real joy each month.

The two shows I co-host are firing on all cylinders. On Connected, we’re breaking free of the news cycle more often to discuss other topics, and I think its led to some amazing episodes. My other podcast — Liftoff — has come into its own. Our rhythm of covering space news, hosting interviews and working through explainer episodes is unique, and a lot of fun to work on with Jason.

Behind the scenes, I’ve been more involved in developing new shows, working harder on the business side of things and have been planning some very exciting stuff for later this year you’ll hear about soon.

512 Pixels

In terms of raw percentages, this site has seen the biggest increase in time and attention since August. It had been put aside to a degree when we launched Relay, and it’s been to be able to write more than I have in previous months.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve branched out a bit with the new YouTube channel. This is very experimental. I don’t have a ton of video experience, but I’m learning a lot as I go. I’ve got two videos done, and I’m proud of both of them. Feedback has been great, and I have another one in the works now.[2]

I’m not sure what the end game is with the videos quite yet. I’d like to make some income from them eventually, but for now, I’m still exploring.


I’m continuing to do a little bit of freelance. I’m still helping manage The Sweet Setup, and I’m having a good time writing my monthly Apple History column over on iMore.

Out in the real world, I service a handful of clients’ technical needs, but it’s a small business that I’m not really looking to expand.

Life at Home

Adjusting to working at home has been the biggest challenge of the last six months. While I have an office I go to when I need to record, most days I work at home from a desk we set up in our bedroom.[3]

We have three kids, and my wife is currently homeschooling. Figuring out the ins and outs of being at home has been tricky some days. One reason I did this was to have more time with my family during the week, but if I’m just hanging out all day, I can’t pay the bills. While I can shut the door and put headphones in, that’s not always the right answer, either.

I think we’ve gotten better at knowing when I need to step away from work and get involved, but its still a little bit of a work in progress. If something crazy is going on, my wife will ask me to help wrangle the madness, and I’m happy to do so.

If I’m really swamped, I will pack up and head to the office to focus. It’s nice having another place to go when I need a change of scenery.


There is a lot of inherent weirdness in going independent and talking about money on the Internet. To sidestep all that, I will simply say this: things are good. Even with the additional burden of paying for our own insurance, our family’s finances are just as solid as they were when I had a 9–5 job. I’m not making what I was when I had all this stuff and a paycheck, but the graph is moving in the right direction.

The bulk of our income comes from Relay FM, with The Sweet Setup, 512 Pixels and iMore rounding things out.

I need 512 Pixels to be a bigger part of the pie. I’m pouring time into it, but the site doesn’t make enough money to justify the current effort, especially if I count the time spent shooting and editing video for the YouTube channel. That sidebar ad doesn’t pay much, and RSS sponsorships have slowed down, despite the site being more popular than ever. I’m going to keep investing time here because 512 is my first Internet love, but I’m keeping my eye on things.

Oh yeah, then there’s taxes. Woof.

The Future

It’s been a wild six months. I’m still working too many evenings and weekends, but it’s manageable. Not having anyone to answer is amazing, and I get to pick and choose what I work on most days. The freedom is worth the risk, and I’m already probably ruined for going back to a jobby job. Barring anything major happening to Relay or any other part of my business, there’s no end in sight.

Time to get back to work.

  1. I left my old agency the first week of August, but hung out part-time for several weeks wrapping up one last project.  ↩

  2. USPS seems to have eaten a recent purchase.  ↩

  3. I’d take a picture but its too messy right now to share, but the basic setup is pretty simple: my MacBook Pro sits in a BookArc, hooked up to an Apple Thunderbolt display sitting on a HiRise, paired with a Magic Keyboard and a Logitech Performance MX mouse. The desk itself and the cable management tray under it are both from Ikea.  ↩

RSS Sponsorships for sale 

The best way to advertise on 512 Pixels is via RSS sponsorship. Exclusive for one week, sponsored posts come with a whole pile of benefits:

  • A sponsored link post on 512 Pixels that is seen by 12,500 RSS subscribers and 2,500 Twitter followers. These posts are published on Monday.
  • A thank-you tweet later in the week from my personal account, which has over 9,000 followers, as well as the site’s Twitter account.
  • A text link in the sidebar for the entirety of the week of your sponsorship.

Spots are $120 per week; availability is outlined below.

To book a sponsorship or ask any questions, please email me at stephen@hackett.fm.

Introducing Relay FM membership →

Today’s a big day at Relay FM.

Since leaving my job this fall, one of the big projects I’ve been working on is our new membership plan.

Relay FM is home to a wide selection of shows, and now you can choose to support the hosts you love directly monthly or annually. We’ve always felt Relay was part of a bigger community, and I think this is a nice extension of that idea.

We are throwing in some fun perks, and have lots of ideas for future member-only goodies. I’d love if you found a couple of shows you enjoy to help support.