How I Started A $10K/Month Podcast And Community For Board Game Creators

Published: February 26th, 2021
Gabe Barrett
The Board Game De...
from Acworth
started November 2016
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

What’s up my friends. My name is Gabe Barrett, and I’m the creator of the Board Game Design Lab, a podcast and community that helps you design great games people love.


Each week, I release a podcast and other content to help game designers get better at the craft. My main “product” is information relating to every aspect of designing and publishing board games. That mainly comes through the podcast and website, but over the years, I’ve also written books, created calendars, sold t-shirts, and developed other products specifically for game designers.

The podcast has also helped me build up an audience for the games I design, and my design projects have given me a steady stream of content to talk about on the show. Everything really works together.

Including all the revenue generated by sponsorships, ads, books, and games, I average around $10,000 per month in revenue. And while that number pales in comparison to some of the awe-inspiring incomes you see on this site, I think it’s important to realize that you can make a full-time living in even the tiniest of niches if you really lean into your target audience and provide them with what they want and find helpful. My community only consists of around 8,000 people currently, but that’s more than enough to generate enough income to support my family of 5.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I’ve been designing games for over a decade, and I’ve found that I enjoy designing games far more than I like playing them. (And I really like playing them.) There’s just something about the process of creating a game that sets it apart from other creative endeavors. It combines art and story and experience and engagement all into one.

Building an audience requires trust, and when you give your customers consistent, quality content, they trust you a lot more.

Designers have an incredible opportunity to help people escape to faraway lands without having to leave the comfort of their homes. We get to bring joy and laughter to people we’ve never even met as they experience what we’ve created.

I love that a designer can bring friends and families together around a sacred place: the table. Designers get to help people disconnect from the craziness of modern-day life and reconnect with the people who are most important to them.

And about 4 years ago, as I started getting more serious about designing games, I was having a hard time finding the game design information I needed, and I assumed I wasn’t the only one. So, I created the podcast and website as a way to help both myself and other people in the same situation.

When I first started, my goal was to get 10 regular listeners. If I could just get into double digits, it would be a “success.” However, at this point, each episode gets around 5,000 downloads with some shows getting as many as 20,000+.

And now, the BGDL has grown into an incredible community of around 8,000 designers and publishers doing their absolute best to encourage and help one another down the design path.

What began as a fun, little side hobby has turned into my full-time job. I had no idea it would turn out like this, and it’s been an incredible adventure.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When I decided to start the podcast, I began by doing a TON of research on hardware, software, hosting, best practices, and any information I could find. I went through the Entrepreneur on Fire podcasting course which was super helpful, and over the course of about a month, I acquired everything I needed to get going for around $200 in total.

I also spent that month scouring the internet for the best game design resources I could find. Then, I compiled all of those links into an organized database at the core of my website. I wanted to create a hub of information to make it easier for other designers to find what they needed.

At the time, I was living in Honduras (where I still live), and I was in between jobs. So, I used that time to lay the foundation of what is now my primary income. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but it’s amazing to look back on and see that that’s what it was.

As I was figuring out how to run a podcast, I made a list of 15 people I really wanted to interview. They were all people I looked up to in some way and were fairly well known in the gaming industry. (Almost all of them were out of my league.) My hope/goal was to get three of them to join me on the show, but to my surprise, 12 of them agreed! Only 1 said no, and I just never heard back from the other 2. It was crazy.

So, this is a super clean example of “shoot your shot.” You might just go 12 for 15.

Describe the process of launching the business.

After recording several episodes, I picked 3 to launch with that I thought would resonate most with potential listeners. I also did an “episode 0” to explain exactly what the podcast was going to be about and to set expectations.

I spent a few weeks posting about the show in various board game-related Facebook groups, and I drove people to sign up for my email list to be notified when the show launched. I also ran a giveaway for games designed by the first 5 guests on the show.

International shipping is a nightmare. That’s definitely something I’ve been learning lately. One small miscalculation can easily turn into a $10,000 problem. So, make sure to give yourself a giant buffer.

I ended up with a little over 100 people on the list by the time I launched. (Way more than the 10 I had hoped for.) And things just progressed from there.

I launched with episodes 0-3 to give people the ability to binge listen if they really enjoyed the content, and this worked out great as most listeners consumed everything before I released episode 4 the following week.

All things considered, launching to 100 people is about as humble beginnings as you can get. However, 1 > 0. That’s something I constantly remind myself. One is always greater than zero, so even if the numbers aren’t growing by leaps and bounds, just keep pushing forward.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Consistent. Weekly. Content. I cannot emphasize that enough. Building an audience requires trust, and when you give your customers consistent, quality content, they trust you a lot more. It also gives them something to look forward to.

I’ve sent out a newsletter on Monday and released a podcast on Wednesday for over 200 weeks in a row. (It’s to the point where if I don’t release a podcast this coming Wednesday, the entire community will assume I’m dead.) And out of that consistency, a ton of trust and goodwill has been earned. You don’t have to release something weekly, but try to create some kind of consistent rhythm that your customers can trust.

Kindness, encouragement, and authenticity also go a long way. I think everyone in my community knows that I care about them, and not only as game designers but also as people. I spend a lot of time each week answering emails and responding to comments and community members’ questions. And I do my best to be encouraging, helpful, and kind to everyone I cross paths with.

I obviously can’t help everyone in the community, but I received great advice a while back to “do for one person what you wish you could do for everyone.” I wish I could help every community member with their game design challenges, their Kickstarter campaigns, and their lives in general, but I can’t. However, I can help one person right now, and that’s sufficient.

Now, I don’t do that to retain customers or get people to buy my stuff. I do that because I think it’s the best way to live. However, as it turns out, the side effect of treating people really well is that they usually turn into raving fans who stick around for a long time.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

2020 was a huge challenge for the business side of the board game space as most games are printed in China, and international shipping has been an absolute mess for a while. However, the pandemic created an even bigger boom in people buying games, and that’s led to an even greater number of people starting to dabble in game design.

So, the Board Game Design Lab is doing well, and this year is shaping up to be the best one yet by far. I’m currently building a membership site called BGDL+ (super original name, I know), and the goal is for it to become board game design headquarters for every game designer on the planet. I’d really like to see the community break 10,000 members this year.

I’ve got more books and games in the works, and I’m in the process of creating several online courses. My main commodity is content, so I’ve been working to amass a crazy amount of content over the last several months.

When it comes to creating new products, ALWAYS ask your audience first. As creators, we often get super excited about things and tend to take an idea and run with it. However, don’t waste time answering questions no one is asking.

I realized a while back that the ceiling is pretty low if I’m doing everything myself, so I’ve been reaching out to (and paying) lots of other people to help me create great content. This is definitely something I wish I started doing sooner.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

International shipping is a nightmare. That’s definitely something I’ve been learning lately. One small miscalculation can easily turn into a $10,000 problem. So, make sure to give yourself a giant buffer.

When it comes to creating new products, ALWAYS ask your audience first. As creators, we often get super excited about things and tend to take an idea and run with it. However, don’t waste time answering questions no one is asking. Customer surveys are wildly helpful in determining what your next steps should be.

I stopped caring about time management and put a much larger emphasis on self-management. I try to be very intentional about how I spend my energy and how I take care of my mental, physical, and spiritual health. For a long time, I wouldn’t have a problem creating time to work on the podcast, a book, a game, etc., but I would end up being basically useless because I was exhausted or just not in a good frame of mind. Once I put a greater emphasis on managing myself I became far more productive even when I had less time to work with.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I built my website on WordPress with Elementor which is a phenomenal tool. I host the site on BlueHost which has incredible customer service. I use ActiveCampaign for email marketing, and it’s the perfect mix of lots of options and easy to use. Quartermaster Logistics has been a helpful fulfillment partner.

The podcast is hosted on BluBrry, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. I record the podcast on Zencastr which has never let me down. And I edit everything with Audacity which is both free and everything I need.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The podcasting course by Entrepreneur on Fire was super helpful early on when I was figuring out all the aspects of creating a show. As far as books, I highly recommend Raving Fans to learn about creating a great customer experience, and I definitely recommend Atomic Habits When it comes to productivity and self-management. Also, Building a StoryBrand was wildly helpful in understanding marketing.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Starting a business or even just a mere podcast can be super overwhelming. It seems like there are a million things to do and figure out. However, a lot of my success has come from breaking things down into much smaller pieces. When I feel overwhelmed or find myself procrastinating, I take the task at hand and break it up into bite-size chunks.

As of writing this, I’ve released 216 podcast episodes, written 8 books, published 5 games, and built a game design community of 8,000 people. And as I type all that out, it feels overwhelming just to think about it. But all of those things started very humbly. Today, I’m going to interview one person for the podcast. Today, I’m going to write 100 words. Today, I’m going to work on my game’s combat system. Etc.

Some days had giant leaps, but most days were just baby steps towards something bigger. But never underestimate the power of small, consistent, forward progress. And I firmly believe that people who are faithful in small things get greater things added unto them.

So if you’re struggling to begin or move forward right now, aim lower. Make things smaller. Turn the giant overwhelming thing into pieces so small you can’t help but get them done. And as you accomplish small things, you’ll pick up incredible momentum that leads you to much bigger things.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Now that my company has grown a good bit, I’m starting to get into publishing other people’s projects. I’m working with another author to publish a book about how to playtest games, and I’m in the process of signing games with several other designers.

I’m still working on a lot of my own projects, but I’m excited to help others bring their ideas to life.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!