How I Built A $420K/Year Business Transforming Podcasts Into Articles

Jaclyn Schiff
Founder, PodReacher
$35K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
PodReacher
from Austin, TX, USA
started September 2018
$35,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
946K
alexa rank
80
followers
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How I Built A $420K/Year Business Transforming Podcasts Into Articles

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey there! I’m Jaclyn Schiff. I am the founder and CEO of PodReacher, which specializes in content transformation for B2B companies. We’re a niche agency that repurposes webinars, virtual events, podcasts, and videos into written content like blog posts, customer stories, case studies, and lead magnets.

We’re unique in the content world in that we only create repurposed content: we take audio or video and transform it into the valuable marketing content. The companies we work with — mostly B2B SaaS or tech companies in healthcare, finance, sales, HR, or marketing — are creating or participating in lots of recorded content. There’s a huge opportunity to leverage recordings and get more out of them and clients love handing these time-intensive projects to us.

I love the way William Arruda described our value in Forbes: “Two great things happen [when you work with PodReacher]: 1. You don't have to constantly create new content all the time and 2. You repeat your message. Repetition is key to memorability.”

I started the business toward the end of 2018. We’ve worked with 250+ customers and created well over 3,000 content transformations. The business currently generates $30,000 to $40,000 per month.

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Some members of the PodReacher team

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

Before starting PodReacher, I’d been working in a freelance capacity for about two years (I’ve had an atypical career in the best possible way).

My focus has always been on creating a system to produce the highest quality written work possible. It is part of why we’re so focused on the kind of writing we do. I believe growth all comes back to quality.

In broad terms, I’d consider myself a content strategist. I was creating newsletters, writing, and consulting for a range of clients. Around this time, I was also doing the digital nomad thing (and writing about it occasionally).

I knew that once I got back to the U.S. and slowed down with travel I wanted to start a business. I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug for almost as long as I can remember. I’d previously started a business (in the online education space).

I wound that business down after less than a year. In hindsight, I just don’t think I was ready for the entrepreneurial grind. But this time was different — I had some sense of what it would take to get a business off the ground and I was ready to persevere.

I spent months evaluating different ideas. I knew I wanted to start a service business since that was the best fit with my skills and experience. Originally the idea for PodReacher arose when I noticed a few podcast creators asking to turn episodes into articles. I think I saw a discussion about this in Facebook groups. I went onto Upwork to see if any jobs matched up with this and there were a few.

That was all the validation I needed to pitch the service to potential customers.

When I started PodReacher, I was still doing my full load of freelance work. Any revenue the business made went to pay contractors or was invested back into the business. It took about 18 months before I was paying myself a reasonable full-time salary from PodReacher. I waited as long as I could to pay myself. That way I had more money to build up the company.

Take us through the process of designing your product and finding your first customers

I started my career in journalism, so the idea of taking an interview or a conversation and turning it into an article wasn’t foreign to me and I could use examples of previous writing I’d done in the early days.

Quality content transformation is time-consuming: It can easily take up to six hours to transform a 45-minute recording into a 1,500-word article. We think good repurposing is an art. When done well, it can produce some of your strongest content assets.

To be clear, we are not a transcription service. We’re taking the most valuable information from the recording and organizing it into content that is compelling to read. A transcript is valuable, but most people don’t like to read through the entire record of a conversation to unearth the best insights.

When it comes to payment, we used to primarily use a subscription model. But the nature of this content is that production ebbs and flows. Instead, we now work in “content bundles,” which helps us create an agile workflow for clients. Our clients typically think of this as a quarterly purchase and buy a new bundle when the previous one is depleted. Larger projects like ebooks and white papers are quoted on a per-project basis.

Your logo and your website don’t matter in the early days — especially if you’re offering a service. Instead, focus on talking to customers and developing a solution that solves a problem. Don’t get swept up in making a slick logo and fancy website.

When I was ready to launch the business, I did some research and identified 10 podcasts that seemed like they could benefit from repurposing. Apart from one pitch to a contact that I’d connected with a handful of times over email, all the emails I sent were cold pitches. I got interested from almost half of the recipients and ended up working with two of the 10 I’d pitched. That’s when I knew I had a viable business on my hands.

One of the positive replies to my pitch was from Scott Kitun who was the CEO of the Chicago tech podcast and event company Technori (Scott was the contact I’d had email exchanges with previously). Technori became PodReacher’s first official client and we worked with them for well over a year. Here’s my original email and Scott’s response:

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Originally the focus was on podcasts, but we now work with companies creating any type of recorded content.

Early on, I used a lot of different languages to describe the service and I paid attention to how people responded and what seemed to resonate. A lot has changed over time (and I documented some of it in this LinkedIn post about how I talk about PodReacher).

I fulfilled the first few orders. But soon, I started hiring writers for fulfillment. In the early days, I took notes and made Loom videos of my process to share with new writers.

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

My focus has always been on creating a system to produce the highest quality written work possible. It is part of why we’re so focused on the kind of writing we do. I believe growth all comes back to quality.

Our ideal clients know how challenging it can be to hire and manage writers. There are very few writers out there who can take your raw notes and deliver something that exceeds expectations. This is part of why people come to us: They know they want to repurpose content, and they know they want it done well every time. Our process is proven because we’re committed to quality.

The quality of our work has fueled many referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. That’s consistently been a good channel.

But the main way we attract new customers is through sales. I work with an outbound firm that turns interested prospects over to me for sales calls.

Early on, we offered a highly discounted first article. It was designed to be an “irresistible offer” to bring in new clients. It did get a fair amount of buzz and people would share it. But ultimately, it wasn’t bringing us the right kind of clients. So we stopped offering that more than a year ago as our ideal client profile became more clear.

I’ve also gotten more clear with clients in the sales process: creating great content is an iterative process. The first thing we do for you is probably not going to be a home run, but it should be 85% of the way there.

Sharing how clients can evaluate our work is an important part of the sales and onboarding process. It sets expectations early on and helps develop trust because we’re saying: 'Hold us to this standard, and if we don’t meet it after our initial couple of projects, this partnership likely isn’t a good fit.' That removes a lot of pressure for clients as well as for us.

A silver lining of The Great Resignation is that it has been a growth opportunity. There is so much movement in the job market. In a few cases, a client team has changed and we’ve retained that business, but then when the person we worked with is working somewhere new, they’ve brought us into the new company. Again, I attribute all of that to the quality and consistency of our work.

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

If there is one thing I’ve learned from running a business, it’s that there is always something you can work on improving! Having said that, it’s also important to take stock of where you are and how far you’ve come.

The business is in a good place. Revenue has increased 2-3X each year we’ve been in business and my 2022 goal is to double revenue from 2021. Six months into the year, we’re about 60% ahead of where we were compared to this time last year. Our pace of client acquisition has increased as well: we’re ~40% ahead of where we were this time last year.

Over the last year, I’ve been able to get a strong core management team into place and it has helped operations immensely. The management team includes Kira Hinkle, one of our writers who was promoted to Managing Editor; Audrey Mast, Senior Writer, and Editor, who has been an integral part of PodReacher basically from the start; and Kaitlyn Moore, our Editorial Administrator who oversees orders and handles client requests and questions.

Though all of our writers are contractors, I am serious about offering a good employee experience. I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to enable up-and-coming writing talent to learn, develop and grow with us.

I think people stick with you as long as they feel like they’re learning (and having fun along the way). I want writers to work with us for as long as possible. But I also recognize we can’t meet everyone’s needs at each step of their career journey.

Looking at the writers we’ve worked with over the past four years, I feel like we’re doing something right because many have gone on to get top content marketing jobs at SaaS companies like Accelo and well-regarded agencies like Animalz.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

In March 2020, I tweeted about this and the tech stack hasn’t changed significantly since:

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By far, I’d have to say Loom is my favorite tool. We use it internally to communicate and I use it often with prospects and clients. I love how easy it is to use and how it adds a personal touch.

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

Earlier in my career, I thought about going back to school to get an MBA. Instead, I started listening to business podcasts.

I was working as a journalist at the time and though I loved aspects of working in a newsroom, the future of the industry concerned me. I wanted to learn more about business and entrepreneurship and see if I could apply my journalism skills in different ways.

In my quest to learn more about business, I stumbled across Mixergy. Wow! I couldn't believe this information was free. I went on a massive listening binge, adding other business podcasts like the Tropical MBA Podcast to my routine.

I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the know-how and connections from podcasts. Thanks to listening to a crazy amount of interviews, I picked up essential tips for validating a business idea, selling when you're just starting out and so much more.

I’m more of an auditory learner, so I generally gravitate towards podcasts and audiobooks. But I read “Turning Pro” by Steven Pressfield around the time I was starting PodReacher. I found that book super helpful for mindset and for getting me into the headspace of giving the new business the focus and seriousness it deserved.

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

Your logo and your website don’t matter in the early days — especially if you’re offering a service. Tinkering with the branding and the website can be fun, but it’s not going to help you acquire customers. Your logo won't set you apart in the market in the early days, and your website isn’t likely to help you make any conversions at the start.

Instead, focus on talking to customers and developing a solution that solves a problem. Don’t get swept up in making a slick logo and fancy website.

I was able to grow PodReacher into a six-figure business with a crappy placeholder logo.

I kept telling myself that once we hit $10k a month I’d hire someone to make a real logo, but it just never became a huge priority. The business grew beyond $10K/month with the placeholder logo, so evidently having an amateur logo didn’t hold us back. Finally last year, we updated the logo.

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Where can we go to learn more?

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

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Jaclyn Schiff, Founder of PodReacher
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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