Reports of email’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Andrew Allemann has gone from zero to up to $10,000 a month in just 3 years with a low overhead side hustle:
An email newsletter and an online directory that helps connect podcasters with guests.
Finding it difficult to find guests for his own podcast, he wanted to create a solution that would not only help himself, but the greater podcasting community as well.
It’s a business model I’m excited about right now, and Andrew is proof that if you provide value through email, people are willing to pay for it.
Tune in to hear why Andrew decided to start a newsletter and an online directory, how he’s grown his audience to more than 19,000 subscribers and 500 paying directory members in 3 years, and how he’s turned this into a profitable business.
The Idea for Podcastguests.com
Back in 2016, Andrew had been podcasting and blogging for a while. He had a blog and a podcast about domain names, which you can find at DomainNameWire.com.
After about 50 shows interviewing different guests, Andrew was at the end of his Rolodex and in need of new and interesting people to interview.
He started looking for ways to find new guests relevant to his industry and quickly discovered it wasn’t easy.
He found some agencies that offered services around finding guests, but found it expensive and didn’t think it was exactly what he was looking for.
“There was no simple way to do it yourself, that’s where the idea for PodcastGuests came around,” Andrew told me.
How Did You Get a Newsletter Directory Business off the Ground?
The hardest part about starting a directory is getting both hosts and guests to sign up so they can make connections with each other.
“The important thing is that this didn’t start as a directory. It started as an email-based service, and that’s still a big component of it,” Andrew explained.
Andrew started out with a similar model as Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO is a newsletter service reporters use to find people and sources for articles they’re writing.
He’s also a believer in getting a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) out as soon as possible too. He launched his service on a tight budget utilizing the following tools:
- Google Forms – Free – He used this for data entry and logging all the contacts.
- MailChimp – Free for up to 2,000 email subscribers.
- LeadPages – About $50 per month – He used their opt-in forms to capture email addresses.
- Domain Name – $300 – Andrew said this was a “steal” for the PodcastGuests.com domain. Check out these interviews to learn more about expired domains as business inspiration and how to get started flipping domains.
- Website Logo – $5 on Fiverr.
For less than $500 Andrew was able to get his business off the ground and operational.
Andrew then paid someone a few thousand dollars to go out and get email addresses of podcast hosts.
He knew that by starting with podcast hosts, a lot of those hosts would also want to be guests on other podcasts. So, he was effectively filling the roles of hosts and guests within his directory at the same time.
With a couple of thousand email addresses and contact forms to fill out, Andrew started sending personalized emails to every contact letting them know he was starting a new service, that it was free, and how it could help them.
What Did Your First Emails Look Like?
Once Andrew had between 100-200 people signed up to his service, he sent out his first email newsletter.
He said he sent out something short and to the point, like:
These 4-5 podcasts are looking for guests. If you’re a fit, click this link to submit yourself to be on the show.
The link would take the recipient to a Google Form where they could fill out their details. This form was then imported into a Google Sheet, and shared with the podcast host it was intended for.
Andrew said most of those podcasts received around 5-10 messages from people interested in guesting on their show.
This made him think, “Hey, there’s something here,” he told me.
From that initial traction, he knew that if he could grow his audience he could turn this service into a business.
What Marketing Channels Have You Used?
Andrew has tried a few different marketing channels with varied results:
- Google Adwords – He started with Google AdWords. There wasn’t a lot of search volume “podcast guests” at the time and the results didn’t justify the cost
- Reddit – He sponsored a subreddit specifically for people involved in podcasting. Andrew said this “worked fairly well” at first, and he picked up some subscribers for around $2-$5.
- Facebook – Facebook ads have performed best for Andrew. He uses a combination of Lead Ads and sending people a landing page on his site.
With Lead Ads, you can target the demographics you want and Facebook populates the fields the users need to fill out for them to make it as easy as possible for someone to click a call to action.
Andrew was also able to connect Lead Ads directly to MailChimp using a tool called Zapier which automated the process.
He also used ads to send people to a landing page on his site. He’s found this more cost-efficient than Lead Ads and says Facebook has some useful tools to help find the types of people that are converting well.
Andrew still spends around $1,000 a month on Facebook ads and said each subscriber costs about $1.50.
How Else Are You Getting New Subscribers?
As time went on, Andrew started gaining more subscribers organically. This is mostly through word of mouth. “If you have users who are having success, they’ll tell people,” Andrew explained.
He also wrote a guide titled How To Be a Podcast Guest. This guide has been passed around with agencies, and inside he included a call to action to join his mailing list.
How Does This Business Make Money?
Andrew sends out one email a week and has two core ways he earns money:
- Featured listings – He started selling features listings for around $200 early on in his business. This gives a podcast host much more exposure on his newsletter, and Andrew guarantees at least 5 responses or he’ll refund their money.
- Expert directory – Andrew was attending a podcast conference when someone suggested he add an expert directory to his service. They even offered to give him 30-40 names to help get him started.
Andrew spoke to his developer, who quoted about $10k to set up a membership area, with a paywall, automated forms for people to sign up, and all the other components needed to build a directory.
(The bootstrapper in me might have looked for a way to piece this together with off-the-shelf WordPress plugins.)
He decided to give it a shot. He now has two membership levels experts seeking podcasts to appear on can sign up for:
- $9/mo for a basic listing
- $29/mo for a premium listing (I’m actually testing this membership level myself as a way to guest on more shows … if you ever want to talk side hustles, hit me up!)
With 500+ paying directory members and the other monetization methods mentioned, Andrew is bringing in between $7,000-$10,000 per month in revenue.
Where Are You Spending Your Time?
Andrew has outsourced and automated almost all the processes in his business. His signing up forms are automated, and he has an assistant writing up his weekly emails.
His current day-to-day involvement in the business is:
- Responding to customer inquiries – Andrew likes doing this himself as it enables him to “keep a pulse on the business.”
- Screening invitations – He has some measures in place to stop spam, but Andrew still likes to check each new member signing up to ensure they’re not spamming.
His newsletter is only one of many business interests too. Andrew keeps busy recording new episodes of his podcast, releasing blog content, and helping his wife with her business.
Andrew is always looking for new services he can promote to help podcasters.
He’s interested in forming strategic partnerships, perhaps with hosting companies, podcast editing services, and others in the industry.
At the time of recording, Andrew was about to send out a survey to his audience to ask them what their pain points are and how he can help them.
The results of the survey will help him plan which direction he wants to go in next.
Andrew’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
“Just get it out there. I’m a big advocate of the minimum viable product.”
Links and Resources from this Episode
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