Indie Hacker: Jaclyn Schiff (@J_Schiff) (@Content_boss_jws)
Founder of: PodReacher (@PodReacher)
Recent growth 50% increase from 2020
Zone of Genius: productized services, project management, content creation
Jaclyn Schiff has spent the last three years building PodReacher, a productized service that repurposes recorded content into high-quality, traffic-grabbing written content. Within just a few months of launching, she was earning enough to go full-time.
She knows how to manage her own psychology and how to choose challenges that pay back in big ways. I loved getting to know her and learning how she does what she does. I hope her story inspires you the way it’s inspired me. 🔥
I've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial drive. Both of my parents are self-employed so it wasn't some mystical thing to become an entrepreneur. I’d gone back and forth between a typical job and freelance work for the first ten years of my career.
Then I worked for a B2B publication in Chicago, but at the end of 2016, most of my team ended up leaving and I realized I didn’t have a lot of faith in the publisher. I thought, “You know what? I don’t want to spend much more time here.” So I gave my notice without having a plan in place, which is not like me. But I did it.
I spent two years working on a few stable freelance projects before deciding to try to grow my own business.
I knew growing a business was challenging since I’d already attempted that once before. But working for someone else is also challenging in its own ways, and I was at the point where it was more appealing to face the challenges of growing my own business than adjusting to a new job.
Each path comes with its own hurdles. To choose which path to take, we have to choose which challenges we want to learn from.
So this wasn’t like a lightbulb moment and suddenly I wanted to become an entrepreneur. It was something I’d been thinking about for a while. I wanted to create something larger than myself that filled a market need.
I think I was born with this desire. Not that I could articulate it like that when I was 10 years old. But I think I’ve always felt it.
I love listening to podcasts. It’s just a medium I’ve really enjoyed and gravitated towards.
It is part of why I wanted to create a business involving podcasting. But I didn’t know how I’d make that happen. Since I had a lot of interest in the industry, I read a lot of newsletters about podcasting. And one day while reading a newsletter, I saw that someone was looking to turn a podcast into a blog post. Since I have a background in journalism, it was particularly interesting to me.
I then went on Upwork to see whether anyone else was looking to turn a podcast into a blog post, and I found that a few people were looking for just that. I wrote a few samples and used them to pitch the idea of repurposing podcast episodes.
And that’s how I picked up my first clients.
I basically just took everything I’ve learned from the hundreds of podcast episodes I’ve listened to, like Indie Hackers, and several others, and I began to build my business. I almost feel like I’ve earned a de facto MBA from all of the hours I’ve spent learning while I listen.
At first, I wrote the content myself, but pretty early on I began to contract writers. I knew I wanted this to be an actual business, and not a freelance gig for me. I found most of my writers on Craigslist in the beginning. Now, there are months when I’m paying 20 or more different writers. It feels like a big responsibility and an honor.
Podcasts will always be central to the PodReacher story. These days, we’ve expanded beyond podcasts to any recorded content, including webinars and virtual conferences. It has been a natural evolution as we started working with bigger companies.
We’ve used a lot of cold outreach to grow. In the beginning, I’d use Listen Notes to find companies that were podcasting and reach out to them. Now, we work with a firm that does the initial outreach.
It only took a couple of months for PodReacher to replace the income I was making from the other stable gigs I had. In the very beginning I spent about 80 percent of my working hours on the freelance work I had, and I spent the other 20 percent trying to get PodReacher off the ground.
I waited until I had two consecutive months where I made as much as I was making with my other work, and then, I dropped the other gigs and went all-in with PodReacher. So that was cool to be able to do.
But since then, it’s been a slow and steady process. There are times when I feel I’m in a slump and I get discouraged, but then something always pulls me out of it. Like, someone will randomly share PodReacher or we’ll get a bit of press. And that energizes me to keep going.
I’ve been working on PodReacher since 2018 and this year we’re making about 50% more than we were last year at this time, so we are growing.
Being in a service business means that you probably aren’t just going to flip a switch and open the growth floodgates. There’s so much care and attention needed at every stage. I’m proud of where I am, but I admit that I do feel jealous sometimes reading IH and seeing stories of rapid growth.
I try to make sure to pause and remember what I’ve accomplished. A few years ago, PodReacher wasn’t even an idea and now we’ve worked with dynamic companies like Freshbooks, SquadCast, VanillaSoft, Foundersuite and many others. I have a clear vision for where I want us to go, and at times, it can be hard to stop myself from focusing on everything that still needs to be done to get there. And all I could be doing better. My default is as a problem solver, so I tend to see a lot of opportunities for improvement.
I think one of the biggest reasons for PodReacher’s success has been our focus on quality above all else. Beyond what the site looked like, or our marketing language, or anything else, I knew that if the product was really good, we’d always have work.
Actually, for the first two years we even used a very crappy logo that was supposed to be a placeholder. I kept telling myself that after we were making $10k a month that I’d hire someone to make a real logo, but it just never became a huge priority. The business grew way beyond $10K/month so evidently an amateur logo didn’t matter much. Finally a few months ago, we updated the logo!
In the beginning, I positioned and marketed our service thinking of the kinds of things I appreciate when making a purchase online. As in, what would I like to buy, or what kind of marketing would appeal to me? But earlier this year, I realized I’m not the target customer. So why have I structured the customer journey as if I am? This shift in perspective has resulted in a number of big changes.
For one, we no longer have pricing on our site. And that’s because there are actually a few details we need to know before we can give a quote for some projects. The sales flow is slightly more complex than I was allowing it to be before. As a buyer, I prefer to see the price upfront, but this isn’t a dealbreaker for our target customer.
So we changed the site to reflect our target customer more. But we’re also very intentionally broadening the language of our website right now to emphasize our expanded focus on any type of recording — not just podcasts. It has helped the sales process a lot because people come in with a clearer idea of what we can do for them.
Ask yourself, “What makes me look forward to going to work?”
PodReacher is a productized agency. About 75 percent of the work we do is productized and usually includes turning a recording (podcast, webinar, video) into a blog post. But we also create longform content like ebooks, white papers, and more.
I’m a big fan of productizing when possible. It’s helpful for workflow as well as the sales process. Customers also gain a lot of confidence when you can clearly articulate your process and tell them what to expect at every step.
My goal is to turn PodReacher into the go-to agency for B2B thought leadership content. Repurposing is the most efficient way to create this type of content and have it be as impactful as possible. Over the last three years we have pioneered our “content transformation” process where we take the spoken word (via a recording) and turn it into written content that resonates with audiences. There’s a lot of demand for content that advances ideas and builds a narrative. I want to keep improving our process so that it is as frictionless as possible for marketers to transform thoughts into ideas.