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On productized services, a crappy logo, and a shift in perspective that changed everything: Jaclyn Schiff's story

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. 🔥

On the origins of her indie hacking journey

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.

On choosing her challenge and starting a productized service biz

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.

On coming up with an idea that worked and finding her first clients

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.

On replacing her previous income two month in (and going full-time)

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.

On focusing on quality and reaching $10K MRR with a crappy logo

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!

On a shift in perspective that changed the way she was marketing PodReacher

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.

On two principles that transformed her career

  1. Pay attention to what motivates you. I think people get too wrapped up in finding their passion, or purpose. Most people don’t have a single overarching passion and it can be confusing to try to parse out what’s meant for you. A more direct route is to notice what actually motivates you to get to work on something. When I asked myself that question I realized two things. The first is that I am very motivated to get to work when I feel I am actively learning something. The second is that I love the thrill of meeting deadlines, and I’m very motivated by deadlines to get to work and get things done. I have a competitive streak, and there is something about having a clear deadline that really allows me to take advantage of that part of my personality.
  2. Make it as easy as possible for others to say “yes” to what you are offering. Sometimes that means doing more work than it seems like you should have to do. For example, I was hosting a conference and wanted “partners” to help me advertise. So I created all of the graphics and materials they would need to share about my event for them. And it worked — 80 percent said yes. Because I made it so easy for them.

Ask yourself, “What makes me look forward to going to work?”

On productized services

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.

On what’s next

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.

Wrap up:

  • What I’m reading: Almanack of Naval Ravikant
  • What I’m watching: Dopesick (Hulu)
  • What I’m listening to: The Dropout (about the Elizabeth Holmes trial)
  • One sentence of advice to new Indie Hackers: Start and then keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  1. 5

    Great interview! I've always been impressed with how Jacci thinks about growing content businesses, so it's cool to see so much of her advice in one place.

    1. 2

      Thank you @alexisgrant! It was such a fun and inspiring interview. 🔥

  2. 3

    wow, awesome story! Thanks Teela and Jaclyn!

  3. 3

    Great article, Teela! Thanks for sharing. 🙏🏻

    1. 1

      You're so welcome! 😀

  4. 2

    Sorry if I missed it (or am supposed to know) - but what does productizing mean? Great post!

    1. 2

      Great question @paypug! A productized service is essentially just a service that is presented as product. So, for example, instead of clients paying you an hourly rate, you have customers buying a well-defined “product” from you at a set price. That product might be three 500-word seo-optimized blog posts, instead of charging by word or hour. There are tons of benefits, not the least of which is that the delivery of productized services can then be fine-tuned and templatized to make your business more efficient and increase quality. Here’s a decent breakdown.

      1. 1

        Thank you, makes sense!

    2. 1

      Thanks for reading! @teela_na nailed it. Let me know if there are any other questions I can asnwer about this!

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  5. 1

    Great achievement @teela_na! When I read that you are trying to productize the service, I thought that you might be able to optimize the creation process: You could transcribe the audio through (Descript works really well in case you haven't used it) and then into a summary tool (e.g. https://www.paraphraser.io/text-summarizer). Of course, compression means loss of nuances but it might be worth a try!

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