There are no end of alleged “influencers” on social media telling you to chase your passion. To pull the ripcord and pursue your dreams full-time. What their carefully curated snapshots fail to tell you is that passion isn’t enough. And it shouldn’t be.
Passion alone does not entitle you to anyone’s attention. Let alone their money. Do I think you can make a living from your passion? Absolutely. But you don’t begin with what you love.
A successful and sustainable business, which is what you’ll have when you go pro with your craft, starts with something more tangible than passion.
This week’s guest on The Portfolio Life, walked away from a high profile job with the largest library consortium in California. Only 12 or so people in the world share the same pool of knowledge and experience. And yet, she left it all to live in Spain and now hosts a podcast on Renaissance English history with over 100,000 downloads and counting.
Listen in as Heather Teysko and I talk about the challenges she faces in trying to monetize her podcast, grow an email list, and decide where to take the show from here.
Listen to the podcast
To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).
In this episode, Heather and I discuss:
- What to do when your skills and passions don’t match
- Connecting market demand to your skills and passions
- How to find the “sweet spot” for your next great idea
- Why successful entrepreneurs chase relevance instead of passion
- A powerful tool to gain audience insights
- Throwing spaghetti at the wall
- Using social media as a listener feedback loop
- How to develop a brand statement that hooks your audience
- Why a podcast needs an email list
- Being comfortable is a dangerous place to be.
- Don’t chase your passion. Look for resonance.
- If you don’t have demand, you don’t have anything, you don’t have a business.
- You cannot create demand. You have to find it.
- Throttle your passion and find something people are willing to pay money for.
Finding our voice isn’t about what we want to do, it’s what resonates with the audience.
Heather stopped by to share an update on her journey. You can read it and reply in the comments or check it out below.
Hey Jeff! Thanks for sharing this! We talked over a year ago, and I wanted to share the success I’ve had since implementing the strategies you taught me … (and what I learned from TW).
My mailing list is now over 2,200. I launched the Tudor Planner in November (a monthly and yearly planner filled with This Week in History, Music Listening suggestions – and an exclusive Spotify playlist, quotes, all in the style of an illuminated manuscript) and it was a five figure launch. I also have been designing other stationary and journals inspired by Tudor/Renaissance manuscripts, the most recent being the Henry & Anne Love Journal with quotes from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, and the cover inspired by a 15th century book of hours that was in the shape of a heart.
I also launched an ecourse on how to build a podcast so others can take their passions and turn them into something they can talk about all the dang time. I have a history tour coming up, and also started creating Virtual Tours where I take people virtually through different cities in the UK – right now I’m working on Henry VIII’s London. Each one comes with maps, links, etc., plus the downloadable audio file.
I have stuck to a regular schedule of podcasts every 2 weeks, and my listenership is up 54% over last year.
I have pretty much stayed laser focused on building my list, and on creating and launching products that my audience wants. I have a clear path forward now, and it feels great. I’m not so muddled and throwing stuff at the wall any longer. 🙂
I got all that from Tribe Writers, and from Jeff. If you’re on the fence about this guy, sign up for everything of his you can. He’s brilliant. Hope it’s okay that I said all that, Jeff. 🙂
What are you trying to monetize? Did you start with demand, skill or passion? Share in the comments.
Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript or scroll down to read it below.
You don’t know what you’re supposed to write about until people start telling you, “Oh, that connected with me,” and you go, “Oh, it did? I’m good at this? I can do this?” It’s not faking it until you make it, it’s not pandering to the audience, it is this process of sort of trial and error. See what resonates, and then dig deeper and find a way to turn that into value.
[0:00:31.7] JG: Welcome to the Portfolio Life. I’m Jeff Goins. This is a show that helps you pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art, and discover your true voice. I’m your host, and I want to help you find, develop, and live out your own creative calling so that you too can live a Portfolio Life.
Let’s get started.
[0:00:49.2] JG: Yeah, other than wanting to know where you’re going to move to in Spain, let’s jump in.
[0:00:55.4] HT: Well, I am in Ronda.
[0:00:56.7] JG: I love Ronda, wow. Beautiful.
[0:00:59.2] HT: Yeah, I know you were in Seville, right?
[0:01:00.9] JG: Yeah, that’s like a favorite of Hemingway’s, right? Ronda, he loved retiring there.
[0:01:05.3] HT: Yeah, also, Orson Welles was another one who was here.
[0:01:08.1] JG: Did he? I didn’t know that, fantastic.
[0:01:11.2] HT: Yeah, it’s funny there is Hemingway and Orson Wells kind of next to each other.
[0:01:16.7] JG: That’ hilarious, it’s amazing.
[0:01:18.2] HT: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, because I find myself, like I told you in my email, I was the assistant director of California’s largest library consortium, I was there for 10 years. I have like a huge network within that world, I have a lot of respect in that world, I know a ton about e-books and libraries. I built an e-book platform for libraries, because up until now, libraries had to go through overdrive and all these middle men and stuff. I built a platform for libraries to go direct to publishers, so I know a lot about that world.
It’s like that’s not my passion, and I’m trying to figure it out. We had this opportunity about a year ago that my husband had these friends in Amsterdam. Spain legalized the whole pot scene, and we had wanted to leave California anyway. We were going to go back to my home in Pennsylvania. When we had our daughter, that was kind of the plan, and they said, “Why don’t you prolong your move back to Pennsylvania, and come run this seed company for us in Spain, where it’s legal?”
We had this deal where like, they paid for everything, we live in a beautiful villa with a pool and a tennis court, like the whole nine yards. It’s like really awesome. In return, he just has to grow good seeds, which is easy. Yeah, it’s amazing, it’s just so funny, because I’m such a type A personality. Spain just drives me insane anyway, because everybody, siesta, nothing’s open, you have to plan when you’re going to go shopping, it’s just such a hassle. It’s just really funny that’s what I’m doing right now.
It seemed like this really great time for me to just kind of take a year off and you know, plan what I was going to do. Because I’ve always had it like, there’s — I don’t know, someday I’m going to figure it out, right?
Up until now I had this great gig with my job, things were really good, and I got really comfortable, which I think is really a bad place to be, because it makes you not want to move on. I had a great salary and great benefits, I was really flexible, and life was good, but it wasn’t like my passion, you know?
Things kind of started ticking for me when we lost my son, our son. I thought, there has to be more to life than this, and then I just kind of thought, “Alright, well someday I’m going to figure it out,” and so here I am in Spain, trying to figure it out. I feel like there’s all these parts that, like I said in my email, I feel like if there was an impartial person who could look at these parts, they would say, “You should do ABC.” While meanwhile, I’m over here trying XYZ or something like that.
I guess that’s just where I am. I have this podcast on Renaissance English history, I get a ton of downloads on it, I hit number 38 in iTunes last week, but I don’t make any money off of it. I’ve tried Patreon, I’ve tried a couple of different things, but it doesn’t really seem to be working.
I’m thinking about, you know, using it as a vehicle for promoting other things. I’ve actually — out of Tribe Writers, I got this idea to contact all the other leading indie history podcasters like me, and put together a book of all of us and like, why we’re passionate about our particular time period, and what it is that we’re passionate about with that, and I thought what I could do is get them to sell it as well and give them a percentage of the sales that they generate.
That was something I actually just thought about last week, and I’ve started writing to them and I’ve heard back from about six so far that are interested in doing it with me. That’s something, but you know, I just feel like there has — I just feel like I have a hundred thousand downloads a month with that. There has to be something that I can do with that and so that’s my story. I don’t know, I would just love to hear like, I’d like to stop talking now and you tell me what you think.
[0:05:14.1] JG: Yeah, first of all, thanks for sharing everything. I’ve looked over your blog before, and familiar with some of your story and about the loss of your son. Thank you for being open about that, and yeah, thanks for just being willing to talk.
I think you’re doing a lot of things right, obviously. You know, what I like about you is you aren’t a faker, you know? There’s a lot of talk about faking it till you make it; I actually don’t think that’s good advice. You’re the kind of person that I love having in Tribe Writers and love helping, because you have something to say. In your case, people are actually listening, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to leverage it, how to turn it in to something like income that can allow you to continue to do the kind of work that you want to do.
Yeah, I think your suspicion is right. I think it would just be, it would be good for me to maybe ask you some more questions to make sure I don’t give you the wrong advice. I’m looking over your email that you sent. You want to write a memoir, you say, “Where do you see somebody like me going with all this? Can I make money off my podcast? What route…”
[0:06:24.2] HT: There’s a couple of different things. There’s this whole thing about me being here in Spain and living this life, which I think is totally — I can almost hear the NPR interview right now. Scott Simon says, “So heather, you left your job as the assistant director of California’s largest library consortium, where you’re doing all this great work, and you went to live on a pot farm in Spain.” Me saying, “Well, yes Scott Simon, yes I truly did.”
[0:06:46.9] JG: Yeah, I mean, yes, that may be true.
[0:06:50.4] HT: That’s also not my passion, you know? Spain, I actually really quite — I don’t hate Spain, but I’m not loving this culture. It’s very different.
[0:06:58.5] JG: I love that culture, I love that lazy…
[0:07:03.0] HT: It seems like you wouldn’t with all that you have going on.
[0:07:06.9] JG: I love the “no pasa nada” mentality.
[0:07:10.4] HT: I actually used to live in Franklin. I lived in Brentwood.
[0:07:14.4] JG: Wow, actually, I don’t know if you’ve read my book The In Between, but there’s a chapter in there about Spain, because I studied abroad and Spain for a while. Okay, do you want to make money off your podcast, or do you want to write a memoir?
[0:07:24.9] HT: I would rather make money off my podcast.
[0:07:27.3] JG: You know, one of the things that I teach is that, actually, I just did a video on this, and the reason I was late is because I’m a perfectionist and I kept trying to get it right. I’m teaching this, doing this summit next week for this other organization that’s having me come and speak at their paid online workshop thing called the Rising Tide Society, but the nutshell of my talk is don’t chase your passion, look for resonance.
You know, I think there’s a lot of people that are basically selling the promise that you can make a living doing what you love, and while I believe at the surface it’s true, I don’t think that you begin with what you love.
I think chasing your passion in and of itself is not enough, and it shouldn’t be enough. I don’t want to pay for some 21-year old to just do whatever he wants with his life. I want to pay for value, right? I want to pay for something that is going to add value to my life. I don’t want to — Frankly, I don’t care if the person cutting my lawn loves cutting lawns, I just want them to do a good job, right?
I think that the pragmatic side of me says if you want to make a living off — if you want to make money off of writing, podcasting, whatever, it’s not just enough to be popular or be passionate. You have to share something that resonates with people, and then figure out a way to be able to charge for the value that you’re providing. Basically, what I teach is that there are three areas that when you find intersections in these three areas, you have what’s called a sweet spot, and that’s a great place to monetize. I think it’s a really good indication of what your calling might be, all that stuff.
The three areas are passion, skill, and demand. Passion, what do I love? Skill, what am I good at? Demand, what do people want? What do they need from me? Maybe you feel like you already have that, but I think kind of coming into the intersection of those three areas is really important. I taught a workshop a while ago about this and I asked everybody, “Passion, skill, and demand. You need all three, where do you start?” They gave me lots of answers, and I’m curious what your answer would be.
[0:09:32.1] HT: Like which one of those three do you start with?
[0:09:34.7] JG: Yeah.
[0:09:36.5] HT: Well, I mean the logical part of me says your skill, because that would let you build something that was worth paying for. I don’t know, you tell me.
[0:09:52.4] JG: Yeah, it’s interesting, I had a debate with a friend of mine about this, who is a hardcore entrepreneur, and she said, “You’ve got to start with skill, because you’ve got to be good at it.” I think you need to start with demand, You need to start with what people want, because — and this is kind of a more entrepreneurial and not an artistic kind of thing. We’re talking about it, we’re talking about making money, and that is an entrepreneurial consideration.
You start with demand, because the reality is, if you’re just kind of a hardcore entrepreneur, you can find somebody to be good at it. You can find somebody to be passionate about it, and if you’re going to do a solopreneur thing, I think that looks a little bit different, but I’ll explain that in a second. I think, if you don’t have demand, you don’t have anything. You don’t have a business. Demand is a perceived need of a skill that I find valuable enough that I’m willing to pay for it, right?
I’s not just like, “I like watching the Muppets, therefore I’m going to subscribe to the Muppets channel,” although I totally would. There has to be value associated with that. You begin there, because if you have that, you can find everything else. If you don’t have that, you cannot force that, you cannot fake that. You cannot create demand. That’s the only thing that you can’t create.
You can get better at something. I think you actually can get more passionate about something; not all things, but some things. For example, teaching was not something that — I wouldn’t have said I like teaching writing five years ago, but now that I do it, and the way that I do it, and I see the impact that it has, it’s really exciting for me. It’s not everything that I do, but it’s really exciting. It’s an important part of the suite of skills that I offer.
Anyway, I had this argument with my friend and she’s like, “It’s skill!” And I said, “Okay fine, whatever.” Then like six weeks later she writes this blog post basically saying why it has to be demand. I said, “Hey, you changed your mind!” I text her about it.
I think that’s where you begin — I think you look for resonance. How does that connect with passion and skill? What I think that looks like is you do have to share things that you’re passionate about. I think in the context of like social media, I mean, you’re doing this with the podcast, with your blog, you’re doing it with your writing, you’re doing it with your project, the research projects that you’ve basically done about literature.
You’re chasing stuff I think that fascinates you. Essentially, what you want to do, you want to throw stuff against the wall, and then as you start to see it stick, as you start to see people go, “Yeah, me too,” where you get 100,000 downloads of a podcast, that’s a sign of resonance. Now what you do is you chase that. You find something that you can be good at, that meets that demand, that you’re passionate about, and you bring passion and skill to that demand.
Essentially, find a way to charge for it. There’s basically two ways to do that. One is you can charge other people to have access to your audience, which is essentially advertising. Two, you directly try to sell something to the audience itself. Those are the two ways to do it. Both are viable business models for you, and we can sort of explore those together.
Yeah, that’s what I would do. If you want, with 100,000 downloads of a podcast, it seems possible to me that you could go around and start asking people to advertise and sponsor shows. Is that something you’ve considered or, you know, wanted to do?
[0:13:16.3] HT: It would, I just don’t know that you can make that much money out of it that it would be worth it for me. I’m really protective of my podcast, I’ve worked really hard at it, and I put out yeah — I put out a good product. I put out a good podcast, and I’m proud of it, and I don’t want to just have an Audible ad, and you know, get $200 for that or something, you know what I mean?
It’s interesting, because what you’re saying, there’s that side of me, the history side, which is where my passion is, but then there’s this other side of me that has this practical knowledge about the library world. When I think about demand right now, there’s so many self-published authors who would love to be able to get into their local library. I know how they can do that.
It seems to me like, you know, putting together something to work with them, and that’s what I’m — I’m working for a company just as a consultant right now that’s working with indie authors and getting them into libraries, and I’m putting together some courses for them.
You know, I’m not getting paid. I’m getting paid an hourly consultant rate, and it’s not as much as if I were to just put together the courses and sell them myself to their people. You know, then I feel like, well, that’s going like a totally different direction, and that’s where I start getting confused. There’s only so much time in the day, and when you have a two year old, there’s even less of it.
It’s just like, where do you put that time to have it really pay off? When I imagine what would dream day be like, what would my dream time, how would I spend it? It would be like working with the history and music of the time period, and almost being an ambassador for early English choral music, and doing tours, I’m putting together this tour for the spring, and doing that kind of stuff is really where my heart is.
Then I think, maybe I could do a hybrid of both, and you know, I saw Bryan Harris, that you sent out stuff about him before with his 10,000 subscribers thing. He was doing a webinar yesterday on How to Build a Monster Course in 30 Days, and I thought, maybe I just spend two months really hardcore building a course for indie authors on how to get into libraries and how libraries work. I just put that out there. Then this is where I start to get muddled. This is where I need somebody with clarity to say, “Heather, you should look at this.”
[0:15:28.2] JG: Okay, let’s sort of look at the different options. I would say you could do any or all of those, it’s just a matter of focus. You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want, right?
You sound a little bit like me, where if you knew it was going to work, then you might be willing to do it. Whereas, if it’s not going to work, it may not be worth doing. But that’s kind of a good litmus test for you to consider, okay, let’s assume this doesn’t work for a year, is this still fun? Is it still worth doing?
In the case of the podcast, my sense is because it’s already a labor of love, obviously, that would be the case. When I started my blog, I assumed that not only would I not make money off of it, I didn’t assume anyone would read it for two years. I was just going to write on it for two years and try to get good. Then hopefully, by the end of that two years, I might have — If I didn’t have 250 readers, I was going to quit.
I had my sights up relatively low. I think it’s good to dedicate yourself to something like that, not the altruistic sense like, “I’m never going to make money at this,” but, “I love this enough that I could continue with this until I find the right sweet spot.”
With the podcast, there’s two ways. You could monetize with ads, and it sounds to me like you’re hesitant of that, because you’ve previously called people to action through PayPal, donation links, and Patreon, and they didn’t respond super well. What was the response like?
[0:16:58.2] HT: I have three patrons right now, and they’re all my mom and my dad and my mother-in-law.
[0:17:04.0] JG: Did you call people to action on the podcast?
[0:17:06.6] HT: Yeah, I did. I always have a little admin part in the beginning where I say in the show notes are here, and if you like the podcast, please rate it on iTunes, and you know, all of that. I have the donation link on the website, and here’s the ways you can help support and keep the podcast going, and so that’s kind of what I say in the beginning.
[0:17:26.0] JG: Cool. How often did you do that? Are you still doing that?
[0:17:30.5] HT: Yeah, I totally am still doing it. I actually setup just a month ago, the regular monthly donation on PayPal button, rather than having to go through — I thought maybe there would be a block there that people didn’t want to set up yet another account with another company.
I set up like having a recurring donation on PayPal, too. I just put that on there. Right now, my big call to action, too, is trying to get people to come on this tour that we’ve got planned as well, which I’m doing a tour of Choral Evensong services in England. Talk about a complete long tail sort of thing.
We’ve got two people signed up for it so far. It’s at the point where it would pay for itself right now, I’m just not making a — I want to have 12, that’s like my goal. I’ve been putting ads for that up at the beginning of every podcast right now, too.
Click here to download a free PDF of the complete interview transcript or scroll down to continue reading it below.
[0:18:18.3] JG: Okay. Have you had much luck with transferring the people listening to your podcast to like, email subscribers of your blog?
[0:18:28.3] HT: I never had concentrated on email subscribers until listening to one of your podcasts from Tribe Writers, where it was the guy who was the author promoter, and he talked about the importance of the email list, and how for every book sale they get through Facebook, they get like 50 through email list. I was like, “Okay, I got to get an email list.”
I actually just this month, I built a digital advent calendar, and so I’ve had in the past, I put out a podcast on Friday night in Spain, and so far I’ve had about 50 people sign up, which is about 48 people more than I had. I have a couple of friends, because I lived in Nashville and I worked for Naxos, the classical music label, I have a couple of friends that have offered to hook me up with free CD’s and DVD’s and giveaway things. I’m going to start doing more with contests and stuff to kind of get people to sign up.
Just before we called, I was reading a thing about somebody using the Sumo Me giveaway thing, and how they grew their list 4000% in a week or something. I’m going to start doing more with that, is the point.
[0:19:32.1] JG: Okay, I think it’s really hard to sell something without an email list.
[0:19:34.7] HT: Yeah.
[0:19:36.3] JG: I think it’s hard to do the donation model until you get a ridiculous amount of viewers, and 100,000 is ridiculous amount, or listeners rather, but it’s probably not enough. You need to get into the half a million to a million downloads. Because the way that works, right? Depending on how you’re measuring it, is those may not be 100,000 unique downloads.
[0:19:59.2] HT: Right, iTunes count a couple of different ways.
[0:20:01.7] JG: Right, I mean, if you post weekly, and you know, you get 25,000 downloads each week, it could be the same 25,000 people, or you know, the same 12,000 people listening to it twice every week, and that’s 100,000 downloads. Not to diminish or despair that in any regard.
[0:20:22.3] HT: When I go through the individual episode lists, it’s like, the one I posted on Friday is up to about 6,000 unique downloads now, but I don’t know how many of those people actually listen then, too. When I turn on my iPad, it downloads all the things I subscribed to, but it doesn’t mean I listen at all.
[0:20:38.5] JG: Sure. Again, not to diminish that in any way, just to — you need a critical mass of people that are your true fans that are willing to support you. That, in order to get that, because you’ve got the eyeballs, and you’ve got the true fans, and then you’ve got within the true fans the people that are actually going to buy something, and that gets smaller and smaller.
I don’t think that’s a viable business for you. I think you could either try to get people on the email list, then sell them something, and I think the trip is good. I think you need what’s called a minimum viable product. Do you know what that is?
[0:21:18.3] HT: No.
[0:21:19.3] JG: What I would recommend doing, if you want to monetize a podcast, is the only call to action from here on out…
[0:21:26.7] HT: Just so you know there’s a train coming past right now, so it’s not an explosion, it’s just the 10:30 train.
[0:21:30.2] JG: Good to know nothing is exploding.
[0:21:32.5] HT: Right.
[0:21:35.7] JG: That’s okay. 10:30 PM, is it that late?
[0:21:38.6] HT: Yeah.
[0:21:39.3] JG: Gosh, who is driving that train at 10:30 at night?
[0:21:42.6] HT: There’s two trains that come. One comes at, its supposed to come at 10:30, and then there’s one that’s supposed to come at 11:30, and they come all over the map. Sometimes the 10:30 shows up at 10, sometimes it shows up at 11, sometimes they show up right after. It’s Spain, I don’t know, you know?
[0:21:57.7] JG: Wow, crazy. I’m going to just present two options. You’re going to have to pick, and maybe I guess I would tell you what I think I would do, but they’re both probably going to require some hard work. Option one is go all in with the podcast, which you already have an incredible audience, but you could probably ratchet that up. I don’t know if you do any interviews on other podcasts as this renaissance history expert, but you should, that would be…
[0:22:23.9] HT: Yeah, I haven’t — to be completely fair, I haven’t been really regular with my posting. I mean, I’ve had it up since 2009, and I actually thought about canceling it all together, canceling my hosting service after my daughter was born, because I hadn’t done anything with it in two years or so.
Then I looked at my stats and I was like, hang on, people are still listening to this. Since then I’ve tried to get more of a schedule. Since we’ve been in Spain, I’ve been on a really good, every two-week schedule, and that’s where I really started to see my, I’m growing in the iTunes every week, I’m higher in the list and stuff like that in the ranking. I think if I were to keep going with this, I could really get a critical massive listenership.
[0:23:02.4] JG: Yeah. Go on with the podcast, do that. I, frankly, would go for weekly. every other week feels like a weird frequency to me. Even if it means you record once a month, or once every other week, and you just do two instead of one.
[0:23:16.2] HT: It’s just so hard with the amount of research. Each one is about 40 minutes, and I write those 40 minutes’ worth of writing. It’s about 5,000 words and I have to research it first. It’s a lot of work.
[0:23:26.3] JG: Yeah, I totally get that.
[0:23:27.1] HT: Yeah, I’ll try to do it weekly if I can.
[0:23:30.4] JG: I just think, I can’t think of anything I do every other week.
[0:23:33.1] HT: A lot of the history podcast are every other week, though.
[0:23:35.2] JG: Okay, cool. Alright, if that works and that’s what feasible, do that, but get really regular with it. I would do this for two months, at least, and then at the end of every episode, the call to action is, “get on my email list,” except, it’s not that. It’s for a free dummy’s guide to renaissance history or whatever.
[0:23:56.6] HT: I wrote my dummy’s guide to English choral music.
[0:23:59.0] JG: There you go. Okay, well there you go. Yeah, go do that. Go download that, and then we’ll send you updates when there’s a new podcast, other insider tips, and whatever. I would just build that email list through that, through guest appearances on other podcasts, because another way that you become an expert in a niche is through guest writing, as you’ve done, and also guest appearances on podcast.
I think you can leverage your expertise, which you’ve already established, with you could say, “Hey, I wrote this article, and I’ve got this podcast, I’ve done this thing,” and that’s your pitch for getting on other shows. That’s really how you get on other podcasts is you ask. Then you build that email list, I would build that to — how many did you say were on your email list? 75?
[0:24:44.6] HT: It’s like a total of 65.
[0:24:45.8] JG: Okay. Really want to get to a thousand. When you get to a thousand, everything changes. I think once you get to 500, you could do a survey. This is really important. This is how you find out what people actually want, is you ask them.
You do a survey and you go, “Hey, we’re just doing a survey of our readers, we want to find out what else do you want. Do you want more podcasts? Do you want written articles? Do you want more guides? We do this trips, do you want a book about this?” You just ask people. You just give them an option, and these options should be things that you are thinking about doing. I could write a book about this, I could teach a class. I could do this, I could do this, I could do this and then let people choose, right?
And then ask people, “What do you want to pay for this?” And people will tell you, “I will pay $20 for an online course on how to do research.” Maybe what you’ll find out, Heather, is people aren’t interested in necessarily learning what you have to teach them. They’re learning how to do research like you do it maybe, I don’t know.
[0:25:43.2] HT: Yeah, yeah.
[0:25:44.4] JG: Maybe they’re all librarians, I don’t know. You don’t know until you ask people, but then you create what’s called a minimum viable product, an MVP, and what that is, is it is the first thing that is the minimal version of whatever the answer is to the thing that people want. The thing that people need. So when I did this three, four years ago now, people basically wanted a $5 e-book about how to build a platform, build a blog.
At that time, I’d built a blog, I had about 10,000 email subscribers, maybe not quite that many, and I’d just signed a book contract. I wasn’t really making any money. I’d been promised $5,000 for the book, which is great, that was amazing, but it’s not a livable wage. That was it, and my blog was costing more and more money, and the email list is costing more money, everything was costing more money. It was a really expensive hobby, and we had our son on the way.
I was like, “I’ve got to figure out how to make money off of this,” and so I just did a survey. People told me they’ll pay $5 for an e-book, and I went and found something that I had already created. I think this is really important, the minimum viable product should be something you could create in a week, and it is a little more in-depth than a podcast, or a little bit more packagable and salable than a blog post, but it’s not a book. It’s not an in-depth research project.
It’s a quick win for people that they’re willing to pay something for, and all you’re trying to do is get people to give you money. If you have done that, you’ve identified a market. You’ve identified a need. If you can’t do that, then you haven’t identified it, and you can’t keep chasing it. This is where I think you’ve got to throttle your passion and really try to find something that people are willing to pay money for.
Then once you find that, whatever that is as we have identified it, it could be a few different things, then you chase it and you put together the MVP. But you don’t stop there. Then you essentially scale that. So I wrote this book called Every Writer’s Dream, which was a $2.99 e-book that I then turned into a $4.99 e-book called You are a Writer, which I then turned into a $10 package, and then a $20 audio program, and then a $100 course, and on and on and on over the course of the year, and made enough money off of really this one idea that the audience said, “Here’s what we want,” and I just built it from there.
That first book though, the thing that made me about $1,500 in a weekend, was based off of a talk that I had delivered at my sister’s college journalism class for free. She was like, “Hey, do you want to come talk to my journalism class about blogging?” I said sure, and that’s all that it was. It was, “Here’s what I did, and here’s what you should do,” and I was talking to these journalism students. I said, “Who here has a blog?” and none of them had a blog.
It was 2012, and I was like, “What are you doing?” Yeah, so I think that process of asking, build the audience, get them to a critical mass, 500 subscribers, ask them what they want, go find something that you have already created or a version of something that you have already created, iterate it into something that you could package into something for sale, then give it to them at the price that they asked for it. Like, there should be no objection. If they say, “Here’s what I want, this is what I’ll pay,” and you give it to them and they don’t pay for it, they were lying, right?
[0:29:17.6] HT: Yeah.
[0:29:18.0] JG: And all you’re trying to do is, can I make a dollar off of this? And if you can make a dollar off of that, you’ve got something. If you can’t, then you’ve got to keep testing until you can find something, and then from there, as I’ve mentioned, you can just keep tweaking. That’s option A, so just hold on to that for a second. Option B is to keep doing the podcast, do the other things that you’re doing, but push people to the personal brand.
Again, build the email list. Okay, so you’ve got a few web properties right? You’ve got the website for the podcast, and then you’ve got your personal blog, right?
[0:29:52.7] HT: Yeah, and then I have heatherteysko.com is my professional site for consulting.
[0:29:57.6] JG: Right, so where are you sending people?
[0:30:00.8] HT: I have MailChimp integrated into all of them.
[0:30:03.2] JG: Okay, so it’s the same email list.
[0:30:05.3] HT: Yeah. So on my podcast, I just started sending people to englandcast.com, and that was the first time last Friday for it to get the advent calendar, and I have — that integrates with all of them.
[0:30:18.8] JG: Yeah, so the alternative is to teach something that you already know, and then you try to sell that, but you’re going to basically do the same process. So I said you had an A and a B option, but really, it’s the same thing. It’s just a matter of where you think you want to end up, and I think if you want to end up, for example, teaching authors how to get their books into libraries, which by the way sounds like a great podcast topic for my podcast, so that might be fun to do.
[0:30:45.3] HT: You’ll have a lot about it.
[0:30:46.8] JG: Yeah, well that’s interesting. I don’t know how to do that. I know the book is showing up in libraries, but mine are sending that as a distribution thing. I have a friend who works for Ingram, and she’s on that. I have a friend who approves my books for library distribution, but beyond that, I don’t know anything about it, but that would be interesting and that’s unique, and you could be the, I don’t know, library gal.
[0:31:09.9] HT: There really are about 12 people in the world who know what I know with e-books and libraries, and we all know each other and stuff, so it’s just funny, because it’s a very small niche. I know a whole lot about something that’s a very, very niche sort of thing. So anyway, that’s that.
[0:31:23.9] JG: My friend is Anne Clap, do you know her?
[0:31:25.8] HT: I don’t know her. I don’t know a lot of the vendor types of people. I know them through OverDrive, and I know Ingram Content Group, and I know all of that, but the people — I know more like how to work with the direct libraries and the consortium, the group purchases and how libraries actually do their purchasing, and how to get into that system.
[0:31:43.1] JG: Yeah, do you talk about that on the podcast at all?
[0:31:46.8] HT: No, not at all.
[0:31:48.2] JG: Okay, if you felt that that was a direction which you wanted to go, you could start teasing it out, but my sense is probably what you should do is you should test out a handful of different calls to action. So the Advent Calendar, the Dummies Guide to Coral Music, I would do something about how I do research. I think you might be surprised at how many people — because if you’re interested in history, you’re probably interested in research.
Not everybody is, but I would guess a fair amount are. If they’re going to listen to your podcast, they’ve got a little bit of researcher in them. Like I am really interested in history because I want to have better case studies in history in my book. I go, “How do you actually do really good research?” so there’s value there, but I would do this. I would try to test out some calls to action. I would do that between now until the end of the year, and then just look.
So go, “Okay, when I did this this week, this many people signed up, and then when I did this next week, this many more people signed up.” It won’t be a perfect test, but I think it would be a good enough that you can go, “This is what people are really interested in,” and then maybe one week you could even ask people to tweet at you or something. I find Twitter to be a really good feedback tool for a podcast, because if they’re listening on their phone, going to your website and signing up for an email list could work.
It will work for some people, but going in and tweeting like, “Hey, this is really good. You should talk more about such and such,” that works well for me. You’d have to test that out, but the point is I would try to get feedback from the audience that’s listening about what they want to hear about more about, and then that becomes a call to action. I would beat that drum hard. I’d build the list, my goals would be 100 subscribers, 200 subscribers, 500 subscribers, and just make that milestones.
Really push to get there, and then once you get to 500, do a survey and just ask people, and tell them, “I know how to do this, I know how to do this, what do you want to learn more about?” I don’t know if that’s the answer that you are looking for, and maybe that feels like a lot of work.
[0:34:03.8] HT: No, it doesn’t. Yeah, and I know we’ve gone overtime here, and I’m so grateful, because this is the kind of objective thing that I have all these different scattered things in my head like, “Oh, I could do this, and I could do that,” and blah, blah, blah, and pretty soon a month has gone by and I barely have anything that I have actually completed that’s really good. So trying to get focused on where it is I want to spend my time is important.
[0:34:29.8] JG: Yeah, and speaking of things you may not want to hear, my sense is having a separate website for the podcast makes sense. Having a professional consulting website, I get, and then having a personal blog, if that were me I would feel a little scattered.
[0:34:47.7] HT: You know, I did feel scattered. The whole thing, I set them all up before I started Tribe Writers, so I actually have a link on englandcast.com, on the podcast website, that’s right up on the top of the bar that just says “Heather’s Blog.” That directs you over to my blog, to the personal blog, just because I didn’t want people to have to go to a lot of places. I have been trying to figure out how to integrate it. You know what, yeah, I’m trying to get it more together, because it feels scattered to me too.
[0:35:13.4] JG: Yeah.
[0:35:14.5] HT: At the beginning of Tribe Writers, I had eight blogs, for what it’s worth.
[0:35:18.3] JG: That’s awesome. Okay curatory.com is your blog, what’s in your — Teysko is that Teysko?
[0:35:24.3] HT: Yeah.
[0:35:25.2] JG: Okay, Teysko, and that’s your heatherteysko.com. You know what I think would be useful to you is to basically go through this branding exercise that we have done in Tribe Writers before, which is “I’m a blank who does blank.”
[0:35:40.8] HT: Yeah, and up until now it’s always been, “I’m this person who has crazy adventures, and lives an awesome life, and is really smart and does cool things.”
[0:35:50.3] JG: Yeah.
[0:35:51.4] HT: And I want it to be more focused than that, and that was my very first post on the Tribe Writers forum. It was like, “I’m interested in history, I’m interested in music, I’m interested in travel, I’m interested in health and fitness. I’m interested in pregnancy issues and being a person who will talk openly about fertility issues,” and I’m interested in gazillions of different things. The honing your voice part, module, is like the hardest thing for me, so yeah.
[0:36:18.3] JG: Well, you’re not alone in that.
[0:36:19.4] HT: I need to get more focused.
[0:36:21.4] JG: I would challenge you to fill in the blanks, at least temporarily, and to try this out for a while, because I think that finding your voice is not about what we want to do. It’s about what resonates with the audience and resonates with us, and I would try to fill in the blanks. I’m a “blank” who does “blank” because “blank”. Here’s your skill, here’s what I’m good at. I am a researcher who does “blank.” Helps people do X, Y or Z. That’s your demand, and so that is a help, so I’m a researcher who…
[0:36:55.3] HT: For me, actually, what resonates is I’m a storyteller. So I’m a storyteller who does podcasts and articles, and inspires people to try new things in their life through history, but keeping it shorter.
[0:37:12.9] JG: What do people tell you about the podcast? What do they like about it?
[0:37:15.5] HT: They love my storytelling, and they love that I make history accessible. That it’s not just dates, but I make it really interesting and that I make it really accessible.
[0:37:24.8] JG: Let’s pause that, so I am a storyteller who makes history accessible. Why do you do that?
[0:37:30.7] HT: Because you learn more about yourself, and you feel connected to humanity through learning about the people who have been here. Just a 100 years ago, there was somebody right here on this ground that I’m on right now. Like what were they into, and what was their life like, and 500 years ago, and when the Moors were here, and before that when the Romans were, and they were all right here, standing here, and I’m connected to them through sharing the space with them.
All that’s dividing us is time, but I’m in the same space as them and I can learn from their life, and they can inspire me and move me through the way they express themselves, and that can have a deeper, that can make me appreciate my life and appreciate my surroundings even more.
[0:38:14.6] JG: So I would shrink that and say, “I am a storyteller who makes history accessible because I believe that history is how we understand who we are in our place in the world.” Something like that, but I think that’s really important for you to get a grasp on, and even just play with for a month or a couple of months and say, “Here’s who I’m going to be right now,” you know?
I love history, and so I’m the storyteller who takes complicated research and makes it easy for people to understand so that they understand their place in the world better, and I also happen to love travel, and I also happen to love fitness, and I’m passionate about men and women dealing with child loss, or whatever those ancillary things. Not to diminish the importance of those things, but I think there are things that are your core, and then there are things that flavor your voice, right?
I just talked with some people on my team about this. I go, “What do we do? What is it that I do, and what am I good at? What do people want?” Because I like to bring passion to, not everything, but a lot of things, and so I want to bring passion to things that’s going to make an impact, that are going to be consistent with other things that I’m doing. One person said, “I think that you, basically, are a writer that helps other writers do what they love, and along the way, you help people find their calling, and share stories about your family, and talk about guacamole.”
And they’re these fun personal things that you get to weave throughout it, but I wrote a memoir, which was a wonderful experience, until nobody read it. Then I thought, “Okay, I learned how to tell stories there,” or better stories, and how do I connect with what people really want, which is — what they want is, at least from me, is transformation. But somebody who reads Elizabeth Gilbert or Donald Miller, they want to hear a good story from somebody.
They want transformation, too, but they want something different from those authors, and as an editor once told me, and I’ve never forgotten this part, he goes, “Nobody is given a blank slate. We all want to be that person, or go do that thing, but what if you have less control over that than you realized. What if the slate that you were given, you were expected to do the best that you could with it?”
I just had a conversation with a guy named Austin Kleon, who said, “Man, I shudder to say this, but I am self-help author, and I’m just not getting comfortable with that.” He basically said that you don’t know what you’re supposed to write about until people start telling you, “Oh that connected with me,” and you go, “Oh, it did? I’m good at this? I can do this?” It’s not faking it until you make it, it’s not pandering to the audience, it is this process of trial and error. See what resonates, and then dig deeper and find a way to turn that into value.
So for what it’s worth, that’s what I think my challenge to you would be, to grab that brand statement, put it in all of your properties. I haven’t listened to your podcast. I should, but introduce, if you haven’t introduced people to this Heather who is the storyteller, who connects people because of this, that should be the beginning of every podcast.
[0:41:36.4] HT: When I say, “Hello, welcome to Renaissance English History Podcast,” I’m going to say, “I’m your host, Heather Teysko, and I’m a storyteller who makes history accessible, because I believe it’s how we learn more about ourselves and understanding who we are.” Yeah.
[0:41:45.0] JG: I love that. Yeah, and that’s a Simon Sinek thing, begin with why. Here’s why we’re doing this, because I’ll be honest with you, Heather, I don’t care about the Tudors. Like, whatever but then, I was walking through the Tower of London, and I was going, “This is really interesting,” and you realize that things that happened in medieval Europe affect us today, and you go, “Oh, that’s why we not only have the Anglican Church, but that’s why there’s a bunch of people in America who aren’t Catholics.”
You go, “That’s interesting,” and it does help you make sense of where you are. But most people, most ignorant people like me need a translator, and you are that translator, which is a really good place to be. You’re already there. Now it’s a question of how do you take that attention, translate it to value, and I think it’s just a matter of getting more interaction with the audience. I think you need that consistent branding so that people know who you are and what to expect from you.
But beyond that, I think you need to start sending people to one place with one call to action, and get their email address, and then I think you go at it hard for a month. You might be surprised at who would respond. Once you have that attention, you have options. You can be Heather Teysko the library created e-book platform person, too, if people know you as this personal brand who does this and that and the other thing. That fits there too, I think.
As long as it’s sort of connected to research, and history, and I don’t know, maybe it’s a stretch, but I see a thread. I see somebody who is endlessly curious, who loves research and wants to connect people to ideas and events that would otherwise be elusive to them. You know how to do that in ways that other people don’t know how to do. You’re going, “Most authors don’t know what I know. There’s only 12 people in the world that know what I know.”
Okay, that’s an elusive idea that you could connect to people, because you’ve done the work, you’ve done the research, you’ve gotten access to the secret knowledge that nobody else knows how to get access to.
To me, I see something very consistent. That’s a thread that you could weave through a whole body of work. It’s just a question of consistency, and willingness to kind of lean into that and be disciplined enough to not think of what you’re doing as a bunch of different things, and say, “Here’s what I’m doing right now, because this is where the demand is. I’m going to lean in to this, be very clear about this, try to get the most out of this, but then I know, because I’m creating content with this worldview woven through it, that it can create bridges to other opportunities down the line.” Do you see that as clear as I see it?
[0:44:31.7] HT: I hadn’t seen it, but now that you say it, I do.
[0:44:35.2] JG: There you go.
[0:44:36.6] HT: Yeah, the thing with e-book platform, what always was there for me is I wanted to have — I built the eBook platform with my consortium. I pressed for us to do it, because I wanted a library to have the power to do things themselves and not rely on vendors, and for me, it’s also like, I don’t have a PHD in history, but I want to show people that you can still do research, and you can still understand history and have access. It’s not like this academia lined thing.
For me, it’s also about giving people access to things that may have been previously walled off to them before that. Maybe they didn’t even know they could have access to.
[0:45:10.4] JG: Love that.
I think there are a lot of people that are basically selling the promise that you can make a living doing what you love. And while I believe at the surface it’s true, I don’t think that you begin with what you love. I think chasing your passion in and of itself is not enough, and it shouldn’t be enough.
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