November 27, 2022

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Growing an Online Business from Scratch: From Personal Struggle to Multiple Income Streams

This week you’re going to meet an entrepreneur who recently left her 6-figure job in biotech to become a full-time podcaster and online business owner.

Gill Tietz started the Sober Powered podcast in mid-2020. Since then, she’s released over 100 episodes on the science of alcohol addiction and other content to help listeners get and stay sober.

In that time she’s also grown her Instagram account to over 43k followers, created a podcast network for other sober-related podcasts, and built several other income streams.

Tune in to The Side Hustle Show interview to hear:

  • how Gill made her podcast stand out from the crowd
  • how she’s grown her audience through different platforms
  • the different ways she’s monetizing her business

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The Inspiration for Starting Sober Powered

“The inspiration was my own journey with alcohol. I quit drinking in November 2019, and when I stopped I really wanted to understand; ‘is this my fault?’, ‘am I a weak-willed loser?’, ‘did I choose this?’” Gill told me.

As someone who worked in the science space, Gill knew how to find and understand information.

So, Gill started spending hours every day reading about the science behind addiction, and what alcohol does to the brain.

“I was just trying to answer the question, ‘why me?’” Gill said.

After 7-8 months of research, Gill finally had the answers she was looking for and it helped her rebuild her self-esteem and deal with the shame she was feeling.

Gill wanted to share her journey and what she had found with others. After weighing up the pros and cons of starting a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel, Gill settled on a podcast.

Gill said she didn’t know how to record audio, so she called herself on Zoom and recorded her first episode that way.

Gill launched her Sober Powered podcast the same day and that was the beginning of her online journey.

Competitive Analysis

“There is a lot actually, there is a ton,” Gill said when I asked her about sobriety podcasts already running.

Gill said she didn’t feel any pressure to compete with other sober podcasts because she didn’t expect to get any listeners, and she was also doing something different from the other podcasts.

Gill also added that most sober podcasts are interviews and are focused on sharing the stories of people who have found sobriety.

The main difference with Gill’s podcast is that she records mostly solo episodes sharing information that she has learned about alcohol and how addiction affects the brain.

This was something other podcasts were not sharing, at least not in the same way Gill was.

Getting Initial Traction

When Gill launched her podcast she also created an Instagram page. But with no followers, she wasn’t able to drive any visitors to her podcast.

“I had a very slow start. The day I launched I had 9 listens, and some of them were me,” Gill said.

It was through Facebook Groups in her second year of recording her podcast where Gill started to see some initial traction.

Gill was in a number of sobriety-related Facebook Groups and would answer questions related to alcohol recovery.

Gill would also mention that she has a podcast when answering questions. This started to generate some interest from other members of the groups.

The key to building an audience through Facebook Group is to be helpful first. Answer questions in detail, and promote your product second, Gill explained.

This has worked wonders for Gill. In fact, Gill was so helpful in one of the groups she was in they made her an admin.

Podcast Guesting

Gill has been a guest on a lot of other podcasts and said this has been instrumental in growing her own audience.

“Every time you guest, the host is endorsing you,” Gill said.

Gill also explained that you’re putting yourself in front of an engaged audience by being a guest.

So, if you give a good interview you’ll naturally gain new followers from that audience.

Podcast Guesting Resources

Growing an Instagram Following

Instagram started slowly for Gill but has since become an important part of her business.

What helped Gill grow her Instagram following was making connections within the sober community.

Gill started being invited to appear on Instagram Lives with other people and was participating and collaborating more.

“I started being more of a person, and not just a podcast spamming soundbites when a new episode was out,” Gill explained.

The more Gill showed of herself over Instagram, the more her audience grew.

Gill also got better at promoting her podcast on Instagram. She tested different posts and found that using a pretty picture with strong colors and listing four main points from the episode worked the best.

As for her main tips for growing an Instagram following, “Consistency and perseverance,” Gill told me.

Gill saw lots of accounts grow faster than hers, and she also saw some accounts fizzle out.

Gill knew she was in it for the long run and said that although it’s been painful at times, consistently releasing content has given her the edge over a lot of her competition.

Using Instagram Carousel Posts

It wasn’t until 1-2 years into her journey that Gill found out about how to make carousel posts on Instagram, but it’s been a game-changer.

Gill now uses a carousel to promote every episode of her show and said each one gets her thousands of new Instagram followers.

Example post:

To build her carousels, Gill said she:

  • Creates a slide as the thumbnail with the title of her show, but doesn’t mention anywhere that it’s a podcast. Gill said the goal is to use a catchy title that makes someone click through.
  • On the second slide, Gill answers the main question of the show in response to the title on the first slide.
  • The third slide usually also has information flowing over from the second slide with a diagram if relevant.
  • On the fourth slide, Gill mentions that she has a podcast episode answering the question or diving deeper into the topic.

Gill said carousel posts have been by far the biggest driver of new followers on Instagram and new listeners for her show.

You can see examples of Gill’s carousel posts on her Instagram account here.

Monetizing SoberPowered

After nine months and paying for everything herself, Gill had a sponsor reach out and offer to sponsor her podcast.

“I charged them almost zero dollars. I’m so ashamed of myself,” Gill said.

Gill said she didn’t know what to charge and didn’t have confidence in herself that she could drive sales for the sponsor, so she undercharged.

Gill said the sponsor ended up making a lot of money and she was kicking herself. But that was the moment where Gill realized she could attract sponsors, and generate companies some revenue.

After that sponsorship ended, Gill started reaching out to companies via Instagram and asking if they wanted to sponsor her show.

Gill has been able to secure more sponsors since and now charges a CPM of $23-33. This means Gill charges anywhere between $23-33 per one thousand downloads of her show.

Gill also recommends using dynamic ads instead of static ads, which podcast platforms like Buzzsprout allow you to do.

Dynamic ad insertion means the ad can change on older episodes so you’re not promoting the same company with a baked-in ad forever.

Instagram Reel Brand Collaborations

Gill works with brands to promote their products via Instagram Reels.

Email Subscribers

Gill has offered a range of lead magnets over time to get people onto her email list.

At the time of the interview, Gill was offering a free ebook and a 3-day quit drinking email challenge as lead magnets.

About a month before our interview, Gill launched her paid membership which costs $15-27/month depending on the membership level.

Members get:

  • access to a private community
  • monthly meetings led by Gill
  • courses
  • additional podcast episodes
  • a Q&A with a guest expert once a month

The most important element is a platform where they can connect with others.

In just her first month, Gill already signed up around 100 paying members.

Podcast Network

Gill says this is the revenue stream that took her by surprise.

After attending some podcast conferences and meeting other podcasters, someone from Megaphone, the podcasting arm of Spotify, suggested Gill start a podcast network and said they’d help.

After stalling on the idea for a while, Gill met someone from an ad agency at another conference that could help her secure sponsors.

Now she had someone who understood how to build a network and was willing to help with that side and someone who could help her secure sponsors.

Gill started reaching out to other podcasters in her niche asking if they wanted to join up as part of a network.

There are currently six podcasts in the “Sober Powered Media Podcast Network”. Gill helps bring in sponsors for all the shows and takes a cut of the revenue, and also helps with marketing.

Going From Side Hustle to Full-Time Business

“Early June is when I started full-time,” Gill told me.

After attending the Podfest Expo in May of this year, Gill said she went home and quit her day job.

Gill said she hadn’t replaced her full-time job salary at that point and doesn’t recommend people take the leap before doing so.

But her day job was affecting her mental health and it was in her best interest to quit.

Since going full-time, Gill has 6x’d her monthly revenue in just three months and things are going in the right direction.

Tools and Tech

The tools and tech not already mentioned that Gill is using to run her business are:

  • Supercast – This is the platform Gill is using to host and manage her premium members only podcast.
  • Circle.so – At the time we spoke, Gill said she was using Slack to communicate with her members but was in the process of moving over to Circle.so.

If You Had to Start Over…

Knowing what she knows now if Gill had to start over she said she would make connections a lot quicker.

“I have a lot of very successful friends that I trust,” Gill said, speaking about what her biggest strength is right now.

Gill knows that if she needs some advice or wants to bounce an idea off someone, she has people in her network that can help.

“Build relationships, find people that you can trust, and don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback,” was Gill’s advice.

What’s Next?

“I’m very excited because I’m going to start a business network,” Gill told me.

Gill is also going to start a business podcast, and she’s helping a couple of other people start their own business podcasts.

She’s going to take the model she used to grow SoberPowered and build that network, and replicate it within the business niche.

Gill’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

Iterate.”

Download Your Free Bonus: The Podcast Starter Kit

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Get the free Podcast Starter Kit

The Side Hustle Nation guide to podcasting equipment and software, producing a quality show, growing your audience, and making money.

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