Arvid Kahl talks about starting and bootstrapping businesses, how to build an audience, and how to build in public.
This week marks the 200th episode of my podcast. For over three years now, I've been sharing my thoughts with my fellow founders, creators, and makers — every single week, without fail.
Today, I want to share how I stay consistent: how I have invented systems to keep me accountable, how I come up with ideas that resonate with my readers, viewers, and listeners, and what this consistency has allowed me to do — financially and in terms of lifestyle design.
Now, consistency has almost become a buzzword at this point — a magical ointment to solve all problems, a behavioral hack to get where you want to go. Cynics argue that this is just as reductive as the growth hacks it's trying to be an alternative to. But I like that people care about consistent effort and authentic work. In fact, let's MAKE it a buzzword. Let's make it a meme that people keep teaching to each other.
Consistency is a central element of my journey, and I attribute much of my success to it. It's by far not the only contributor, but it's the one thing that allowed me to set up a self-sustaining content creation loop.
Before we dive into the consequences of this consistent effort —and there are many— I want to share how I discovered a way to stay accountable and build a process that allowed me to get to 200 podcast episodes.
## How to be Consistent
It didn't start with a podcast at all.
After I sold my SaaS business FeedbackPanda in 2019, I was looking for something that would allow me to give back to the Indie Hacker community. I had devoured all kinds of books, blog posts, and interviews leading up to building my own business. Now that I had something to share, I wanted to flip the script —literally— and write about my own experiences so that others could learn from them.
I started the Bootstrapped Founder blog in November 2019. I prepared for that by brainstorming a massive list of topics I wanted to write about. There's no shortage of minute details in a bootstrapped SaaS business journey: from technical choices to setting up scalable customer service, even focusing on mental health challenges, I quickly had hundreds of potential topics in front of me.
I wrote half a dozen blog posts with topics picked from that list over a week or so to have something to show for when I launched the blog. And it wasn't much of a launch: I had barely 400 Twitter followers at that time. But the followers I had were very kind and gave me feedback on my writing. It also very much helped that I had given an [attendee talk at MicroConf Europe 2019](https://thebootstrappedfounder.com/optimizing-your-way-to-a-dream-exit/) just a few weeks prior. That was instant credibility. Just being on stage for ten minutes attracted so much attention from my fellow founders that it effectively kickstarted my writing journey.
And after a few weeks of releasing new articles every Friday, I started getting lazy. Don't get me wrong: I saw numbers tick up, and I even had one of my articles on Hacker News for a day, but I had a motivation problem. I procrastinated.
Now, I wanted to keep writing for the blog. But I also didn't have a strong enough reason to feel compelled. So I created one.
I started my newsletter a few weeks into my writing journey. I thought, "if only one person subscribes to this, I will have to keep writing." And then, to my great surprise, 27 people chose to subscribe to my newsletter after I launched it on Twitter.
Since that day, I have not missed a single week. I've always felt accountable to the growing number of readers. This is how I'm outsmarting my own laziness: I carefully selected a manageable external pressure to apply to my work: the not-so-critical-but-still-easily-disappointed expectations of my readers. Works every time, 100% of the time.
And since I'm talking about readers: I found that writing, while extremely enjoyable for [someone like me who likes to work in solitude](https://thebootstrappedfounder.com/realistic-building-in-public-for-introverted-founders/), has its limitations. After a few months of weekly newsletters, a reader reached out to me and told me that they really enjoyed my work, but as a person with dyslexia, their reading experience is quite painful. They asked if I could provide a machine-read audio version. Other readers had reached out telling me they didn't have the time to read my 3000-word articles, but they did have half an hour of commute time every day.
Well, what can I say? I'm a sucker for making things easier for people. That's why I became a founder, and it still holds true for me as a writer.
So I started a podcast.
But I needed it to fit into my lifestyle. I didn't want to create something completely new; I wanted the podcast to be an alternative consumption method for my written work. So I bought a good-enough microphone — the [Blue Yeti](https://dontbuyayeti.com/), which I have since replaced with the [Shure SM7B](https://amzn.to/3LF8TgT)— and started narrating my article into Adobe Audition. A few times, I would add my thoughts as they appeared, but mostly, I'd just read aloud what I had written.
It turns out that this is an incredible editorial tool for a writer. The moment you read aloud what you wrote, you'll find that it either sounds good or not. I often edit my articles to sound more like what I would tell a person in a conversation, making my writing much more casual. I choose simpler words and try to stay away from complex expressions.
It turns out that a well-written article that works as a podcast will also work as a video. Since I already had my script and good audio, all I needed to get my content on YouTube was a camera and a teleprompter. I got a cheap setup to get started. Ever since then, I've been presenting my weekly writing in four different ways: as a blog post, a newsletter, a podcast, and a video. Four formats, one script, one article, one idea.
Since this all happens on a weekly basis, I have found a structure that works for me. I write on Monday, with Tuesday as a buffer. Wednesday is for other projects, like [my podcast with Tyler Tringas](https://catchup.fm/). I also release my pre-edited interviews on Wednesday —more about that later. On Thursday, I record the podcast audio and video, edit it all, and prepare it for distribution. Friday is the marketing day when I publish on all my channels and engage with my readers, viewers, and listeners.
Having a single source of truth —my article— was an excellent idea. It lets me finish most of my work in one swoop, as the article enables every other medium once it's written.
I found that jumping from article to article plus podcast was incredibly easy. It just required pressing record and reading what I wrote. Adding that extra distribution channel was simple and very effective. Turning it into a video was even more straightforward: I just needed to press another record button.
Not only do these four channels give me an extreme amount of accountability —as I have to make sure my content is solid and works for all of them— but they also allow me to build a wonderful mix of readers, viewers, and listeners. That way, people can find the perfect way to consume my work, and no one gets left behind.
Of course, I changed a few things over time. I added interviews to the mix. Of my audio and video podcast, I release two episodes a week, one being an interview with a person I admire, and the other being my regular weekly article.
And that gets us from how I stay consistent to the opportunities this consistency allows.
One particularly interesting thing that this consistency affords me is the ability to talk about whatever I want to talk about. So I want to use this opportunity to mention that I recently crossed 100,000 followers on Twitter, which is very much an outcome of consistently building an audience there. The content I write gets shared there; I share my videos, and my podcast is embedded right on Twitter so people can listen to it there. Twitter is effectively the platform for all of my media business. I released a Twitter course a few months ago, explaining how I built this audience without losing my authentic voice. I just want to recommend that here today. It is called "[Find your Following](https://www.findyourfollowing.com/)," and it's a self-paced, hands-on course for anybody interested in building an audience on Twitter that does not rely on growth hacks or emotional manipulation. Just on building authentic relationships with people who you care about. Many founders and creators have figured out that being a real person on the internet makes people actually want to hang out with you. That works for personal brands and businesses alike. So go to find your [following.com](http://following.com/) to start your own Twitter journey and see how I built this six-figure audience. Now, let's get back to my process.
## What Consistency Makes Possible
The interviews I do —with people like Daniel Vassallo, Patrick Campbell, Michele Hansen, and many more amazing people from our community— they didn't just happen. It took the combined credibility from being a community contributor for years and establishing a podcast that people actually listen to.
I likely couldn't have started out with an interview show.
But now that I have access to these great subject matter experts, it heavily impacts my writing.
Here's an open secret about my idea-finding process: I am most inspired by conversations with people who know what they're doing. Every week, I record and edit an hour-long interview. During the three hours I spend on this —preparing, recording, and editing— I come up with questions, themes, and topics that naturally flow back into my extensive blog post topic idea list. Every conversation I have results in one to five new future podcast topics that I jot down in a Notion document somewhere.
Beyond getting my ideas from recorded chats, I also heavily source topics from ongoing conversations on Twitter. I follow 16.000 people there, and my activity stream is a never-ending source of exciting exchanges between passionate people — founders and creators who are likely readers of my work. It's only logical for me to pick up the things they're interested in and turn them into something I can enrich our community with.
Now, I can only hang around my heroes and amazing peers on Twitter all day because something is paying the bills. And fortunately, my four-pronged media empire is doing just that. A year into the newsletter, I reached out to potential sponsors, and they have supported me every week since. Even the podcast has sponsors most of the time. In aggregate, when I release all my content each Friday, I make somewhere between $1000 and $2000 from sponsor placements alone. That pays for all the services used in producing my content —Adobe Creative Suite, Descript, [Transistor.fm](http://transistor.fm/), ConvertKit, and many more— and then some.
It was pretty hard to get sponsors to work with me, particularly as we were moving headfirst into the COVID-fueled recession we're in right now. But because of the year-long track record of my consistent effort to build a brand, many people said yes — and still are to this day.
But sponsorships aren't the only financial opportunities here. One thing that significantly diversified my income streams was something I never intended to do: write a book.
Actually, writing two books.
A handful of people purchase one of my books daily from Amazon. Not a day has gone by without a sale since June 2020, when I first self-published Zero to Sold. I never expected this to happen, and I was caught by surprise.
In fact, it was a [tweet by Andrew Gazdecki](https://twitter.com/agazdecki/status/1222589913482153984) back when I launched a bootstrapping guide on my blog that kicked all of this off. I had written two dozen blog posts then, and I thought I could create a little guide that linked to all of them. When I launched that, people immediately told me they'd love to see this as a book.
And you know me by now. If people tell me they want another kind of medium, I tend to make it happen.
So I wrote a book that expanded on the guide. I published it, and it became an instant best-seller, and a year later, I published another book that dove deeper into the most requested part of the first book. Then people asked for a video-based version, and I created a Twitter course.
Together, these info products still sell daily, augmenting the revenue of my media business.
They are also part of the content generation engine: every topic I cover in the books and courses is always interesting to look at from another perspective. My blog is a natural extension of my books, and when I go to revise them, I will already have written what I need. All formats, and all mediums, effectively interlink. It's a gigantic flywheel.
### Getting Better at The Thing
And it's not just making money; it's also making me better at what I'm doing. With every article, I become a slightly better writer. With every podcast recording, I get better at giving voice to my thoughts. Every YouTube video I create is snappier, more engaging, and livelier than the one I made the week before.
It's an enormous confidence boost to know that I have done this 200 times already. How hard can it be to do it for the 201st time?
Having such a [sizeable archive](https://thebootstrappedfounder.com/archive/) of written content also allows me to point interested parties —potential consulting clients, curious novices, and future business partners— to my prior work just when I need it. When someone asks me how to pick an audience, I don't have to think of a solution. I can give them a [URL to a 4.5k-word article](https://thebootstrappedfounder.com/finding-an-audience-for-your-side-business/) explaining the process in great detail. I have written about so many things at this point that I can almost guarantee that there is something in my archive. And if there is not, I can use next week's newsletter to explore that particular question, after which it will be in the archive.
### The Hard Thing About Consistency
Of course, this all sounds amazing and incredibly enjoyable.
And most of the time, it is.
But there are weeks where I can't find the focus I need to get into a topic as much as I would like. During writing, I occasionally feel a massive wave of imposter syndrome, which takes hours to crawl back out of.
Fortunately, I have allocated the first three days of the week to writing. If I find myself in a funk on Monday, there are still many days left. I have not yet had a week where I wasn't done with everything on Thursday night.
Still, as much as it is a well-oiled machine that runs very efficiently, I still need to motivate myself to show up every day. It's never without friction, and self-doubt is lurking around many corners.
What helps is being in touch with my community. Seeing other writers, creators, and founders share their challenges makes me feel less alone — after all, they seem to have very similar problems and still get their stuff done. So can I.
I'm looking forward to the next 200 insights, conversations, and stories that I will get to tell. I hope I'll see you along the way!