Geoff Langenderfer

On Perpetual Unemployment

How to Build an Audience

Posted at — Sep 23, 2020

Intro

I learn a lot reading blogs and twitter feeds. But, I also then think: why would anyone get the same feeling when scrolling my feed? I’m a fraud. Impostor syndrome is a bitch. The antidote is to throw out your inner-voice’s melodrama. It overreacts to everything. You can build an audience like your mentors. Here’s how:

Everyone has their own flavor of audience building, but the basics are the same. Go do something that others will find inspiring. Then tell us how you did and how we can, too. Readers will ignore you if you’re not credible.

Table of Contents

Case Studies

One way to learn how to build an audience is to build up a sense for what works. We can do this by studying cases where others were successful. That’s our approach.

Daniel Vassallo

Daniel quit his job because he wanted to own his time. He valued it more than the ~$500k/year he was earning at Amazon. He started working on a SAAS product. But, he became anxious about building something no one would pay attention to. He determined he had to build an audience. Through experimentation, he came up with a formula that we can all emulate.

First, he noticed low engagement on high follower accounts. Readers scroll twitter looking for wisdom or entertainment. If readers regret reading your tweet, they will unfollow or mentally tune you out. He learned you need to give people value. So, teach them something, entertain them, or tell them about yourself.

Your audience will listen only if you’re credible on a subject. Daniel left Amazon after his team released a new AWS product. He is an expert at AWS and he had a cushion saved for a fall in income. He used these resources to teach us what he knows with his first info product, AWS The Good Parts.

Daniel continued to educate his audience about his new solopreneur life. How he approached health insurance. His mortgage. He continued to work on his audience building skill and it showed results.

He leverage his new skill with his second product, Anyone Can Build An Audience. It was a smashing hit.

At this point, Daniel learned an essential skill. Building an audience derisks building software for them. He knows how to engage them so that they gain value. He can reuse this wisdom if he attempts to go all-in on SAAS like Nathan Barry. Or he can continue learning and teaching us interesting things. I’ll continue to be a customer. He’s proved his trustworthiness with his openness.

Nathan Barry

Nathan Barry is the founder of ConvertKit. It started as a bootstrapped company and it’s currently at $2 million MRR. But, he didn’t start by building a SAAS. Nathan skipped college and stared work as a designer/app developer at a startup. He saved money and learned iOS design and development.

He parlayed his time as an employee to launch an app design ebook. At the time of launch, he had 800 email subscribers from his blog.

His first info product was a success and it led to continued audience growth. His list now had 4,000 subscribers. He remained on the info product ladder for his next ebook on building web apps.

At this point, he wanted a new challenge. He could stay on the info product ladder and make a good living. But, he decided to shoot for ultimate passive income: a SAAS business.

He started building an email marketing software called ConvertKit. He ran into a problem: his content promotion playbook wasn’t working. A year later, his savings had dwindled and he faced a decision to shut down ConvertKit or go all-in. He went all-in and added direct sales to his blog promotion. ConvertKit took off.

Nathan’s audience propelled him through the wealth ladders. It was crucial to his info product success. He built skills and cash reserves that helped to withstand ConvertKit’s delayed takeoff.

Flavio Copes

Flavio Copes is a prolific JavaScript developer and blogger. He has blogged everyday for 2 years. The JavaScript teaching market is competitive. The keys to his success are:

Flavio is able to remain consistent with his writing by automating publishing. He’s built a coding system that queues posts and posts them. Same time everyday. This system also helps him manage his writing energy.

Writing can be difficult, especially when staring at the blank page. Flavio is able to manage these ebbs and flows by writing more when his energy is high. Some days he may write five posts. Others zero. Yet, his system takes the excess on productive days and posts them on less productive days. He has a ~30 post queue so a vacation seems deserved. This system gives his target audience consistency.

The challenge for senior engineers in teaching juniors is beginner’s mind. A senior engineer has long forgotten what a beginner does and doesn’t know. He can make too many assumptions when teaching a beginner. Flavio empathizes with beginners by writing about new subjects he learns. This allows him to empathize with beginners and it makes his posts more valuable.

Flavio’s skills have made him the most prolific blogger in web development. Here are some of the results:

Every week, his audience learns exciting new concepts in web development. Flavio has built a successful career doing this. We can learn from his example and attempt to approach his prolific publishing.

Brennan Dunn

Brennan Dunn:

He’s climbed all the wealth ladders, so he has much to teach. He combines offline and online in his audience building strategy.

Say you have zero audience. You can start building up credibility and a schedule of good client work with networking. Find an entrepreneur meetup in your local market and research the organizer:

Our goal is to befriend the organizer because she can introduce us to other members. Attend the meetup, introduce yourself to the organizer, and listen. Don’t sell or ask for anything. Get to know the attendees while trying to get contact info.

After the meetup, write a review. What did you gain from it? Why should other entrepreneurs attend? This content has a couple benefits:

Share it with her. She will be grateful.

Next, we can reach out to our leads and continue educating and building our credibility. Your email should include:

Business owners won’t have the same awareness of info within your specialty. That means you will have something valuable to share.

In the next contact, summarize an interesting article in your specialty e.g. SEO. Tell them your key takeaways and how it might help their business. Next, ask them to reply with:

Some prospects will realize for themselves that their business could be doing better. This positions you as the easy choice to make these changes. This is how you build a quality client list who are looking for value-added rather than minimizing a cost.

Brennan’s audience building has had great results:

The power of audience building compounds. He reused skills and savings from one ladder to the next. The result is freedom and leverage from SAAS for Brennan.

Conclusion

Audience building is the key variable in progressing through Nathan Barry’s wealth ladders. It allows you to build relationships with your readers. It’s a win win in the purest form. There are many channels for audience building. But, they all rely on you putting out content, listening to reception, and adapting. Along the way you learn about your audience: their troubles, what they like, what they will pay for. You use this information to build info products and even software. It’s an accessible road-map. You should use it especially if you value freedom.