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Arvid Kahl, a creator with over 100,000 Twitter followers, has built a business around his newsletter, The Bootstrapped Founder. But you won’t find him sharing growth hacks. Instead, he believes in building real businesses for real people.
We sat down with Arvid to talk about building an audience, his current workflow, and how he works with sponsors for his newsletter.
What does "audience" mean?
When it comes to having an audience, most people think about standing on stage with people looking at them and cheering them on. Arvid thinks this concept is too narrow: "I believe it’s something different; it’s stretched over time. It's a group of people who are interested in what you have to say, what you do, what you offer, and how you can help them. And that is both in the past, with people you have already helped, with people you're helping right now, and with your prospective future audience members".
Arvid believes that building a relationship-based audience over a transaction-based audience is more valuable. He believes creators should focus not only on the value they offer, but also on their relationships with their audience. This is especially important in a world where our attention is sought after. "That's what SaaS businesses talk about all the time: it’s not just how can we get customers, but how can we retain them over months and years?"
Finding your audience
When defining your audience, Arvid recommends asking yourself these questions:
Who do you want to serve and empower?
Who are the people that you care about in your personal and professional life?
What problems do these people have, and which of those problems can you potentially solve?
What existing solutions do they already use?
"You can observe a community from the inside. You can actually track the problems that people have by just listening to what they have to say. Reddit, for example, is a great community to search for problems", Arvid says.
If you’re hoping for growth hacks, you might be disappointed. "Whenever I think about the strategy I use to approach building an audience, I don’t even want it to be a strategy. I’m really not a fan of growth hacks", Arvid explains.
Arvid doesn’t focus on short-term wins. He would prefer people find his work organically, and he tries to do this by empowering his audience. "My strategy is built on eventual reciprocity. I helped you today; I didn't ask for anything. You don't need to buy my books. You don't need to take my course. But if you are interested in what I offer, here it is."
By putting his audience first and talking to them as peers, Arvid has been able to focus on engagement.
Arvid has a newsletter, podcast, and YouTube channel. He focuses on a source text, which he uses across his channels. "I write on my blog, which becomes my newsletter issue. I read this into a microphone for the podcast, and I narrate it in front of a camera for a YouTube video. It all comes from the same source", he explains.
Arvid has seen success across all his platforms. His newsletter has almost 10,000 subscribers, his podcast has over 175,000 downloads, and his blog and YouTube channel get a lot of attention because of his strong social media presence. "I didn’t believe these numbers were possible, but it's happening, and that attracts people to work with me".
Working with sponsors
Arvid’s biggest income stream is sponsorships for his newsletter. He has 2 main sponsor slots per newsletter and 4 classified slots at the end. He fills these 6 slots by finding sponsors in a variety of ways:
Talking to previous sponsors
Actively engaging with people on Twitter
Creating posts on his social media channels, sharing that he’s looking for sponsors
Linking his Passionfroot Page in all emails, on his podcast landing page, and website.
Arvid believes it’s important to work with sponsors openly. "It’s not something you do behind closed doors, it’s something you do in front of your audience. It’s part of this journey, and if someone doesn’t understand that, they probably shouldn’t be in your audience."
He also strongly believes in building good relationships with brands. "I try to find brands that have founders who are active on Twitter or other social media platforms. That way, I get to have a founder-to-founder chat with them. It’s a win-win situation financially, but really, it’s the relationship that I want. There’s so much more potential when you have real relationships with people".
Arvid previously used tools like Calendly and emails to manage sponsorships, which he found difficult when dealing with 4 or 5 different partners every week. He found that it would bleed into production time and affect his ability to consistently put out content.
Arvid has found that his Passionfroot page has helped him find sponsors and fill his slots with ease.
"Passionfroot has helped me with my workflow. It’s completely professionalised my process, allowing me to have a 4-figure weekly revenue stream", Arvid explains.