Vickie and her wife, Larissa, run Vegetarian Zen, a vegetarian lifestyle blog, podcast, community, and website with a strong, growing community. While they’ve had some success covering their production costs with Patreon, it’s about time to find new ways to monetize their audience in order to give them the support they need to reach even more people. At the same time, Vickie has many of the common fears and hangups that people go through at this stage: is my audience big enough for sponsors to care? What products do I make that are authentic to me and my brand? Will my audience get turned off if I’m trying to sell something? What is the right timing?
Now, Vickie has just started working with my AMP’d Up Podcasting course, so we get to look specifically at a few issues that come up for people who have maybe scored some initial successes with growing their audience, but haven’t figured out how to take things to the next level. They’re stuck on what I call the “hamster wheel,” where you can’t get anything else done because you’re constantly working to stick to the content schedule you’re already committed to. How can you ever get ahead if you spend all of your energy just trying to keep up?
The solution here, at least in part, is to launch something and find a way to take things to the next level. We talk about how their brand is defined by their community, and they can use those folks and that support to create things that really stand out. We also get into how podcasters have a secret superpower that can lend credibility to any affiliates they work with by bringing them on the show to tell their story.
This is a great episode if you feel like you have all the pieces to get to the next level but just can’t figure out how it all fits together. I’m looking forward to seeing how Vickie takes the ball and runs with it to build something unique and inspiring. Enjoy!
What You'll Learn:
How to get off the content hamster wheel and monetize your audience in a way that is authentic to who you are and what you do.
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to episode 1068 of Ask Pat 2.0. You're about to listen in to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur, just like you. And today we're speaking with Vickie, one of the co-founders of Vegetarian Zen, a community, a podcast, a website that creates a safe place for people who are interested in vegetarian dietary needs. It’s a really great story, and it's about time that Vickie is starting to think about monetizing her audience. She does have some patrons who are supporting the company and the brand through Patreon, which is a great start. But through this discussion, we uncover a number of different ways that she can monetize her growing audience and her raving fans and her community and do it authentically.
Before we get to this conversation, I do want to thank today's sponsor, which is FreshBooks, an amazing company helping to support the show here. Thank you so much, FreshBooks, for all you've done for the show throughout the years, and I still continue to support you. And for anybody looking for help with their income expenses, tracking of invoices, creating proposals, all those sorts of things related to finances, things that normally give most people a headache, you’ve got to check out FreshBooks. It makes all that stuff super easy. And what's cool is you can get it right now for thirty days for free. Complete free trial at freshbooks.com/askpat, and all you have to do is enter “Ask Pat” in the “How did you hear about us?” section.
So, let's get to the conversation today with Vickie from vegetarianzen.com. Here she is. Hey Vickie, thank you for being here and welcome to Ask Pat 2.0.
Vickie: Hi Pat. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so grateful to be here. Thank you.
Pat: My pleasure. Now, why don't you take a quick minute to introduce yourself to everybody listening and what it is that you do.
Vickie: Absolutely. So I am a recovering middle manager from the corporate world. I worked with one of the largest mutual fund companies for almost twenty years, and then last January, January 9th to be precise, because you don't forget the day, I was told my position was being eliminated. So I had my own personal let-go day.
Pat: Congratulation on that, 'cause that's—
Vickie: Thank you. It was definitely scary, but it was a relief as well because I was definitely in the position of those golden handcuffs they talk about. I was extremely grateful for my job in the company, so I would never say anything bad about that, but it was just time. And it just so happened I turned fifty last year also, so I just felt like the universe was doing me a favor by just pushing me into the swimming pool because I wasn't sure how I was going to let go of the great benefits I had and the good salary and all of that.
Pat: So how's the water been in this pool?
Vickie: It's been scary, choppy, but it's also very rewarding. And I remind myself, even on the hardest days, I tell my wife, I say, “I would not exchange the toughest day as an entrepreneur for one more day back not feeling like I was in the right place.”
Pat: Amen to that. So what are you up to?
Vickie: Well, so luckily on my breaks back in, I would say probably about 2012 or so, I started listening to you. I found you—2012, 2013 timeframe, I'm not sure exactly the date—but I started listening to you, I started listening to folks like Fizzle, who I'm a very active member of their community as well.
Pat: Fizzle, yeah.
Vickie: Yeah. The Fizzle guys and girls now, really cool people. The Internet business mastery folks, Tim Ferriss, James Altucher—I started listening to really solid business folks on my breaks, on my lunches. And so in 2013, my wife and I started a podcast. It's called the Vegetarian Zen Podcast. 2013, we became vegetarians in January and we launched our podcast that June, primarily because when we decided to become vegetarians, there was a lot of great resources out there, but we found some of them to be very judgy and preachy and it just wasn't either one of our vibes. So we thought, I love podcasts . . . Like I said, I have been listening to you for a while and all these other folks and I thought, this might be a really good place for us to jump into podcasting. So we launched in the summer that same year and we're just documenting our journey because obviously, we had just become vegetarians ourselves. So we weren't necessarily experts. And we certainly weren't these size zero fitness experts or anything like that. We're big gals, we were junk food vegetarians, actually, coming right out of the gate, and we weren't feeling well. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to keep that up. So we started documenting our experiences and the things we were learning about eating properly on a plant-based diet, and we launched our podcast. Slowly our community has started to grow over the years. We have a weekly podcast that we've done since 2013, so we just rounded episode 300.
Vickie: Thank you. So we call it a peaceful place for vegetarians, vegans and the veg curious to share tips for living a healthier plant-based lifestyle. We have folks that still eat meat in our community and they're all very supportive of each other. In fact, we like to joke, we get a lot of refugees from other groups that say, “I just asked a question about milk or something and I was shunned by the whole community,” something like that. And so we're just very chill. That's just our nature.
Pat: I love that. I'm looking at your podcast page right now. For everybody that's Vegetarian Zen, and over three hundred reviews, all positive. The amazing reviews that are coming in and written are amazingly supportive. And you've been keeping up with your show, like you said, just past episode 300. That's fantastic. That sounds like things are going well there. What's on your mind related to all this? How can I help you?
Vickie: Okay, so where we are . . . And I should also mention that, and I don't think you know this, but earlier this week I did purchase your—
Pat: Amp'd Up Podcasting?
Vickie: Amp'd Up Podcasting, thank you.
Pat: Awesome, great.
Vickie: Yes. So I'm new to that and I am just into the first module and I'm already understanding where I was stuck.
Pat: Thank you for that.
Vickie: We were on what you called . . . Absolutely. We were on what you call the “hamster wheel.”
Vickie: We were just putting out podcasts every week and trying to get other things in there, but we just didn't have time because as soon as we released a podcast, it was time to start the next.
Vickie: Yeah. And I heard you describing that in one of the videos and I thought, that is exactly what it is, a hamster wheel. As a matter of fact, that's what I referred to with my wife when we were talking about, how do we even get ahead because it just seems like we're always just trying to keep this, how are we going to even think strategically? And as a former manager myself, I think it hurt more because I could see that we weren't acting from a place of strategy, we were just being very tactical.
Pat: Right. And just trying to keep up, if you will, instead of get ahead, which is exactly what I talk about. Thank you for that. That's amazing that you just shared that here. Okay. You're getting time back, which is fantastic. How do you want to use that time and how do you want to use this time?
Vickie: Yeah. We just redid our website because it used to look like a personal blog. We redid that last year. We're trying to get my next course that I'm going to look at, but I need to focus myself on this one Amp'd Up course right now. But I am looking at your affiliate marketing course also because we do get folks that contribute . . . We have a Patreon campaign.
Vickie: We don't get a whole lot there, but it at least pays for the . . . In fairness, we haven't done a whole lot with it. We plug it every now and then on the show, but that has increased over time and it pays for some of our media hosting costs and things like that. But we really haven't made it, like, released exclusive content very much anyways.
Pat: Yeah. Actually, one quick thing on that. I know some podcasters who are doing very well with Patreon and one thing that they do is they actually have segments of their show, not every episode, but every once in a while they invite one of the Patrons on, one of her people that are paying to support them, to have them talk about their story, too. So it might be interesting to have a couple members of your patrons, through Patreon, come on the show and you talk to them. What that does is it gets everybody else to go, “Wow, look at this. This is somebody who is in the community just like me. And wow, I didn't even know I could support them and they're just like me. So how do I be included in this?” And it just makes that community more interested in being involved with each other. And so that's one quick tip that I have for you related to Patreon, which is I think a great place to start. And it just is a testament to what you've been able to build. You've been able to build super fans, which is fantastic. And many more people will want to be a super fan and support you. So hopefully that helps.
Vickie: That's a great idea because we have tapped into a few folks from . . . We have a closed Facebook group that is very strong, also, there's about twenty-six hundred people in that. It's not huge, but they're very close. People know each other's names, Larissa, my wife and I are very active, both active in there. We've had a couple of folks from there that we've interviewed, but that's a great idea to pull from the Patreon group as well.
Pat: Yeah. Wow. It sounds like you've got all the right pieces, you've got this amazing podcast, it's growing, you've got supporters, super fans, you've got this Facebook group, you're very active in it. And it sounds like, based on what you said about my affiliate marketing course, that you're looking for other genuine ways to monetize.
Vickie: Yes. And so our resources page has been pretty sparse up to right now, and that's in the process of redesigning. We did the whole theme change. We were on Get Noticed before and that is no longer supported, so we moved over to a new theme. The site, we've gotten feedback from our folks is a lot easier to navigate, so I know we're doing—
Pat: That's good.
Vickie: . . . Yeah. We're doing a lot better there. We just need to amp up our resources page. So that's a great idea about the Patreon. The other thing I wanted to get your thoughts on are, I was doing a recent Just Ship It challenge on Fizzle with a group of folks, very good. I actually went a little bit beyond the time frame because we haven't released this quite yet because we had a site crash. We had a huge issue with our site a couple of weeks ago that pushed us back a little bit, but we're still going to release something because I think that's very important. We haven't really released anything. And if you're familiar at all with the Ship It challenge, the idea is just to get . . . It's not so much about the product itself, it's about the process of releasing something because we haven't really done that. So we're releasing a book on Buddha bowls. It's just an ebook, just a small ebook. I don't know if you know what Buddha bowls are, I know you've seen pictures of them on Instagram, they're these awesome-looking bowls of food that are all colorful and everything. Some people call them macro bowls or just different awesome looking bowls.
Pat: I'm getting hungry, is what I can tell you right now.
Vickie: Yeah. We're doing a quick little book on that because we did a podcast on it that got a lot of interaction. It got a lot of discussion in our closed Facebook group, so there was a lot. And when we asked them . . . This is the great thing about having a really large and tight community in the closed Facebook group is, we can pretty much just ask them anything and we get a lot of good feedback as to what they're looking for. So I agree with you, the pieces are there. I think what it is is we just feel, it's just so hard to keep up with everything, with the content. That's the biggest thing right now. So I'm seeing your Amp'd Up course is really going to be helping me with that I'm sure. But going back to what I want to get your thoughts on with the Buddha bowl book, our strength is not the recipe stuff, we're more like a resources hub. We have a few recipes on our site, the pictures are awful except for a few that I'm in the process of redoing, but it's not our forte. And a lot of times we plug food blogs, ton of food blogs out there, but we really didn't want to become another food blog. There's people that are doing that great already, I'm not dissing them at all. There's some great food blogs. It's just not our space.
Pat: What would you say is your space then?
Vickie: More of the resource and community building. For example, this Sunday we're doing an interview with a gardener that was featured—he did an interview for a large seed company. He was talking about his garden and what he's doing. So we go into animal rights, we interviewed Gene Baur, who's the founder of the Farm Sanctuary. So we go to different resources, sharing different resources and information from things that interest our demographic. Does that make sense?
Pat: Yeah, it does. And this ebook that you're coming out with, can it not still remain true to you? And even though it may have some recipes here and there, as long as the community is centric to it, and the idea that it is a resource for more info to help, then I think it fits in perfectly if you keep within your mission and your values.
Vickie: That's true. That's very true. Because I know meal planning is a big piece of what we talk about, too, so it's not even so much about the recipes. And this is why I like Buddha bowls because it's not so much about the recipes, it's more about how to put it together—
Pat: Yeah. It almost sounds like a lifestyle thing in a way where it's just a decision to live a certain way versus like, “Okay, I'm going to download this recipe and make it.” And what's cool about that is you have this community behind it, too. Maybe there's even ways to insert your community into this book itself and always have community be a part of it. It sounds like that's really important for you and your wife and the business. And I think that if that ends up . . . If the community element in some way, shape, or form ends up on your podcast, in these books and future products that you come out with, in the recommendations that you share for affiliate marketing. “Hey, by the way, a lot of our . . .” Do have a name for your community by the way?
Vickie: Yes. On Facebook, it's the Peas and Carrots Society.
Pat: I love that. “So hey, our Peas and Carrots Society says that this is the number one recommended dish of the past month. So here it is and come to the Facebook page to check out more recommendations from our amazing members.” Just focusing on the community element of it because that's really what's going to support you. And if that then ties into the Patreon model, then I think those two things perfectly align. However, I will say that you likely have a lot of space to start offering more than you are offering now.
Pat: Whether that's affiliate products that you believe in, that your audience believes in, as long as you know you're doing it to better serve people and understand that. This was a big thing for me when I started selling things, was understanding that selling things doesn't mean you're taking anything away and then charging for it. You're just adding on top of what you've already been doing for people who want to go a little bit deeper, and you deserve to get paid for that because you've been curating that information. You've been putting things together and actually in order for people to take action, sometimes they have to pay for something. So there's some skin in the game, and they feel invested.
Vickie: Yeah, absolutely. And our community is very passionate about animal welfare, they're very passionate about plant-based lifestyle overall, and they're very generous when they get good resources.
Vickie: So absolutely, I think all the pieces are there.
Pat: That's great. I also think that there could be a charitable element down the road related to some of these things that you and your community believe in. I know, for example, Lush is a sort of product, like bath bombs. Like Lush, at the mall.
Vickie: It's like Bed Bath & Body Works without the animal testing, a lot of it I think.
Pat: Right, exactly. And they're very big. They even have a recommended animal testing free product of the month that they feature, and it's very much about that. Even on their grocery bags, I think it even says, “our products are always free from animal testing” and stuff.
Pat: So they just insert that into their brand. It's become a part of their brand, which is great and it sounds like that's what's happening already too. So I think that perhaps the answer is getting this extra time back, which you're already doing. And then also part of that is focusing on the one thing you're going to ship next, which it sounds like you're headed in that right direction. I know a lot of, from my own experience in helping many others that they have enough time, but it's because they're dividing that time into twelve different projects, nothing ever gets done.
Vickie: Yeah, that's exactly what we do. I should have added, too, the other thing was that we have, we sell vintage items online. I look at it as my side hustle for this because we actually do sell. We sell on eBay, Mercari, Poshmark and we're launching our own website on that just to have a basic website. That's a totally different brand though, in all of that, but—
Pat: I was just going to say, it doesn't sound completely related.
Vickie: No it's not.
Pat: But it's a side hustle, and it's something that you do, and the community looks up to its leaders and are always going to be interested. Not everybody in my audience likes Back to the Future, but they know that about me. Not everybody in my audience needs to film videos and needs a SwitchPod, but many do. And there may be some people in your community who just might be interested in this other project that you have, and it would make you look more human, and you never know. One person can just be like, “Oh my gosh, I know somebody who would love this.” I'm going to introduce you to them and that could lead to many other things. Don't be afraid to . . . not cross-promote, but just share other things that you're doing with your community because people want to connect with other humans, and I think we all know that we all have a lot of different interests that we can be involved with.
Vickie: Yeah. We have shared that as well. We've even sponsored our own show when we talk about some of that stuff because—
Pat: Oh yeah, that's good.
Vickie: . . . Yeah, because we buy a lot of stuff from estate sales. So it's, in a sense, keeping things out of landfills and there's a lot of vintage items, really cool stuff that we sell on there. So yeah, we've cross-promoted in that way.
Pat: That's cool. That's amazing. It sounds like you know what the direction is. What else can I help you with? Do you have any other big blockers or questions that you might have that you think might hold you back if you don't get the answer to?
Vickie: Yeah. If you can just give me your thoughts on sponsorship. We don't get a huge amount of downloads per episode, but we get anywhere between, I would say, 3,500 to 5,000 downloads per episode. I know there's not a black and white answer for what might be the time—
Pat: There is though. There is.
Vickie: There is? Okay.
Pat: Here's the number, or here's the question. Do you have a strong community of targeted listeners?
Pat: Then you're qualified.
Vickie: All right.
Pat: You know what I mean?
Pat: Not every company will be attracted to numbers that are 3,500 to 5,000. Some only want to talk to people who have more than 10,000 per episode, and that's just the nature of sponsors and advertising because it's a numbers game for some people. For other people and smart businesses, it's more than a numbers game. It's a quality of trust game and with this trust that you've earned with your audience, that's worth a lot. For me, I would much rather speak to or have my brand shared with a thousand people with an amazing endorsement from somebody they already trust, versus a million people that don't care. So I would recommend you could even start having conversations with companies now.
In my affiliate marketing course, you're going to see that, special for podcasters, and you'll see this in Amp'd Up Podcasting too. Since you have a podcast, you can do some fun things with affiliate marketing like, invite the owner of that company on your show. That way it helps build trust between . . . The hard thing about affiliate marketing is it's not your product, so there has to be some additional things done to earn that trust between that product and your audience. So inviting the person on the show to start talking about it, first of all, that's a huge value add. Hey, not only am I going to have you sponsor my episodes for a whole month at this price, but I'd love to also invite you on the show because this also helps build trust with the audience, and it's more exposure for you. And they get to hear your story, and you don't have them on to talk about how great their product is and all the features. People can figure that out themselves. What you want to get into is the story behind it and why they do it, the mission behind it and that's what people gravitate toward. And that's going to be worth a lot to these companies that are smart. So you have a lot of assets that you can use to already begin having those discussions. You could probably 2x the money you're making now if you connect with a good company that can support you and you could support them back.
Vickie: Yeah. That sounds great. This gives me a lot of hope because I was worried that—
Pat: I was going to say, I hope it's encouraging because you have over three hundred episodes, you have this amazing community, this Facebook group. Okay, so you “only have 3,500 people,” but imagine a person putting on an event and having thirty-five hundred people at that event. Sponsors pay five figures to get in front of those audiences, you're doing that every single week. Your stage is not a real stage, it's a virtual stage, but it's the same thing.
Pat: So don't discount what you've built. It's amazing and you deserve to get paid more for it, and that way you can help even more people.
Pat: So what are your next steps from here, do you think?
Vickie: I think the biggest thing that this all hinges on right now is really understanding how to let . . . What you said in one of your videos is, you have to let go to grow. I think that's what you said.
Vickie: So I'm still doing all the research, the recording, the editing, all of that. I really want to let go some of that because, again, first of all, we're not planning appropriately. We're not planning by quarter.
Pat: Okay. So that's going to change.
Vickie: So that's going to change, and then looking for ways that perhaps we can. I think that, first of all, in itself is going to help because it's not going to feel like I'm just scrambling to find the next thing we're going to talk about right there. And then definitely looking for ways to offload some of this. We've hired some people here and there, in fact, we just hired one of our own community members. She's been with us, we call her “listener zero” because she was the very first person that reached out to us and she's been following us all these years. She's a really awesome person and we hired her to help us with some part-time work like helping to supplement our resource page and things within the closed Facebook group because like I said, we're both the admins. We're just too deep in the weeds with some of this stuff and we're just not able to move the business forward. So I think letting go of some of that and trusting that if we hire the right people in there that we're going to be able to free up some more time. I think that's going to help us immensely.
Pat: Yeah. I think the big theme of this episode, which has multiple layers in it is, it's about time.
Vickie: Yes, absolutely.
Pat: Vickie, I'm super stoked for you and your business. Where, one more time, should people go to listen to the show and check out your website and everything going on?
Vickie: We are on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher radio, Vegetarian Zen, and you can go to VegetarianZen.com, and you'll see our social media links there as well.
Pat: Perfect. Again, I love the branding. There's loads of people that need to hear this stuff, so go out there, share it, do your thing, and it's about time. And Vickie, let me know if I can help you. And also, can we circle back around maybe in a few months and see how things progress from here?
Vickie: That would be amazing.
Pat: Cool. I'll hold you accountable to it.
Vickie: All right.
Pat: Thanks Vickie. I appreciate you.
Vickie: Thank you Pat.
Pat: All right Vickie, that was amazing. Thank you so much and I look forward to seeing how we progress with what you're up to and I look forward to connecting with you in the future. Hope you all enjoyed that episode. If you want to check out Vickie again, one more time, VegetarianZen.com. I love everything that they got going on there, and a wonderful community, it sounds like, to be a part of. And I look forward to hearing about Vickie and her wife's success. So let's do it, let's connect with them later. If you'd like to get coached, just like Vickie did today, here on Ask Pat, all you have to do is go to askpat.com, you can check out the little application button there in the middle of the page and then you can submit your application. And I may not reach out to you at all because there's a ton of people who come in, and I may not reach out to you for a while, but the truth is, if you don't submit your application then I can't reach out to you at all. And I'm always looking for new people and great stories to tell and great people to coach. So definitely make sure that you do that, askpat.com.
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