Hey adventure buddies! Last post we had some discussion about where all of our money comes from in life - including streams of income from this business..
We had a thing happen this weekend, where 5 new Patreon sponsors signed up in a couple of days.
5 might not sound like much to any big name podcasters out there in the audience, but for us it was a jump of 10% in both number of sponsors and total pledged money.
It was enough to get us thinking, and to spur another money-focused post, about where the money's going when you all support us.
Thank you for patronizing us.
Here at Boldly Went, our most visible "product" is our podcast, but we have a couple of primary ways of making money. Within the flow of the business, ticketing for the events where we gather stories is our primary income source most months, and we get a little bit from event and podcast sponsorship and merchandise sales (thanks Territory Run Co!). And we occasionally take people out on tours around the Seattle area or rent them our kayaks through the Navigator Network.
Beyond those transactional pieces though, we also have a Patreon page where people who believe in what we're doing can pledge monthly, PBS Telethon style, to allow us to keep going.
Because you know those pledges come from pure support, it always feels especially good to get a new one. Selling a ticket is great (and actually amounts to more money into the business a lot of times), but getting a patron subscription feels like more of a personal affirmation that we're on the right track.
Practically speaking, those pledges are also super helpful because they're stable, in the sense that they don't require ongoing advertising work on our part, and aren't as up in the air as ticket sales. One of the most nerve wracking parts of this whole thing, especially when we're traveling, is wondering whether events will cover the costs of travel for the places we go, and it's great to have that consistent base so we feel like we can take risks on going to smaller towns and places that are more off the beaten path - like Poulsbo, WA, for instance, where we just had a fantastic experience last week.
At the moment of writing, we know a few things about our base of Patreon sponsors. The average pledge for Boldly Went is $10/month, which is 33% higher than the average Patreon account. We have 53 current patrons, and a decent number of those are friends and family, so that might factor in to the higher than average dollar amount. But I also think that it has to do with what we're up to. A big part of our goal is creating community - which involves making new friends and family. So the support feels warm and personal, and often either springs from, or develops into, real world relationships. People who have supported us on Patreon have also helped us get events organized in their home towns, let us crash on their couches (thanks Callista, and see you tonight, Dan and Stacie!), consulted personally with us on business development, and literally hung out in the woods for days on end. That's the kind of thing we're going for!
What's the money going towards?
We're not a nonprofit, so we don't have an itemized public statement of exactly where the organization's money goes (although Angel has this somewhere because she's on top of all of that stuff in a way that I'm not...), but I can tell you concretely that almost all of the money that comes in to the business goes towards the basic tools of the trade for us. It goes to keep our car running, to pay for insurance, to get gas and food between towns, to keep our technology functional, and occasionally to put a roof over our heads when we're on the road in the winter. We embrace a full-on dirtbag business model, so most of the time we're crashing on couches, in our car, or in a tent, and our tech amounts to a couple of old iPhones (one of which was donated by our friend - thanks Angie!), a couple of old laptops, and a used iPad (which we bought using Patreon money so we could do this more reliably on the road!)
From the beginning, I'll admit, we've been trying to build this business as a sort of life-hack: an attempt to create something we could get paid for that also grows out of things that we love to do. In Angel's case, traveling around, making new friends, and playing outside, and in my case writing, creating, and trying to help people navigate the thorny hellscape that we call the modern world.
Because it's so integrated with what we love, we put as much of ourselves into the project as we can - and concretely Patreon sponsorship buys us time and emotional energy to do that. It's letting us live out some dreams, because it's allowing us to spend less time on other work and more time on this project.
I've done a fair amount of fundraising work in the non-profit world, though, and in my experience almost no one gives money to people trying to replace the rear differential on their car or purchase an old iPad on Craigslist. People give to things that they feel personally invested in, causes they believe in, and products and services that they personally benefit from. So, those ideas guide what we're trying to build here. Our goal from the beginning has been to create something using the gifts and interests we've got that is concretely valuable to the world.
So what's the point of all that? The Grand Vision? Where's it all going?
That's the stuff that's worthwhile, we think - in terms of our time and your money. The important point isn't the type of recording device we're using. It's what we're using it for - to what end we're employing our time and resources. That's the big picture of what the money that goes into this business goes towards. That's what's interesting because I think we're creating something pretty unique.
So, what are we providing to the world that we hope is worthy of time, money, and energy? Both our own, and the people who support us?
1) Numbered lists, because people like lists.
2) A connected outdoor community.
One of the early recognitions we had when we were thinking about business ideas was that there was a niche to be filled in the outdoor community, because even though outdoorsy people have a lot of shared values and commonalities, they don't have many central, social gathering places. We'd said for a couple of years that outdoors-types need a bar in every city to hang out in, the way football fans have sports bars. Storytelling events have been a way to create that in a natural way, and it's been a ton of fun, and a real, unique added value in the outdoor world, we think. The Navigator Network has been one concrete platform to create real world connections through the business outside of events, but more than a few people have also met through events and the podcast, which we think is pretty cool.
3) A platform for stories to be told that wouldn't be normally.
It was also an early recognition that in the outdoor community, there is a particular type of voice that you normally hear at public events - winners, champions, record setters. It's not that we aren't interested in those things. We just also think there's a lot of value in hearing about the losers, oddballs, and also-ran's of the world. And it's been interesting - so many of the stories we've heard at events focus on failure, or things that suck, rather than victories and glory, that it's almost a surprise when someone talks about a big accomplishment. Our events and podcast, we think, create a uniquely robust picture of what the outdoor experience actually is, and what it's actually about, because we give anyone who wants it a voice at the table.
As a related aside, Patreon has been a great support for gathering these types of stories - because it gives us some freedom to go to smaller towns where we aren't likely to make money on events. There are good stories everywhere, in our experience, and our goal is to gather as many of those as we can.
4) A Platform to tell stories that are important.
I will be completely honest in saying that there was no real higher social cause (beyond connecting people who wouldn't otherwise be connected) when we first started developing this idea. What we were envisioning with events and the podcast was essentially lighthearted fun. But pretty much immediately, it became clear that when people came to events, and were given an mic to tell any story they want, most of them talked about reasons that their outdoor experience has mattered. They've either shared about lessons learned, or traumatic events, or ways that playing outside has taught them important lessons about life. Based on the platform, it was maybe inevitable that along with "that funny thing that happened that one time", stories have moved towards the interface of the outdoors and social issues, struggles with mental health, gender and sexuality in the outdoor community, and race in the outdoors, among many other things.
When we realized that was happening, we embraced it for what it is - a great opportunity to be a platform for people who are telling stories that are important beyond just recreation, and trying to be good stewards of those stories has become a central goal in what we do. That plays to an existing strength in lots of ways - we're healthcare providers, and I have a Masters degree in religion, so life and death, both literally and figuratively, has been our business for most of our adult lives. But at heart, it's a side benefit of the platform. Give people 10 minutes to share who they are, and they will show you something important.
5) A platform to tell stories that are niche but are interesting to the wider world.
As we've branched out, out attempt to connect with a broad community of outdoorspeople has naturally lent itself to stories that are about the way our weird hobbies are relevant to the interests of people of all kinds. As the business has been developing, a fun spin off of that has been that we've been able to attend, and tell stories about events like the Bigfoot and Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Runs, and Seventy48, a 70 mile endurance paddle, and share them with a world that wouldn't normally have any idea what they're about.
6) Stories from travel and adventure that are helpful.
We've also naturally gravitated towards practicality. For a lot of adventure types, it's natural to want to provide beta when you're telling a story, so that people who want to can repeat your adventure. Because 10 minute stories aren't quite enough time for that, usually, our Field Notes have been a way to dig deeper into experiences in a way that's useful.
The book I'm working on, "The Dirtbag's Guide to Life", is entirely focused on communicating things we've learned along the way, and will eventually become a real thing you can read. In the meantime, I try to keep this blog primarily useful, because from the beginning we've really wanted to use our platform to make adventure more attainable for more people.
That's a relatively broad list, and while supporting what we're doing, basically, is supporting more events, podcasts, and web content, the important thing we think we're providing are the meaty intangibles - helping people make new friends, providing solid beta, inspiring people to get outside in ways they hadn't thought of, understanding a bit about why all of this madness we engage in on the weekends is important, and how all of it connects us to one another and to the environment we live in. All of that is why we do this, and we hope it's a contribution to the world that those of you supporting us find worthwhile!
Thanks so much for being a part of this thing and helping it continue to grow!
If you're interested in investing in this project with us on Patreon, I wouldn't argue with you, and you can do so by clicking the link below. You get stuff for your sponsorship too, so that's a bonus.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.