Sarah St. John was initially attracted to podcasting as a cheap marketing tool to promote the book she had written.

But once she’d started her show Frugalpreneur: Building a Business on a Bootstrapped Budget, she realized that she had accidentally found her niche.

“I got more leverage and traction with the podcast than the book, and I loved the connections I was making,” she says on an episode of Between 2 Mics. “So I just kept going and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now.”

On top of continuing to host and produce her show, Sarah has launched a podcast agency and written a book — “Podcastpreneur: How to Produce, Promote, and Profit With A Podcast” — for people who want to start their own podcast. She’s also putting together a podcasting course.

“I’m all in on podcasting,” she says. “But it took over a decade of trying this, that and the other thing.”

Here’s how Sarah found her way in — and how she finds her guests.

If at first you don’t succeed, try something else until you do

Sarah became an entrepreneur on purpose but a podcaster by accident.

Having spent 2008 moving from one job to another, she realized that she didn’t want to work for someone else. She wanted to be her own boss, but she didn’t know what she would be the boss of.

Originally, she thought she’d like to run a photography business, “But I realized that while I like taking photos of animals, architecture and landscapes, I don’t like taking photos of people, and that’s where the money is.”

Fitting and maintaining a photography studio also proved pricey. Keen to save money, Sarah started investigating free and inexpensive business software for entrepreneurs.

That research and experience inspired her to write another book, “Frugalpreneur: How To Launch, Manage and Market Your Online Business For Under $100 Per Month.”

Now we get to the podcast.

Sarah launched Frugalpreneur halfway through 2019 to promote the book, planning to put out a single season.

However, the show soon eclipsed the book in popularity. Since she enjoyed making it and saw the value in connecting with her guests, Sarah made the podcast her main project.

Although Sarah’s path to podcasting was winding, now that she’s on it, she’s not wandering anymore. She says that once you’ve found a medium that works for you, commit.

“Recognize and avoid Shiny Object Syndrome, because that’s something I had for many years,” she says. “Find that one thing and go in on that.”

How to find guests

Like many podcasts, Sarah’s show relies on a steady stream of guests to interview.

As anyone with an interview show knows, finding and managing guests can be daunting, but she’s found ways to find interesting people to talk to, for low cost or free:

1. Reach out to people whose work you’ve enjoyed

Since she hopes to give her listeners something useful and inspiring, Sarah contacts people whose work did that for her.

“I’ve either listened to their podcast or taken one of their courses or read their book, or whatever it might be,” she says. “I just reach out to them: Usually they’re like, Yeah, sure.

Top tip: People are more likely to say yes to an interview when they have something new to promote. 

If you’re already a fan, keep track of people’s projects through announcements and newsletters. You can also use Amazon’s Coming Soon list to find upcoming books written by people you think your fans would like to hear from.

2. Network through your guests

Interesting people tend to have interesting friends, so every person who comes on your show can introduce you to other future guests. Booking just one person can open you up to a large network of others.

If they have their own show or regularly guest on other podcasts, they’re probably used to this and happy to help.

It was through this type of networking that Sarah got author and entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz to appear on an episode of Frugalpreneur. She was guesting on another show, and the host mentioned that he knew Mike.

“I was like, Oh, I’d love to get him on my show,” Sarah says. “And he’s like, I’ll give you an introduction. He emailed and included me, and the person who does Mike’s scheduling responded saying, Yeah, that sounds good.”

3. Use podcast matching services

Now that podcasts have grown from cottage industry to big business, there are services that connect hosts with guests and vice versa. For example, PodMatch and PodBooker.

“I use all of them: I go on every day looking for interesting people — and for shows I can guest on as well,” Sarah says.

4. Get creative!

If you have your eye on a particular guest — especially a bigger name — and conventional methods aren’t working, think creatively.

For example, Sarah used unusual tactics to land an interview with Pat Flynn, serial entrepreneur and founder of the Smart Passive Income blog and podcast.

She tried the contact form on his website three or four times, but says, “I’m pretty sure it went through gatekeepers. I only heard back once and it was something like, He’s not doing podcasts right now.

Recently, however, she joined Pat’s subscription service SPI Pro, through which she learned that he uses a social media platform for creators called Circle. She sent him a DM with a blurb about the podcast, asking if he would be interested in guesting.

“Two hours later, he responded saying, Yeah, I just booked a time,” she says. 

Although she didn’t join SPI Pro specifically to reach Pat, she saw an opportunity and took it. “I went straight to him versus using the contact form, which he probably never even sees,” she says. Always be on the lookout for new ways to reach potential guests.

Keep your podcast fresh

Sarah found her business niche in podcasts, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped experimenting. Now, she mostly experiments within the show and with extras tied to it, like the book and the agency.

For example, when Sarah first started, she was mostly interviewing the CEOs of companies whose software she used for her business. (Check out episode 16 to hear a familiar voice.)

But in 2021, she decided to give the audience a fresh format. She switched to speaking to entrepreneurs who started a business for less than $1,000 and grew it to $1 million or more. She also plans to do a series with child entrepreneurs, and another with people who have found creative ways to make money.

Not every change has to be major. When Sarah noticed that the call to action she was using at the top of the show wasn’t gaining as much traction as she’d hoped, she changed it up to promote a different product.

“It’s about coming up with new ideas to keep it fresh, and you want to do that with business as well,” she says.

To hear more advice from Sarah St. John about how to get started in podcasting, listen to this episode of Between 2 Mics. Be sure to subscribe to get future episodes directly in your preferred podcast player.