Entrepreneur: Brenda Petrella

Biz: Outdoor Photography School

Tilt: Practical resources and community

Primary Channel: Podcast (50K downloads)

Other Channels: YouTube (31.2K subscribers), Instagram (4.8K), newsletter (2.8K subscribers)

Time to First Dollar: About 2 years

Rev Streams: YouTube affiliate marketing and ads, donations for podcast, workshops and coaching

Our Favorite Actionable Advice: 

  • Look for opportunities: Brenda started on YouTube, expanded to her own site, and now focuses most of her time on the podcast. And her audience has followed or joined her along the way.
  • Don’t do the obvious: Photography is a visual medium, but Brenda has found bigger success turning her visual instruction content into a podcast.
  • Build an audience first: Her primary goal is to grow and nurture her audience with free content before she sells them content products. 

The Story

Brenda Petrella has a doctorate in molecular biology and worked as a cancer researcher before leaving that career to pursue her love of nature photography in 2017.

She was inspired by her teenage neighbor. “He encouraged me to start a YouTube channel,” Brenda says. Comfortable behind the camera, she stepped in front of it. After all, if she enjoyed teaching science, maybe she would enjoy teaching photography skills on YouTube. 

Her teen neighbor's encouragement prompted @BrendaPetrella to start her @YouTube nature photography channel. #ContentEntrepreneur #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

Even though Brenda didn’t have any videography or video-editing skills, she didn’t let that stop her. “I was comforted by the fact that I can edit any of it and none of it needs to go out into the world,” she explains.

Brenda began filming tutorials based on the questions she had when she started learning photography. Her goal from the channel’s start was to be educational and inspirational. 

The tutorials about outdoor photography earned positive feedback from viewers and inspired her to create the online Outdoor Photography School

Taking breaks

Though she took a year away from publishing new content, her YouTube channel continued to grow slowly in part because the lessons were evergreen and the platform’s search capabilities.

But that doesn’t mean a content entrepreneur who wants to grow should rely on their old content. During the pandemic, she uploaded a weekly topic-specific video series for six months. Her channel didn’t grow from those videos until a year later. “I focused on the problem that I was trying to solve for people and not on the algorithm,” she explains.

Instead of the @YouTube algorithm, @BrendaPetrella focused on solving problems for people with her Outdoor School Photography channel. #ContentBusiness #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

Starting a podcast

In April 2021, Brenda Petrella hit pause on her YouTube channel to start a podcast. It’s been so successful that she’s put most of her focus on audio content. 

“I could spend 48 hours a week putting together a 10-minute tutorial. And people may watch four minutes of that,” she says. Brenda can still educate with a podcast but complete it in half the time. She also likes the more intimate way of connecting with her audience. 

@BrendaPetrella paused her Youtube channel in favor of a podcast for her visually oriented content. The pivot works for her audience and her productivity. #ContentEntrepreneur #podcasting #photography Click To Tweet

Every week, her podcast episodes feature different photographers or someone in the outdoors industry. Every other week, she hosts Tidbit Tuesdays, where she spends no more than 15 minutes answering listeners’ questions. People can submit questions on her website through SpeakPipe, a tool that allows podcast listeners to record voice messages, or by email. “I think people like recording their voice and hearing it on the actual episode,” Brenda says.

Listeners to Outdoor Photography School can record questions for host @BrendaPetrella using a tool called @SpeakPipe. #podcasting #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

A brief mention in her last YouTube video in March and promotions on her Instagram account and email list are how she markets the podcast.

Growing an email list

Brenda first grew her email list by offering a lead magnet, a free e-book based on her most popular YouTube video about how to use hyperfocal distance to create sharp landscape or nature images. She promoted it on her YouTube channel.

Now Brenda has over 2.8K email subscribers and a high average open rate of 55%. “It’s a good list, even though it’s small,” she explains. She sends an email broadcast whenever a new piece of content goes live. On the last Friday of every month, she sends out a digest of new content produced that month, relevant resources, special offers, and photographer highlights. Subscribers can opt to receive all emails or just the digest.

Outdoor Photography School's @BrendaPetrella gets an average 55% open rate from over 2.8K email subscribers. #CreatorEconomy #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

Building an audience and setting goals

Right now, Brenda Petrella doesn’t sell any content products. “My content has been a way to build an audience and build a reputation. I’m trying to understand what it is that people want to learn and see if I can provide that answer for them in a way that I enjoy creating and in a way that they enjoy consuming,” she explains.

Her ultimate goal is to sell online classes and access to a private community within her Outdoor Photography School. She’s also looking for podcast sponsors. 

The one resource Brenda has found to be super helpful in growing her audience is Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income. “He and his team were invaluable for getting my podcast off the ground. I took his power of podcasting boot camp, and that really set me in motion for the success of the podcast.”

About the author

Bonnie owns Word of Mouth, a content agency specializing in social media, content marketing, and editorial writing. She's written for Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Coveteur, Man Repeller, Health.com, and more. She loves wearing fanny packs and laying in the fetal position.