How Patrick Hinds turned his true crime obsession into a career

By Jordana Colomby

Photo courtesy of True Crime Obsessed

After starting True Crime Obsessed as a side project, Patrick Hinds and collaborator Gillian Pensavalle built their podcast into a smash hit.

In our Making the Leap series, creators who’ve turned a creative side project into a full-time business share a behind-the-scenes look at how they did it.

Patrick Hinds, along with his collaborator Gillian Pensavalle, started a podcast to satisfy an obsession with true crime, and as it turns out, there were a lot of people out there who wanted to hear what they had to say (or scream). They quickly started building a community of fans who now tune in to get their true crime fix from their favorite comedy duo. A strange mash-up of genres? Yes. But an effective one.

Patrick and Gillian never could’ve imagined that their small, independent podcast would change their lives in a matter of months. With a growing demand, the two hosts launched on Patreon to see if they could turn this thing into a career. (Spoiler alert: They did.) We spoke to Patrick Hinds to find out how he helped turn True Crime Obsessed into one of the most popular podcasts on Patreon.

The obsession begins

Back in 2017, Patrick and Gillian were just a couple of theater kids making Broadway-themed podcasts with ambitions of start a true crime show — one where they solved the infamous case of the Zodiac Killer. They did their research, sat down to record, and what came out wasn’t what they’d expected. They realized they weren’t cut out to solve the decades-old mystery, but instead found their true (crime) calling: recapping crime documentaries with humor, heart, and sass. It was risky to branch out from the traditional format, but with hundreds of other true crime podcasts crowding the space, this was their best shot at standing out.

Homing in on their niche paid off quickly. The podcast was growing through word of mouth, online discussion groups, and Facebook ads, and soon enough their fans were begging for more from the duo. It hit them that they needed another place to give people more of what they wanted and to start making enough money to make the whole podcast worth doing. “Patreon was the answer,” says Patrick.

From 500 to 5,000 members

In January 2018, Gillian and Patrick made the move to Patreon. A lot of other podcasters were offering a single bonus episode per month, but Patrick wanted True Crime Obsessed to be a big part of their listeners’ lives, not just something people listened to for 45 minutes and then forgot about for the rest of the week. They decided to offer one full-length bonus episode per week. It was a gamble, especially after how much work they were already putting into their regular weekly episodes, but it was worth it. Patrick and Gillian saw an immediate response from their fans. They gained 500 members in their first month and by the end of that year, they already had over 5,000 listeners in their Patreon family.

Photo courtesy of True Crime Obsessed

Becoming full-time podcasters

The podcast has been consistently gaining members for several years now. By offering their members the bonus episodes and perks they were craving, Patrick and Gillian have been able to gain about 45,000 members. Regularly sharing about their personal lives, teasing their exclusive access, and listening to what their fans want has helped them form a tight bond with their existing members and attract new ones at a remarkably steady rate. The majority of their members join at their “Non-Garbage Person” level for $5 a month and, in exchange, they get weekly bonus episodes, pre-sale access to shows, and live show recordings. Patrick and Gillian also offer three other levels: $7 for twice monthly “After Party” episodes, $10 for ad-free episodes, and $20 for special monthly surprises and access to VIP meet-and-greets.

With support from their Patreon fam, Patrick and Gillian have been able to grow True Crime Obsessed into a podcasting phenomenon. Some of their most memorable member-supported milestones include:

  • Quitting their day jobs: By 2018, Patrick and Gillian were both able to quit their jobs and become full-time podcasters.
  • Hiring a team: They’ve hired a handful of full-time staff members, including Patrick’s husband Steve, who’s now their business manager.
  • A new workspace: In March 2020, they moved into a new office with a state-of-the-art studio.
  • Broadway ambitions achieved: In April 2022, True Crime Obsessed became the first podcast ever to hit Broadway.

Building an independent network

In 2020, with support from Patreon members, Patrick launched the Obsessed Network, featuring, as the tagline says, “podcasts about the stuff you’re obsessed with.” This meant Patrick was able to bring in hosts like Daisy Eagan, Maggie Freleng, and Amber Hunt to produce additional podcasts exploring more unjust, unexplained, and unsolved cases of the world. Patrick also created and co-hosts two more Obsessed shows, which are part of the network: I Think Not!, which independently has nearly 13,000 members, and Obsessed with Abducted in Plain Sight.

Why membership?

With an ever-growing community of supporters behind them, a membership model offered Patrick and Gillian the best perk they could ask for: freedom.

Working for yourself

Patrick and Gillian know what it’s like to create for someone else and hold down a job on the side to support the creative hustle. As Patrick says, even though he works longer hours as a full-time podcaster, he gets to work for himself doing something he loves.

Helping others

One of the best parts of the job is elevating other voices. The podcasters get to answer questions, give advice, and help other people find their footing in the industry.

Doing it your way

Patrick and Gillian get to be their own bosses. There might be a more popular approach to true crime, but they’d rather do things their way.

Photo courtesy of True Crime Obsessed

Advice for other podcasters

Find your people: “One of the best things any podcaster can do is really build a community around their show,” Patrick says. “The podcast should not be the only time during the week they’re hearing from you.” Create a discussion group, go live, take questions — do whatever you can to stay engaged with your fans and remind people that you’re there.

Bonuses are key: “People just want more of what you’re already doing,” says Patrick. “Creating bonus episodes behind a paywall is just a way of giving people an opportunity to buy more of what they’re already getting for free.”

You don’t need that many listeners: Don’t get caught up in the big numbers. Focus on moving just a small percentage of your listeners over to Patreon, and it will continue to grow from there.

There’s no secret to Patrick and Gillian’s success. All they did was find their obsession — the thing they loved to do more than anything in the world — and record it for everyone to hear. Their passion for podcasting, commitment to their community, and hilarious commentary is what turned them into a true crime mainstay. As they grow, they continue to find new ways to share these stories so they can keep on feeding their fans’ never-ending obsession.

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