Sam Hoisington: When it’s time to leave your day job

We spoke to Sam Hoisington, a beloved team member who is about to shift focus full-time to his growing local outlet, Madison Minutes.
Sam Hoisington and Hayley Sperling sitting on steps. Plants in the background.
Sam Hoisington and Hayley Sperling, Madison Minutes founders.

During the 2022 LION Local Journalism Awards, Indiegraf team member Sam Hoisington was named the LION Community Member of the Year. Our CEO Erin Millar and Joe Lanane, who were present at the awards, immediately jumped to our company Slack to share the great news. While we were happy to learn the big news, it was not a surprise to us. Having worked with Sam for a while now, we are well aware of his widespread support for other news entrepreneurs. 

Sam has gained a reputation at Indiegraf for wearing many hats, gaining the nickname “Sam-at-large” as a result. To some, Sam is a talented Audience Strategist at Indiegraf. To others, he’s the co-publisher behind Madison Minutes, a valuable newsletter that is part of the morning routines for many people in Madison, Wisconsin. To all, he’s a pleasure to be around.

Sam will soon move on from Indiegraf to dedicate himself full-time to Madison Minutes. In honor of the LION award and Sam’s important industry contributions, we wanted to share more from Sam in hopes his answers inspire publishers looking to quit their day jobs and pursue their own independent careers.

Q: What did winning the LION Community Member of the Year award mean to you? Was it a surprise to be honored?

It was a total surprise! And it means a great deal to me. My co-founder Hayley Sperling and I realized early on that we wouldn’t be able to make our publication work on our own — we needed the education and networking that LION provides. I’ve spent a lot of my time exchanging notes with other small publishers over the past year or so.

Q: What do you feel is the most important thing when it comes to building a community among journalist entrepreneurs?

I think the best part about LION is that we can have really honest conversations with fellow publishers. We get to talk frankly about strategies, vendors and managing our businesses. Importantly, we’re also having more discussions about burnout and self-care, too.

Q: How did your work at Indiegraf impact your work at Madison Minutes, and vice versa?

My work at Indiegraf and Madison Minutes has ended up overlapping a great deal. When we try something new at Madison Minutes, I often share it with my Indiegraf publishers and help them execute it. I’ve learned a lot from the publishers I work with at Indiegraf, too. So it’s been a really busy year full of lots of learning.

Q: Why is now the right time to take the full-time leap into Madison Minutes?

We have a stable base of advertising revenue, but we want to multiply that figure next year so we can hire more reporting help. As things stand now, we have about 4-6 months of runway. Our chances of long-term success will be much greater if I dedicate to revenue generation full time right now.

Q: What lessons can you share with other journalist entrepreneurs considering whether to leave their existing jobs to focus full-time on their independent outlets?

Build up an audience first and do some experimenting before you quit your day job. A great way to do this is to start a simple standalone newsletter for your reporting. Even if you’re just sharing articles from your work at your current employer, you’ll have something to start with if you want to explore news entrepreneurship.

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