On January 1st, 2016, I launched the Dreams In Drive: No Parking - a weekly podcast that teaches creative and lifestyle entrepreneurs how to take their dreams out of PARK and put them into drive. I remember the dread I felt before launching. Will anyone listen? Will people enjoy my guests? Do I sound silly?
It amazes me that I'm now twenty one episodes in and have interviewed people I admire like Tiffany “The Budgetnista Aliche", Sakita Holley, Olori Swank, Teri Johnson, Christina Brown. I marvel at how seven months ago, I knew NOTHING about launching a podcast and now have a pretty solid system in place. Now the podcast can be streamed via Soundcloud and iTunes. While I'm still growing, and am not 100% satisfied with my current numbers, I make sure to remember that none of this would have been achieved if I didn't start.
If you're thinking about starting a podcast, here are 10 lessons I've learned along the way that may help you on your own journey into launching your own podcast:
You don't need a lot of money to get started.
A lot of times we use the fact that we don't have a big budget as a hindrance to getting started. When I launched, I bought a $40 AudioTechnica microphone and used Garageband on my Macbook Pro for editing. I opted for the FREE Soundcloud service for my first episodes but upgraded to a monthly pro pricing ($15/month) as I grew and wanted more flexibility and statistics. No excuses. However, if you want to grow, start budgeting early-on for the tools that you will need to invest in later.
Don't skip the technical.
Before you launch, take some time to understand what podcasting is and some of the more technical aspects of launching. One of my favorite crash courses was John Lee Dumas's, creator of popular podcast Entrepreneur On Fire, online tutorial “The Ultimate Guide To Podcasting". He currently generates over $250,000 a month in revenue from his podcast. Also, take time to know your competition and get a lay of the land before launching. CURLS CEO Mahisha Dellinger told me early on, “It's okay if you're the third one to market. You can do your research on those companies, launch, and do better than they did. Do what they didn't do well and you can take over that market."
Invest in a podcast site.
As a marketer, blogger, and freelance writer, I understand the importance of having a “home" for your podcast. Because I want to eventually grow Dreams In Drive into a larger entity, I needed a core place that I was driving traffic to and that I could acquire data about the users that visited my page via Google Analytics. I wanted it to be a “destination" that had other resources and information. Now, people know that by going to dreamsindrive.com, they will be able to get everything they need in one place.
When starting, commit to a schedule. As you grow your following, people will want to know that if you say you're weekly, they can come back weekly and find a new episode. People get excited and will anticipate next week's episode. Think about how you feel as you wait for your favorite TV show to air each week. It's the same concept for podcast. Leverage that feeling.
Have a clear focus/niche when starting out.
“Don't try to be everything to everyone" is probably the best advice I got from one of my podcast guests. The focus of your podcast should be very clear. Ask yourself: What is my expertise?What is my target demographic? What problem am I helping them solve? What will be the focus of each episode? Personally, focusing on providing motivational content for creatives & lifestyle entrepreneurs has allowed me to grow an engaged audience. It also helped me focus on WHO would be coming to speak on the show and WHO I would be promoting the show to. Your branding should be specific.
Distribution & creative promotion is key.
When you're just starting out (and aren't already a well-established name in your industry), promoting your podcast will be hard. Think: Who can you partner with? What other podcasters can you ask to share your episodes? What types of content can you create that link back to your podcast? For example, each time I release a new episode, I publish a post on dreamsindrive.com, ranacampbell.com and my Linkedin pages that all contain the podcast embed link. I use “Click to Tweet" to create tweetable quotes on the site. Sometimes I'll create podcast-related content and post on the Huffington Post contributor platform. On social, I create podcast-specific show graphics and quotes using social. Some podcasters even use paid ads to promote specific episodes. In the beginning, you must put on your “hustler of the year" hat and hit the streets guerilla-style.
Make booking & sharing easy for your guests.
I learned early on booking and podcast promotion can be a pain, so I decided to look for tools that would ease that process. For booking, I use Calendly, a tool that allows guest to schedule appointments based on your calendar availability. When an episode goes live, I always send guests an email that contains share links that I create using Share Link Generator. Getting guests involved in promotion is key to your success early on. I use Streak, an email plugin, to create email templates so that I don't have to reinvent the wheel each week. I also use Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule weekly social posts.
Create & document your process.
Write down every step of what is involved in producing an episode. Use this to create a mini-checklist that you can follow each week. If you're producing and editing by yourself, this will help to make sure that you don't miss a step. While making one can be a pain, this standard operating procedure will come in handy as you grow and hand off different responsibilities to team members. Stream-line as much as you can.
Create your signature statement/be unapologetically YOU.
A podcast is a great platform to let your personality shine. What will be that thing that sets your podcasts apart? What is it about you that your readers will love? Take some time to hone your voice. While it can be smart to look at other podcasts as inspiration, do not use them as the blueprint for what you should do on YOUR show. Also, don't be afraid to talk about real issues. Give it to them. Also, create a "signature." On my podcast the first question + lightning round sets me apart from other podcasts in my space. It's something I do each week and guests love listening in to hear the answers.
You don't have to have it all figured out to get started.
Many times, we don't start driving because we're too worried about the road ahead. As my guest Olori Swank said best, “Jump and build your wings on the way down." When I launched, I didn't (and still don't) have a “logo" in the formal sense of the word, but I didn't let that stop me. The legacy you are working to build should be what drives you. The best thing you can do is get the ball rolling and figure it out along the way. Define what success means for you and believe in it.
To be honest, there are days when I doubt myself. Why don't I have more listeners? Sometimes when I think "progress" isn't happening fast enough, I remember the little Rana who was so filled with dreams, the little Rana who would make up stories about the future Rana she hoped to be. I sit and think about how proud she would be of the Rana I am now, and then I tell myself: Keep going. Don't stop. Stay focused. Dreaming got you here. Doing will take you where you need to go.
What are some creative projects you've been afraid to take a leap with? What's stopping you? Share with us below.
Rana Campbell is a 2013 Princeton University graduate, marketing consultant, freelance writer/blogger, Dreams In Drive podcast host that helps creative learn how to build brands that SHINE in the business world. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or ranacampbell.com.